At Hickok Cole Architects, we value design that is evocative, meaningful and deliberate. Our buildings are tailored. Specificity generates distinction. Civic engagement through public outreach and service is one way we foster a culture of curiosity, knowledge and creativity – the foundations of Design Excellence, and a concept we like to call Engaged Design. This concept can be broken down into three main categories:

1. Curiosity unveils real needs: Strive to learn and understand. Be inquisitive. Bring people together. Engage discussion. Identify necessities and find opportunities for invention.

Sophia Lau, an Associate at Hickok Cole Architects and Chair of AIA|DC’s Advocacy Committee, has organized ANC outreach and engagement workshops in the District since 2014. In partnership with DC’s Office of Planning, her interactive workshop “Building Blocks to Building Consensus” brings planners, architects, community members, and developers together to discuss local development issues.

2. Knowledge through research: Identify meaningful issues and dig deep. Solid knowledge is the backbone of real solutions.

Yolanda Cole, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP, Senior Principal and owner of Hickok Cole and ULI Washington Chair of Mission Advancement, has been advocating for families in the District. In her leadership role at the Urban Land Institute, she spearheaded the survey and analysis of 1,344 DC Metro Millennials. She continues to lead industry talks and discussions to identify policy and design solutions to keep families in the City.

3. Creativity is honed through active community involvement: Get out there and use your skills to make a difference. Have a stake and invest in the city’s future.

Full Circle, Hickok Cole’s philanthropic and volunteer committee, is actively engaged in the local community on many scales – from raising public awareness on local issues and mentoring local youth to providing pro-bono design services to groups such as Miriam’s Kitchen and DCBIA’s annual Community Build Day.

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Building Renovation Project Receives Positive Feedback During First Community Meeting. Source: AGU

As a final thought, Hickok Cole Architects’ design for the fully renovated American Geophysical Union (AGU) headquarters used the process of Engaged Design in full force to shepherd it through the District’s approval process. The AGU project, once approved by AGU’s Board of Directors and completed, will be the District metropolitan region’s first-ever existing commercial building conversion to target “net zero.”

The centerpiece of the project will be the addition of a prominent solar panel canopy to generate the building’s power. At the outset, the neighborhood was fully engaged through a series of outreach efforts, including a community meeting, a new website with project updates, and open communication via social media and e-mails.

The project recently received overwhelming community support leading to unanimous approval through the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). This almost unprecedented accomplishment can be summed up in the words of Daniel Warwick of the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC):

“[AGU] is a model for sustainable development that we hope is replicable for greater Washington.”

It is rare for an ANC member to testify at a public hearing, but Warwick felt so strongly for the project that he attended the hearing to personally urge the HPRB to support the project. In addition to the ANC, representatives from the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, Greater Greater Washington, and the Washington, DC chapter of the Sierra Club, all spoke in favor of the project.

By enforcing the principles of Engaged Design, the AGU project will surely become a gold standard for future sustainable projects in the District and nationwide.

For more information on the AGU project and to follow its progress, please visit AGU’s Building Renovation website.

By: Sophia Lau