With the internet at our fingertips, consumers are highly aware of their purchasing power and attuned to the policies, principles, and values of the brands they support. When it comes to major social issues, consumers don’t just want companies to address them in a statement. They demand action and accountability, expecting to see radical improvement throughout the supply chain. And they’re applying this level of scrutiny to most aspects of their life: from what they eat to who they vote for.
The narrowing gap between commercial real estate (CRE) firms and the end-user suggests that our industry is no exception. While most CRE firms have adopted a value-based approach for their corporate branding strategy, according to Sarah Barr, Director of Hickok Cole Creative, “The movement towards informed consumerism requires firms to embody their mission, wholeheartedly through philanthropy, hiring practices, and partnerships.” She adds, “This is an opportunity to reflect on core values, improve processes, and embrace transparency for future growth and success.”
When done effectively, CRE businesses can build brand equity and cultivate deeper connections with their end-users, who in turn serve as brand advocates, and valuable outlets for sourcing ideas and keeping abreast of major trends. Most importantly, purpose-driven brand strategies can influence how residents select their apartment communities or how tenants select their workplace.
Comparatively, potential residents and tenants may look beyond unit and office layout, pricing, and amenities, to conduct their own research into the property development teams, construction materials, and how the building is marketed.
“Consumers want to see commitment,” says Sarah. “How are you evaluating your supply chain to ensure your building’s brand purpose and story stack up? And once the building is complete, how does it live that purpose on a day-to-day basis?”
She references NOVEL South Capitol, co-developed by Crescent Communities and RCP, and managed by Bozzuto, whose brand strategy centers around being a community-driven and community-focused third place. The apartments sit above Chef Erik Bruner Yang’s ABC Pony, which at the onset of COVID, pivoted to help keep restaurant workers employed preparing meals for healthcare heroes, firefighters and those in need through a project called Power of 10 Initiative.
NOVEL publicly aligned itself with the project on social media and provided Erik an extended platform to promote the effort with an Instagram takeover and ongoing social media integrations. Through the takeover, followers and residents were able to connect with Erik’s story, learn more about the initiative, and if compelled, donate. “Though NOVEL is not directly tied to Power of 10 Initiative, Erik is part of NOVEL’s community and it’s who I think about when I think of NOVEL. The project aligned with NOVEL’s community-focused strategy, creating a sense of pride for current residents and interest for potential residents who want to be part of something bigger,” she concluded. NOVEL has continued to have programs to support their community through this strange time that goes beyond the traditional experience, as well as promoting the unique benefit of Erik’s restaurant just downstairs for a full work-from-home menu.
Apart from growth potential, your decisions can drive real change. Take LEED for example. At the start of the certification program, LEED played a major role in differentiating buildings in the marketplace. Organizations who identified as sustainably-focused began to seek out LEED-certified buildings as one way to solidify their commitment and live out their purpose—helping LEED grow in popularity and pave the way for other sustainability and wellness programs like WELL, Fitwel, and the Living Building Challenge.
It won’t be long before most tenants take into account what their broker, building owner, and property management team stand for when their lease is up for renewal. Whether you define the end-user as an association, commercial tenant, resident, dog-lover, decision-maker, social advocate, or a good neighbor, their decision-making process lies with the collective stories you tell and live. “This is no longer walking the walk,” Sarah adds. “It’s running an ultra-marathon.”
Architecture in Washington, DC is easily overlooked, often distilled to a vision of concrete and conservatism or disregarded as unimaginative. But architects in the city would argue that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In recent years, a broader shift in cultural and social values coupled with an urgency around climate change have contributed to a gradual yet undeniable transformation of the capital’s urban landscape. Even as the same restrictions around height remain in place, architects in DC have continued to innovate and mature within those boundaries – redefining the city through placemaking and the sheer power of a facade.
Ahead of the Facades+ DC conference this month, we sat down with Co-Chair Elba Morales and panel moderators, Holly Lennihan and Sophia Lau to discuss the evolution of DC design and explore the most significant factors influencing its future. Let’s dive right in.
Elba, over the past
several months, you’ve been working closely with the Architect’s Newspaper to
curate the programming for Facades+ DC. What influenced your selection of panel
topics and speakers?
Elba Morales (EM): The conference presented us with an opportunity to design a program around what we’re most excited about and, more importantly, what we thought our peers and clients would be most interested to learn. We wanted to expand the conversation on DC architecture beyond federal buildings and monuments by introducing a new crop of buildings with materials, details, and tectonics that offer a counterpoint. Likewise, the local industry’s recent discussions around glass box fatigue are justified to a certain degree. But we tried to examine what it is about glass facades that we’re reacting to specifically – is it the lack of sustainable strategies in the enclosure, the generic character of the façade, the missed opportunity to contribute to the character of the neighborhood? We wanted to capture how glass is being redefined to become more sophisticated and tectonically complex. Solid facades present different opportunities in terms of placemaking. So we selected projects that convey how a facade can relate to its surroundings in different ways and propose a new type of monumentality. Finally, we knew we definitely wanted to address high-performance design because of the natural progression of policy and because we feel it’s important to perpetuate the dialogue around sustainability.
You mention DC’s glass
box fatigue, which has been a hot topic across the industry over the past few
years. What makes the first panel’s focus on the glass facades at the
International Spy Museum and 2050 M Street different?
EM: Both projects have a distinctive façade and treatment of glass that is anything but generic, and we’re going to hear directly from the teams responsible for executing them. If you think about 2050 M, we see the fluted panels but so many of the details are hidden, or eliminated in the case of the vertical mullions. At the Spy Museum, all of the gymnastics of the oversized glass and connections to the angled fins are fascinating to me. It’s really unusual to see a façade layered in such a way that it creates pleats – it makes the whole facade feel lighter. And the way the entire façade cantilevers over the street! These tectonics did not exist in DC before these two buildings. The complexity of these facades required a lot of technical expertise, in some cases a massive approval process, and ultimately an owner willing to go there. I want people to be inspired by the challenges that come with innovating and going outside the norm like this, and look forward to hearing more about it myself.
How do you hope the
presence of these innovative projects will impact design within the city?
Sophia Lau (SL): It’s important to showcase that this kind of work can be
done in DC. These buildings have a sculptural quality and are very thoughtful
in how they’re realized in the details of construction. They create
inspirational places for people to enjoy and remember. Exposing the DC
marketplace to this caliber of design will hopefully bring new trades and
skills to the construction industry that make it more mainstream. Everything we
build is part of a movement to push the industry to the next level. Having
these kinds of forums allows us to engage in conversation, build on ideas and
then fuel them forward. It’s a village: the designer, the contractor, the
developer and so on. We want to find new ways to inspire and challenge the
status quo and enjoy working with clients that want that too.
The second panel takes
the concept of sculptural design to the extreme through the examination of the
Glenstone Museum and The REACH at The Kennedy Center. What makes you excited to
hear from the teams behind these two projects?
SL: We chose to highlight glass versus non glass on purpose to spur a
conversation between mass and opening. We want to capture how buildings can
display elements of excellent design through the examples we highlight in the
conference. Not just in museums or institutional buildings but in offices and
buildings that affect our everyday. At The REACH, Stephen Holl took advantage
of the fact that concrete is liquid to create an experience that embraces
curves. His team used the plasticity of poured-in-place concrete to create
dynamic forms that literally dance in the landscape. What’s so compelling about
Glenstone is how an institution can use the humble material of concrete and
realize it in a majestic way. The facade is more than just an envelope and is
deployed masterfully. It demonstrates the level of creativity that can be
achieved with any material, and showcases how something like concrete can be
looked at thoughtfully and reinterpreted. The precast concrete units surprise
people because they think its stone. We know it’s not, but Thomas Phifer and
his team elevate the material in a way that alters its perception. I am
exceptionally interested in learning more about that process and how they could
get it to a point of transformation.
The final session invites
experts from Transsolar and the Center for the Built Environment to share the
latest on their sustainability research. Why are open dialogues like this more
important now than ever before?
Holly Lennihan (HL): No matter which way you look at it, climate change
cannot be ignored, and that translates to the building industry in the form of being
more intentional with how we design. With legislation like DC’s Omnibus Act,
all of a sudden we’re having mandated conversations that explicitly require us
to explore outside of our comfort zones and learn from others in the field.
Quantifying and analyzing building performance or studying how buildings
perform with different facades is an expertise, so how do we find and tap into
those experts to educate ourselves and our peers? Education is key. That’s why sharing
our work more frequently is extremely valuable, especially when it comes to
sustainability. It makes replication of what works so much easier, and that’s
what we want above anything else – to make high-performance design more
approachable for designers and clients. As sustainable programs become more mainstream, the
evolution of how they’re applied is changing becoming more sophisticated. For
example, we talked earlier about the glass box phenomenon, and all-glass
buildings are not great for sustainability when it comes to energy usage. The current
solution tends to revolve around layering or adding shading techniques to
reduce overheating, but now is the time to go back to the basics and add mass
as well as take advantage of the available technology. People are working hard
to sort out how to make a shift in their design process. It’s an amazing time
to be an architect because there’s a real transformation occurring in how we do
what we do. One thing we can’t forget – even with all of the new technology out
there – is that the fundamentals of design still apply. Basic things like
quality air barriers and proper insulation – these are age old responses to
climate conditions that start at the very core of the building and cost
nothing. I really think the whole industry is coming to terms with the concept
of less is more. And as Sophia said before, the only way we’re going to get
there is together.
What do you all hope
people take away from the conference?
HL: There are a lot of
great nuggets to pull from, even at the basic level. We want to impress upon
owners and developers that professionals in this area don’t shy away from
risk. We are not going to ignore the complications of trying something new, or
being the first as in the case of our work at AGU. We understand that these
conversations start early and that we need to continue to educate ourselves.
Anyway we can move the needle forward with our clients – whether it’s a more
sophisticated facade or designing for net zero energy – that’s a win for us.
SL: This is an
opportunity to join a forward-thinking community. We hope people come away
motivated to become active participants in the dialogue, research and
collaborations that are pushing the built environment to new heights of design
EM: Ultimately, we’re pushing for change and a more immediate dialogue on what it takes to follow through on ambitious aspirations. In the context of the conference, we want to see more buildings with facades that inspire us and that are better for our city, people, and environment. The conference has an excellent range of speakers who will tackle these topics from diverse viewpoints – sharing details, processes, and challenges that are not public. That in itself is so powerful. We want people to feel inspired by what is presented and what can be achieved. And to know that DC is happening!
Elba Morales, LEED AP is an Associate Principal and Senior Designer at Hickok Cole. She is currently working on several repositioning projects including 1400 L Street NW, 2340 Dulles, and 2 Bethesda Metro.
We are pleased to announce Robert L. Holzbach, AIA, LEED AP, our Principal and Director of Staff Operations, has begun his term as the 2020 President of the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|DC).
joined the AIA|DC Board of Directors in 2015 as an At-Large Member, Rob went on
to serve as Secretary, Treasurer, and President-Elect before stepping into his
current role as President. During his tenure, Rob pioneered the creation of
the DAC Leadership Series, a program designed to provide continuing
education and leadership development for mid-career professionals, with panel
topics in 2019 including Unconscious Bias, Artificial Intelligence, Leadership
for the Next Generation, and Alternative Career Paths.
With over two decades of experience in the architecture and interior design profession, Rob brings his leadership skills and industry knowledge to the AIA|DC. He is particularly interested in forging connections with like-minded organizations focused on Climate Action. This effort brings the AIA|DC into alignment with the AIA National’s “Big Move Toward Environmental Stewardship”, which seeks to declare an urgent climate imperative for carbon reduction, transform the day-to-day practice of architecture, and take immediate action. He is also invested in issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion and has reshaped the Board of Directors to accurately reflect the chapter’s diverse membership.
As a Principal at Hickok Cole, Rob is a Project Director for commercial office building projects, and as Director of Staff Operations, he is responsible for firm wide recruiting, retention, and staffing management. His most notable projects include the NPR headquarters, 909 Rose Avenue at Pike & Rose, Franklin Square at 1300 Eye Street (reposition), and the Incubator Office building at Potomac Yards.
am thrilled to step into the role of President after many years of being a part
of the AIA|DC Chapter. Throughout my membership, I have witnessed first-hand
the value this remarkable organization provides, not only to the profession but
to the city as a whole,” said Rob. “I look forward to working with my
fellow Board Members to build upon the achievements of my predecessors and
honor the role of the AIA within the architecture community.”
On January 8, 2020, Hickok Cole, the Menkiti Group, and Enlightened Inc. were joined by Mayor Muriel Bowser and city officials to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the MLK Gateway. Located at the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, this development intends to revitalize the Anacostia neighborhood and serve as a catalyst for economic opportunity. Upon completion, the project will deliver an estimated 400 jobs to the local community.
Our team has worked closely with the Menkiti Group to design a sustainable and equitable space that matches their vision for economic development while addressing the needs and concerns of the Anacostia community. Beginning Q1 2021 upon construction completion, Phase One will feature the restoration of 14,000 SF of ground floor retail and 20,000 SF of newly built office space, and include facade preservation in an effort to maintain continuity of the historic neighborhood. Phase Two design will tentatively start later this year with the goal to start construction soon after the completion of Phase One.
Several companies are already on board to lease the new space, including Enlightened Inc, who has agreed to relocate its headquarters from downtown DC. The tech company will not only increase traffic to the area, but increase career growth with a new incubator program designed to help small tech firms conduct business with the federal government, in addition to offering cybersecurity training geared towards providing local residents with new skill sets.
We are thrilled to be a part of this pivotal development in the heart of Anacostia and look forward to the monumental opportunities it will bring to the community.
2019 was a great year for our staff, our projects and our firm. We put our research into action, saw many of our designs finally realized in construction, and even brought home a few awards. None of it though, would be possible without our partners and our clients. We thank you for sharing our vision and for embracing opportunities focused on building a successful future for our city and the people within it. Now for a rundown of our top moments of the year:
1. In 2019, we welcomed 10 new members to the Hickok Cole team – including a designer who started as an intern this spring!
2. We promoted 13 team members to positions varying from Associate to Principal, and celebrated five staff members who reached significant firm milestones within the firm.
4. We continued our support of net zero and high-performance development through participation in the DMV Net Zero Energy Coalition and ULI Sustainability Committee while strengthening our relationship with the DOEE by helping to inform the real estate industry about goals established by DC’s new Omnibus Act.
5. Our Lifestyle team celebrated the grand opening of The Batley, a warehouse turned residence setting the new standard for modern luxury in DC. Inspired by the history of the Union Market neighborhood, the design features a variety of custom furnishings, finishes and works of art throughout the building’s public and amenity spaces.
6. We transformed our research on modular and mass timber construction into reality with new projects at Benning Road and 80 M SE in DC respectively. Upon completion, 80 M will become the first ever mass timber construction on a commercial office building in DC.
7. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the most ambitious clean energy law in the nation at our American Geophysical Union headquarters project, the first net-zero energy office renovation in the Mid-Atlantic region. The project went on to receive the DC Department of Energy and the Environment’s first ever Clean Energy DC Award.
8. We won and began work on our first project in Philadelphia, a modular multi-family development in historic Fishtown, expanding our geographic reach to include the City of Brotherly Love.
9. Nearly five decades following the fire that burned it down, we helped restore the beloved St. Thomas Parish to the Dupont Circle community – completing a mixed-use renovation and modern interpretation of the church with an adjacent multi-family addition that makes use of the surviving 1970s facade.
10. Hickok Cole’s Richmond office broke ground on their first base building project, The Current, a mixed-use development with Lynx Ventures.
11. We delivered the first phase of our work to modernize National Geographic’s headquarters campus with a new office environment that properly reflects their mission-driven culture, and began work on the next phase of design for the organization’s new entry pavilion.
12. We hosted our first annual Wellness Month (which originated as Wellness Week in 2018) and brought meditation, mindfulness, health and wellness to the workplace thanks to our partners at Steelcase, Bently, Coalesse, Designtex, reDistrict, ALKS, MOI, and many more.
13. Hickok Cole Creative continued to expand upon their portfolio of strategic branding packages for multifamily and commercial buildings across the DMV, while embarking on efforts for new clients in the arts and culture world – including artist residency program, the Nicholson Project and the DC Concert Orchestra Society.
14. The hard work and dedication of our team members was recognized with more than thirty industry awards, including honors from IIDA Premiere MAC, MultiHousing News, AIA Northern Virginia, Retrofit Magazine, Multi Family Executive, and ENR.
15. We strutted the catwalk at Cosmo Couture with our partners Good Lines DC and Buzzi Space in a visionary portrayal of Memory that paid homage to the Kodak Carousel.
16. Our staff shared their expertise at industry events like Design DC, ULI’s Resilience Day, Bisnow’s Greater State of Senior Housing and ARchitecture & Design Summits, and the PHIUS Passive House Conference. We were also invited to serve and began work as co-chair for the upcoming Facades+ DC conference.
18. Our Full Circle Committee organized over 300 staff hours dedicated to volunteer efforts from helping at soup kitchens and running marathons to donating pro-bono design work for Arts on the Block’s new Silver Spring studio.
19. Finally, we raised nearly $150,000 – a new record – in partnership with Washington Project for the Arts at our annual Art Night event which featured a custom pop-art themed signage, invitations, and swag designed by Hickok Cole Creative.
Looking forward to a bright 2020 – we’ll see you then!