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    Credit: Stefan Hester

Does HOK stay involved after a project’s handoff?
We do where we can. In looking at the full life cycle of the built environment, we want to be part of the preplanning, design, and construction, and into post occupancy. We have some projects where we’ve been able to go through the whole post-occupancy side and look at energy, water, and indoor environment. That’s wonderful and we love that. It helps inform the client and provides our own lessons learned.

We’re doing some interesting work now on a big scale, and we are doing sustainable-development guidelines for new cities in Saudi Arabia. Our client wants to develop a set of guidelines for new communities and urban growth centers to conserve energy use and ensure a long-term reliable supply of energy.

These are the kind of things we’re doing outside of the more traditional design and construction realm in our consulting efforts. We’re filling out the 360-degree view of the life cycle of the built environment, and recognizing it as an opportunity to provide those kinds of additional roles and a need to be fully integrated in what we’re doing to really drive change.

Looking at the shape of the sustainability in the building realm today, what do you consider to be the most pressing concern or challenge facing design professionals?
One continues to be global warming and the impact of the built environment. This is the number one issue that we continue to need to address in both adaptation and reduction of emissions. Adaptation and resilience is a big part of the picture for me. How can we design a more resilient solution that will work in this world of climate change? We know it is changing, so how do we work with that while embracing passive strategies? That’s really important.

Second, we need to be thinking about more than one building at a time. As many of our colleagues have said, you’re not going to pave your way to heaven through single LEED Platinum buildings. We need to look at the neighborhood scale and the urban scale, now that the majority of people live in cities. We also need to look at existing buildings and existing infrastructure. That’s where opportunities are to really make a difference.

The last thing I’m thinking about a lot lately is the link between human health and the health of the environment with the built environment. We have a global health crisis and an obesity epidemic. We know that how we design typically on the larger scale and on the building scale makes a huge difference. Also, part of that issue is toxicity and what we are introducing into our buildings, which is just now an emerging awareness; I think it’s very important, along with the link to biophilia.

HOK's Mary Ann Lazarus on Biomimicry

Courtesy HOK Network on Youtube.