Baani Singh, AIA, has already weathered one recession in her architectural career. After being let go in 2012 during a round of layoffs at the large firm where she worked in Albany, N.Y., she took a job as a consultant at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-Center for Active Design. Today, as principal of her own firm, D2D Green Architecture, she continues to use active design tenets to promote health and wellness in the built environment—while remaining resilient in the face of uncertainty.
After my role at Center for Active Design, I decided to continue working in design and sustainability and focus on green design’s more all-inclusive approach—including wellness, energy efficiency, carbon reduction, product life cycle, and healthy materials. With that holistic approach in mind, my firm started growing. At D2D, we offer various services including architecture, sustainability consulting, and interior design, and work on a versatile portfolio of building types and markets. Being able to offer diversified services to a variety of clients will be key in the post-pandemic times, because if there is a lack of projects in one [sector], we can depend on another.
I started the practice remotely to be able to take care of my daughter. Now, I have employees in North Carolina, New Jersey, New York City, and Albany, N.Y. We’re scattered, and so far, it has worked out great for us to keep the practice virtual and tap into amazing talent wherever we find it. We all work together with the same holistic principles. It was a blessing that our whole team was used to working remotely and we did not have to change a thing to adjust during these uncertain times, though we are doing more team building online than we did before the pandemic.
Architects are resilient. We can quickly adapt to the changing environment and technology. Virtual practice reduces our overhead and gives us flexibility to hire talented people and promote racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. As a woman and minority business owner, I can relate to the challenges faced by women and minorities in the industry. I want my practice to encourage growth and provide work-life balance for everyone.
I think we are successful because we respect everyone’s opinions. While working on our COVID and post-COVID strategies, we asked everybody at the firm: “These are our plans. What are your thoughts?” You never know where solutions might come from. In addition, diversity also helps us with critical thinking and creative solutions.
I’m from India, and I think it’s important for a firm principal to not only be inclusive, but also have the principle of “chardikala.” That means being in positive spirits and taking everything as it comes. Whatever is coming in my life and my business—for example, projects are currently going on hold as we mostly do government work—we rely on the principle of “chardikala.” Results are not under our control, but our actions are. If the decision-makers in the firm are in positive spirits, it trickles down to the entire team.