Welcoming Global, Sustainable Design in 2019
As I visit DLR Group offices during the year, there is one constant in every location: the passion of our employee-owners to advance our firm. In October 2015, DLR Group operated 15 offices with 710 employee-owners. As we enter 2019, we have 1,200 design professionals serving clients globally from 30 locations. This growth has added new geographies, markets, and a greater depth of design specialization to the firm.
DLR Group is an integrated design firm and this is reflected in the range of 58 awards we earned in 2018 that included 22 AIA awards; six ASHREA awards; three IIDA awards; an AIA Committee on the Environment Award for the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery; and the design of the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit, Missouri garnered a coveted American Architecture Award for 2018 from the Chicago Athenaeum.
Meda in Minneapolis by DLR Group. Photo by Brandon Stengel.
In all our locations, DLR Group also maintains a commitment to provide a work environment to meet the needs of today’s design professional. We understand it’s not solely about where you work or how you work. It’s about the work. We have embraced a distributed leadership model, and leverage technology that empowers design teams of the best and brightest sitting in multiple offices to best solve the unique design challenges of clients around the world.
Our recent growth has provided new leadership and professional growth opportunities throughout DLR Group. In 2018, we celebrated the accomplishments and leadership of our design professionals with the appointment of two new senior principals, 26 new principals, 67 new senior associates, and 114 new associates. Each of these new leaders are evidence of the competitive advantage our employee-owned model brings to our firm.
Our Guiding Commitment to Sustainability
DLR Group is a passionate voice for the Architecture 2030 Challenge, sustainable design, and a leader in the growing conversation about mass timber design and construction.
T3 Goose Island in Chicago by DLR Group. Rendering by DLR Group.
With the International Code Council's approval of the tall mass timber code change proposals which sets fire safety requirements, allowable heights, and areas and number of stories for tall mass timber buildings, 2019 adds momentum to our developing expertise as a source for mass timber design. We have two active T3 – also known as Timber, Transit, and Technology – projects currently underway; one in a burgeoning neighborhood in Atlanta and another in Chicago’s Goose Island, which is shaping up to be one of the largest mass timber structure in the U.S. in the modern construction era. We continue to stretch the boundaries of our creativity with conceptual design studies that reimagine what a timber skyline might look like in San Francisco or Seattle.
We recently shared our third annual Environmental Stewardship Report with the design industry. This report documents the commitment, and progress, of our design teams to meet the goals of the 2030 Challenge. In 2018, DLR Group’s design work resulted in a 49 percent energy reduction compared to average buildings, according to Architecture 2030’s Zero Tool database.
Canyon View High School in Waddell, Arizona by DLR Group. Photo by Tom Reich.
To meet the aims of the 2030 Challenge, our design teams must not only reduce energy use; we also must advance on-site energy production and develop the tools and innovative systems to conserve and store energy on-site. DLR Group designed more than 20 megawatts of solar energy systems for clients in 2018. And at the recently opened Canyon View High School in suburban Phoenix, we’re piloting the performance of a unique bio phase change material, or Bio-PCM, which has long been applied in the aerospace industry. We predict that bringing this technology down to earth will help us design passive climate control more effectively, and create more comfortable, healthy environments for virtually any building type.
We’ve doubled down on high-performance, evidence-based design and made the research outcomes of our studios available to our clients, who deserve to know the why behind our design recommendations; to our peers and the public through our digital messaging; and in presentations at design industry conferences. Sharing information like the quality of the air we breathe, and just how natural light physiologically affects our ability to perform, propels our industry forward and helps everyone who experiences our projects – from the design teams behind those spaces to the users of our buildings.
The Huili School in Shanghai by DLR Group. Photo by Ke Zhong Zhou.
Global Influence and Reach
Great design transcends borders. We’ve reinforced our commitments overseas with new leadership and growth opportunities in the Middle East and China, respectively. Jamal Salem now leads our design studio in Dubai and our Shanghai studio recently moved to a larger office space to accommodate its growing design staff. We also celebrated the opening of the DLR Group-designed Huili School, a prestigious bilingual institution in Shanghai’s Qiantan International Business Zone.
Commitment to Each Other
As an employee-owned firm, we owe it to ourselves to invest in each other. In 2018, we made several investments to enrich the employee-owner experience at DLR Group. As we look to the future and continue to evaluate the impact of technology on how we design and deliver buildings, I see an ever-accelerating pace of change in our industry. To address this change, during the year we assembled a multidisciplinary team within the firm to imagine the future of our practice. This team is evaluating, and in some instances even developing, the tools and technology we will use to deliver design in the future.
Oberlin College Eric Baker Nord Performing Arts Annex in Oberlin, Ohio by DLR Group|WRL. Photo by Kevin G Reeves.
And that future of practice at DLR Group is deeper integration; additional service offerings with more and more sophisticated expertise; and technology to enable specialization in building types – all supported by evidence-based design outcomes and advanced knowledge of local climate, materials, and context. The future is experts in locations around the world connected to deliver global specialization at the local client level.
To meet the evolving needs of our employee-owners and clients Brooke Grammier joined the firm as chief information officer and Becky Schnack was elevated to chief financial officer to support our growing enterprise. During the year we launched two (d)R&D grants for teams to investigate specific design innovations and awarded several Professional Development Grants to enable our design professionals to explore a personal passion. Among this year’s PDG winners were two podcasts that explored resilient design culture, and women in our industry; and an exploration of various technology applications to improve the construction administration process. The PDG program is a growing firm tradition that impacts not only our employee-owners, but our communities of practice. A PDG from 2017 that explored design ethics will be the subject of a presentation at the AIA’s upcoming 2019 convention in Las Vegas.
I’ve said it before, but it is worth saying again. Our goal is not to be a big firm. It’s to be a great firm. A highly-differentiated, deeply integrated, global design leader. And 2019 will be another exciting year in our realization of that goal.