Micro-Grants for Macro Ideas

Our micro-grant program encourages exploration of new ideas from cross-office, cross-discipline teams made up of impassioned individuals with a common curiosity. Proposals around everything from social movements to sustainable materials are presented and voted on firm-wide; winning concepts are funded for investigation, and discoveries are shared across the firm and applied to our projects. Examples below:


Augmented Reality for Construction Administration 2018

Using augmented reality (AR) in the AEC industry was a futuristic vision only a few years ago. However, after a few recent commercial successes, we wanted to see if this should be used at HGA to aid in our design and construction administration (CA) phases. AR could help save time and help the design and engineering of a space.



Biophilic Design in Higher Education 2018

Biophilia—literally “nature loving”—refers to a human’s innate attraction towards that which is natural, alive, and provided an evolutionary edge. We reviewed and summarized existing research to gain an understanding of how biophilic design could be applied to institutions of higher learning. We concluded biophilic design can have significant benefits to higher education.



Building Energy Benchmarking 2018

Average energy profiles and average annual energy operating costs have been developed for ACE Performing Arts Centers and Healthcare Patient Bedtowers in locations throughout the country and close to HGA offices. The energy model data can be used to advanced energy conservation measures for markets, local climate, and energy cost rates.



Designing with Data: Practical Applications of AI 2018

The goal of our research was to explore different possible applications of machine learning (ML), a sub-set of artificial intelligence (AI), to understand how they can become more integrated into HGA’s practice. This study is the second part of a previous Micro-Grant focused on Artificial intelligence in Architecture.



IAQ and IoT: Creating Actionable IAQ Data in the Built Environment 2018

There are few low/modest-cost building controls that monitor indoor air quality for anything beyond temperature, relative humidity, and CO2. Adding sensors to measure VOCs and particulate matter has been cost prohibitive or beyond scope, and fewer systems have all these inputs.



Incremental Dynamic Analysis 2018

A non-linear response history analysis is the most accurate representation of a structure’s performance available to modern engineers and has only become accessible with the recent development in increased computing power. Building on the talent of the structural engineers within HGA, we have continued to explore and develop an implementation plan for this technique.



Leading Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 2018

Using the right tools and metrics in our project management will give HGA better insight and allow us to predict and manage towards success more effectively. Leading Key Performance Indicators are used to predict changes, acknowledge trends, are forward-looking, and help to manage the performance of a system or process.



Optimized Operating Room 2018

For the last 73 years, operating rooms have been designed based on an orthogonal layout, the shape of which has not been challenged. The ‘Optimized Operating Room’ is a round room layout design that incorporates best practice elements from orthogonal room design, as established from research studies, and looks to improve them.



Polished Concrete 2018

We aimed to highlight the true costs of polished concrete floors across the wide spectrum of quality that can be expected, so that design teams can make more educated decisions for their projects. We consolidated internal resources from HGA and gathered resources from the industry to build a repository to better equip designers to provide beautiful and durable results.



Resiliency in Zoos and Aquariums 2018

Where are Zoos and Aquariums really headed vs. where we suspect they’re headed? How do they need to build Resiliency into their facilities—both physical buildings and habitats? We focused less on blockbuster exhibits and more toward education, conservation and internal research, water conservation, and expanded Resiliency checklist strategies specific to these projects.



Women in Technology: Creating Equitable Workspace 2018

We aimed to define ways in which women in technology work differently than their male counterparts over multiple generations and to create workspaces that foster success for everyone. Specifically, we focused on scholarly research and studies that highlight the differences between the work styles of scientific information between women and men.



​AIA 2030 Commitment 2017

Our objective was to develop a early-stage energy model “proof of concept” that could be used to report energy metrics to the AIA 2030 Commitment. The team constructed “test” energy model that was based off of a completed, fully-developed, “target” energy model. We also developed a tool  to evaluate the test model relative to the target model at each iteration.



Chiller Optimization 2017

The current program has reduced energy consumption in central plants by upwards of 40%, and these plants are around for a long time so enduring performance is key. Transitioning to a service model (open-chain) in contrast to a project model (closed-chain) demands different execution. This research set out to find small, time-saving changes to the execution of the program.



CLT and Heavy Timber Construction: Floor to Façade 2017

Using mass timber brings exciting opportunities to provide a built environment, offering improved sustainability metrics, more efficient construction methods, and a multitude of occupant benefits. While CLT is already widely used in Europe and Canada, recent expansion into mid-rise, high-rise, and non-residential applications has opened the door for wider implementation in the U.S.



Linking Workplace Strategy to Productivity & ROI in Office Environments 2017

We aimed to leverage existing research to open new markets and improve client satisfaction by linking Workplace Strategy (WpS), Productivity & ROI to construct a compelling business case for WpS in corporate office environments.




New Digital Revolution: Artificial Intelligence & Architecture 2017

“Hey Siri, How big should this be?” The idea of leveraging data from our past work is not new—we aimed to find more efficient methods to gather and analyze data to make it readily useful to the design process. Our research focused on using machine learning to create models that can quickly order and categorize the large data sets and make them useful to designers.



Open-Source Sensor: Comprehensive Autonomous Real-time (OSCAR) 2017

This was Phase 1 of the ongoing OSCAR Project. It entailed building a fully functional prototype with WiFi connectivity and cloud data logging ability. This prototype was be deployed in HGA areas alongside one of our commercially available data loggers; the HOBO MX.



Sabermetrics for Architecture 2017

Sabermetrics is the application of statistical analysis to evaluate and compare performance. It has revolutionized the game of baseball, and applying similar concepts can change the way we approach our work. By collecting and studying various data sources, we set out to satisfy our curiosity, gain insight into our process, and make recommendations for staffing.



Seismic Resiliency: A Performance-Based Design 2017

Performance-Based Seismic Design (PBSD) permits the design and construction of buildings with a realistic and reliable understanding of the risk of life, occupancy, and economic loss as a result of earthquakes. Buildings can achieve a seismic resiliency rating through the use of statistics and sophisticated structural analysis. A client’s request to provide guidelines sparked our research.



Sustainable Power Through Deep Geothermal & Steam 2017

We set out to determine the feasibility of constructing a deep well geothermal system that could drive a steam turbine generator to make electricity. Deep well geothermal power taps into the energy stored in the earth to create a sustainable electrical power supply, harnessing the energy hidden below the earth’s surface to reach NetZero.



Therapeutic Garden that Helps People Heal 2017

HGA designed a therapeutic garden in a small, left-over, semi-rooftop space in a hospital’s therapy wing. Through interviews conducted by landscape architecture and healthcare research, we learned what post-occupancy evaluations can teach us about our projects, human relationships to landscape and that researching space can reveal how users can flourish.



Transition Planning through the Virtual Reality Lens 2017

Clients hire us for our ability to transform their physical environment, but are sometimes unaware of our ability to impact their organizational culture, and in turn, staff’s transition period in a new space. Through testing of a pre/post framework to train and on-boarding staff with the use of Virtual Reality, we learned how to bring value and accountability to clients and our design.



Understanding and Implementing Community Engagement 2017

Clients are increasingly showing an interest in community engagement, and it is often a component of the criteria used for project selection. The purpose of this research was to highlight and identify strategies to grow our expertise as community engagers and to provide a means of demonstrating the value of Community Engagement to our clients.



Unlocking the Structural Engineering Power in a Smart Phone 2017

In our vibration design work, we use assumptions that are based on experiments, classical theory, design experience, and analysis. They could be by measurements after the building structure has been built. Our research focused on developing calculation tools that post-process both raw acceleration data and cell phone app software data. Learn about applying this research here.



Structures for Unconventional Shapes 2015

It’s becoming easier for designers to model complex geometric forms. From the structural engineer’s perspective, the primary concern regarding these complex shapes is the need to rationalize and analyze the geometry in an efficient and profitable manner. We developed a tool to help facilitate geometry transition from the architecture model into the structural analysis model.




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