Hord Coplan Macht understands the impact well-designed spaces have on communities. From our inception, we have made it a priority to improve our communities, not only through design, but also through service projects, fundraisers, and charitable giving initiatives.
Every year, each of our offices takes on a major service project, as part of HCM’s Green Apple Day of Service initiative. From designing playgrounds to constructing and filling planters for an outdoor classroom, each project directly benefits the local community, and is characterized by high rates of involvement. Interns and principals alike pick a four-hour shift to work at the job site, setting aside their day-to-day tasks to serve the community.
A LEGACY OF SERVICE
For over a decade, our firm has partnered with the USGBC’s Green Apple Day of Service, an international program whose mission is to “[unite] communities to transform our schools into safe, healthy and sustainable learning environments.” Working with local schools in need has been a favorite initiative for several reasons, one of which is that by serving a smaller organization with fewer resources, we are able to create a more substantial impact.
Our annual project for the Baltimore/DC Metro offices is led by Principal Julie Higgins, PLA, LEED AP, SITES AP. She recalls the diversity of previous efforts, with projects ranging from the construction of planters, benches and tables to more complex undertakings, such as a pergola, greenhouse improvements and even an art gallery.
“It has been very rewarding to spend a day working side by side with students, teachers and parents to improve learning environments in our city schools,” Higgins said.
Carson Shields, AIA, LEED BD+C, an Associate in our Denver office, has headed up the local branch of the annual Service Day for the past several years. He says that the effect that the projects, such as the design and construction of a new outdoor classroom last year at Park Hill Elementary, have on the community is significant, enabling students to spend more time outside engaged in structured learning or creative play. The service day also provides an opportunity for students to talk to team members. These informal conversations often serve as a first introduction to the AEC industry, and, as a firm honored for our commitment to diversity, we have the crucial opportunity to introduce young children to a diverse group of architects and empower them to pursue careers in AEC.
The service projects also have a positive impact on our employees. Team members consistently look forward to the HCM Day of Service, not only as an opportunity to give back to the community, but as a day full of team building, learning new skills, and seeing the progress possible in a single day when everyone comes together as a team. The office is intentionally divided into groups with members from different studios, providing an opportunity to build rapport and promote cross-studio knowledge sharing. The chance to learn new skills is both empowering and a reminder to designers of the complexities of the construction process, leading to better communication with our contractors and consultants during projects. Lastly, the opportunity to see a project through completion in a single day is often a breath of fresh air to staff, who frequently work on projects that span years.
“HCM Day of Service is so much more than a physical project,” says Shields, “it is the interactions between staff, and the empowerment it gives to our office.”
Our next HCM Day of Service is located in Denver, Colorado, at Monarch Montessori of Denver. For this project, our Denver office will be teaming with the Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) program, an initiative of the National Wildlife Federation dedicated to providing quality access to nature for our youngest children.
“Building on 10 years of rigorous academic research, the National Wildlife Federation is bringing together the best of design thinking and early childhood health…to address these modern needs of children.”
ECHO has a competitive application process to select the facilities who will receive grants, hands-on design assistance, and implementation plans. So far, ECHO has worked on over 300 sites throughout the state of Colorado.
Monarch Montessori was one of three selected applicants from a pool of over 50 childcare facilities. ECHO facilitated a hands-on design process with teachers and parents from the school, allowing them to lead the programming and design elements, and then finalizing the design to be in accordance with codes and safety standards. ECHO created a 10-year plan for the school and provided them with a seed grant to start the implementation process. HCM will be kickstarting the effort, completing nearly a third of the preschool play area and building elements such as earth and gravel play centers, a “stage” with an attached pergola, a reading nook, and a teepee village.
Our Baltimore office is also preparing for their annual project, which is scheduled for mid-October. This year, team members will be completing the final phase in a multi-year effort to create an outdoor courtyard classroom for City College, a Baltimore City high school. The outdoor learning space will include work tables, seating and native landscaping.
We are looking forward to another impactful service project on September 27, as well as later this Fall, and the opportunity to continue to give back to our community by providing daily access to nature and creative play to students.