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National Architecture and Engineering Firm HGA Affirms Its Responsibility To Generate Positive, Lasting Impact Through Design

The firm’s second annual report measures impact on climate, people, and communities.

National Architecture and Engineering Firm HGA Affirms Its Responsibility To Generate Positive, Lasting Impact Through Design

The firm’s second annual report measures impact on climate, people, and communities.

Published 11-02-23

Submitted by HGA

Lamond Riggs Public Library
Lamond Riggs Public Library | Washington D.C.

November 2, 2023 /CSRwire/ - Acclaimed interdisciplinary design firm HGA recognizes the significant role the firm has in addressing climate change, fostering equity, and improving communities. HGA embraces a responsibility to generate positive, lasting impact through design. As articulated in an intentional strategic plan, HGA’s definition of design excellence extends beyond beauty and function to include climate resilience, equity, and community action—every act of design, engineering, planning, and construction plays a significant role in contributing to a common future.

“Just as the industrial revolution was the catalyst for global warming, the current wave of climate action is the catalyst for a future sustainable, resilient world,” said Ariane Laxo, Director of Sustainability. She continued, “Two hundred years from now, historians will look at this decade as the moment everything changed. We at HGA feel the weight of that responsibility and are honored to be working with so many clients who are leading this transformation.” 

American Swedish Institute
American Swedish Institute Nelson Cultural Center| Minneapolis, Minnesota

Great Design is Sustainable Design

Sustainability is an integral component of great design at HGA, integrated into projects of all building types. This year, many regions have seen an acceleration of extreme heat, wildfire, and extreme rain – all impacts of climate change; action on climate has never been more urgent. Nearly 40% of global emissions are generated by the building sector; it is crucial that architects and engineers set ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions. As a signatory of challenges AIA 2030, SE 2050, and MEP2040 and the AIA Materials Pledge, HGA is partnering with clients to work towards zero carbon and elevate sustainable, equitable, and resilient design solutions across all building types, in new buildings and renovations.

HGA has developed three strategic priorities to advance sustainability: strengthening the network; integrating sustainability into the design process; and establishing clear accountability measures and tracking progress.

As part of the AIA 2030 Commitment, HGA reported 325 projects in 2022, of which six met the AIA target of 80% reduction in Energy Use Intensity and 99 met or exceeded the target for Lighting Power Density. With a goal of a 55% reduction in EUI for projects reported in 2023, the firm is working towards the AIA goal of net zero on all eligible projects by 2030.

Outside of client projects, HGA has set carbon neutral targets for all firm operations, five of HGA’s thirteen offices have achieved LEED Gold or Platinum certification and recently nine have achieved the WELL Health-Safety Rating by the International Well Building Institute. 

Westwood Hills Nature Center
Westwood Hills Nature Center | St. Louis, Minnesota

An Ongoing Commitment to Equity

Founded on the belief that diverse perspectives are integral to great design, equity is a living, breathing part of HGA. The firm is proactively working towards fostering an equitable culture, following an inclusive design process, advancing accessibility for all, and using their resources to shape a positive future for the communities they serve.

In 2023, the firm focused on developing a firmwide benchmark for equity, and from that research created five strategic priorities as HGA’s framework for equity including: building culture and capacity; developing authentic partnerships through a Diversified Supplier Partner Program; pushing the industry forward through thought leadership; contributing to the resilience of the communities they serve; and practicing holistic design.

HGA contributes to the resilience of the communities they serve by addressing inequities and disparities. The team approaches projects with empathy for users and the public, considering alternative points of view, including those that may disrupt systemic imbalances impacting communities.

Significant initiatives that have moved HGA's company culture forward include ensuring compensation and promotion parity; holding equity training for all employees; forming local and national equity councils to bring employee voices to the table; and providing inclusive employee benefits that recognize differences in culture, gender identity, and family structure. 

HGA Minneapolis Office
HGA Minneapolis Office

Design for Social Impact

HGA strives to create a powerful impact on the social, environmental, and economic health of the communities' employees live in. The firm’s Community Action program began in 2014 and aims to enhance the social impact of the firm’s work by providing pro bono design services and engagement workshops, mentoring, days of service, and charitable contributions.

Creating impact in communities is guided by four strategic priorities: advancing authentic engagement through pro bono design; mentoring the next generation of diverse designers; turning equity values into action through days of service; and supporting communities through charitable giving.

Making design accessible to community organizations that need assistance, but lack financial resources to acquire design services, through pro bono design and community engagement workshops is a priority for HGA. Pro bono design services and engagement workshops are offered throughout the year, free of charge, across all the firm’s offices for local nonprofit organizations, community associations/coalitions, and educational institutions.

The firm’s Community Action group collaborates with equity leadership to create partnerships with community organizations and educational institutions to help expose a diverse body of students to careers in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. The firm contributes 3% of their net profits to charitable giving each year through the Community Action program. 

Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College Class of 1982 Engineering and Computer Science Center | Hanover, New Hampshire

A Sense of Responsibility and Urgency

Creating a sustainable, equitable world for all is a collective endeavor and HGA is moving the needle with intention and urgency. Change at this scale requires public commitments, collaboration, and transparency. The AEC industry, in partnership with clients, can evolve the built environment to better address climate change and social inequities if they challenge themselves and each other and demand action and accountability.

Sustainability, equity, and community action are a vital part of HGA's values and culture.

Read the full Impact Report for more details on HGA’s impact in 2022 and 2023. 

HGA logo



HGA is a national interdisciplinary design firm committed to making a positive, lasting impact for our clients and communities through research-based, holistic solutions. We believe that great design requires a sense of curiosity—forming deep insight into our clients, their contexts, and the human condition. We are a collective of over 1,000 architects, engineers, interior designers, planners, researchers, and strategists. Our practice spans multiple markets, including corporate, cultural, education, local and federal government, healthcare, and science and technology.

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