Announcements March 25, 2020

New Research: Explore Our Fall Innovation Incubator Projects

Three recent Innovation Incubator projects investigate the future of arena design, evolving the process of architectural discussion, and resilient design strategies for the future

Our firm’s Innovation Incubator program supports small, focused explorations proposed by staff members with micro-grants of money and time. The program, offered in the fall and spring, promotes the exploration and development of ideas that improve our work, open new areas of business, and stretch our collective creativity. The results of these explorations further our design work, improve our design process and contribute to the knowledge base of our industry.

We invite you to explore three recent Innovation Incubator projects that concluded this fall:

Exterior Thermal Comfort Maps

Resilient Future – A Design Energy Simulation of the Future

By Cheney Chen, Tyrone Marshall, and Mohamed Imam

“The climate is changing and so must the construction industry. As leaders, architects should focus on the facts presented by science. The ultimate goal is to prepare our future design and construction with resilient solutions today. This is not decided by imagination or estimation, but by the quantitative data from the most current, evidence-based climate research.”

—Cheney Chen

“The ability to simulate future climate change and its impact on our buildings is a game changer. This insight empowers designers to incorporate strategies to ensure an optimized indoor thermal comfort and energy consumption throughout the lifespan of our projects within the context of a changeable climate.”

—Mohamed Imam


Building simulation tools can empower architects to evaluate and optimize the performance of their designs. Thus, it is essential to integrate building performance simulation modeling from an early design stage. A critical piece of the simulated environment is the weather file. It is a compilation of 20- 30 years of historical weather and hourly data on temperature, solar radiation, wind speed, and wind direction. The accuracy and contextual relevance of said data are of the utmost importance to the integrity of the analysis.

Current energy modeling weather files are unlikely to include any indication of risk from potential climate change or increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. Hence, there is a need to incorporate climate change projections in energy simulations and prepare architects for a better understanding of the change of design strategies echoing such climate change in the different climate zones.

The Architectural Discussion

By Geerte Baars and Jens Buch-Dohrmann

“Every project should begin with the question “What would make this into a better place for people?” This is what makes architecture exciting! It is asking these questions and searching endlessly for an answer, which can never be proven “correct” but can nonetheless be absolutely perfect. It’s this excitement that we must train ourselves to convey to our clients, stakeholders, and most of all the future users. This is why we need to talk about architecture!”

—Jens Buch-Dohrmann


In order to stay innovative, it is crucial that we keep asking ourselves the disruptive questions, which form the basis of great architecture. The more we share knowledge, talk about and discuss architecture on a daily basis, the more likely we are to remain critical, come up with innovative solutions, create social engagement and bring this quality into each project.  This is why we believe that it is vital that there is a platform for discussing architecture and ideas in a holistic sense within our studios.

Our research focused on the activities taking place in Perkins&Will studios that are part of, or help to create, such a platform. We conducted several interviews and organized all the activities we came across into groups based on overarching themes. We did this to make it easier to understand the differences and compare the activities. This booklet can be a help to understand what kind of activities offices can implement, how and why.

ASHRAE Climate Map

The Future of Arena Design

By Corey Stinson, Alex Kendle, Richard, Pitts, and Mary Claire Hoven

Arenas are large, expensive, non-continuously-used, energy-intensive luxuries. To date, there have been no arenas built that meet any definition of “zero net energy building.” How do we move beyond the AIA 2030 Challenge, and design ecologically sustainable Net Zero energy Arenas? While our firm has generally made great progress towards meeting the 2030 goals, strategies for achieving the necessary reductions depend to some degree on the building typology. Within the sports, recreation, and entertainment segment of the firm portfolio, arenas represent a particularly challenging problem compared to other sports, recreation, and entertainment projects due to their size, enclosed volume, program, and typical usage patterns.

While this research seeks to develop strategies that ultimately lower the operational energy in arenas, we also investigate the nature of the embodied carbon that goes into arenas where carbon refers to lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. Critically, we maintain focus within the footprint of the arena in order to promote ideas and strategies that we, as designers, can directly control. This research focuses on the Zero Net Energy and Zero Net Carbon directly related to the design and construction of a typical mid-size arena that constitutes the bulk of the projects undertaken by the Sports, Recreation and Entertainment group at Perkins&Will.