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This article appears in the issue July/August 2011, [Vol 20, Issue 7]
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Among HOK's latest architectural achievements are the largest LEED Platinum project in the world-the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, and The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. HOK also recently teamed with energy and daylighting consultants at The Weidt Group to design a net-zero carbon emissions building in St. Louis. The design allows for a 76 percent reduction in energy use with minimal additional upfront costs.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a third-party rating system and certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. "We use LEED as a guide on all of our projects," says Sara Graham, firmwide sustainability manager at HOK. "The system has grown exponentially since it was originally created. Especially in today's economic climate, companies look to LEED for energy savings, and certification is being mandated for a growing number of federal, state and local government buildings."

Within the company, HOK also maintains a focus on sustainability. The company formally adopted sustainable design as a core value in 1993, and its principles are reflected in HOK's own offices as well as in the spaces they design for clients. "We have a Sustainable Roadmap that establishes sustainable goals and measures, a Sustainable Year-End Report that measures how well the company is meeting its sustainable goals, and an annual Carbon Footprint Report that measures carbon emissions for office operations and business-related air travel," Graham says.

HOK has a significant knowledgebase on topics such as energy and water efficiency, people-centered design and transit-oriented neighborhood development. The firm also has a longtime understanding of the importance of collecting data from projects as a way to learn from its experience and measure success.

When HOK first began building the information systems to support its knowledge-intensive activities in the mid-1990s, few commercial products were available, so the applications were developed in house. Now, HOK has migrated to Microsoft's SharePoint for collaboration and content management, and Silverlight, also from Microsoft, for its Knowledge-Net intranet application. Silverlight is a rich browser-based interface that allows for interactive applications and is used as the front end to HOK's structured data.

Workspaces have been set up for various groups in HOK, including the sustainability group, HR and marketing. "We use SharePoint for blogs, where groups can have conversations," says Ken Herold, chief knowledge officer at HOK. "They can then document their best practices in wikis."

The collaborative environment has been well received, according to Graham. "The wikis are very user-friendly for people who are creating and accessing knowledge centers," she says. "Groups are setting up knowledge centers on design guidance, research, cost-benefit resources and case studies, for example."

KnowledgeNet, the Silverlight application, is used to access information such as the digital asset library, project data and other records. "KnowledgeNet also can index and search information from blogs or wikis, or search on topics such as healthcare, so it has complete visibility into SharePoint as well," Herold says. The combination of SharePoint for collaboration and KnowledgeNet for accessing all enterprise information makes HOK's resources readily available to its architects and support staff. 

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