HB&A’s Briggs designing plans for Springs’ future

Thu, Aug 4, 2011

One on One

Aaron Briggs, 33, studied environmental science and economics in college. He loved the fact that those topics are interrelated with other topics such as biology, sociology and politics.

Briggs is a partner at HB&A, a local architecture and planning firm that has been in business since 1971. Their work has ranged from affordable “green” housing projects in Colorado Springs and Boulder County to large scale land use plans for El Paso County and Colorado Springs Utilities, and from international facilities plans for the Department of Defense to projects at Peterson Air Force Base, Fort Carson and the Air Force Academy.

What kind of planning work does your firm do?

HB&A is a full service architectural firm, so we do concept and full design for buildings in addition to our planning work. “Planning” can mean many different things, depending on whether a planner works for land developers, local governments, large land owners or policy makers. For HB&A, much of the planning work that we do is for large institutional landowners who will control their land and facilities for many years. They may own and operate their facilities for 50 to 100 years, so they are always looking for ways to respond to changing demands or conditions in ways that will make sense for the long haul.

What are the defining issues in planning today?

Energy and sustainability are definitely at the top of the list these days. Everyone is trying to figure out how buildings, campuses and cities can be designed to use less energy and provide more livable environments for people. We’ve been doing a lot of work to integrate the concept of “net-zero” into our planning work, aiming toward buildings and complexes that produce no landfill waste and produce as much water and energy as they consume. It’s ambitious, but this is the next target that we’re shooting for. The U.S. Green Building Council, who runs the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system of rating green buildings, has recently fielded a new rating system for neighborhoods called LEED ND, which focuses on building sustainable, efficient, high-performance neighborhoods, and it’s exciting to see that system start to influence our work as well.

Describe a project of which you are most proud.

It’s tough to pick one of the projects I’ve managed, so I’ll take a broader view. I’m very proud of the work that HB&A architects did over the last year or so designing a Readiness Center for the Colorado Army National Guard in Fort Lupton. At the time we got the job, it was one of the biggest design projects that HB&A had ever undertaken, and we have some brilliant designers who knocked it out of the park. That project, which is currently under construction, led to us being hired to design another Readiness Center for northern Colorado Springs, and this building is even larger and more visible, which will be very exciting for the firm.

You’ve done work on area military installations, can you describe some of those projects?

Earlier this summer, I wrapped up a project at Fort Carson, helping to plan out the facilities that they’ll need to build at the airfield to support the new Combat Aviation Brigade coming to town. It was an incredibly complicated project and attracted a lot of high-level attention in the Army, but it was very satisfying to contribute to a project whose impacts we’ll start to see very soon. We often have to travel to do work in other communities, so it’s always rewarding to work in Colorado Springs, especially on a project that’s going to do a lot of good for the local economy.

I’m also managing a big planning effort at the Air Force Academy right now, working to update their Installation Development Plan, which tries to capture the big-picture planning-related issues for the entire installation, as well as seven Area Development Plans focused on the urban design aspects of several smaller neighborhood-size areas.

What would be your dream project in Colorado Springs?

Having grown up here myself, and now raising my own kids here, I have an affection for downtown. Colorado Springs is a great place to live and has some amazing natural assets, a great network of parks and trails, a mix of historic neighborhoods, and solid institutions. I think that downtown has some untapped potential to tie all of those elements together and act as a central focus for the whole city. I would love to see it take a big leap forward, and I think there are a lot of good ideas that are floating around waiting for their chance. Over the past few months, we’ve been talking with the Downtown Partnership about some ideas, and we’ve had a great time seeing some of our in-house creative ideas for Acacia Park start to get a life of their own outside of HB&A, but to be part of a big, game-changing project downtown would be a dream for me.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Mark Luongo Says:

    Aaron has got his ideas all in the right direction. Hopefully the military will sign off on his attempts to identify the important envrionmental issues Ft Carson faces with the incoming aviation brigade as well as the movement of existing brigades out to the “wilderness” area.

    Im currently in the Army and stationed at Ft Carson. Im working on completing my Masters degree in Env. policy and Management. I will ETS next July and would love to hook up with other young professionals in the Colo Spgs area especially with regard to environmental issues we face.

    Best regards,
    Mark Luongo