May 2017 Member Spotlight

Name: Julie Hiromoto
Title: Project Manager at HKS, Inc.
Educational Background: Columbia University - Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Urban Green Member Since: 2011

Q: What is your current role at HKS?
My official job description at HKS is Project Manager. As we are growing our New York office, I have the opportunity to lead our team’s efforts on diverse projects that focus on health and wellness, engaging the WELL Community Standard, the Living Community Challenge and LEED across residential, commercial and mixed-use buildings. I love spanning the small and intimate to large and sweeping scales and thinking about all facets of design and architecture.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your path to this position?
I grew up in a small town in South Georgia (Valdosta) and Georgia Tech was a natural choice. Moving to the big city of Atlanta was such an adventure! 
Studying architecture at an engineering school added another level of rigor in the design studios. This amazing program laid a solid foundation, providing me with the knowledge and skills to contribute to project teams from day one, in a rational and pragmatic way. I was really fortunate to spend my last year of school studying in Paris. What a life-transforming experience! From there I moved to Japan for a few years before moving to NYC for the MARCH program at Columbia University GSAPP, where theory and critical thinking prompted us to throw all rules and status-quo-thinking out the window. 

Q: What’s going on at HKS that you’re most excited about?
My passion for advancing our practice of Responsible Design has led to a number of HKS initiatives, including our early-phase integrated stakeholder engagement, people and place-based design thinking; Occupancy Evaluation feedback and research; and our diversity initiative, Better Together. 

Q: Describe one or two projects you’ve worked on that were meaningful or interesting to you. Maybe a project that changed your perspective or made you think differently about your work.
From 2004 to 2016, I was a part of the One World Trade Center design team. It was an honor to dedicate over a decade to this amazing project—it’s humbling to work on something so large and impactful, that everyone is talking about. Design is all about making tough decisions and balancing tradeoffs to optimize the best solution you can come up with. For example, we wanted to cool the entire site with river water-cooling, but the estuary ecosystem could not accommodate those few degrees change in temperature resulting from the system discharge. The team decided to focus on air quality, occupant comfort and the expansive feel that the flexible and open floorplate could provide.

Q: Why did you become a member of Urban Green?
A: I wanted to volunteer as part of the Programs Committee. What a great opportunity! I met so many smart and engaged folks committed to sustainability, high performance and responsible design in my four years with the group. We developed programming, invited speakers and coordinated events with the help of Urban Green staff to host some excellent presentations and conversations in NYC. A few of my favorites: waste management, next gen building systems, impactful lighting design and the new energy code. 

Q: Describe a memorable experience from your Urban Green membership.
A: The EBies award ceremony is always a lot of fun. But last year, I did something really special with Urban Green—I went to Brooklyn! Our community service day at the Youth Farm was a great excuse to get our hands dirty and learn all about composting. I even got to help reclad a greenhouse—now I can add this to my list of enclosure experience! It was also a great opportunity to meet other members and develop sustaining relationships.

Q: Talk about an element of urban sustainability or green building in NYC that matters to you.
A: Food and social equity are some of the topics I’m most excited about these days. How can we provide economically, socially and environmentally sustainable and resilient communities that serve the people who live and work there, while positively impacting those lives? This kind of design thinking and advocacy must go beyond merely delivering what’s included in the RFP.  How can we as developers, designers, consultants and builders really add value through the work we do every day?

Q: What’s something you like to do that’s not related to your work?
EAT. TRAVEL. DANCE.  Anyone care to join me?

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
It’s okay to fail and sometimes we have to in order to really learn how to do things better the next time.


About the authors

Urban Green Council
Dedicated to transforming buildings for a sustainable future.