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29 August 2017

HOK’s Varun Kohli Appointed to AIA COTE’s Advisory Group

The sustainable design leader for HOK’s New York office has begun a three-year term assisting AIA’s Committee on the Environment with advocacy, research and awards.

Varun Kohli has spent his career studying and practicing sustainable design. Now he’ll spend the next three years sharing that knowledge and championing further industry advances as one of the latest members of the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment. He joins 10 other architects currently serving on COTE’s Advisory Group. Each spring, AIA COTE recognizes 10 global projects as the year’s best in sustainable design.

“A good design can only be so when it acknowledges, addresses and enhances both its external and internal environments,” says Kohli. “That to me is sustainable design, and I’ve pursued that thought process since my undergraduate days when natural light and ventilation were always a consideration in my designs.”

While studying sustainable design as a graduate student at London’s Architecture Association, Kohli focused on how environmental analytics can enhance a building’s performance. At HOK, Kohli “wears two hats” working as both a designer and a sustainability expert.

“I may start my day in the New York studio working on a facade design in which I have already infused environmental analytics and then jump to assisting another designer with sustainable design support and, from there, move on to coordinating LEED submissions for another project team,” says Kohli. “It keeps my day quite exciting.”

An example of Kohli’s sustainability work can be found in the design of the Brigade World Trade Center (right) currently under construction in Chennai, India. The 2-million-sq.-ft. project includes two commercial towers with a high-performance facade designed to address both sustainability and aesthetics. The vertical opaque panels on the towers’ exterior vary in width and depth while responding to specific incident solar radiation at each location. Kohli and his team anticipate an energy savings of more than 16 percent due solely to the design of the building’s facade, which reduces annual incident radiation by 31 percent. (See below.)

Kohli was also instrumental in the design of HOK’s Structural eXterior Enclosure (below), a load-bearing hybrid curtain wall concept that was named a finalist in Metals in Construction’s 2017 Design Challenge. The concept was shown in modeling to reduce life-cycle costs of a high-rise office tower by more than 20 percent (compared with traditional frame buildings) and to improve overall U-value of the facade by 25 percent.

Structural eXterior Enclosure with an optimized facade that incorporates daylighting + solar shading.

“The challenge with sustainable design is—and has been for a while—the misconception of costs associated with a green or high-performance building,” says Kohli. “We are starting to see that change a bit as more clients evaluate life-cycle cost analysis instead of just first costs. But our industry needs to get past this misguided notion that sustainable design is automatically cost prohibitive. Hopefully my work with COTE can help lead that change.”

Related content: HOK Projects in Hawaii and Singapore Selected as AIA COTE 2017 Top Ten Winners