When Architects Give Back, Part 2

How Architecture Firms Support Volunteerism

By Maya Henry, COLUMNS editor Posted on September 5, 2019

AE Works employees show off their CANstruction structure.  With the support of local business partners, AE Works has donated over 6,000 cans of food during this annual event

Volunteerism is an integral part of the architecture profession whether it is through individual architects’ efforts to give back in their own communities or ingrained in firm culture. In this article we take a closer look at different ways two firms make community support integral to their bottom line. This article is part of a series; read Part 1 here.

AE Works: Business for Good
The architects, engineers, and building consultants at AE Works think about how they are affecting the environment, community, employees and their clients in each project. To measure their impact and demonstrate the firm’s commitment to using business for good, AE Works became a certified B Corporation in 2014.

This triple bottom line business model created growth opportunities and momentum for AE Works’ SOCIAL team, which is dedicated to demonstrating the firm’s commitment to growing social capital through three internal committees: FIT (wellness), FORWARD (community, paying it forward) and FUN (social). With a vision to build a community of wellness and generosity within AE Works, the AE Works SOCIAL team has worked on many meaningful projects to create connections in the community, develop relationships and give back.

As part of this effort, AE Works participated in CANstruction Pittsburgh for the past five years. CANstruction is a competition where members of the building industry make giant structures out of canned food generating greater attention for the fight against hunger while raising money and canned donations for local food banks and similar charities.  Cans are then donated to local food banks.

AE Works employees at a happy hour to raise money for their CANstruction project

With the support of other local business partners, AE Works has donated over 6,000+ cans. This year alone CANstruction was able to collect 19,499 pounds of food to donate to local food banks. The donations equate to 24,019 meals to help the hungry in Pittsburgh.

“CANstruction is an opportunity for the building industry to give back to the communities they’ve helped shape,” says Zack Skwara, architectural designer at AE Works and 2019 AE Works CANstruction team leader. “Not only is it a chance for team building with your coworkers, but it is also a time to reach out to other local firms and businesses and come together to support Pittsburgh families in need.”

AE Works also supports the NOMA Pittsburgh Chapter by sponsoring two staff members as NOMA members and regularly hosts NOMA Board Meetings and Architectural Review Exam (ARE) Study Sessions.

Knowing AE Works employees want to give back in other ways, firm leadership provides a number of other opportunities for these efforts. For example, PNC Park hosted a series of blood drives in June in memory of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting victims and employees who wanted to participate could schedule their appointments during work hours since the office is located just a short walk to PNC Park.

As AE Works has matured from startup to an established firm, now experiencing their largest growth period yet, the firm has learned what it takes to make a difference.  The company understands that success lies in supporting employees – and supporting the broader community is an important part of that.

DRS Architects: Volunteerism Enriches Society

Pittsburgh has been home to DRS Architects (DRS) since its founding 60 years ago. Located in Gateway Center in downtown, DRS believes volunteerism for local organizations is what enriches our society, brings us together as a community, and helps keep local businesses and other organizations afloat.

Over the years, DRS has contributed time by volunteering with local organizations such as Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Ronald McDonald House Charities, The Center for Creative Reuse, The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, NOMA’s Project Pipeline, and many more area non-profits.

DRS employees bring seasonal flair to Ronald McDonald House Pittsburgh

This past fall the firm brought a taste of autumn to the Ronald McDonald House Pittsburgh. Using seasonal colored fabrics, wallpaper, vinyls, and other materials firm members created door decorations for one of the floors at Ronald McDonald House Charities.

This spring DRS participated as a design team and sponsored CANstruction for the third time. They teamed with The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and used 2,969 fundraised cans to CAN-struct a “Helping Hand” to fit with the theme of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”

Sneha Mansukani of DRS volunteering with Project Pipeline, the NOMA Pittsburgh architecture camp

This summer DRS Graduates in Architecture, Michael Larche, Assoc. AIA and Sneha Mansukani participated in Project Pipeline, while DRS as a firm was a platinum sponsor. Mansukani and Larche helped lead 60 talented middle school and high school students at Carnegie Mellon University, guiding them in a design project to introduce them to the field of architecture. The students were grouped in teams, and each team designed a building, drew plans, built a model, and then presented their design to an audience.

Not only does DRS encourage initiatives to help give back, but many of the individuals within the firm also participate in their own acts of volunteerism. Members of the firm volunteer for organizations such as the Community Kitchen, Big Brother Big Sister of the Greater Pittsburgh Area, Western Allegheny Community Library, YMCA, Boy Scouts of America, Phipps Conservatory, and more.

How does your firm inspire volunteerism? We’d love to hear about it for a future article. Email mhenry@aiapgh.org and share your firm’s story.

Michael Larche, Assoc. AIA of DRS volunteering at Project Pipeline

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