Varun Kohli joins AIA COTE Advisory Group
by Kira Gould
Each year, there are new appointments to the AIA Committee on the Environment’s national Advisory Group, known as “the AG” (learn more about the AG application/selection process here). For 2017, the new members are Varun Kohli, AIA, Principal & Sustainable Design Leader at HOK (New York), profiled below; Anne Schopf, FAIA, partner at Mahlum Architecture (Seattle), profiled in May; and Marsha Maytum, FAIA, founding partner of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (San Francisco), profiled in March/April.
Varun Kohli, AIA, LEED AP, is a Principal and sustainable design leader based in HOK’s New York office and a member of the firm’s Technical Board. He leads sustainable design and management efforts for regional and global projects. Building on nearly 20 years of experience, Kohli has advocated the integrated design process and environmental analytics. Prior to joining HOK in 2014, he founded Merge Studio, a design studio fundamentally grounded on principles of environmentally responsive design. Before that, he worked with SOM.
In 2010, Kohli was honored with a Professional Achievement Award by the Society of Indo-American Engineers and Architects. He has taught courses at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and frequently speaks at academic and industry events. Kohli serves on the Programs Committee of the Urban Green Council (New York).
Kohli is very interested in the research and data that supports best practices in architecture, including leading sustainability strategies. In his work he has sought to integrate sustainability into design. Working in challenging climates, such as several cities in India, might be understood as a barrier to this, however, clients in such regions are often receptive to the notion that resource effectiveness should be embedded into the facility. This is part of the global perspective that Kohli brings to his work, and also to COTE and AIA.
Kohli is an advisory board member for Architect and Interiors India Magazine. In a piece published in this magazine, he wrote about the building industry in India might work toward sustainable development: “Why not bring together our community thinkers, designers, and buildings and take the challenge head on? Let us pledge to do everything we can to mitigate harmful emissions to our environment and do so with all sincerity. Every project we work on counts, no matter how small. Let us all go above and beyond the standard sustainability goals and truly assess a given project’s impact on GHG emissions—not only from its operations, but also from embodied energy of the materials used and from construction activities.”
Today, Kohli says that he looks forward to “helping create pragmatic informational tools for the architecture community that will allow all of us to design more environmentally responsive projects.” He describes the COTE Top Ten winners as a trove of exceptional projects. “These projects contain a wealth of knowledge that can be disseminated in a useful way,” he says.” They are not only defining the new paradigm shift in terms of sustainability, but also provoking an important dialogue defining architectural aesthetics and beauty. The data collected from these competition submissions, both quantitative and qualitative can become a go-to source for the architectural community.”
Next spring, AIA Conference on Architecture will be held in New York City; Kohli sees an opportunity there. “I’m excited to see A’18 conference coming to my hometown next year. This city is exemplary in its leadership for GHG emission reduction, with energy use per capita much lower than entire U.S. At COTE events next year during the A’18 conference, we will highlight some of these New York accomplishments.”