Registration will be available soon.

Seminar description

Clients hire architects to solve their programmatic challenges with functional and beautiful solutions. Yet project budgets and schedules rarely allow for all functional needs to be met with high design, high quality, and high performance. We advocate for design solutions and help our clients see the value in a detail or material that we believe will elevate the human experience or quality of space. How do we decide what to fight for? Why is it so easy to fight for an aesthetic detail, when often it feels difficult to fight for high performance solutions if the client hasn’t asked for sustainability features? What evidence, cultural norms, and expertise do we lean on when preparing for client conversations? Do we always have our clients’ best interest in mind, or do we risk being driven by our own agendas? What are we ethically responsible to advocate for with our clients? How do we respect the lived experience and values of the communities we work with, while still delivering the best possible buildings? Do designers really know best? Join this spirited panel discussion with design and sustainability leaders who will explore our responsibility to fight for design solutions with our clients.

Learning objectives
1. Explore how to build buy-in for equitable, sustainable, high-performance solutions with clients and stakeholders.

2. Evaluate multiple project goals and use key questions for prioritization.

3. Discuss the benefits of high performance design strategies and the need to find alignment with an owner’s values.

4. Discuss the role of professional ethics in advocating for sustainable and equitable design outcomes.


Simona Fischer, AIA, is MSR Design’s director of sustainable practice, a firm associate, and receipient of AIA Minnesota’s Young Architect Award. Simona is passionate about developing and implementing processes to integrate sustainable design seamlessly into the workflow of architectural practice and sharing what she learns with members of the profession and the public. In addition to her professional experience, she has presented at national conferences and served as a guest lecturer and research fellow at the University of Minnesota. Simona is a member of the Healthy Building Network HomeFree Champions advisory group and co-chair of the AIA Minnesota Committee on the Environment (COTE).

Ariane Laxo is the director of sustainability at HGA. In her role, Ariane has led the firm through an internal culture shift from a grassroots sustainability model to a connected, values-driven approach where sustainability is integral to the firm’s strategic plan. Her collaborative, empathetic, evidence-based leadership style results in innovative impacts on projects and within the firm. In fall of 2020, she co-chaired an HGA task force called the “Third Way of Working,” charged with envisioning what the future of practice would look like after the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the firm has integrated the task force’s recommendations, resulting in transformative, people-first design and business outcomes.

Sam Olbekson, AIA, AICAE, NOMA, is a citizen of the White Earth Nation of Minnesota Ojibwe, and founder and CEO of Full Circle Indigenous Planning + Design, a multidisciplinary research-based planning and visioning design practice. Sam has served numerous communities and institutions across the country to develop planning and design visions that prioritize cultural, spatial, aesthetic, and sustainable design goals. At the root of his practice is his deep commitment to social equity, environmental justice, community-building, and cultural resiliency. Sam views architecture as both a powerful expression of Indigenous cultural identity and a critical component of sovereignty.

Joan Soranno, FAIA, is an award-winning architect specializing in cultural and religious architecture. Joan’s passion for design is evident in every facet of her work. With partner John Cook, FAIA, she has created a small design studio within the larger structure of HGA that serves as an incubator for innovative design, producing aesthetically-driven and technically challenging work. She has received four national AIA Architecture Awards for her design work, including Marlboro Music Reich Hall Rehearsal Building & Music Library, Walker Art Center Expansion, Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum, and Bigelow Chapel at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

Jennifer Yoos, FAIA, became head of the UMN School of Architecture in June of 2020. She is an architect and educator and has previously taught as the NADAAA Visiting Professor at Cooper Union, the Ruth and Norman Moore Visiting Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, the John G. Williams Distinguished Professor at the University of Arkansas and as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota. Jennifer is principal and president of VJAA, a firm known for its innovative approach to architectural practice, environmental design, and highly crafted buildings.


AIA members $50
Non-members $65

Continuing education credit

This program has been approved for 1.25 LU Hours and should qualify for ETHICS credit for Minnesota state licensing.


  • Complete registration and payment.
  • You will then receive a confirmation email with the link and password to access the webinar. This is an automated email and is often caught by spam filters. If you don’t receive it within 24 hours, check your spam folder. If you don’t find it there, email Deanna Christiansen
  • View the 1.25-hour webinar and then complete the ten-question quiz (must score 70% or above for credit).
  • Within 48 business hours you will receive a certificate of completion and/or credits will be recorded to your AIA member transcript


Contact Deanna Christiansen, Continuing Education Director.