When April Hughes was seven years old, she designed her first building.
It probably didn’t meet local building codes. It’s doubtful she considered construction costs and schedule. But April had the bug. It was inevitable that she’d grow up to be an architect.
“I drew houses all day, and sections, rooms on top of rooms, connected by slides and ladders, and each room had its own theme,” said Hughes, who this month was recognized as AIA Chicago’s Dubin Family Young Architect of the Year.
Hughes is the director of studio operations at Farr Associates. I recently spoke with her about the impact of receiving the Young Architect of the Year honors. She was both gracious and appreciative.
“You apply for the award and you want to win, but you’re not ready how you might feel,” she said. “There are so many people I work with who are great, there are amazing, talented professionals in this city. And you think, ‘Why am I winning this award?’ So I shared it with everyone I’ve ever worked with. We don’t do this alone.”
The Young Architect honor for Hughes recognizes her dedication to sustainability. That started for her long before her professional career.
“When I was in high school, I was a part of Missouri Stream Team #374, and we would go down to the stream and test for fecal coliform and suspended solids,” she said. “It really taught me about the impact of what we do in our backyards physically has an impact on the environment around us.”
Her environmental awareness continued and was fed during a job she held while in college at the University of Kansas.
“There are things in your life that course-correct you or keep you on a path and one of those things for me was a job working 30 hours a week for a man who had his own M.E.P. [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] firm and he started Laurence, Kansas’ recycling program. He biked to work everyday, and I thought, ‘Man, this guy is kind of crunchy,’ but I liked what he represented and his lifestyle.
“That was just one of those things that I bumped into that kept me on this course and that kept me interested. How can I help? How can I make it better?”
Hughes’ passion for sustainability is evident when she talks about her role as both a designer and advocate for the environment.
“Prove to me that you need that extra 70 square feet in this office or why we are making this mechanical room so big,” she said. “We have to justify every square foot. That’s the efficiency that you have to look for.”