Tunable Lighting: Mimicking the Natural Progression of Daylight

Tunable Lighting:
Mimicking the Natural Progression of Daylight

Tunable lighting, a dynamic LED technology, plays a crucial role in creating learning environments that support student well-being and academic performance. It offers adjustable color temperatures and intensities that mimic daylight, enhance student health, aid teachers in creating optimal learning environments, and guide student behavior within classrooms.

Health and Well-being

One of the primary ways tunable lighting promotes health is by supporting the synchronization of circadian rhythms. Light can be adjusted throughout the day to help regulate sleep-wake cycles, stimulating alertness during learning hours and fostering better sleep quality at night. These factors may contribute to improved concentration, mood stability, and overall well-being among students and teachers.

Optimizing Learning Environments

Tunable lighting allows educators to customize classroom ambiance according to specific activities and learning needs. For example, cooler tones may be chosen to promote focus and productivity while warmer tones set the stage for relaxed and creative pursuits. In addition to supporting diverse learning styles, this adaptability has been shown to enhance student engagement and academic performance.

Behavior Cues

Research suggests that exposure to specific light wavelengths can positively affect some of the challenging behaviors associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In these cases, tunable lighting can improve social interactions in classrooms and support behavior management.

The positive effects of tunable lighting are still being evaluated. Nonetheless, many educators are already welcoming this technology into their classrooms as part of a holistic program for using LED lighting to create engaging environments.

Four HMFH-designed schools are or will be programmed to include tunable lighting technology:

This new school for 1,755 students includes a total of 25 rooms that incorporate tunable lighting technology. Arlington’s extensive adoption plan for this new technology will offer HMFH the potential for broad and deep post-occupancy evaluation.

Bristol County Agricultural High School is a design-award winning project, notable for its deep sustainability program and unique, hands-on learning environment. Here, tunable lighting supports specialized lab spaces which are part of its Natural Resource Management program.

Bristol-Plymouth is currently under construction and scheduled to open in 2026. The school prioritizes health and well-being through multiple initiatives including a healthy material pilot program as well as the implementation of tunable lighting in special education spaces.

Saugus Middle High School is a STEAM-driven, design-award-winning project that has incorporated tunable lighting technology into a total of 10 classrooms. Natural daylight floods the building’s interior and is strategically complemented by tunable lighting technology.

HMFH is committed to designing exceptional schools composed of healthy, sustainable, and environmentally efficient environments. Leveraging the power of daylight is central to our design philosophy and is prioritized throughout every school we serve. And now, tunable lighting offers educators an unprecedented level of control when using light to optimize learning environments, manage classroom behaviors, and promote overall student health and wellbeing. When deployed as part of an overall light management strategy, tunable lighting technology can support transformative outcomes.

Bristol Aggie’s Center for Science and the Environment Wins Grand Prize Award!

Bristol Aggie’s Center for Science and the Environment Wins Grand Prize Award!


Our design of Bristol County Agricultural High School’s Center for Science and the Environment earned a Grand Prize award from Learning by Design for exemplary educational architecture that addresses sustainability and social impact, next-generation learning, effective space planning, and community needs.

Designed as a living learning center, the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE) features a student-curated natural resource museum, a grooming lab, bio-secure labs, flexible classrooms, and a student-planted roof garden. Each space is carefully tailored to accommodate specific program needs with innovative technology, lighting and thermal control, and specialized equipment that enable partnerships with local and national environmental organizations. Sustainable design elements, including green roofs, photovoltaics, and composting toilets, reinforce Bristol Aggie’s curriculum rooted in science and environmental education.

Learning by Design’s Educational Facilities Design Awards highlights successful school projects from early childhood to higher education. The Grand Prize award winners earned special recognition for addressing six critical aspects of a successful learning environment: design challenges and innovation, sustainability and social impact, interior architecture, next-generation learning, effective space planning, and community needs. The CSE demonstrates the concept of architecture as a learning tool—with building systems and sustainable design on display for students, the facility itself has become an integral part of the school’s curriculum.

“The Center for Science and the Environment embodies a commitment to sustainability and hands-on learning. Incorporating green roofs, outdoor learning spaces, and composting toilets, the design reflects the school’s focus on agriculture and the environment.”

Jury Comments | Learning by Design

Suni Dillard Wins AIA Young Architects Award 2024

Suni Dillard Wins AIA Young Architects Award 2024


We are thrilled to announce the recognition of Suni Dillard, Senior Associate and Sustainability Leader, by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for her exceptional leadership and significant contributions to the architecture profession through environmental advocacy, increasing access to great design, and mentoring future architects.

Promoted last year to Senior Associate, Suni is driven by the challenge of socially responsible design that positively impacts both the health of people and the environment.

As a Sustainability Leader guiding HMFH’s Sustainability Committee, Suni empowers her colleagues, clients, and community to set ambitious sustainability goals—which isn’t always easy to prioritize in public projects. Particularly for clients who are undertaking what are likely to be once-in-a-lifetime projects for their communities (like school buildings that will be in use for 50+ years), newly available design and sustainability opportunities aren’t always obvious. This is where Suni encourages them to think holistically and consider how they can take their project steps further to create designs that are environmentally and socially impactful. In her words, she pushes them “to do more than just make a new building.”

With her three co-leaders, Suni and the HMFH Sustainability Committee are creating a framework to navigate design processes in concert with the needs of the environment. In doing so, she wants to remind people that design is not just about aesthetics—that it’s important to think more holistically, understand the context, and include sustainable and social justice in the design. “It’s all one package,” she says. “It’s not just about what the building looks like. Good design will address all of these things.”

Outside of HMFH, Suni continues to champion her mission of combining sustainability and social responsibility with good design. She has led the Carbon Leadership Forum Boston chapter’s education committee since 2020. She also curated the Embodied Carbon Series, which helps AEC professionals understand and apply embodied carbon best practices to their projects to reduce emissions and achieve zero carbon. What began as an online series Suni and a small advisory group developed during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a nationally-recognized course and a staple of AIA University.

Notably, Suni prioritizes sharing her experiences and knowledge with the rising generation of future architects.

“It’s important for people to understand that they have options to navigate and that they need to learn how to advocate for themselves.” For Suni, mentoring is about more than just listening to questions and offering advice. She sees it as her responsibility to bring those questions to places she now gets to participate in as a Senior Associate—back to where the decision-makers are. Looking ahead, this is what Suni sees for the future of the architecture profession: education. In all directions.

“Going forward, my goal is to continue educating clients, people in the profession, and the general public to think more critically about how we function as architects. As an industry, we all have to figure out how to do better and design on a holistic level to positively impact the community and the environment. It won’t be just about doing business as usual.”

Suni Dillard | Senior Associate and Sustainability Leader, HMFH Architects

Cultivating the Next Generation of Design Professionals at Architecture / Design Thinking Week

Cultivating the Next Generation of Design Professional at Architecture / Design Thinking Week

A cohort of 20 Boston Public high school students joined three HMFH designers over the February break to participate in Architecture/Design Thinking Week at BSA Space. This program provides students with the hands-on opportunity to learn about the profession of architecture from young professionals working in the field.

The four-day event introduced participants to distinct phases of the design process including programming; conceptual design; design development; and construction administration. Throughout the week students exercised extreme creativity with drawings, collage, and model making to design a wide range of rooms and nooks that represented their ideal workspaces. HMFH facilitated the final day, which focused on construction administration (CA). To explore the concepts of CA, our designers Hannah Keith, Jake Picariello, and Nallely Salazar guided participants through the process of selecting finishes, specifying materials, and thinking through fine details such as where in a space one might hang their backpack.

Before the interactive session began, students were presented with a deep dive into some of HMFH’s recent design work, which gave them insight into the wide-ranging skills that are required to accomplish exemplary school building design. The projects reviewed included the four-phased construction of Arlington High School, the Annie E. Fales School which is distinguished as the first net-positive energy school in New England, and the Bristol County Agricultural High School. By seeing the building drawings and learning about work that included coordination with consultants and stakeholder engagement, students could visualize a variety of possible careers.

In addition to providing participants with insight into career pathways in AEC, Architecture/Design Thinking Week provides our designers with mentorship opportunities. Cultivating the next generation of architects and instilling in them a passion for design is one of our core values, which we pursue through community outreach, providing summer intern opportunities, mentorship, and by participating in programs such as Architecture/Design Thinking Week.

Architecture/Design Thinking Week, is a collaborative effort between the Boston Society for Architecture (BSA), the BSA Foundation, Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), Finegold Alexander Architects, Goody Clancy, Sasaki/Sasaki Foundation, and HMFH, which has been participating for the past five years.

Fales Elementary Wins BE+ Green Building of the Year!

Fales Elementary Wins BE+ Green Building of the Year!


HMFH’s Annie E. Fales Elementary School won Green Building of the Year at the 2023 Built Environment Plus (BE+) Green Building Showcase—an annual awards program recognizing projects for excellence in healthy, sustainable, and regenerative design.

The Green Building of the Year award honors the most impressive, holistically sustainable project, determined by a panel of industry peers. This marks the second consecutive year that an HMFH project received the Green Building of the Year award, a testament to our continued commitment to designing sustainable learning environments that benefit entire communities.

The Annie E. Fales Elementary School sets a precedent for energy-efficient design as New England’s first net-positive energy public school. On track to achieve LEED Gold, the all-electric facility generates 11.6% more energy than it uses with an extensive rooftop PV array and geothermal well field.

Project goals rooted in sustainability and environmental stewardship drove the design, which exceeds ambitious energy targets and connects students to their local environment.

  • A sculptural, sawtooth roof design maximizes space for a 25,000 sf PV array and creates north-facing clerestories that fill the interiors with natural light
  • Forty 600-foot-deep geothermal wells supply heating and cooling to the building
  • Strategic siting on a steeply sloped site and a well-insulated exterior envelope minimizes heat loss and gain
  • Whimsical environmental graphics depict the school mascot (Annie the Hedgehog) traveling through local ecosystems to inspire environmental stewardship at the elementary level

“It’s great to see energy positive performance in a publicly funded school project. The focus on connecting kids to nature will reap huge benefits for the students and teachers.”

Jury Comments | Built Environment Plus

HMFH Recognized as Emerging Professional Friendly Firm

HMFH Recognized as Emerging Professional Friendly Firm

First recognized in 2019, HMFH maintains its status as an Emerging Professional Friendly Firm going into 2022. HMFH was one of 34 firms to receive this year’s designation from the AIA New England for our supportive culture and continued investment in the professional growth of emerging staff throughout 2021.

The core of our practice is our valued staff, and at HMFH emerging professionals represent not only the future of our firm but the future of the design industry. Under the guidance of HMFH Associate Caitlin Osepchuk, a former AIA New England Young Architects Regional Director, the firm actively encourages young staff members to grow professionally and develop expertise and leadership both within the firm and in the profession at large. The range of opportunities for professional development include:

  • Active involvement in various committees
  • An annual stipend for professional education and research
  • A supported path to licensure with prep materials, study groups, online classes, and guidance from senior colleagues
  • Involvement in the BSA’s annual Young Designers Professional Development Institute (YDPDI)
  • Paid expenses for active membership in professional activities
  • One-on-one check-ins to foster our culture of inclusion and support

Congratulations to all 2021 Emerging Professional Friendly Firms!

Suni Dillard Helps Develop Embodied Carbon Series

Suni Dillard Helps Develop Embodied Carbon Series

A champion of healthy materials and one of HMFH’s own sustainability leaders, Suni Dillard drives environmentally responsible design both in and out of the office. She recently helped develop a new 12-part program hosted by the Boston Society for Architecture on embodied carbon—the emissions created by materials’ production processes—to empower fellow industry professionals to employ carbon reduction strategies in the built environment.

Supported by the Carbon Leadership Forum group in Boston, the panel topics include basic literacy as well as procurement, structure, engineering, and advanced certifications. In addition to advising the BSA on the series’ development, she moderated the installment on structure and will be moderating the advanced panel on certifications and commitments.

Since joining HMFH, Suni has quickly established herself as a resource and advocate for the integration of social, environmental, and economically sustainable solutions to design challenges of all sizes.

Panels from the Embodied Carbon 101 series are recorded and archived here.

2024 Promotions

2024 Promotions

We are pleased to announce the promotion of the following individuals in recognition of their contributions to HMFH’s design leadership, project management, office operations, and equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.

Matt LaRue AIA, LEED Green Associate

Since joining HMFH in 2010, Matt has demonstrated a thoughtful approach to design that results in extraordinary places for learning. From playful, child-centric designs to comprehensive planning for educational institutions, he brings careful attention to detail and craft while never losing sight of the big picture. Matt is a trusted and valued partner to clients, collaborators, and colleagues alike, exemplifying excellence in all that he does.

As a Project Manager and Design Leader, Matt plays a key role on some of the firm’s most significant educational projects including Boston’s new Josiah Quincy Upper School, a high-rise school opening this fall in Chinatown; Middletown Middle High School, Rhode Island’s first public middle high school; and the new Maria Weston Chapman Middle School, which offers students unique career pathway programs in a facility designed to support discovery and well-being.

Mirtha Suero, Office Manager and Inclusion Leader

Mirtha’s passion for people is evident in all aspects of her work. As a supportive and compassionate colleague, she knows HMFH’s people as well as the firm’s history and sees architecture as a vehicle to positively impact our communities. Deliberate and thoughtful in her work on our Racial Equity and Diversity committee, she ensures that equity, diversity, and inclusion are foundational to our design practice and the profession. Mirtha plays a pivotal role in shaping opportunities for students to see themselves in architecture, whether coordinating internships and career exploration days at HMFH or participating in outreach events in communities throughout the Commonwealth. Through all of this, she helps keep our office operations running smoothly, supports each individual’s professional development, and creates a welcoming environment for all.

“With our 2024 promotions, we are fortunate to honor Matt and Mirtha’s significant contributions to HMFH. Their work and commitment over the years has been essential to the success of our practice and firm operations.”

Lori Cowles | Principal, HMFH Architects

Arlington High School Phase Two Opens

Arlington High School Phase Two Opens

Phase Two of the Arlington High School project is newly opened and offers students expanded educational and extracurricular opportunities from a wide range of contemporary spaces for learning, gathering, and activity.

“It’s a really outstanding design, and watching the students get to enjoy it and hang out in the various spaces for the first time was really quite moving.”

Jim Feeney | Town Manager, Arlington, MA

Comprised of a new humanities wing, media center, and central spine of public spaces, Phase Two is a significant project milestone as the largest of four construction phases.
Central Spine

The new central spine is both an activity hub and a concourse through the school from the upper entrance at Mass Ave to the fields, parking, and bikeway at the lower entrance. Upon completion of Phase Three, the spine will connect the school’s four wings—STEAM, humanities, performing arts, and athletics—with shared public spaces, including the 600-student cafeteria, student center, life skills cafe, and prominent forum stair.

The spine brings students together in a variety of spaces, from small seating nooks overlooking the atrium to open areas for presentations or performances. Monumental lightwells add natural light and a sculptural quality, emphasizing the spine’s central role in the design.

Humanities Wing

The new humanities wing mirrors the layout of the STEAM wing (opened in Phase 1) with classrooms for English Language Arts, History, Social Studies, and World Languages, as well as two dedicated rooms for Family and Consumer Science. Modern, flexible furniture and teacher planning rooms between classrooms ensure learning spaces are adaptable to different uses and easily supervised.

A four-story lightwell at the heart of the humanities wing infuses the space with daylight and provides a collaborative workspace for students to study, socialize, and engage in hands-on project assignments.

Media Center

Directly above the central spine is the school’s two-story media center, envisioned as a hub for research and study. Here, students can engage in individual or group project work in a range of seating options, utilize technology resources, attend class in a closed-off conference room, or find a private nook for reading.

Lightwells penetrate the media center, creating countertop workspaces similar to those in the humanities and STEAM wings. The lightwells, along with skylights and expansive windows, ensure the media center is a bright, lively, and welcoming space for students and faculty alike.

Scheduled to open in early 2025, Phase Three will include a new athletics wing and black box theater. Follow along on the AHS building project website for frequent construction updates.

Arlington High School: Zoning for Sustainability

Arlington High School: Zoning for Sustainability

As one of the first all-electric high schools in Massachusetts, the new Arlington High School stands as a testament to the significant energy savings that can be achieved through high level coordination and consideration of a building’s environmental impact at all scales.

Educational programming and energy-efficient engineering go hand in hand at the new Arlington High School, where HMFH led an extensive coordination and collaboration process between school officials, engineers and community members to achieve an efficient and comfortable learning environment. As everyday beneficiaries of well-designed spaces, occupants often take for granted the many building systems working together seamlessly to ensure comfort, health and wellbeing. The new all-electric Arlington High School will demonstrate this concept when its first phase opens in February of 2022.

An extensive educational program, complex phased construction schedule, and polluted soils on site that prohibited the use of geothermal wells, required the design team to think critically and creatively to produce a facility in line with Arlington’s ambitious sustainability goals. The solution balances the use of Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems–which supply space heating and cooling throughout the school without relying on fossil-fuels–with a carefully zoned educational plan that limits the hours of operation for these units, reducing the 408,000 sf school’s energy use to an impressive pEUI of 24.7.

The team’s proactive approach to sustainable design involved close collaboration with school administration and faculty early in the design process to identify the optimal configuration of educational program and building systems zoning layout. Grouping programs with similar operational schedules allows entire zones of mechanical systems to be turned off when the spaces are not occupied, limiting excess energy use in the school and contributing to saving 33% in energy costs over baseline.

When the facility is complete in 2024, the new high school will be the largest public building in Arlington and represent a shift in the Town toward a more climate conscious, resilient future.