For She's a Jolly Good Fellow

For She's a Jolly Good Fellow

BNIM is thrilled to announce that Principal Laura Lesniewski has been elevated into the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. Laura is a dedicated design practitioner, industry leader, and sustainable and equitable design advocate who has contributed her design excellence and leadership to BNIM for 27 years. As leader, mentor, team member, and friend, Laura continues to inspire and motivate our practice to deliver beautiful integrated living environments that inspire change and enhance the human condition. It is with great excitement that BNIM congratulates Laura on this wonderful and well-deserved honor! Laura will be honored as a new Fellow of the American Institute of Architects at the College of Fellows Investiture Ceremony in Washington D.C. on December 8, 2021.

Laura Lesniewski, FAIA, LEED AP, WELL AP

“Working with Laura was like working in the eye of the storm. In very challenging moments, Laura listened. At times, when it seemed impossible, she made people want to listen too. Her informed and wise suggestions felt like they were yours. Laura, quiet, inquisitive and powerful in her own unique way, made people who clearly did not want to move from where they stood, want to walk the path she so brilliantly made appear before them. Without knowing it, working with Laura changed you as well. She made hard work look effortless." - DANNY PEARL, CO-FOUNDING PARTNER, L’OEUF, MONTREAL, QUEBEC

In her three decades of practice, Laura has served as a leader within BNIM, her community, and the architectural and design industry at-large. Laura’s impact in architecture and design, both locally and nationally, is rooted in equity and social justice, community-based design, and creating resiliency in built environments.

Laura has advanced initiatives for sustainable and affordable housing and elevated the voices of those in the Kansas City community through leadership, engagement, and meaningful dialogues. She has explored the intersection of sustainability and equity in affordable housing through many projects and initiatives. In her study of the cost of Living Buildings, Net Zero projects, and other next generation green buildings, Laura co-authored The Power of Zero, a cost-of-green report that explores optimizing the value of next generation green projects. Laura also actively served as Board Member of Westside Housing Organization, Center for Architecture & Design, Lean Construction Institute, and Habitat for Humanity Kansas City

On BNIM’s planning team, Laura’s work has extended throughout the United States as she has supported numerous disaster recovery efforts for communities in Greensburg, Kansas; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Springfield, Massachusetts. Laura has also managed several overseas projects with the U.S. Department of State, emphasizing design excellence and eco-diplomacy around the globe, including projects in Asia, South America, Europe, and Africa. 

Beginning in 2011, Laura formed a lasting partnership with the Asilong community of West Pokot, Kenya. After working with her church community to support the development of ten new water wells for the region, Laura helped lead the design of the net-zero Asilong Christian High School campus. Laura regularly visits Asilong with others as part of this on-going cooperative effort. Asilong Christian High School became one of the first international COTE Top Ten award recipients in 2019.

Laura has broken barriers at state and national levels, creating case-study projects that have reached new sustainable milestones and set benchmarks in sustainable design practice, including the design of the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City, the first project in Missouri to utilize a Living Machine™ and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, which was the first building to receive both Living Building and LEED Platinum certifications.

  "Laura’s mission is clear – to create a human-centered response to the global challenges of our time and provide pathways for others to follow. Laura has been far ahead of the profession in working on the issues that today dominate our conversations, with a unique combination of empathy, creativity and dedication."  - MARY ANN LAZARUS, FAIA, LEED FELLOW, PRINCIPAL CONSULTANT, MCCALLISTER GROUP

For more than two decades, Laura has helped advance industry knowledge through her thought leadership, speaking engagements, published works, and teaching initiatives. Laura has deepened, refined, and nationally promoted practice-based research and tools that have advanced the sustainable design movement. From her involvement in piloting LEED, to early testing of the Living Building concept, to pushing our understanding of lean thinking in design, to signing on to the 2030 Challenge, Laura is both an advocate and practitioner in the pursuit of a sustainable future for design. Laura has been an active leader for AIA Kansas City, AIA Missouri, AIA Central States Region, and AIA National. She served on the national AIA Strategic Council for the past three years and as President and Three-Year Board Director of the AIA Kansas City Chapter.