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ASU alum’s work earns prestigious national planning award

image of Houseal Lavigne Associates
February 13, 2014

While a graduate student at ASU, John Houseal worked as a planning intern for the City of Phoenix, and he and his studio classmates developed an ecological assessment and vision plan for the City of Buckeye, located west of Phoenix on the banks of the Gila River.

Today, the firm he founded, Chicago-based Houseal Lavigne Associates, is recognized nationally for its creative and innovative work. The firm has been selected by the American Planning Association for its 2014 National Planning Excellence Award for an Emerging Planning & Design Firm, one of the planning profession’s highest honors.

“Houseal Lavigne’s team of innovative thinkers is breaking down the barriers between planners and community residents, welcoming the public and giving them easy access to the planning process,” said Ann C. Bagley, FAICP, 2014 APA Awards Jury chair. “Although the firm is young, it has had a tremendous impact on the profession of planning, adding value and expanding traditional notions of communication in planning and development practice.”

Reflecting on his work at ASU, Houseal commented, “My internship with the City of Phoenix and the Buckeye studio project were invaluable. Knowing how to apply planning and design principles in a real-world setting is critical to training as a planner. The work with real-world clients and as part of a team is essential.”

When Houseal started the firm together with Devin Lavigne in 2004, the two were determined to develop a fresh approach, building strength where they felt it was lacking in the profession at the time. They saw room to innovate in the areas of outreach, graphic communication, technology and overall creativity for the citizens within the communities where they worked.

The firm’s core principals include:

• Better Community Outreach – fostering a strong sense of “community stewardship” by using an inclusive approach to citizen participation and providing transparency in the planning process. For almost every project, the firm creates a free website that helps to educate residents about ongoing projects.

• Commitment to Creativity – establishing vision and creativity as among the most important components of good planning and design, and always seeking to innovate rather than imitate.

• Graphic Communication – utilizing a highly illustrative and graphically compelling approach to better communicate planning and development concepts.

• Technology Integration – developing and applying new technologies, such as sMap, a map-based outreach tool, to improve the planning process and product.

“We strive to create stewardship by effectively engaging communities at all levels,” said Houseal. “We have worked with more than 200 communities across 13 states, having helped some of the nation’s most economically devastated communities, as well as some of the most affluent.”

The firm has received a host of awards in addition to the latest one – including 10 American Planning Association chapter awards in the last six years; downtown and commercial area planning awards from DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development (2008, 2012); the Greater Oak Brook Chamber of Commerce (GOBCC) Commercial Revitalization Award (2009); American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois (ACEC IL) Studies and Research Award (2012); and the Kane County Plan of the Year Award (2013).

Read more about Houseal Lavigne and its work at For more information about APA’s National Planning Excellence and Achievement Awards, visit