Q&A Session with Steve Spangler

Steve Spangler - Construction Administration

Steve Spangler, Construction Administrator, is a big eater with an even bigger heart. He can often be seen walking around the office with a carton of ice cream in hand and a big smile on his face.

 

 

 

 

 

Tell me about yourself.
Growing up in Greenfield, I had an uncle and a grandpa who built homes, so I began working with them framing houses in middle school. Though I worked as a fry cook at an MCL while I was in high school, I went back to framing shortly thereafter. I joined the Carpenters Union in 1978, and my first job was building the second bank of Coke Ovens for Citizens Gas in the late 70s. Its all come full circle now, as I am on the team constructing the new Community Justice Center on that same site. I also worked on the concrete crew of the original Hoosier Dome and was part of the team that attached the fabric roof. I worked as a contractor and clerk-of-the-works for years, and then I joined Schmidt Associates full-time in 2000.

What do you do in your free time?
I grew up around farms, and my aunt and uncle had horses. As a young adult, I lived away from the farm life in Castleton. When I married my wife, Debbie, in 1983, I moved back to the country and started raising kids. When my daughter turned 10 in the early 90s, she wanted a horse. We bought a couple Arabian Horses to show in 4-H, and we’ve had horses ever since. I now have six horses keeping me busy—Reagan, Molly, Ghost, Victoria, Butter Bee, and Wendy. When I am not at work, I spend my time with family, working with the horses, putting up hay, or working on farm equipment.

My wife, Debbie, and I live in a log home we designed and built in 2002. Life on our farm keeps us very busy.

Tell me about your family.
My wife and I have three daughters, one son, two granddaughters, and two grandsons. One of our daughters and four-year-old grandson live with us, and my four-year-old granddaughter comes to stay with us four days a week. They keep us busy all the time!

Along with the horses, we have two dogs—Murphy (a rescued mutt) and Tinkerbell (a Cairn terrier).

Steve Spangler horses

Do you have a favorite book?
Right now, I am learning about horse hooves. I am going to two clinics to learn about hoof management, so I really need to get the books for the clinics before I go.

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
In my 20s, I modeled clothes at fashion shows in a night club near Keystone at the Crossing.

It sounds like you are always on the go?
I had always planned that after the kids moved out, I would have tons of time to fix my equipment and ride horses every day. But the truth is, we are busier now than we have ever been it seems like. The days, weeks, and months just fly by. I plan to retire at 65, but I don’t think I will ever slow down.

If you ever have questions about the construction process or horses, give Steve a ring!

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle Miller, Steve SchaecherMyrisha Colston, and Drew Morgan

When Did You Know You Wanted to be an Engineer? Take 2

Wayne Schmidt set out on his own and started our firm July 4th, 1976. More than four decades later, we are proud that we are different in all the regards that matter to us, to our clients, and to our community. While we are celebrating our 42nd anniversary, we are also celebrating another big milestone: 25 years of having engineering in-house!

We thought it would be interesting to ask our engineers when they first realized they wanted to pursue a career in Engineering. Here is what a group of them had to say:

 

Andrew Eckrich - graduate engineer

Andrew Eckrich – Graduate Engineer

My grandpa was a woodworker (by hobby, not by trade), and mom gave me a hammer and nails before my fourth birthday. A real hammer and real nails. So I picked up woodworking as a hobby at age 10 with just a couple power saws and hand tools. Many of the skills required for woodworking are the same in engineering – practice, patience, determination, attention to detail, and understanding that each piece is a little bit different – so it seemed like a good fit. I knew the hobby that I love could remain a hobby, and an Engineering career would allow for challenge and creativity while paying a bit more.

In college at the University of Dayton, taking courses called Energy Efficient Buildings and Energy Efficient Manufacturing sealed the deal for my career, or at least the beginning of it, in mechanical building systems engineering. After a couple internships in this industry and an extra year studying renewable energy engineering, I landed here at Schmidt Associates. I have very much been enjoying this first year of full-time gainful employment!

Phil Medley - graduate engineer / energy designer

Phil Medley – Engineering Graduate / Energy Designer

I wanted to be an engineer since the first semester of architecture school. I was fascinated by the concept of the Master Builder (which is what architects were before all the advances in industry, technology, etc.). This one person oversaw every aspect of the building design. Modern building design is too much logistically to be able do everything alone successfully and consistently. At this same time, I was learning about Building Information Modeling (BIM). I was of the belief that if I could leverage a tool like that, then I could do both. I just needed to understand the art and science of creating buildings and the programming could perform the logistical analysis. Its working out so far.

Steve Olinger - mechanical designerSteve Olinger (Slo) – Mechanical Designer

I believe I was a freshman in High School on a day trip with my parents to St. Mary of the Woods for mass and lunch at the convent. As we were leaving, we passed the boiler plant. The door was open, so I stuck my head in and saw enormous machinery and an endless number of tangled pipes. An older gentleman saw me in the plant and gave me a quick tour of their operation. It looked overwhelmingly complicated, I couldn’t believe that one man could know how all this stuff works, but some day I’d like to be that guy.

Andres Montes - BIM techAndres Montes – BIM Technician

I’m not an engineer yet, but I went back to school last fall to get my bachelors in mechanical engineering. I knew I wanted to pursue this path after taking a couple of engineering classes in high school, plus math was my favorite subject. I’ve always wanted to know how things worked, from small to big objects. While I was an intern here at Schmidt Associates, I realized how much I liked the atmosphere. I didn’t think twice when they asked me if I wanted to work here full time.

 

Click here to check out what the first group said while you’re at it!

WOYS #5

The middle of winter is hands down my least favorite time to live in the mid-west. While I love the changing of the seasons – the trudge post-holidays to mid-March takes twice as long as it should.  The only way to survive is with a glass of wine, a nice fire, and a few good books.

Try these to warm up from the inside out:

 

The Nightingale

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

“In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.”

In The Nightingale, two sisters find their way through occupied France in WW2. With full acknowledgment that I am a sucker for this type of fiction, this is a wonderful story of becoming who we really are. Kristin Hannah’s writing is compelling, and her process of robust research allows the reader to experience a far less documented side of war to see what it’s like for the women and children left behind. I particularly appreciated the relationship between the sisters – full of all the love, history, and hurt that come hand in hand with family.

 

Uncommon Type

By Tom Hanks

“It turns out that Tom Hanks is also a wise and hilarious writer with an endlessly surprising mind. Damn it.” – Steve Martin

It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true. Tom Hanks can write too. Uncommon Type is a book of short stories, all just the right length to read a few as you wait for basketball practice to end or right before bed. The stories are quirky, funny, sad, and unexpected. The characters are both unique and fully developed – quite an accomplishment in a few short pages. Like pretty much every other thing Mr. Hanks does, Uncommon Type is worth your time.

 

Drawndown

By Paul Hawken

“If you are traveling down the wrong road, you are still on the wrong road if you slow down.”

When I tell you Drawdown is a book on how to reverse global warming, I understand the inclination to put down this review and reread the one about Tom Hanks. However, if you can resist the urge, Drawdown is a good read. It focuses on how we can overcome confusion, apathy, or just being overwhelmed by the idea of global warming. The book takes 80 strategies and solutions, organizes them by sector, describes them in easily understandable language and ranks their effectiveness using the total CO2 impact, and the long and short-term costs.  Each solution is only a page or two long, with lots of photos and illustrations, so you can digest each idea in small bites. Ultimately, I left Drawdown feeling hopeful and better equipped to make a difference through design.

 

Want more recommendations?

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Q&A Session with Drew Morgan

Drew MorganAs Drew Morgan—Business Development Representative—comes into a room, there is an energy that appears with him. From his effervescent personality to his warm smile, Drew is someone that draws you in and makes you feel welcome wherever you are. Below, we take a few minutes to get to know him a bit better.

 

 

Tell me about your history.
I was born and raised on the north side of Indy and was the youngest of four. My dad, uncle, two older brothers, and a cousin are all pharmacists and my family owned a chain of drugstores. After graduating from North Central High School, I trekked up to Purdue University and started the pharmacy program as I was expected to do. I soon realized I don’t get along well with the periodic table, so I switched over to the Krannert School of Management. I started my own business at 28—tax and insurance consulting—but I eventually sold off my share of the business. I got into business development in the professional services industry in 1996, and I joined Schmidt Associates a few months ago.

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
I grew up around 91st Street and Spring Mill. At the time, the intersection of 86th Street and Spring Mill only had a 4-way stop—and not everyone obeyed it. As part of my Eagle Scout project, I observed the intersection and provided records that the city eventually used to justify installing the stop-light that is still there today.

What do you do in your free time?
I love boating, being outside, and being with family. I got my first boat straight out of college and have had one ever since. As a result, I love water skiing and water sports and am very fortunate my family does too!

Do you enjoy any sports?
Yes! I love Purdue, the Colts, the Indy 500, the Brickyard… I could continue. My favorite, though, is racing. I remember, the father of my best friend in high school was a race car driver. Because of this, I was out at the track a lot and was recruited to be on Jim Hurtubise’s pit crew. Unfortunately, he didn’t qualify for the race that year, and I never made it to the professional pits. My love for the sport has never faded, and I have only missed two Indy 500 races since I was six years old.

What inspires you?
I enjoy meeting people and being part of a team. I love the position I am in at Schmidt Associates—it’s something different every day. I also love that in my profession, I can literally stand somewhere and point to my efforts coming to fruition. Having been in the industry for so long, I have called on some pretty interesting people and companies like Tesla and SpaceX. I even left a voicemail for Donald Trump!

And you enjoy traveling?
Yes, my family has a time share in Key West. I think my favorite thing about that location occurs every night at Mallory Square—the southernmost point in the United States. Everyone gathers and claps at sunset for another beautiful day.

Tell me about your family.
I have been married to my wife, Susan, for 19 years. Together, we have a daughter and a son—Anna (18) is a freshman at Purdue majoring in Global Studies and Sam (15) is a sophomore at Lawrence North High School.

Drew Morgan Family

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle Miller, Steve Schaecher, and Myrisha Colston

‘Tis the Season of Giving Back

As 2018 is quickly coming to an end, it is a great time to reflect on all that we have accomplished. Schmidt Associates has had the pleasure of working with our clients on many impactful projects, but we are about more than just our work. This coming week, in particular, reminds us all how grateful we are to work at a firm that values giving back to our community.

Wayne Schmidt, our founder, has been cultivating a spirit of Servant Leadership since he began the firm 1976. With Sarah Hempstead now leading the charge as our CEO, that has remained our same core value. We are encouraged to be involved in organizations outside the office – our staff has dedicated more than 14,000 volunteer hours to our local communities over the past 10 years.

Here are some highlights from this past year:

2018 Volunteer Events

  • We hosted our annual Chili Cook-Off at the beginning of the year to raise money for the IU Student Outreach Clinic.
  • During the Indiana State Fair, the firm participated in the CANstruction event. This year, our crew raised enough money to donate 4,910 canned food items, resulting in 2,576 meals, to Gleaners Food Bank to help combat hunger.
  • During Indy Do Day, the firm had a number of staff participate in landscaping projects for the MSD of Lawrence Township Schools.
  • While working with Christamore House on the upkeep of their building systems, we had a staff volunteer day to repair plant beds, paint, and do a general clean-up.
  • As a corporate partner for Children’s Bureau, we attended various volunteer events like reading to the kids at lunchtime, helping paint aprons for their Celebrity Cook-Off event, and handing out candy during trick-or-treat at the shelter.
  • Junior Achievement’s JobSpark event was a fun-filled day in which several staff members helped educate 8th grade students about careers in architecture and engineering.
  • Each year, our firm awards a Ball State University CAP student with a scholarship to help them continue their education within this industry. Richard Meagher was this year’s recipient – he is hoping to further his education and obtain a masters degree in landscape architecture.
  • To help inspire young girls and educate them on the future of S.T.E.M, we hosted a booth at the Girl Scouts’ Circle the City event. Engineering staff members helped build an HVAC simulation racing game, and some of our architecture crew came equipped with VR headsets.
  • After our annual Thanksgiving staff pitch-in, all leftover food was taken to Wheeler Mission to give those in need a warm, tasty meal.
  • Six kids and their families from Children’s Bureau will have a special holiday season thanks to our staff donations of toys, clothes, and other goodies.

There is definitely more that our staff has individually participated in, so the list could go on and on. This is just a small glimpse of how Schmidt Associates truly puts the needs of our clients, staff, and community at the forefront!

 

Q&A Session with Myrisha Colston

It seems like Myrisha Colston, Architectural Graduate, has worked here forever. Her smiling face has been a mainstay on the second floor for many years. Myrisha has interned or just helped around the office six or seven (who is really keeping track?) different stints through the years before graduating with her masters and landing at Schmidt Associates full-time.

 

Tell me about yourself.
Growing up, I was an army brat, moving several times before settling in Indianapolis when I was 10. I attended IPS and interned at Schmidt Associates as a junior at Arsenal Tech High School—which led to my career here. Coming from a large family, especially on my mother’s side, family has always been a key value in my life.  I am very close with my parents, my older sister, and my four God-siblings (2 boys and 2 girls).

I am currently engaged to be married in August. My fiancé, Cameo, and I dated from the age of 12 to 16, and then life took us separate ways for a while. We reconnected while I was in graduate school and here we are today—looking forward to starting our life together.

Myrisha Colston Family

What inspires you?
Faith is my biggest inspiration, along with family. Without faith or my family, I would not have made it through school or where I am now.

What do you do in your free time?
I don’t really know how to sit down. I tend to say “yes” when asked to help, especially when it comes to my family. When I do sit down, though, I love spending time with family watching movies and playing games.

I also enjoy working with youth. When I entered architecture, I struggled with how it would help me give back. My past two years in graduate school, I participated in outreach and went into high schools and talked with youth about architecture. Additionally, I am serving as a mentor for a second-year architecture student at Ball State—offering feedback and advice as she takes her own journey through school.

Do you have a favorite vacation?
One of my favorite places was San Francisco; that is where I developed more of a love for nature and its peace and serenity. I loved being in the Redwood Forest. I also enjoyed my trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One of my favorite moments was zip lining in the Smoky Mountains.

Myrisha Colston Vacation

Do you collect anything?
I have a collection of nutcrackers. When I was about 8, my parents bought me two nutcrackers for Christmas, and it has just continued from there. I think I have about 15 of them now, receiving one each year as a gift. I’ve decided to stop because I don’t want to have a room where I don’t want to go in due to all these wooden guys staring at me. 😊

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
I am obsessed with budgeting! When I was growing up, I was always number-oriented, but the obsession has gotten really bad with the wedding planning. I love budgeting, from the excel document to putting in the formulas—everything!

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle Miller, and Steve Schaecher

Q&A Session with Steve Schaecher

Whether it is the Taj Ma-Stall by Emperor Shah Jahan or Flushingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright, Steve Schaecher—Senior Project Architect and one of the newest Principals of the firm—is quite knowledgeable about architecture and is happy to share this knowledge through humor.

 

 

What makes you tick?
I am an architect, so obviously I have a creative side and love using it in all aspects of my life. I like to create things that get a little rise out of people or make them laugh. I enjoy seeing the reactions of people to things I think are funny. However, its always a tightrope—one of my kids always tells me that I am not supposed to laugh at my own jokes. But humor is a big part of my life, and I believe laughter is the medicine to cure all.

Other than architecture, what outlets do you utilize for your creativity?
I have always enjoyed drawing. In high school, I was the cartoonist for the school paper—it was the first time I had something in print. I invented a strip called “Dr. Cartoon” and made up humorous diseases around our school every week. Though I didn’t do much with cartooning in college, after graduating, the local AIA Indianapolis Chapter started a newsletter. I was talking with a friend of mine who was the editor; one thing led to another, and I ended up drawing the cartoons for the newsletter.

About six months later, National AIA started the AIArchitect, a monthly national newspaper for architects. I contacted them, and the next thing you know, I had a national audience for my cartoons. That is where I created my first outhouse—Frank Lloyd Wright’s, Flushingwater.  After that, I thought, “I could make a calendar out of this.” So, I put together 12 different samples and researched calendar publishers. I lucked out, the first publisher I approached liked the concept, but suggested it expand to a permanent book instead of a temporary calendar.

The first book—”Outhouses by Famous Architects”—was well received. Within a year, I suggested a sequel—”Mobile Homes by Famous Architects”—and eventually I rounded out the trilogy with “Phone Booths by Famous Architects”. Eventually the books were also converted into calendars.

Another interesting tidbit, a publishing company in China picked up the books and published them in Chinese! I don’t think the translation picks up the humor very well, though.

Steve Schaecher - Outhouses book

“Outhouses by Famous Architects”

What do you do in your free time?
I genuinely enjoy hanging out with my kids. We attend a lot of soccer games.

As an architect, it seems like I always have some kind of home improvement project going. I designed my own home, but there is always something to re-do.

Steve Schaecher

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
I went to a Catholic School and the nuns were somewhat strict. One day, I had the hiccups and went to get a drink from the water fountain. I looked up to see Sister Calista (the meanest of the sisters) walking down the hall; then I bent down to get another drink. I got in trouble for taking more than one drink! She busted me and scared the right hiccups out of me!

 

Steve Schaecher - Family

Tell me about your family.
I have been married to Susie, a true Speedway girl, for 23 years. Together, we have three kids—Nathan, a sophomore at Purdue studying industrial engineering; Lindsey, a junior at Avon hoping to become a teacher; and Nick, a 6th grader heavily involved in travel soccer.

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, and Kyle Miller

Q&A Session with Kyle Miller

Whether it’s the management of a multi-million dollar school, creation of the music behind project videos, or poker on a Friday night, Kyle Miller—Principal and Project Manager at Schmidt Associates—puts full effort into all he does.

 

 

Tell me a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Shelbyville, Indiana and have held a full-time job since I was 16. I started out working at a grocery store and continued working there all through college and even four years after I landed my first “real” job with a civil engineering firm.

What is your passion, outside of work? Kyle and his guitar

I have always had a passion for music, whether it is piano or guitar, composition or performance, and it’s been a constant throughout life.

I loved playing guitar and going to concerts with friends in high school, and I guess it just continued into my adult life. Around 2000, I joined my first real band, Magnolia. We performed southern and classic rock at local bars and parties around town. After that band had ran its course, I joined Throwback Jack with the drummer from Magnolia. That was a lot of fun.

Additionally, I started playing in the praise band at my church. I played about 49 of the 52 weeks out of the year for 13 years. Between practices on Wednesday nights and Sunday morning services, it was a lot of work. But perhaps the most exciting music I have ever played was for the Lebanon Educational Foundation Follies. For 12 years, I participated in this annual show where I was given 50 songs (generally Broadway show tunes) with sheet music that I had to learn in a week. It was fun and I developed many new relationships—but mostly, it was the biggest challenge, musically, I have ever had.

What inspires you?
I love getting to know people. So, I love pursuing a new opportunity or a new project. Of course, once the pursuit is over, I constantly worry about my new clients and delivering on the promises I made to them.

What’s your favorite thing to do downtown?
We actually moved downtown in 2014. The kids were out of high school and my wife and I were ready for a change from suburban life. We both like downtown—visiting and working—so we decided to build a house in Fall Creek Place. Interestingly, the house that is right next door to mine was the former home of Reverend Jim Jones. Don’t drink that Kool-Aid!

That said, we obviously spend a lot of time downtown. I love to eat lunch at Bru and dinner at Salt and we have season tickets to the Colts. We just love the city and all that it has to offer.

What’s something not everyone knows about you?
Not only do I play music, but I also compose. I had written a song for a country music band I played with. The lead singer from that group actually took the song—music and lyrics—to a professional producer/musician in Nashville and had it professionally recorded.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Not sure if it’s a talent, maybe a problem, but I play a lot of poker—and sometimes I win. I am a founding member, five-time winner, and PLA (Poker League Administrator) for the Premier Indy Men’s Poker Society (PIMPS).

Kyle and his wife, Amy have been married 23 years. They have three kids—Dustin, 30; Erin, 28; and Danielle, 26; and one granddaughter—Arianna, 10.

Kyle Miller's Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie Layton, and Anna Marie Burrell

Q&A Session with Anna Marie Burrell

Anna Marie Burrell

From the infectious smile to the genuine care and concern for those around her to her constant flurry of activity, Anna Marie Burrell—K-12 Studio Leader and Principal-in-Charge—has a magnetic and energetic personality. Below, we try to get her to take a few minutes to just breathe and share a bit of her life.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Lantern Hills—an enchanted, undulating wooded neighborhood on the border of the then-active Ft. Benjamin Harrison. So, when I think back to my childhood, I remember sneaking tools out of dad’s workshop to build “forts” with my neighborhood friends for our imaginary secret society. P.I.G.s was the name of our secret group, code for Private Investigating Girls. Can you guess what our password was? We were headquartered—along with multiple expansion sites—throughout our forested world. P.I.G.s members were serious about our work and probably had too much fun torturing my brother by taking his favorite toys so we could later find them hidden up in trees.

I guess you can say that I have always been caught up in my imagination and drawn to those who have fun dreaming up new experiences.

And now?
This is my cheer squad:

Anna Marie Family

I married Tim in 1994, and we have two sons together — Sam (18) and Aaron (20). We have always been a close-knit family that loves to have fun. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Eddie, my labradoodle. We love dressing him up, but I am not sure if he loves it as much as we do.

What inspires you?

The arts, specifically dance. To feed my need to keep moving, my parents introduced me to ballet. I was hooked and spent every minute I could at Butler University’s Jordan Academy of Dance learning from instructors of a multitude of global and cultural backgrounds. I learned I loved creating or telling stories without the use of words through dance. I loved, and still love, the emotion of dance and the lines, rhythms, surprises, and forms that are endless only to one’s imagination. As an architect, I have realized these same elements are key to the delivery of any successful design project.

My love for dance continues today as I am starting to get involved with Kids Dance Outreach (KDO)—an organization providing children, regardless of income, with an opportunity to learn and experience the joy of dance.

What do you do in your free time?
I love to jump on the back of our motorcycle with my husband, Tim, and just ride with no agenda. It snaps me into the happiest of moods.

Anna Marie Burrell Motorcycle

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’d love to explore Southern France, though lately I’ve been obsessing with wanting to go dog sledding in the countryside around Quebec. To be clear, my idea of dog sledding includes blankets and hot chocolate while someone else “drives” the dogs for me.

Do you keep anything special at your desk?
I’m never at my desk, instead I carry a backpack with scarves to hold my hair back. I never know when I might get whisked off on an impromptu motorcycle adventure.

So, have you guessed that P.I.G.s secret password yet? OINK!

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin Shelley, and Eddie Layton

User Engagement Early in Design

Here at Schmidt Associates, we like user engagement to happen early in the design process to help determine how the spaces need to work and how the facility can best help them meet their mission. We prefer one or two meetings during schematic design and another at the end of a project through a room-by-room review process to ensure that all project needs have been addressed before going out to bid.

puzzle piece during user engagementAnother way we do this is through our Puzzle Piece© exercise. We developed this process to gather input from the client group, using puzzle-like pieces of various space components and then ask the client to put them together the way they think they should be organized. This has continued to be one of the most revealing exercises to establish the most important spatial relationships that will drive decisions. We can translate those puzzle piece models into actual Revit, 3-D models, that become the base for our on-going design and construction documents.

What you can learn:

Through these user group interactions, you have the chance to learn more about the end users and their unique goals for the project – which can differ from that of the Owner. You can see how the instructors are going to use the space to keep students engaged in lessons, hear what type of office set up would be ideal for staff members, or what type of playground equipment community members wish to see for their children to play on in a new neighborhood park. If these user groups are happy in their new facilities and spaces, that will ultimately impact the overall satisfaction of the Owner.

The benefits of early user engagement:

Engaging with user groups early in the design process helps create project buy-in. Showing them interesting concept renderings or creating open forum meetings allows them to feel like they have had helped to influence the project and helps to generate excitement as well. Having these groups involved helps us be more effective designers as well. By hearing what will work and what won’t, we have the chance to make changes to the overall design before construction begins. This mitigation of issues in the field will save both time and money once construction begins due to less change orders.

The challenges of early user engagement:

Making the time for these user group meetings and implementation of their ideas has the potential to slow the whole project down. Depending on the timeline given to you by the Owner, there may not be any extra time built in for this process. There is also the challenge of navigating multiple opinions and directions of these user groups.

If the schedule or the Owner determines that user group meetings are not possible it is essential to build flexibility into the design where possible. This can be done using movable furniture, setting up separate collaboration and private spaces within the building, adaptable technology, or using retractable walls.

 

If we can help with your next project, get in touch!