How to Avoid Negative Impacts of School Construction Projects on Students

Students Studying

Proper planning is critical to avoid unintended short- and long-term consequences of school construction projects for those who matter most—the students.

Initiating a new school build or a significant renovation can be a lengthy process. Getting the project approved, perhaps passing a referendum, and determining the vision for your new or updated facilities is a lot of work.

This is ultimately all for the good of the students—to ensure their health and safety, improve their ability to learn, and give them tools for success. Even with good intentions, however, there can be unintended consequences of school construction projects that aren’t in the best interest of the kids.

That’s why it’s critical to put proper planning and consideration into every aspect of the project before a shovel ever hits the ground.

We’ve been designing K-12 schools for roughly 40 years, and we’ve seen it all. Here are a few key reminders we give to administrators to prevent negative impacts of school construction projects on students.

1. Don’t eliminate spaces that help to educate the whole child.

When budgets get tight, you may be tempted to cut some of the more non-traditional spaces in the school. These seem like luxuries. We need an adequate cafeteria; we don’t need “nooks” or green spaces.

When we talk about educating the whole child—creating an environment and providing opportunities that ensure every single child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged—this includes providing spaces that cater to the needs of every personality type and learning style.

In the planning and design process, be sure to address dedicated places for students to:

  • Take a quiet break
  • Discover their individual strengths or talents
  • Safely engage in physical activities
  • Utilize technology to its fullest potential

Also ensure students will be able to comfortably move throughout the school. For example, hallways should be large enough to accommodate busy passing periods and still have room for students to pull to the side to tie a shoe.

2. Make sure learning environments are the right size.

When you are trying to be efficient with dollars and square feet, there is a temptation to squeeze students into classrooms that are too small.

You must be realistic about the number of students that will—and should—be in each classroom, as well as how the classroom will be used and the subjects and types of activities that will be taught. Work closely with your design team to understand both anticipated class size (now and in the future) and the room’s purpose to create an adequate space for learning.

For example, science labs and other hands-on environments will have different space requirements than other types of rooms. Using classrooms and other spaces for their intended purpose is important for the success of your programming. It’s also why flexible classroom styles that can be adapted for the class at hand are preferred.

3. Be mindful of increased school security measures.

School security is top of mind for every parent, teacher, and administrator—as it should be. However, it shouldn’t have to be top of mind for students.

Part of what helps students be successful is a positive, welcoming, secure environment. In fact, it’s a biological requirement. The basic need of safety must be met before a child’s brain can focus on learning and building new connections. Obtrusive security measures can create the opposite effect, making students feel stressed about potential dangers.

Safety should be ingrained in the design of the facility so that it feels natural. There are many ways this can be achieved, such as creating clear lines of site throughout the building, choosing an appropriate security system, implementing sufficient lighting, and properly managing building access points.

4. Minimize distractions and risk during the construction process.

If you are renovating your current space, students and teachers will likely still be using portions of the facility. This means they may be near the construction work and all of the distractions that come along with it.

Make special effort to minimize the effects of the construction process on kids to maintain as much normalcy as possible, especially if standardized testing or other critical activities are occurring at the same time.

There are several primary areas to consider:

  • Wayfinding and Procedures – Make sure students (and their parents) are clear on room changes and other new procedures necessary during construction, and post adequate signage throughout the school to remind them. Install highly visible signs and implement barriers around construction zones to prevent students from entering these potentially dangerous areas and to guide them through route changes while their normal facilities are unavailable.
  • Noise – Loud noises during construction are unavoidable, and they can substantially interfere with students’ ability to concentrate, especially for those with sensory challenges. Noise can be quieted to a certain degree with construction protocols, such as installing temporary sound-absorbing barriers and using newer equipment that operates more quietly. Also try to schedule as much time away from noisy areas as possible for all groups of students (e.g. allow for classes to rotate through outdoor spaces or other places that are away from any construction).
  • Environmental Disturbances – Construction can also result in other environmental disturbances, such as smells and dust. Make sure teachers and parents understand that the construction team takes precautions to mitigate these factors and ensure no harmful impacts. If students express concerns about these disturbances, raise them with the contractor, who can help.

Planning the timeline and phases of the construction process appropriately is also key to avoiding or diminishing many of these disruptions. Some of the most intense or disruptive portions of the build should be scheduled during school breaks or outside of school hours when possible.

Stay Tuned for More

Students aren’t the only ones to consider during school construction projects. There can be many unintended consequences for teachers, parents, and the community as well. Stay tuned to our blog and social media for future posts in this series.

4 Tips for Adaptive Reuse in Higher Education

How to successfully expand your campus by repurposing old buildings

 

ISU Adaptive Reuse building

Former Post Office and Courthouse turned into the ISU Scott College of Business

 

Whether you have a building on campus that is sitting vacant, or you’re looking for a new space to expand into, adaptive reuse is an effective option for many higher education construction projects.

“Adaptive reuse” refers to giving an existing building—often a fairly old, historic one—a new purpose. It involves taking a space that used to serve one function, recycling it, and reusing it to serve a new function.

 

Why Reuse Old Buildings?

 

You can’t build new forever, which is why adaptive reuse is becoming increasingly popular—not only in higher education, but across all sectors. In fact, more than 90 percent of the future building inventory in the United States in 2025 already exists, according to the American Institute of Architecture. This means buildings we have today will need to be reused and repurposed in the future.

Adaptive reuse is a smart way to expand a campus for many reasons. It can reduce costs by using existing facilities instead of building brand new construction. It’s also the environmentally responsible choice, as it allows you to recycle structures and materials and avoid developing on new land.

If you’re repurposing a building already on your campus, adaptive reuse also helps preserve the heritage of your university or college by retaining original architecture. This ensures new spaces remain visually cohesive with the rest of campus.

Learn more about why adaptive reuse is important in today’s world. 

 

Successful Adaptive Reuse

 

While reusing old buildings has a lot of benefits, it also has its challenges. Unlike new construction, there will likely be unique hiccups that arise when opening up old buildings. If you go into the project for the right reasons and with the right mindset, the result will be a more meaningful space with historic charm.

Prepare for the process by keeping these keys to a successful adaptive reuse in mind:

1. Take advantage of the opportunities the building gives you.

The fun part of an adaptive reuse is figuring out how to reinvent the space for the needs of today. The obstacles of existing construction are what prompts innovative solutions. The building will give you natural opportunities to design creatively and think outside the box.

Can a leftover corner be turned into a study nook? Can an awkwardly placed stairwell be opened and made into an interesting new focal point? Take those opportunities to make the building memorable and unique to your campus.

2. Highlight historic character.

Not every old building is ornate and beautiful. If you are lucky enough to be adapting one that is, be careful not to erase those details that made the building what it was. As you revamp flow and function, look for characteristics you can preserve and blend with your new design.

When we transformed an old post office and courthouse into the Scott College of Business at Indiana State University, we reconfigured and adapted the building to the needs of a modern business program, but we retained the historic details that gave it character. We kept the post office’s old mailboxes, made the bank teller windows peer into the new classrooms, and rewired and fully restored the two-story federal courtroom to its original glory for large group functions.

ISU Adaptive Reuse

ISU Scott College of Business

3. Be honest about what you need.

Adaptive reuse requires you to reimagine what your space could be. This often means tossing out old ideas of what you think you need. It also means carefully integrating modern amenities and building systems that don’t compete with the historic architecture.

However, the ultimate goal is to create a space that functions well for your program. Be honest about what that means. Some spaces may not work for a specific function, no matter how hard you try. This doesn’t mean you have to demolish the building. You might just need to think outside its four walls.

When we transformed the old St. Vincent Hospital into the Ivy Tech Illinois Fall Creek Center, we knew retaining the recognizable patient wings and their facades would be important. They were iconic to the surrounding community. However, those wings weren’t an appropriate size for classrooms. Instead, we made them into administrative offices and built additions for the new learning spaces. We carefully juxtaposed the 1913 architecture with new modern lines, and a one-of-a-kind education facility was born.

Old St. Vincent turned into Ivy Tech Fall Creek

Before and After of Ivy Tech Illinois Fall Creek Center

4. Involve the right stakeholders.

One of the most important parts of successful adaptive reuse has nothing to do with the building. The project can only work if the right people are at the table.

Think about everyone who is tied to the space:

  • If the building was not previously part of one of your campuses, make sure you talk with the surrounding community. Understand what the building means to them, and what their hopes are for it.
  • Get insights from the building’s previous tenant/owner; they know it best.
  • If necessary, involve the Historic Preservation Office early.
  • Make sure key faculty and student groups have a say in the process.

When everyone understands the goal of rejuvenating an old space—and can help inform the end product—the result is a more integrated, effective design.

 

Want to know more about pursuing an adaptive reuse project? Contact our architects and engineers.

Schmidt Associates Gains 9 Spots on List of Top 300 Architecture Firms

Schmidt Associates is proud to be named to Architectural Record’s 2019 Top 300 list. The firm earned the 195th spot on this year’s list, moving up nine spots from last year.

The annual national list, compiled by Architectural Record’s sister publication Engineering News-Record, ranks companies by their architectural revenue from the prior year, as reported by firms that choose to participate.

In 2018, Schmidt experienced significant growth not only in terms of revenue, but also in staff size, seeing a 12-percent increase in total employees.

See below for a sneak peek at a few of the significant projects we started in 2018 (all still underway).

Hammond Middle High School

Location: Hammond, IN
Project: Renovation and New Construction
Cost: $80M

 

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

Location: Indianapolis, IN
Project: New Construction
Cost: $160M

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

 

North Montgomery Elementary School

Location: Crawfordsville, IN
Project: Renovation
Cost: $30 million

North Montgomery - Main Entry

North Montgomery – Main Entry

North Montgomery - Media Center

North Montgomery – Media Center

Mass Ave Isn’t What It Used to Be: Urban Revitalization in Indianapolis

Years of redevelopment and steadfast anchor institutions are to thank for the Mass Ave we know and love.

 

Did you know that MacNiven’s used to be a biker bar? Maybe you noticed the original “Sears, Roebuck and Company” still etched into the west side of Needler’s Fresh Market at the corner of Alabama and Vermont Streets. Even the buildings that make up the Schmidt Associates’ office have been everything from a paint and wallpaper store to a coffee shop and restaurant.

Massachusetts Avenue—affectionately called Mass Ave or the Avenue by most—has been in constant transformation. New restaurants seem to pop up daily, and recent (and ongoing) new construction is making more room for apartments, offices and entertainment options.

This intimate downtown stretch didn’t always look the way it does now. In fact, it was once considered somewhat of a “red light district,” a seedy stretch you wouldn’t want to take selfies in front of.

Over the past four decades or so, the landscape of this downtown thoroughfare has changed dramatically, making it a prime example of urban revitalization. After years of redevelopment, the Mass Ave neighborhood eventually became the cultural hub that it is today.

 

A Brief History of Mass Ave

The footprint of Indianapolis was designed by Alexander Ralston (yes, Ralston’s DraftHouse is named after him), who also laid out the streets of Washington, D.C.

Like D.C., Indianapolis has several diagonal roads that sprout out from Monument Circle. Mass Ave is one of them, making it—at one time—a major artery connecting the commercial downtown and residential outskirts of the city.

Mass Ave Revitalization 1906

Mass Ave circa 1906 (Photo Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

Between about 1940 and 1960, a mass migration from cities to suburbs occurred across the U.S. Approximately 40 million people abandoned the hustle and bustle of downtowns in favor of quiet suburban streets. These suburbs started to become self-contained, with their own shops, schools, and police departments. Indianapolis was no exception.

The construction of the interstate, which cut directly through Mass Ave, in the 1970s fueled this exodus of city dwellers, giving them an easy way to travel back downtown when necessary.

By the late 1970s, when Schmidt Associates moved into the Hammond Block at 301 Massachusetts Ave., the view down the Avenue was bleak. There were many boarded up buildings, and the open businesses were far from the trendy boutiques and restaurants we see now.

Mass Ave Revitalization 1970s

Mass Ave Circa 1970s

With our offices perched at the starting point of the street, our firm had a unique position and ability to take part in the revitalization of Mass Ave. We’ve made our humble mark along the Avenue over the years—from our work on the Stout’s Shoes building in the 1980s, to our office’s move to our current home at 415 Massachusetts Ave. (right image above), to the completion of the new Penrose on Mass building in 2018. And both our leadership and staff have been committed to this revitalization through active participation with local non-profits and community engagement.

No single person or organization could have made this significant transformation. A powerful combination of support from community and economic development organizations, private businesses, and federal tax credits for revitalization of historic buildings helped bring new life to Mass Ave.

However, none of these efforts would have been sustainable without another important player: the anchor institution.

 

Anchor Institutions Leading the Charge

An anchor institution is a place that holds influence in a city or other geographic area. It quite literally “anchors” the area by helping to provide a point of stability that attracts residents and other businesses.

Often, we think of a university, the headquarters of a major corporation, a professional sports stadium, or a hospital as an anchor institution in a city. These companies give meaning to an area, providing jobs and spurring new housing developments, commercial business, and more. Each neighborhood within a city can have its own, smaller anchors, as well.

Mass Ave would not be the place it is today without the anchor institutions that established it as a destination neighborhood in Indianapolis. Here are a few we have to thank:

 

The Athenaeum

Mass Ave Revitalization 1910

Athenaeum Circa 1910 (Photo Courtesy of the Athenaeum Foundation)

The Athenaeum was designed by Bernard Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut’s grandfather) and was built in phases between 1893 and 1898. It was envisioned as a “house of culture for the mind and body,” according to the Athenaeum Foundation. True to that purpose, it has played host to countless theater productions, public speeches, and other community gatherings and celebrations.

The building was also once home to the Normal College of the North American Gymnastic Union and held gymnastics trainings. This made it a perfect fit for the YMCA, which moved in in 1992. And of course, the Rathskeller, Indianapolis’ oldest restaurant still in operation, opened in the Athenaeum’s basement in 1894.

Today, the Athenaeum building remains a cultural focal point. It has a coffee shop with a large working/meeting space, the Rathskeller beer garden and outdoor concert venue, and various office and performance spaces for art and education organizations.

 

Circle City Industrial Complex

Mass Ave Revitalization 1930s

Schwitzer Cummins Co., Circa 1930s (Photo Courtesy of Circle City Industrial Complex)

Built in the early 1920s, the building that is now the Circle City Industrial Complex (CCIC) provides an anchor further northeast on Mass Ave. It was originally home to the Schwitzer Cummins Corporation automotive plant. The plant was part of the booming auto industry in Indianapolis and across the country.

While the interstate now divides Mass Ave just before you get to CCIC, the campus remains an anchor in the area, known as the Mass Ave Industrial Corridor. CCIC is currently being redeveloped, in large part due to efforts of the Riley Area Redevelopment Corporation, which is also responsible for much of the public art along Mass Ave, as well as affordable housing and other economic development efforts. The former factory building is now home to a variety of artisans and makers, non-profits, and other businesses.

 

The Murat

Mass Ave Revitalization 1900s

Murat Theatre Circa 1900s (Photo Courtesy of the Murat Shriners)

Now named Old National Centre, the Murat Theatre was completed in 1910 by a group called the Murat Shriners. The Shriners were members of a secret society called the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. The temple served as a ceremony and meeting place for decades and is still under ownership of the Shriners.

In 1995, Live Nation became a tenant of the theater, bringing big-name live shows and concerts to Mass Ave. This was, and continues to be, a significant driver in attracting new restaurants and bars to satisfy event-goers before and after shows.

 

The Future on Mass Ave

It has taken decades for development on Mass Ave to elevate to its current state. Every decade since the late 1970s has brought about its own hallmark projects along the Avenue.

Today, Mass Ave has something of significance on almost every block. And there’s more to come, like the in-progress Bottleworks building, which is an adaptive reuse of the historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant. The project includes the Avenue’s first hotel, plus unique retail and gathering spaces, which will bring more activity to the northeast end of the street.

While most large parcels of land are now occupied, there are some gaps to fill in and opportunities to build north and south of the strip. As development continues, it’s important that we remember to preserve the organic and intimate character of Mass Ave.

When you walk down the street, you see pockets of new construction, but you mostly see a lot of old buildings—a blend of architectural styles from over the years, most no more than five or six stories tall. Those strong, old bones are still here, but they’ve been given new life and purpose. That is what revitalization is all about.

What I Learned at My First NeoCon

NeoCon Wall Quote

 

Ask any commercial interior designer what the biggest industry event of the year is, and they’ll have the same answer – NeoCon. In its 51st year, NeoCon is considered the most important annual event for the commercial design industry that influences the trends and aesthetics of the built environment. This three-day extravaganza brings the world’s leading manufacturers, dealers, architects, and design professionals together at the historic ­– and massive – Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago.  

 

Merchandise Mart at NeoCon

Merchandise Mart – Photo Courtesy of NeoCon

 

Fun fact: The Mart is so large it has its very own zip code.

This year marked my first time attending NeoCon. Although slightly overwhelming at first, due to the sheer size of The Mart and the staggering number of people, it was a phenomenal experience.

As far as interior design trends are concerned, I would summarize this year’s NeoCon showing in three words: color, pattern and comfort.

 

1. Color

Across the board, we saw an expansion in color palettes for flooring, wall coverings, textiles, and furniture. Blush, or dare I say mauve, was among the most popular colors introduced into new collections. Usually, this color was paired with a darker green to contrast.

In furniture, we saw color introduced in several ways, but the most interesting and trendy method was colored wood. Manufacturers offered this wood in an array of hues, using an opaque stain that allowed the natural grain and texture of the wood to show through to make for stunning pieces.

 

NeoCon - Color

2. Pattern

New textiles are always exciting to see, and this year there was an abundance of large-scale, geometric patterns, and stripes and plaids made a comeback. Blush, mustard yellow, and hunter green were among the most prominent colors in the new styles. Heavy textures like raised and embossed processed were common in the textile showrooms. Privacy curtains were also given new life with fresh patterns and color palettes.

We also saw a distinct flooring trend incorporating abstract, artistic patterns (think paint splatters and brush strokes), as well as the geometrics we saw elsewhere. Color palettes included neutral on neutral with an emphasis on texture, solids offered in nearly every color of the rainbow, and neutrals with pops of bright colors.

 

NeoCon - Pattern

3. Comfort

There was also a lot of emphasis on ergonomics and comfort in furniture design. Even lounge furniture was slightly increased in scale to offer extra cushion and a stronger resemblance to residential furniture.

My favorite showroom hands-down was Hightower. Hightower specializes in the manufacturing of furniture, and their showroom emphasized comfort and high style. They exhibited fully furnished settings ranging from lounge, small meeting areas, café-style seating, private nooks, and bar seating, utilizing a mostly neutral and pastel color palette.

 

NeoCon - Hightower

 

I think it’s safe to say our group of interior designers had a great time in the Merchandise Mart and can’t wait for NeoCon 2020!

 

NeoCon Group

 

If you are interested in seeing how we can implement some of these trends into your designs, reach out to us.

The Effects of Natural Daylight

Daylight - Marian University

It’s not a secret — it is scientifically proven that we, as humans, thrive best when we have access to sunlight. If you are having a long and stressful day at work, a walk around the block is a good way to clear the mind. Restaurants with outdoor seating tend to be packed during those sunny, 75-degree days. Homes typically include large living room windows that allow sunlight to coming flooding in.

When designing for an academic space, whether K-12 or higher education, keeping this biophilic factor in mind is essential in producing an effective learning environment.

Design considerations:

  • Include large, floor to ceiling windows in common spaces like cafeterias/dining halls, library and media centers, hallways on the upper level floor, etc.
Daylighting - media center and dining hall

Left: West Lafayette Intermediate School Media Center | Right: Marian University Dining Hall

  • Utilize glass walls between interior spaces adjacent to a room or hallway that includes plenty of windows. To add privacy, use clearstory windows or semi-transparent glass that will allow light to pass from space to space.
Daylight - expandable walls

Clark Middle School – Expandable glass walls between classroom and hallway let light flow throughout a large space

  • High, small, frosted windows in gyms/fieldhouses allow natural light to come into the space without resulting in glare on the court. Include windows near cardio machines in campus’ fitness center to give runners a little sense of being outdoors.
Daylight in gym and fitness center

Left: Plainfield High School Fieldhouse | Right: DePauw University Lilly Center

  • Residence hall bedrooms can feel a little tight and stuffy to students, but providing large windows for daylight to spill throughout common areas will help give them a sense of relief.
Daylight residence hall

Left: University of Indianapolis – Greyhound Village | Right: Ball State University – Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall

  • The second-best option is LED lighting if a space is limited in natural light potential. Sunlight and full-spectrum LEDs expose people to blue light wavelengths, which has a positive impact on our hormonal levels compared to other lighting systems.
Daylight - LED lighting

Before & After LED Retrofit at Bunker Hill Elementary

 

Benefits of natural daylight:

  • Positively impacts cognitive performance, resulting in better test results, information retention, and productivity levels. The U.S. Department of Education states that classrooms with the most daylighting saw a 20% better learning rate in math and 26% better in reading when compared to classrooms with little to no daylight.
  • Sunlight increases levels of serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved moods and overall mental health of students.
  • Daylight helps regulate circadian rhythms, reducing stress and enhancing the brain’s readiness to learn.
  • Provides opportunity for sensory change, giving students a mental break from what’s going on in the classroom. These short mental breaks help students stay focused and motivated. It is proven that the opportunity to interact with the natural world is particularly helpful to kids with ADD/ADHD, which effects an estimated 1 million children.

Introducing natural daylight into schools for maximum benefits needs to be done in a controlled and responsive manner. Proper building orientation means maximizing southern and northern exposures and minimizing east and west exposures. Worried about the energy costs and thermal comfort issues that come along with a wall full of windows? This is the importance of engineers to help design with tools for energy savings. Exterior shading devices, elements that push daylight deeper into the building, and proper interior window treatments can be incorporated.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can incorporate natural daylight into your existing space or your next projects – give us a call!

Designing for Generation Z

Generation Z, the 60-some million young people born between the late 1990s and early 2000s, are the most diverse group in our country’s history.

They grew up during times of recessions and financial crises, war and terror threats, and technology overload. Many of them knew how to operate a tablet or cellphone before they could put sentences together. They don’t remember a life without social media and spend up to nine hours a day consuming media. They have a rather short attention span and it can difficult to keep them engaged. In the next ten years, it is estimated that Gen Z will consist of 22% of the workforce and many will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet.

Generation Z Workforce Percentage

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Gen Z workers are more competitive and pragmatic, but also more anxious and reserved, than millennials, the generation of 72 million born from 1981 to 1996, according to executives, managers, generational consultants and multidecade studies of young people.”

Learning how to design for Generation Z will be essential in the longevity of our communities, facilities, and workplaces. So what design features will help attract and retain this large cohort?

Choice and Input

It’s easy: let them be a part of the design process, ask them to give input on what they want and expect, and then simply listen to what they have to say. One of the easiest ways to connect with this generation is through making them feel like their voices are heard. Designers can bring them idea starters and guidelines to get conversation going but try to immerse yourself into their world if you want a truly successful project. You can do this through focus groups, community engagement events, social media polls, and project blogs/websites.

Of special note, long-term choice is essential. Design should allow for variation over the life of a building, allowing the space to be tailored to each user’s preferences:

  • Robust power – consider a raised floor
  • Expansive wi-fi
  • Furniture that is movable – think everything on wheels, closable pods, and sitting/standing desks
Technology-Rich Spaces

As the baby boomers are retiring and Gen Z starts to fill in the gaps, technology will follow them. The places they live, work, and play need to reflect a lifestyle they are accustomed to: attached to hand-held supercomputers which provide instant communication with others. This diverse and mobile group will crave a digital connection to the world. In terms of the workplace, an office setting should include technology that will seamlessly allow staff to work from home (or a coffee shop across the world) but also enhanced video conferencing from anywhere. With good lighting and acoustics along with the ability to easily share documents and control, the office can be anywhere.

As designers, we need to think of technology that will help the facilities operate longer yet efficiently. Because Gen Z is predicted to put in a lot of hours in the office, the building systems will need to run differently than the regular 8-5pm. Allowing small spaces to be controlled and operated as needed without requiring the entire facility to be in operation will result in lower energy costs.

Flexibility

This generation works really hard, but they want some playtime as well. If you are going to create a flexible work environment, including staff who work remotely, creating a gathering space is essential for retention and overall job satisfaction. One design idea is to create a comfortable commons area filled with homey furniture, a coffee bar, and plenty of natural light. This type of space will allow Gen Z workers to take a brain break and socialize before getting back to the grind. Filling a space with familiar furniture pieces will ease anxiety and gives everyone a space to feel connected to peers.

We don’t all work the same, and an office won’t likely be comprised solely of Gen Z’ers. Design a workplace that has multiple types of rooms with varying functionality and privacy. If you can handle working in an open concept area, great! If you also need to get away from the hustle and bustle to really concentrate, great! If you need that ability to meet with a couple team members for a quick collaboration session away from your desks, great! If you need to meet with several people from around the office and need a more formal setting with technology, that’s great too!

Genuine Feel

This is a big one to keep in mind when you are looking to put your roots down for a new project. This generation gravitates toward places, people, and things that feel real, predictable, and safe. If you are wanting to attract and retain the Generation Z population, start by looking for a location that has its own sense of culture. Your building or space should come from and build on its history and the community naturally. Furthermore, your space should promote general well-being for users. Historic areas and neighborhoods are a big hit with this generation, leaving a lot of good potential for adaptive reuse projects. Staying true to the story makes the work resonate – do not to cut out the charm of the old while designing the new. The pre-packaged, Instagram filter world has ended, and Generation Z is seeking a genuine experience.

Choosing a location that is walkable and bikeable with nearby restaurants and attractions, grocery stores, and hotels will draw in more people. This goes for any type of building in the urban mix, from office space to apartments to mixed-use developments.

Once you have a location, make sure to include biophilic design features that promote happiness and health. Generation Z is very conscious of their mental and physical health—promoting that connection back to nature within a building will relate well with those users.

Inclusivity

Generation Z is a beautiful ethnically-diverse population, which is important to keep in mind when designing communities and buildings for them. Not everyone experiences a space the same, in part due to their culture and all that comes along with their unique backgrounds. Connecting back to “choice and input”, you will get the information that you need to ensure a space is inclusive if Gen Z’ers are included in the process.

 

It is time to prepare and adapt for future generations, allowing their influences to permeate through the built environment to stay relevant and competitive in the world. We should admire and enhance their creativity, empathetic attitudes, desire to feel connection, and heads-down work mentality with the spaces we provide. With the help of Generation Z, we should create communities and spaces that harness that same energy and drive toward success. If you want to more specifics on how to design for Gen Z, give us a call!

What are the Roles of a Design/Build Team?

Typically there are three primary team members on a design/build project. They include the Owner, the criteria developer, and the design/build (D/B) contractor. Each one is explained in more detail below:

1. Owner

•  Work with criteria developer to capture needs and desires in criteria documents/contract documents
•  Implement a process to select D/B contractor
•  Work with D/B contractor to finalize design and construction (sometimes through criteria developer/project manager)
•  Communicate changing needs to D/B contractor
•  Participate in punch list process
•  Move in and enjoy the new facility

2. Criteria Developer

•  Work with Owner personnel and stakeholders to draft criteria documents/contract documents
•  Sometimes hired to represent the Owner throughout construction and review design/construction/completion activities
•  May review pay applications and change orders and assist Owner in the punch list process
•  Advise Owner on contractual matters and D/B contractor compliance with contract
•  Assist Owner to maintain budget integrity

3. Design/Build Contractor 

•  Provide qualifications proposal and initial renderings to demonstrate their vision of compliance with the criteria documents
•  Confirm pricing with subcontractors that meets design criteria
•  Provide scope compliance information and agree on cost with Owner
•  Design the project using qualified design professionals and obtain Owner approval of code- compliant design that meets the criteria documents
•  Design team maintains engagement in project throughout construction
•  Construct the project, draft changes, punch out and complete the facility
•  Maintain budget and schedule throughout the duration of the project
•  Provide clear and regular communication with Owner on project status and any changes
•  Obtain good reference from satisfied Owner

So, why should an Owner select design/build?

  1. Single source of accountability – this goes for design and construction
  2. Budget management – discussing budget throughout the duration of design
  3. Enhanced communication – early and ongoing communications between Owner, design contractor, and subcontractor(s)
  4. Faster project completion – can shorten overall schedule since construction starts while design is being completed

If you have more questions or want to get started on your next project with us, reach out!

 

5 Ways to Improve School Safety through Site Design

Physical design features are only one piece of enhancing school safety and security that we—as designers—can directly play a part in. School Corporations regularly tell us student and staff safety are their top priority when taking on a new project, as it is ours as well.

School safety includes crime prevention as well as traffic safety. Looking at the outside of a school, we have 5 main ways to improve school safety through site design alone:

1. Fencing

  • Fencing helps to designate a sense of place, maintain lines of site, and restrict access to areas of the school that might not be highly visible.
  • Fences around playground areas help keep kids in a safe area while running around at recess, separate the “little kids” from the “big kids”, and keeps others out. Including fencing around vehicular areas, providing separation between walkways and drop-off/pick-up areas, can help to keep kids from darting into traffic.
  • Choose a material that is easy to see through but difficult to climb or vandalize—often wrought iron or ornamental fencing.
West Lafayette New Intermediate School - Fenced Playground

West Lafayette New Intermediate School – Fenced Playground

2. Security system

  • Include real-time security on the premises that local police can have access to in the event of an emergency.
  • Making the security cameras highly visible can also deter criminal activity before it starts.

3. Management of access points

  • Create a welcoming main entrance to the building through a secure vestibule which leads directly to the main reception area. Access into school corridors are controlled from here. Including card readers to monitor when a door is being opened and by who also helps with access control.
  • Limit the number of access points so school personnel can better monitor the comings and goings throughout the school day.
  • Physically separate school bus drive, parent drop-off/pick-up routes, and parking areas to help alleviate the chance of traffic-related issues. Clearly mark all separate areas with signs and include traffic flow directions for clear orientation. This is helpful in guiding students, parents, and emergency personnel.
Battell Elementary School, School City of Mishawaka – Secure Entry Technology

Battell Elementary School, School City of Mishawaka – Secure Entry Technology

4. Natural surveillance – maximize visibility from within

  • Give people who might consider committing a crime on the school grounds a sense that they are being watched. This alone can help prevent crimes from occurring in the first place.
  • There should be clear lines of sight from road/parking lot/entry for school personnel. Make sure any landscape elements are maintained and trimmed regularly so bushes or trees do not block this line of sight.
  • Include windows in main office area so staff can monitor parking lots and entry walkways.
  • Sufficient exterior lighting eliminates potential hiding spots and increases overall visibility from school personnel.

5. Territoriality

  • By creating a well-defined and appealing exterior, incoming visitors will know they are coming into a protected, cared for, and proud space. This can be done through:
    • Clear, recognizable main entry.
    • Exterior door numbering for the public and authorities in emergency.
    • Utilizing school colors to define walking spaces from vehicular traffic areas.
    • Landscaping elements like shrubs, trees, stones, and fencing that are low to the ground for visibility and well maintained.
    • Site signage that clearly identifies school name, front entry, and other specific destinations such as athletic fields and performing arts entries.
  • Ongoing maintenance is important, such as repairing and updating doors and windows before they begin to “really show their age”.
  • Landscape elements should be low to the ground or have a high canopy to prevent spaces that can’t be supervised or monitored.

LaPorte High School – Performing Arts Center Entrance

There are many approaches to take when it comes to improving school safety through design, this is in no way a be-all-end-all list. Each school has a unique site and a specific set of needs, but these five simple tactics can be used as part of an overall strategy.

It is also important to note there are no school safety measures that are 100% reliable—despite the best plans and precautions. Please reach out if you are interested in learning about what is best for your school, have questions, or would like additional safety tips. Our K-12 team is ready to work for and with you!

The Importance of STEM in K-12 Schools

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) might seem like a buzz word or a trend these days, but demand for careers in these fields are steadily increasingly. Our economy and overall well-being depend heavily on STEM-related occupations—whether it is computer programming, manufacturing, civil engineering, or general family medicine. Getting kids involved and interested in STEM-related activities at a young age, even if they don’t pursue a STEM degree in the future, teaches them problem-solving skills, how to interact with technology, and instills creativity.

Here are some quick stats from the Smithsonian Science Education Center on the importance of STEM:

STEM stats

How can STEM-related fields help the world?
  • Improving sanitation and access to clean water to the 780 million people who currently without clean water
  • Balancing our footprint as energy demand and consumption is increasing at rapid rates
  • Improving agricultural practices to help feed the 870 million people in the world suffering from hunger
  • Fighting global climate change
  • Caring for a large aging population – just think about the 74 million Baby Boomers who are alive today

To get children today ready for a career in the future, it is imperative we pique their interest in the STEM field as early as possible. Getting a program set in place in the classroom is a perfect way to start. So how can we, as architects and engineers, help schools with STEM programs? Take a look at two examples below to see how we’ve helped our Owners prepare kids for their futures:

 

Best Buy Teen Tech Center at the MLK Community Center

STEM - Best Buy Teen Tech Center at the MLK Community Center

The Martin Luther King Community Center is a profoundly important community resource in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood in Indianapolis. Through a grant from Best Buy and local support, the MLK Center was able to make a considerable investment in access to technology. In order to help this project, come to fruition, Schmidt Associates was hired to take the dream and translate it into a built reality. This Teen Tech Center gives teens a safe place to go to learn, grow, create, and prepare for their futures.

The Teen Tech Center provides training and internship opportunities, where teens can learn about robotics, 3D design, music production, and more. Nationwide, there are currently 22 Best Buy Teen Tech Centers – a number Best Buy hopes to triple by 2020. 95% of teens who attend these centers plan on pursuing education after high school, and 71% plan to pursue a field in STEM. As Indianapolis welcomes more and more jobs in the STEM fields, this center will make sure the future workforce is well-prepared for a brighter future.

 

Decatur Township School for Excellence – Innovation and Design Hub

STEM - Decatur Township School for Excellence – Innovation and Design Hub

The MSD of Decatur Township is a diverse school district, offering innovative initiatives to their students and members of their community. This new, state-of-the-art Innovation and Design Hub is available for students of all grade levels, teachers, and faculty district-wide to use while expanding their learning capabilities for future careers and pathways in STEM and other areas.

The space includes interactive promethium boards, 3D printers, audio/visual production, a computer programming lab, and more technologies to help students develop better computer, problem-solving, and design thinking skills. It is also flexible in design, replicating an open lab concept to host many people at one time while also providing quiet environments and presentation spaces. Students have the chance to work directly with local industry partners to further increase their knowledge and experience specific to their chosen pathway.

 

If you have any questions about how to get your school or community center equipped with STEM-related spaces, please reach out!

“One of the things that my experience has taught me is that if you are trained as a scientist in your youth – through your high school and college – if you stay with the STEM disciplines, you can learn pretty much all of the subjects as you move along in life. And your scientific disciplines play a very important role and ground you very well as you move into positions of higher and higher authority, whatever the job is.”

– Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi