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.

A Word from Our Owners – Butler College of Education

Ena ShelleyDr. Ena Shelley was appointed dean of the College of Education at Butler University in June 2005. Shelley’s experience with the College of Education began 37 years ago when she joined the faculty as an assistant professor of early childhood education in 1982. Now Dean and Professor Emerita, Dr. Shelley retired in the spring of 2019.

 

 

Schmidt Associates worked with Dr. Shelley and the Butler College of Education to transform the former Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) into an innovative space to educate future teachers. The project was considered an adaptive reuse of the original building.

Why did you need a new space for the Butler College of Education?

We were in historic Jordan Hall, probably one of the oldest buildings on campus. We were overcrowded and had outgrown the space; it was not functioning well at all. We didn’t have any space for gathering—faculty would meet at a professor’s house.

The college had grown, the faculty had grown, but the space was never designed for us to teach the way we want our future teachers to teach. For example, in our classrooms, the computer cart was located at the front of the room. As the student, you were the receiver of the information. We called it our throwback to Conner Prairie—like the old traditional school house. It was time for a new home.

 

What was your goal with this project?

I spent a large part of my career studying the philosophy of Reggio Emilia in Italy and its approach to childhood education. A large part of this practice is “environment as the third teacher.” Environment influences the types of learning experiences you can offer. One of my goals was to have an environment that mirrored and encouraged a deeper understanding of this approach to teaching and learning.

One of the practices Reggio employs is transparency. Is it visible what is going on? Not when you have hallways and closed doors. You have to have light and glass so you can see and hear what is happening. A building that was retrofitted like we had met none of Reggio’s criteria.

COE Classroom

Flexible classroom at Butler University College of Education

 

Why did you decide on adaptive reuse instead of new construction?

I really think it’s important to repurpose and reuse. This goes back to my affinity for European culture. Why do we in the United States not value things that were built, rather than tearing down and building new? We don’t keep anything that is more than 100 years old. If we maintain this attitude, we will never have a sense of purpose and place in history. It’s about preserving the past but honoring the future. It’s being responsible to our environment.

If we look at everything as a canvas, we get to paint the masterpiece. What could it look like? That’s part of the creative process that I think we need to keep in ourselves.

 

Why did you choose the former CTS space for the new college?

This space was perfect for the Reggio approach; it was a workable solution. I could stand in one space and see all the way around the building through the glass. The interior courtyard, that’s like the Italian piazza—a gathering place. I could stand here and picture what it could look like and what kind of teaching and learning could happen in this space. It was like handing me an Italian canvas.

Butler is also expanding in that direction, and purchasing this building and the grounds allows us to face south as well as north. In a matter of years, people will think that’s always been the case.

COE Hallway

Courtyard view at Butler University College of Education

 

What challenges did the space present?

We of course had to bring things up to code, the HVAC and electrical. We had to elevate the floors to be ADA compliant and to improve acoustics. But once all that is fixed, it’s fixed for a long time.

Probably the biggest challenge was that faculty now have to share offices in the new space. They all had individual offices before, but there wasn’t enough room to do that here. This would not have worked at every university, but they were fabulous because they are so collaborative. We’re all excited about sharing and learning from one another. We were also intentional in providing huddle rooms and work rooms for faculty to use.

 

Were there any unexpected benefits the space provided?

We found a treasure trove of furniture in storage that was originally designed and built for the building. We refinished it, and it was like bringing it back to what it was supposed to be. It’s stunningly beautiful. Come to find out, if you were to purchase one of the desks we found today, it would be $6,000—and it was just collecting dust!

 

What was unique about the process?

It was an unusual renovation because it was not a merger of Butler and CTS, but a collaboration. We’re still sharing that building with CTS.

They had to bear the hardest part of the project because they were still using the building and had to put up with the renovation. Plus, they were giving up space that had been theirs. I wanted to be so respectful of that because that’s hard. We really worked hard on relationships and thanking them for putting up with us.

It has worked out so well. They have been so welcoming and gracious.

Butler COE exterior

Main entry at CTS

 

How did you make sure the space would be useful long into the future?

We focused on multifunctional spaces. One of the new classrooms was two classrooms before, and neither one functioned. We put in soft furniture, moveable tables and chairs, cameras—we wanted it to be used for everything from science to art to meetings. We wanted to show how a space can be transformed simply by the kind of furniture you choose.

We also installed a rod and rail system where we can make learning visible by documenting and displaying what happens here. You can see on the walls what it means to be in the College of Education at Butler. It makes the building tell a story. That is a design element that will always be growing and changing.

There are still spaces to be done in the building. Let’s learn how we are using this space. When we are ready to do those other rooms in a few years, what will we have learned?

 

See the new space in use in the video below!

 

What is Retro-Commissioning?

retro-commissioning energy assessment

 

Is your building’s energy performance at its highest possible level? If you don’t know the answer to this question offhand, it’s probably “no.”

Even if your building was designed to be energy efficient at the time it was built or renovated, as time goes on, building usage may evolve and equipment ages. Modern building systems are very complex, and one small change can have a snowball effect on the entire facility. As systems drift from original settings, energy consumption and operating costs creep up.

This is where retro-commissioning comes in. Retro-commissioning (RCx) is the process of assessing a building’s energy performance and taking steps to return it to the original design intent.

The Retro-Commissioning Process

A successful RCx process consists of four steps:

1. Find an RCx Study Provider

Not all engineering firms offer RCx as a service. A firm with specialized energy engineers can most appropriately assess and improve your building’s efficiency and lead you through any incentive programs you plan to pursue for the work (more on this later). Some utility companies require this work be performed by firms they have approved as certified RCx study providers in order to qualify for their incentive programs.

2. Complete an RCx Study

Your RCx study provider will review your energy bills and perform an on-site assessment of your existing mechanical systems, lighting systems, and building controls. They will compare your energy consumption to national benchmarks to see how you compare to your peers’ buildings around the country. In addition, they will compare your building operation to the original design intent for your building and identify areas of improvement to return the building to peak energy performance.

3. Implement Recommendations

The RCx study will result in a list of specific adjustments to be made to your control system and other low- or no-cost recommendations. These could include adjusting equipment schedules, correcting economizer operation, or reducing or eliminating simultaneous heating and cooling. Your RCx study provider can work with your staff or contractor to correctly implement these recommendations and make the necessary adjustments.

4. Continue Monitoring Building Performance

To extend the benefits of the implemented RCx measures, you should put a process in place for ongoing monitoring of your building systems. This will ensure they continue to operate efficiently and prevent energy costs from creeping up again.

Benefits of Retro-Commissioning

Ultimately, RCx decreases the cost to operate your facility. By optimizing your building systems, you lower your energy consumption and, thus, your energy bills. But there are other financial and operational benefits to RCx.

Many utility companies will pay cash to businesses that commit to an RCx study and implement the resulting recommendations. Some of these RCx incentive programs will reimburse up to 100% of implementation cost for qualifying measures. If you plan to pursue incentives for RCx, you or your RCx study provider must apply for the program before proceeding with an RCx study. After RCx is implemented, the utility company will verify implementation and measure improvements in energy consumption. The dollar amount you receive is based on actual kilowatt (kWh) savings.

RCx can also have a significant impact on building occupants. Once systems are adjusted, your staff is likely to notice a difference. Improving thermal comfort is a proven factor in employee satisfaction and can increase productivity.

 

To plan your RCx study or learn more, contact our energy experts.

 

 

A Word from Our Owners – BSU Residence Halls

George Edwards – Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Facilities at Ball State University

Joel Bynum – Assistant Director for the Coordination of Living Learning Programs at Ball State University

Ball State Residence Halls

When did Ball State University decide to implement the Living Learning Community model in their residence halls and why?

It’s a long history, but I’ll try to make it short. In 1998, Ball State University started offering Living Learning Communities as part of a larger first-year student experience. We called it Freshman Connections. At that time, first-year students were registered into shared sections of core curriculum courses with students they lived with together in their residence hall. These students taking classes together and living together in the same hall formed Freshmen Connection cohorts or learning communities. The Freshman Connection model still existed in 2006, but there was a new push to assign students to live together in cohorts who shared the same college or major–Honors College, Criminal Justice majors, Communications majors, etc.–while still utilizing the core course connection model. We also provided co-curricular programmatic support to address social needs and interests.

When I started in 2011, we started to push towards all the living-learning communities on our campus being major-oriented, not just ‘interest-based’. Students who were living together shared an interest in study abroad, exercise, eating healthy, leadership, etc. Now, our living-learning communities are solely college- or major-based with direct academic partners.

Around 2016, we discontinued Freshman Connections and no longer connect our students based on core curriculum, rather we connect them based on the entry-level courses related directly to their major. It was this shift to being intentional about supporting students academically in their major, as well as socially, that started to shift our thinking about including amenity spaces like discipline-oriented makerspaces into our residence hall design.

We started this to support university retention efforts and to assist students in their academic success. We know the more involved a student is on campus, whether participating in an organization or holding a campus job, knowing faculty or staff, having mentors, friends in their same major, etc., the more likely they are to continue with their education and graduate on time. In light of this data, we decided to provide a richer academic and skill development-oriented experience. In addition, we are improving faculty and staff support in these environments to be more conducive to what our students came here to study. The students who participate in our programs are significantly more likely to retain to the building with these amenities as well as retain to university and graduate on time.

What implications does the Living Learning Community have on the overall design?

It doesn’t really change how we do the ‘rooms’, but it greatly impacts the common spaces. Around 2010, in Schmidt/Wilson before it was renovated, the top floor penthouse was a open space with equipment for Emerging Media students. It wasn’t very big and was a bit of a pilot. Students really liked it and used the equipment for classes, personal projects, and to hang out.

Later, I got linked with Dr. Kate Shively, who introduced me to the concept of ‘makerspaces’ that was beginning to catch on and has now taken off on campuses and in communities all over the nation. Dr. Shively teaches first-year Elementary Education courses at Ball State and wanted a makerspace for her students studying education. We reconditioned some under-utilized lounge space to make that makerspace, and the students love to use it, especially in relationship to what they are learning in the classroom with Dr. Shively.

Around this time, we were starting to look at renovating Botsford/Swinford and wanted to build in a makerspace for the Communications and Emerging Media students who would be living there. Now there are two media studios and a large equipment storage area stocked with DSLR cameras, light kits, sounds kits and all sort of gear for students to check out and use as an amenity associated with living in this community. The students can study in the space or use the green screens and open space to rearrange furniture and set up video shoots and use the computers right there to edit. All of this is available to students living in this community before they have completed their communications gateway courses, which allows students in these majors to start developing their skills earlier and allows them to immediately get their hands on equipment to start making a thing.

BotsSwin - Living Learning Community

Botsford/Swinford Residence Hall

Gen Z students want to have hands-on experience now. While we can’t teach the class, we can provide equipment, some basic workshop instruction, and space for them to start learning on their own immediately. For those students who might need a little nudge, we provide opportunities for students to engage in major-oriented or skill-oriented co-curricular projects. The success was so strong, we decided to do a dance studio, design studio, and black box theater for our Theatre, Dance, Architecture, Art and Design majors in the next residence hall, Schmidt/Wilson. The students love having these specialized spaces where they live to practice in, to work in or to play with something new in line with their studies.

Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall - Living learning

Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall

 

What feedback are you hearing from students?

We haven’t put out a survey or anything like that until right now, but anecdotally, there has been a transformation on campus and there are now students coming to Ball State University for the learning communities. The students want to live in the buildings that are connected to their major. It has shifted the conversation to “I want to live here because of the amenity”, not because of its location or age of building. It’s because they want access to the amenity spaces related to their area of study.

Before any experience with Ball State University, prospective students are asking about the learning communities, not the residence hall. It’s exciting to see. We don’t know what all it means yet, or what it will lead to, but it’s positive feedback. It’s not just defining the experience a student has here, but before they even get here.

Do you have any measurable data on the effect the Living Learning Community model has on student recruitment or retention?

I don’t have data about how the space impacts the student’s decision, but we have some very basic use data from the Botsford/Swinford equipment storage area. The first year it wasn’t used much, but the response from students was positive about having the space. Equipment use has more than tripled since then. and we have had to keep adding equipment to the space to keep up with demand. The use data drives the decision of what other equipment we need to buy.

When we opened Botsford/Swinford, which is on the edge of campus and has traditionally been a hard sell to get students to want to live there, the question was whether they would want to return their Sophomore year. We were nervous as to whether this would retain students, but this building now has one of the highest return rates of freshman to sophomore year on campus, despite the location.

Overall, the retention to buildings with makerspaces is significantly higher than those without. Student participation in Living Learning Communities on our campus has been recognized by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness as one the leading predictors for student retention on our campus.

Describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates?

In my role as the Assistant Director of Living Learning Communities, typically I would not have had a seat at the table in a new building or renovation design. Not because my opinion isn’t valued, but generally my role is not one of decision maker in matters of building design. When the idea for a specifically designed amenity came across, Schmidt Associates asked questions to seek an understanding of what was needed in the space and how the space would be used to inform its design. From my perspective, I enjoyed the process because it felt like we were creating something new, something tailored to Ball State University. I had the opportunity to sit at a table I don’t usually sit at and appreciated the questions Schmidt Associates asked about how to design a space that would fit our needs. Equally, I am appreciative of my Ball State University Housing leadership and facilities colleagues for allowing me the opportunity to speak directly to Schmidt Associates about my vision for how the space would be used. I very much see the product of those conversations in the design elements of our spaces.

I think after the early design conversations, we got into the nitty gritty details about where to put focal points, sound treatment, electrical outlets, etc. It was new to me, but I appreciated going through the process because I learned a lot about how the design process works and was able to help shape and form the building. The questions asked drove what the space would be, and how students would actually use and experience the space to ensure it was functional and would add value.

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!

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!

 

Community Engagement

A building project is far more than pieces and parts that define spaces.

Projects reflect the goals and aspirations of the communities they serve.

Schmidt Associates views community engagement as an essential part of our strategic, data-based planning, giving Owners information to evaluate viable options and make good decisions. We take a proactive role in planning for public meetings that inform, gather feedback, and incorporate public input to achieve a relevant facility solution that the public can support.

In order to understand what is truly important in the eyes of the end user, we like to become part of the “fabric of the community” by gathering input directly from community members and project stakeholders throughout our process. Here are a handful of community engagement tactics we typically use:

Community Workshops

The target audience for these workshops are neighboring businesses, residents, the end users, students and parents, property and business owners, others who visit and work within the area, etc.

These workshops can range from presentations with Q&A, to an open-ended SWOT analysis, to interactive display boards where people can vote on the types of spaces, furniture, aesthetics, etc. they like the best. Depending on the scope of the project, these could be hour-long sessions, last a few hours, or be an open-house where attendees can interact and ask questions for as long as they need.

We want to hear from as many community members as possible, which can be hard to do. Some tactics we utilize to ensure these workshops are as convenient as possible are:

  • Setting up a variety of time slots, across several days, held in various locations—in the evening after the school day, Saturday morning with coffee and donuts, on a Sunday after church services, etc. It all depends on each unique community and type of project.
  • Providing childcare options, if children aren’t an integrated part of the workshop process. For example, we can meet with community members at a school with child-friendly activities held in the gym under the supervision of adults.
  • Offering a variety of input methods—like notecards, email, and limited access blogs—to ensure the quiet voices are heard and allow 24/7 access to the conversation.

Community Engagement - Community Workshops

Stakeholder Meetings

This is where we gather key targeted stakeholders and leadership in a casual environment to build interest and allow their influence on the project. We quickly share the community workshop findings and offer a brainstorming session to continue building ideas and support for the project. Our team then creates a deliverable that can be posted to a website and distributed to the community, stakeholders, and other interest groups.

The targeted attendees typically include property and business owners, developers, and neighborhood and city representatives. We take similar approaches to making these meetings as convenient for the stakeholders as we did with the community workshops. As the planning process moves forward, we often will reconnect with these stakeholders to communicate any findings, recommendations, and intent of the results.

Community Engagement - Stakeholders

Community Empowerment

The plan for any project must be intentional and community-driven so stakeholders will feel a sense of ownership. To create community empowerment, we have found that allowing physical, deliberate interaction with the space is essential. Together, we will visit the physical space and brainstorm ideas on-site, allowing the realities of the space to influence decision making.

Another approach we often take is to attend community, city council, or PTO meetings.

Community Engagement - Community Empowerment

Project Blogs

Along with our physical approach to community engagement, we also leverage technology to bring it all together. We have successfully used a blog on projects to have a way for the community, stakeholders, and Owners to see the progress and to offer input. This is a controlled way to manage feedback and disperse current information, as determined by the project’s leadership team. Each blog features a “Make a Comment” button which sends comments as emails to Schmidt Associates. This way, we can receive comments, review with the Owner, and post appropriate responses.

We have used a link to our website to post the ongoing status of the project—from planning through construction—to keep the public involved and informed throughout the process.

Community Engagement - Project Blogs

Ultimately, only community projects built on community input can maximize their influence and create shared ownership and investment. If you have questions about our community engagement process or want to learn more about how we can help you with your next project – reach out!

Top 6 Things to Know when Considering Adaptive Reuse

We have all heard the real estate mantra “Location, location, location!” However, great location does not also lead to perfect buildings. In fact, oftentimes the least perfect building is situated right on the site you want. And while some may consider a total demolition and rebuild as the only option, there are oftentimes a lot of arguments for adaptive reuse. Buildings that have been neglected, abandoned, or modified over the years are all great candidates for this type of project. Through adaptive reuse, older historic buildings can be restored – bringing back their charm and unique characteristics through careful planning and strategic design.

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House - Prior to Renovation

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House – Prior to Renovation

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House - After

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House – After

If you’re considering adaptive reuse for your next project, here are the top six things you need to know:

  1. Land Availability. When land in the area you want is hard to come by, adaptive reuse is a great option. Rather than contributing to urban sprawl, or moving to a less than desirable location, revitalizing a building in need allows you to conserve space. This type of project is one of the best ways to keep our cities and towns walkable and vibrant.
  2. Environmental Conservation. While the easy solution often appears to be building from scratch, the truth is this type of thinking can cause a lot of complications down the road, including added cost. Remember in elementary school when they taught us “reduce, reuse and recycle”? The first step in reducing our environmental footprint is to reduce our use of materials. Adaptive reuse is a choice to care for the buildings that have already been built and to help us get out of the mindset of constantly consuming. If there’s one thing we will never get more of, it’s land.
  3. Historic Consideration. One of the beauties of working with historic buildings is that you constantly discover hidden treasures. From unique features to hard-to-come-by materials, many historic buildings are proof we really “don’t build ‘em like we used to.” Adaptive reuse not only allows us to preserve a part of history, but it also allows projects to take advantage of these ‘trademarks’ of historic buildings, showcasing them now and into the future. In some cases, adaptive reuse is the only option, especially when you are dealing with buildings that are preserved and protected by organizations, such as historical societies.
  4. Reimagining Function. Although adaptive reuse strives to preserve many of the architectural features of buildings, there is a great deal of reimagining that can take place throughout the project. Buildings built for a certain prior use do not need to continue that use to be successful. Old chapels can become inns, water towers can be converted into apartments, and industrial buildings transformed to residential homes. When the location is right, and you mix in a little creativity – anything is possible.
  5. Future Accommodation. Needs are constantly changing, which is something adaptive reuse understands. Just because older buildings – even ones only a few decades old – may no longer meet the standards or desires of today’s businesses and property owners, doesn’t mean they should be written off. Adaptive reuse allows for change, while still being mindful of what already exists. Adaptive reuse protects the future, ensuring resources, including land, aren’t wasted or taken for granted.
  6. Intelligent Reconciliation. When done well, adaptive reuse is the bridge that connects past to present, history to future. Adaptive reuse projects can bring the best of modern-day technologies and innovations to beautiful, historic buildings in prime locations. This type of holistic approach ensures existing buildings and materials are honored without sacrificing today’s needs and styles. Intelligent reconciliation also happens when architectural firms work on behalf of clients to communicate plans with the community, getting the proper permissions and permits to move forward with the project.

Adaptive reuse isn’t always the best solution, but more and more often we believe it’s an option that should be seriously considered. A smart way to conserve materials, protect the environment, and preserve the past, adaptive reuse can be the solution you’re looking for, especially when you’re sold on a building’s location or charm.

 

A Word from Our Owners – Marian University & The Children’s Museum

Audra Blasdel

Audra Blasdel graduated from DePauw University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Computer Science and received her Masters of Business Administration with a focus in global supply chain management from the University of Indianapolis in 2009. Prior to starting her own company–Blasdel Solutions, a WBE Certified Project Management and Business Analysis company–she served as Marian University’s Executive Director of Facilities, Construction, and Purchasing.

In her current role as Director of Facility and Campus Operations at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Audra is responsible for the day-to-day campus operations for maintenance, grounds, and custodial; strategic campus planning, and construction and renovations projects. She lives in Speedway, Indiana, with her husband and son.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Structures and systems will require maintenance and periodic repair and rehabilitation (R&R) at some point. By keeping campus buildings running smoothly and efficiently, we are able to prolong a building’s lifetime while saving on overall future costs for our Owners. These seemingly “small projects” have a large impact for Owners and the end users. While our designers and engineers are obviously well-equipped to do the large-scale projects, we also are ready to help our Owners through R&R projects. Let’s hear from Audra on her experiences throughout the years.

How did a comprehensive understanding of your facility conditions impact R&R expenditures?

In general terms, it allows us to better plan for our expenditures and gives us a broader understanding of our needs. At Marian University, we brought Schmidt Associates in to do facilities strategic planning and a larger campus master plan, all derived from a 2025 strategic plan. We then needed to build the campus master plan and a facilities strategic plan so that we could take large capital needs and compare it to daily facility needs. This results in a coordinated and well-thought out investment plan.

For example, this helped make sure we didn’t do large system replacement when we would be doing an addition to that building in a few years. It helped build a knowledge base in a centralized place rather than in various individuals’ heads. This work with Schmidt Associates helped us be smarter and more responsible.

What role has Schmidt Associates played in helping you maintain facilities at both Marian University and The Children’s Museum?

Schmidt Associates has provided a baseline assessment of facilities with an investment/expenditure plan as well as some Owner-friendly tools that allow us to manage the plan going forward. Those plans are developed in a way that allows us to manipulate and adjust the plan as we go through implementation, ensuring that the plan stays relevant and usable.  Plans are often developed in a stagnant manner, and they quickly become stale and end up on the shelf.  Steve Schaecher, an architect at Schmidt Associates, even drew a comic at some point to joke about the master plan ‘graveyard’.

masterplan graveyard

That’s been the biggest benefit to working with Schmidt Associates on these plans: keeping the plan workable, usable, and modifiable so it plan doesn’t end up in that graveyard. The focus in working with Schmidt Associates has always been how we make it an owner-friendly plan that maintains its life.

What type of R&R projects has Schmidt Associates worked with you for?

R&R strategic planning projects have included the Marian University Campus Master Plan and Facilities Strategic Plan. We’re currently working on a strategic investment plan for the parking garage structure at The Children’s Museum. Schmidt Associates has also provided scopes of work, estimate checks, and preliminary assessments on a variety of large scale R&R projects, such as boiler replacements, electrical upgrades, plumbing retrofits, and accessibility upgrades.

Describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates.

For me, a lot of it has revolved around our long-lasting relationship over the past 7 years. This has included large- and small-scale projects and strategic planning. This opens the door for candid communication, something that is harder to have when everyone is new to the table. The consistency of who I work with and the way we work has allowed us to learn from each other and have an end product I can use going forward, which is really important. When I get a PDF that I have to regenerate documents out of, it’s not appealing. Facility priorities change every day and having a working document, not a stagnant document, is important for me on a strategic planning and R&R side.

How Can Architecture & Design Affect Higher Education?

Butler University College of Education

Butler University – College of Education at CTS

If you’ve spent any amount of time on a well-designed, beautifully constructed university campus, then you understand the importance of architecture when it comes to influencing higher education. Not only can architecture inspire imagination and creativity, but it can unite students, teachers, and the community to create a space that feels energized, organic, and magnetic.

There are several ways architects can influence the way a higher education building is interpreted by the people who will use it every day. Considering there are more than 21,000 universities across the globe (and hundreds more currently being constructed), this specific design niche makes a notable footprint in the world’s landscape.

Can a design help make students more successful? Can architecture unite people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs?

We think so.

Here are a few ways that architecture and design directly affect higher education:

Vertical Spaces. Because many higher education campuses and their buildings are so large, it’s easy for designs to focus on the outward, horizontal sprawl. And, while often beautiful to look at, there’s a feeling of being “lost in a crowd” that can make these types of buildings and spaces less than conducive to interaction and collaboration. Instead, higher education facilities can look to find ways to build up – not out. These vertical spaces, when designed for students and staff in particular, become a powerful magnet for interaction, allowing individuals on campus to feel less “lost” and more as part of the crowd.

Cross-Pollination. Traditionally, most higher education campuses were divided into “schools”, separating one group of students and its professors from another. However, new facilities or those undergoing renovation and restoration are re-thinking this concept. Rather than sectioning people away from each other, as if some sort of quarantine is in place, new buildings and spaces are being designed so that students and staff from different disciplines have an opportunity to interact. This can take shape in many ways, but some of the most interesting are a sort of tunnel-bridge concept that connect buildings on multiple levels.

Natural Light. The more light you let in, the more successful you will be. Or, at least, that’s what many studies are confirming. In addition to more success, natural light is said to make people happier, reduce stress, and combat illness as well. By finding ways to allow more natural light in, higher education facilities can improve the environment for everyone working and learning on campus. In addition to natural light, which can be let in by windows and skylights, creating spaces that are truly light-filled, such as a wall of windows or clear walls, can help make studying and meetings more enjoyable.

Student-Centric. Students want to feel like they belong at their university or college – and that’s something that great design can accomplish. When creating a space, architects should look at developing areas that are convenient for students to enjoy. Places to safely store laptops and personal items in between lectures, attractive lobbies with comfortable and adaptable furniture, as well as large seating areas where bigger study or friend groups can meet will help to bolster the attitude and loyalty of students on campus.

Skip-Stop Strategy. In order to create healthy, vibrant spaces on higher ed campuses, architects should look for ways to incorporate the “skip-stop” strategy. The idea behind this concept is to help students and staff circulate easily, offering more opportunities for exercise as well as those chance encounters with friends and acquaintances. A notable innovation are skip-stop elevators, which only stop on certain floors, encouraging individuals to use the stairs. In cases where the stairs are designed in conjunction with this strategy, you can develop staircases that are grand, wide, filled with light, and a natural place to stop and chat. In order to be ADA compliant and for employee convenience, there must be a secondary elevator option which does stop on each floor.

Outdoor Strips. Acting as gateways to campus, large outdoor strips can be an inviting way to welcome students and visitors. They’re also the perfect place to host sports activities and large gatherings. Beautiful to walk through, these strips are also another way to bring the campus community together on a daily basis.

When designed and built with the intention to inspire the next generation, there’s no limit to how beneficial architecture can be on higher education campuses.