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.


Why Is Adaptive Reuse Important in Today’s World?

To understand the importance of adaptive reuse, one must first appreciate the value of old buildings and architecture.

While it can feel “progressive” to tear down the old in order to make room for the new, adaptive reuse defines progress differently. Rather than creating a narrow vision that imagines possibilities with a blank slate, reuse tailors creative thinking to focus on what currently exists and how it can be incorporated thoughtfully into the goals and ideas of the future. Adaptive reuse can be implemented on any building, although it’s most commonly used for when working with historic buildings.

As the world ages collectively, more and more buildings with rich histories are finding themselves in need of renovation and rejuvenation; adaptive reuse is the conscious decision to preserve the past while planning for the future. For example, many adaptive reuse projects bridge different worlds – churches becoming restaurants, hospitals becoming schools, and more.

Adaptive Reuse Example at Ivy Tech

Depending on the context, adaptive reuse can go by the name of property rehabilitation or historic redevelopment. Either way, the process and overall goal remains the same: to rescue discarded, unkempt buildings from a destructive fate and find them a new purpose.

Of course, adaptive reuse is not just a sentimental effort to save buildings, it is also a critical process to ensure communities don’t use (or waste) more materials than necessary.

Some cities have, unfortunately, decided to adopt a “newer is better” mindset, causing them to discard perfectly fine, usable resources in order to “upgrade”. This thinking has caused major issues for our environment and will continue to do so until we are able to see value in materials as they age. Instead, people should look at progressive cities, like Paris, London, and Amsterdam, for inspiration; many historic structures and facades in these iconic towns have been lovingly preserved for generations to come. In fact, adaptive reuse is a great example of how individuals can prove to the larger group that there are creative options for recycling, reusing, and repurposing already existing resources.

Sometimes cases will be made against reuse, mostly regarding factors that include the cost, time, and efficiency. However, adaptive reuse is both appealing and practical; sometimes even saving money by reducing certain costs. Other underlying factors, such as being able to use hard-to-find materials or recycle materials already on the location, allow for additional money to be saved – and all while making it possible to create beautiful aesthetics complete with rich textures and unique features. Lastly, the entire adaptive reuse process, from start to finish, protects the environment while also reducing unnecessary waste.

Any adaptive reuse project begins by doing a thorough examination of the building, to ensure the infrastructure exists to keep it functioning into the future. Then you can look for unique attributes and characteristics that make the building special. These features can be highlighted in new and exciting ways, once again giving them purpose and prominence. When looking for these unique elements, one can find what some see as a “ready to demolish” building and instead see both beauty and value. This allows for seemingly doomed buildings, and the often debilitated communities in which they stand, a chance at a new and brighter future.

Above all, the biggest driving factor behind adaptive reuse is the ability to keep stories and memories intact. In a world where mass production and imitation is the norm, adaptive reuse goes against the grain, literally building upon already existing stories, adding new chapters without rewriting an entire book.

Designing Residence Halls Specifically for the Student

Integrating specific academic environments into four Ball State University Residence Halls was a key early design consideration for the combined $141+ million projects. There was an opportunity to create an interplay between pre-millennial student lifestyle, academic, and career interests while also optimizing for energy efficiency. By adding the latest technologies, new amenities, and flexible design elements into the residence halls, a new sense of camaraderie and function can be seen throughout.

Here’s a synopsis for each:

Botsford/Swinford Residence Hall – Emerging Media Center

Size: 164,000 square feet
Cost: $27,800,000

  • Audio and video production studios
  • New lounge spaces
  • Demonstration kitchen—enables guest chefs to demonstrate food skills including healthy eating and unique cooking styles
  • Original structure was demolished to its concrete frame and foundation
  • It was designed for LEED Silver certification and received LEED Gold certification.



Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall – A Living-Learning Community for Dance, Theatre, and Design Students

Size: 154,000 square feet
Cost: $33,000,000

  • Two-story lounge spaces and central lounge with a performance area
  • Dance studio, black box theatre, computer lab, fitness room, and drawing room
  • Strong sense of collaboration and camaraderie
  • The new facility re-images the entry into campus where students are center stage
  • Currently in review for LEED certification.



Studebaker East Residence Hall – Creating A Home-Away-From-Home For International Students

Size: 109,750 square feet
Cost: $18,450,000

  • Student collaboration is enhanced through a new multi-purpose room and three two-story lounge spaces
  • Lounges are equipped with kitchens so students can share cultural foods
  • Provided a sense of community for present and future students
  • New highly-efficient mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and technology systems throughout the building resulted in LEED Gold Certification.

Studebaker East


DeHority Residence Complex – Collaborative Spaces for Honors College Students

Size: 131,070 square feet
Cost: $21,920,000

  • Integrating social, learning, and living space so dedicated honor students can combine interests and ambitions
  • Semi-private restrooms with lockers. Each room has stackable furniture and adjustable wardrobe closets
  • Students can take advantage of the exhibition hall for meetings and presentations
  • Ball State’s first LEED Silver certified building on campus.



New Residence Hall 1 – Construction is underway for the third living/learning community developed from the North Campus Master Plan.

Size: 137,700 square feet
Cost: $43,600,000

  • Built for S.T.M. students and equipped with a makerspace, fabrication lab with 3D printing capabilities, and a virtual reality pod.
  • New campus neighborhood
  • Living/Learning Community
  • Site amenities include a fire pit and hammocks
  • LEED Certification anticipated

New Residence Hall 1


Like what we did? Need someone for your next project? Let’s Talk!


Adding Value

Schmidt Associates was founded on the guiding principle of Servant Leadership. This value threads itself through every interaction we have both internally and externally, resulting in a constant search to add value in every project. Flip through the magazine below to see five examples of how we have added value to our recent projects by focusing on culture shifts, energy savings, telling the story through facility design and being a true one-stop-shop for our Owners.



Mixed-Use Development Challenges

Mixed-use development combines two or more uses; residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or industrial into an integrated structure or area. This can be a single building, a conglomeration of several buildings, or sometimes an entire neighborhood or development area. Blending together restaurants, boutiques, and apartments can bring a lot of life to a city corner while allowing for greater density. It brings people together to live, work, and play in the same space.

Mixed-Use Penrose

Penrose on Mass

Since these types of developments are usually located in the heart of a city, the residents will live close to where they work and play, reducing the need to drive. This means less cars on the streets and more pedestrian or bicycle-friendly environments. These are just a few of the benefits of using mixed-use spaces and why we continue to see more developments of this type popping up. But mixing multiple uses together has a fair share of challenges as well.

Some of challenges when planning a mixed-use developments are:

  • Security issues – Any time you have multiple users in a building you are going to have places that you would like one group to have access but not others. For example, you don’t want shoppers to have access to the resident hallways above. Finding a way to separate functions and access needs to be addressed early in the design process to make sure all needs are being met.
  • Noise transfer – Keeping noise isolated from one space to another is important. Though most residents do understand that they are living in a busy city environment means that it will be noisier than a suburban home, mitigating sound transfer from a noisy restaurant to living space above is paramount.
  • Trash and smells – Retail areas and restaurants can produce a lot of garbage and obnoxious smells depending on the business. If there is a nice dumpster out back, out of site and out of mind work well. Plus, all of the open air allows smells to dissipate. But in a tight urban site, these areas might be located under or next to someone’s living space. Think hot summer months with the scent of spoiled dairy floating into your apartment…
  • Fitting into the context of the existing area – As mixed-use development trends toward larger scale buildings, it is important to be cognizant of the surrounding architecture and scale. You wouldn’t want to build a modern 12 story building in the middle of a historic neighborhood of small homes.
  • Parking – Oh, the ever present parking debate! Though the hope with mixed-use development is to help reduce the dependence on the automobile, not everyone has embraced that mentality. Plus, you will most often have additional visitors who will need a place to park. Thought must be given to the various uses and when each space will be active to plan for the correct number of parking spaces for the overall development.

This is a sampling of some of the issues that can apply to many mixed-use projects. However, each project is unique and no matter the type, all projects have their own share of unique opportunities often disguised as challenges. As long as these things are taken into account early in the design process, adjustments can be made before they become problems.

Have any further questions on mixed-use developments or have an upcoming project? Reach out to us!


Roof 101: Steep-slope Roof Material Options

There are 4 main material options for steep-slope roofs: shingles, slate, clay tile, and metal.

The most commonly used material is shingles, which has an average useful life of 20 years. Shingles can come in traditional asphalt form, as well as in rubber or steel.

Slate and clay tile, while beautiful, are the most expensive of the options and may also require expensive maintenance. Because slate and clay tile are natural products, they do not come with a warranty. This lack of warranty can cause extensive repair costs, especially when considering that problems caused by improper installation can start soon after the installation. Further, slate and clay tile roofs can only be attached to a roof by mechanically attaching them, which risks cracking the slate or tile, or clipping them, which may allow for water to seep underneath, freeze, and cause the slate or clay tiles to become detached from the clips.

The third option is a metal roof. While it is expensive, it is relatively maintenance free and gives a modern look that many desire. Metal roofs are installed with clips and proper installation is important to ensure that water seepage does not occur. Schmidt Associates typically specifies two roofs to avoid this problem; a rubber membrane under the metal roof. Hail can also create problems for metal roofs. Damage from a hail storm can be significant since the metal can show dents just like a car. That damage, however, is usually just aesthetic and the metal roof can continue to perform leak free. Without hail and with proper installation, metal roofs can last up to 20 or more years.


Here is another post about roof material options for low-slope roofs, as well as which option we prefer and why.

Roof 101: Pros and Cons of Steep-Slope and Low-Slope Roofs

The Basics

Let’s take it from the top. Roofs fall into 2 main categories: steep-slope and low-slope. Believe it or not, there is no such thing as a flat roof. Steep-slope roofs can be covered with shingles, slate, or metal, and low-slope roofs have the options of built-up, single-ply membrane, or monolithic sprayed foam.

Pros and Cons of Steep-Slope and Low-Slope Roofs


People are most familiar with traditional steep-slope roofs, simply because that’s what we see on houses. Starting with the benefits, steep-slope roofs are relatively low maintenance. Debris rolls or slides off into the gutters, so you don’t have to worry about cleaning the roof, standing water, or relieving the weight from accumulated debris. Steep-slope roofs also have a familiar, classic, and aesthetically pleasing look to them that compliments a variety of structures.

While they are great roofing systems, steep-slopes do have a few disadvantages. One obvious yet important weakness is that they decrease utility space, especially in larger commercial buildings. Commercial buildings can benefit from hiding large systems and equipment on top of their roofs, which is more of a challenge or even impossible on a significantly sloped surface. Mounting heavy equipment or large objects on a steep-slope roof is challenging and can create run-off blockage situations. Finally, as one might expect, the most common problem arising from steep-slope roofs is clogged gutters that result from the run-off debris and require regular cleaning.

DeHority Residence Hall - Ball State University

DeHority Residence Hall – Ball State University


On the other hand, low-slopes offer several benefits and fewer disadvantages. First and foremost, low-slope roofs essentially provide buildings with another floor. Hiding large mechanical equipment on a low-slope roof can provide additional space inside the building. Further, low-slopes allow for easy implementation of new technology, such as solar panels and rooftop gardens. Lastly, low-slope roofs require less material than steep-slope roofs, making them less expensive, more practical, and ideal for larger buildings.

Hoosier Energy Headquarters

Hoosier Energy Headquarters

On the negative side, as pointed out earlier, care must be given to ensure that debris and water are regularly removed from the low-slope roof to avoid leaks and possible collapse.

In sum, low-slope roofs are ideal for large commercial buildings due to the extra space they provide. Steep-slope roofs on the other hand are aesthetically classic and require little maintenance, making them more ideal for smaller structures, such as homes.


Look for future posts about roof material options for both steep-slope and low-slope, as well as which option we prefer and why.

Elevate Your Expectations for Downtown Development, Part III

In my Indianapolis Business Journal column listing 10 things Indianapolis could do to make our already thriving downtown an even better place to live, the third item was:

Mix in more housing individuals can afford. Starter living units with lower price points will lure sought-after young professionals earlier.

Energy consumption will make housing and retail density even more important in years to come. Housing and retail density is also crucial for urban walkability – or simply put, if we can live, work, eat and shop within walking distance we consume less fuel.

Many urban residential developers aim for the high-end consumer. That’s understandable. It’s where the higher margins are.

But if we’re trying to attract millennials to Indianapolis’ downtown, we need “starter” housing for young professionals.

A good, comprehensive plan for urban housing includes a little bit of everything: studio apartments, one-bedroom units and the two-bedroom and larger units that allow young professionals with children to remain urban dwellers.

The art is weaving both the high-cost units and the low-cost units into the same urban area without upsetting the high income residents! Once an urban neighbourhood is overbalanced with high-wealth occupants, the NIMBY (Not in my back yard) syndrome begins to set in.

If we plan our urban residential neighborhoods with a good balance from the beginning it’s easier to make it work. And our “starter” young professional tenants move up into larger and more luxurious digs once their incomes begin to increase.

Balance – as always – is the key.

Think about established urban neighbourhoods in other cities you love. Can an outside observer really tell from the exterior which are the affordable places and which are the luxury ones? Can you distinguish the full-floor living space buildings from the studio apartment ones? Not necessarily.

We’re beginning to see a growing trend of including social spaces in the design of urban housing for millennials. While a small apartment might be desirable and have great monthly rent, fitness rooms and gathering spaces for barbeques, games, drinks, and watching sports makes urban living more fun.

To read my IBJ column, click here.


Elevate Your Expectations for Downtown Development, Part II

In my Indianapolis Business Journal column listing 10 things Indianapolis could do to make our already thriving downtown an even better place to live, the second item was: Have the guts (and the money) to build more than five stories.

Downtown Indianapolis has a few notable existing and planned high-rise places to live, but many of the new residential projects are four stories. If we’re going to get to sustainable urban density, we need to mix in more mid-rise places to live.

Sustainable urban density is what it takes to support a healthy base of restaurants and retail. While our Mass Ave and Fountain Square restaurants are busy from 6 to 8 p.m., similar restaurants in Chicago would still be crowded until 10 p.m. Our sidewalks and retail stores might be bustling on a Saturday afternoon, but many are empty other parts of the day and days of the week. Right now it’s taking longer to fill the first-floor retail and restaurant spaces in new mixed-use buildings than it is to rent or sell the residential units above them. We need to correct that imbalance with more buildings that have more stories of residential above the retail.

Sustainable urban density also keeps downtown walkable, so you can easily walk or bike to work. If there are too many four-story buildings, they sprawl out over more land to meet the demand for downtown living. That’s what spread the city out before, and we should try to avoid that in this new wave of urban living.

Granted, it is more expensive to build structures that are more than four stories. Once a structure is designed to be above a 78-foot height, building code requires a steel structure, and the elevators must be electric powered, not hydraulic.

But taller buildings also give building owners better value for the footprint of the land. To make buildings economically sustainable, the owner needs a certain number of units to sell or rent. Rents can be more reasonable when there are more units per building, and downtown needs more affordable units for young professionals.

Do we want all high-rises downtown? No, our city is more visually interesting and inviting with a mix of building heights.

Good design is important, and enhances the economics as we consider what makes downtown living work.