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A Word from Our Owners – MSD of Washington Township

Angela Britain-Smith, Director of Operations

Angela Britain-Smith, Director of Operations at MSD Washington Township, brings 30 years of educational qualifications extending into facilities management, maintenance, custodial, food services, safety, and security. Ms. Britain-Smith holds a MS degree & Indiana School Administration Licensure from Butler University; BS degrees in Library Services K-12 & Speech & Communications 5-12 from Indiana University & Purdue University; and an Associate degree in Applied Science Human Services & Social Work from Indiana Vocational Technical College. She is an Indiana Certified Safety Specialist and former building administrator.

 

Mike Kneebone, Director of Technology

Mike has been in education for twenty-four years. Now in his 12th year as Director of Technology, he oversees all aspects of technology procurement, deployment, integration, and support. Mike holds BS & MS degrees in Education & Educational Technology from Indiana University.

 

 

Is Washington Township schools doing anything new with their current construction projects around safety and security?

ABS – Safety and security has always been one of our top priorities. When we did the planning for our 2016 referendum projects, we had four priorities – one of those being “safety and security”.

It is extremely important for the Director of Operations and the Director of Technology to have a close working relationship. Together, we need to fully understand the educational specifications and design standards in order to hit the mark.

Can you describe what this includes?

Angela – We are implementing several different measures: secure entries, lockdown features, and mass notification alert systems. Hardware features have also been added to classroom doors with a visual indicator showing if a door is locked or unlocked.

Mike – Our key technological focus behind all measures is to make everything easy to use and accessible to everyone in a lockdown situation. To help with this, we’ve added in a smartphone function to secure doors and trigger alerts throughout various locations of the building.

Another feature we’ve decided to incorporate is sound control. With everything going on in a classroom (movies, digital presentations, and other interactive media), we realized there is a need to auto duck audio if there is an alert being sent out. We tied all the systems together so that the alert audio has the priority, ensuring everyone can hear them.

With so many safety and security options out there, how did you determine to do these items?

Angela – We had a process in place. We engaged with a consultant for educational specs, worked with our professional partners in regards to design standards, involved many stakeholders (teachers, custodians, cafeteria staff, administrators, district leadership, etc.) to outline our priorities. The district is also engaged with a technology consultant who helped us set up webinar and info sessions to look at the different technologies available in order to make the best decisions for Washington Township.

We also attend conferences on a regular basis and collaborate with our District Police Department and local agencies to stay up to date with the best safety and security practices.

Mike – Ultimately, we used a very collaborative process to come up with our plan. What helps all the systems work together seamlessly is knowing what every department needs and what they are implementing. During the initial visioning sessions, we were able to learn how to integrate all of the systems.

Are you doing anything that is not related to the actual building, but an increased focus such as guidance counselors spending more time with students?

Angela – This is another important area to focus on. Whenever we have the opportunity to increase our operating budgets, we certainly review our social and mental support service in regard to need and capacity. During our 2016 operational referendum, we brought in additional social workers. Just recently, we were able to add more guidance councilors at our high school.

Can you describe the experience of working with Schmidt Associates?

Angela – It is always very positive and collaborative, which is most important. Schmidt Associates has the district’s best interest in mind, and they work really hard to ensure the design is inclusive of Washington Township’s needs and priorities. The team is also extremely responsive and answers any questions we have very quickly, which is very appreciated.

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!

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!

 

Q&A Session with Cindy McLoed

Ask most architects in Indianapolis where they went to school… they will most likely say Ball State. But not Cindy McLoed! Cindy’s architectural allegiance is to Mississippi State University, home of the Bulldogs.

 

 

 

Why Mississippi State University?
I was born in Mississippi, and my Dad’s side of the family is firmly rooted in Starkville (home to Mississippi State University). I grew up going to all the games and have always been surrounded by family who are fans.

It seems like I always knew that I was going to be an architect. I have always loved buildings. Even when I was playing with toys as a child, I was more interested in creating the buildings and spaces for them. Artistically, most kids would draw a picture of their house while I was busy creating the spaces from building blocks and anything that I could find. Since Mississippi State had an accredited School of Architecture, it only made sense that I go to school there. My son, Oliver, is also attending State now, and we still go down to many of the games and follow the teams.

And you are still connected to the area as well?
My family owns property in the Starkville area. My dad started a 300-acre managed tree farm in the 1960s growing Loblolly Pine Trees. It is now a family company with shared ownership between my parents and us “kids”. We are certified by the American Tree Farm System which promotes responsible forest management for private forests. Basically, they set standards for wildlife habitats and managed growth plans emphasizing staged harvest with no clear cuts. In my lifetime, I have seen giant trees come down, but they have always been followed with new ones coming up.

Tell me about your family.
I married Marty in 1994, and we have two kids—Oliver (18) and Neely (21). Marty works in IT for LSC Communications and is always working on our home or landscape projects. As mentioned, Oliver graduated from Brownsburg High School and is attending Mississippi State—majoring in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture with a focus in Conservation Law Enforcement. Neely is getting a degree in Ministry Leadership and went to Guatemala in August 2018 for long-term mission work. My furry children are Yogi and Yeager, two Golden Doodles. They have their own Instagram account—@yogiandyeager.

Do you collect anything?
I had an awesome neon collection in college. We would find abandoned neon at old buildings around town and create new arrangements with the tubes. The thing many people don’t know is that there is an art to learning the wire neon. I definitely got shocked a few times learning to do it. Unfortunately, the transformers were all made out of lead, so I got rid of all the neon and transformers when I had kids. Now my collecting is a bit less adventurous—I collect patches from places we have visited.

Do you keep anything special at your desk?
Beyond the mess, I have a Mississippi State banner. Being an out-of-state trained architect, I like to show my allegiance and love for my school.

If you ever have architectural questions, want more Golden Doodles pictures, or are a Mississippi State fan — give Cindy a call!

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantPhil MedleyLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle MillerSteve SchaecherMyrisha Colston Drew Morgan, Steve Spangler, and Bill Gruen

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

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.