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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!

Vacant Big Box Store Finds New Life as a Preschool

Building Indiana

Features Anna Marie Burrell, Sarah Hempstead, Brandon Fox, and Shelbyville Central Schools

January 24, 2019

“In the small Indiana community of Shelbyville, Shelbyville Central Schools District will transform a nearly 63,000 square foot abandoned Marsh Food Store and the adjacent strip center – once housing other retail stores, a restaurant, movie rental store, and a bank – into a preschool, space for children with special needs, and the school district’s offices.”… read full article

Indianapolis Architects Redesign Restaurant and Cosmetology Learning Center

School Construction News

Features Anna Marie Burrell & McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology

November 19, 2018

“Shortly after the visitors are seated in a comfortable banquette with modern art on the wall behind them, Devon, in a brilliant white and wrinkle-free chef’s jacket professionally greets them, “Good morning, welcome to Bernie’s Place! May I get you a water?”… read full article

The Design Components Every High School Gymnasium Needs

Whether you’re redesigning or renovating a high school gymnasium, or building a new structure from scratch, there are a lot of things to consider. Most importantly, you need to remember that a high school gym is so much more than just a place for sporting events; it’s a place for communities to gather. From the school community to the larger neighboring community, a gymnasium needs to be able to adapt quickly, offering places that accommodate a wide-range of needs – both the expected and the unexpected.

Main Gymnasium

The main part of the gymnasium will be where the big events take place. From basketball and volleyball games to school assemblies and dances, this space needs to consider flooring, acoustics, and the overall “wow” factor. Many older gyms don’t have a big enough clearance around the perimeter of the main court, something that should be considered in the design. The perimeter of the main competition court needs to have enough room for the team seating, judges’ and scorers’ table referees and spectator passage, etc. Per the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) guidelines, the perimeter of a basketball court requires a minimum of 3 feet but preferably 10 feet.

Some other questions to ask when designing the main gym:

  • How will students feel when they walk into their gym?
  • How can this main gym attract coaches?
  • How will rival schools feel?
Seating

While bleachers are an affordable option, some schools are opting for more luxurious stadium-style seating, complete with sunken seats and armrests. Depending on the size of the school and the community’s overall need for a gymnasium, the amount of seating needed will vary. To determine how much seating you will need, the following questions must by answered:

  • Is the gym a PE gym or a competition gym?
  • What events will this gym be designed for?
  • Does the school want to host sectionals at this gym?
  • What is the attendance history of this school/gym?
Accessibility

Everywhere on your design plan needs to be easily accessible for everyone. To make sure you’re not overlooking anything, put yourself in the shoes of every person who enters the gym – from the student athletes to individuals in wheelchairs, to teachers, parents and elderly spectators. The flow of your design should make it easy to get from one place to the next, all the way from the entry to the seats and back to the locker rooms.

Locker Rooms

Locker rooms are an essential part of any high school gym design. The size will depend on the overall student body. At the very least, locker rooms need to include lockers, benches, bathrooms, showers and larger spaces for pre- and post-game meetings. Most locker rooms also have offices inside, which make sure there’s appropriate supervision for the students. There can also be smaller locker rooms included for the referees – a place for them to get ready and store their belongings safely.

Public Facilities

High school gymnasiums need to include public facilities for guests and spectators. Typically at the front of the gym or at least very easy to find, these public facilities, like restrooms, meeting spaces, a public lobby, ticketing, and concessions, make enjoying games and events at the gym easy and stress-free.

Offices

In addition to the smaller “supervision” offices built into the locker rooms, larger offices for head coaches and athletic directors should be included in the design of a high school gym. Often upstairs, the best offices have windows and plenty of room, which can help entice the best of the best coaches and staff to the school.

Training Facilities

Gyms should include training facilities for the students to use at practice and before and after school. These facilities often have weight training and cardio equipment, as well as places to stretch and do drills. Many high school gyms feature a smaller auxiliary gym that can be used by teams when the main gym is in use for a game or event or gym classes during school hours.

Lighting

Although fluorescent lighting is common, newer gyms are opting for LED lighting. Some high school gyms are being designed to combine natural light with LED lights to conserve energy and reduce overall costs. Using natural light can also create a beautiful effect, which is why we incorporate clerestory windows in our new gym designs. To minimize glare, we can use frosted glass or polycarbonate wall panels to provide natural light without glare.

Storage

Creating enough storage in a high school gym is necessary so that different events can happen easily. The more convenient this storage is to access, the more easily the gym will be able to adapt (and the more willing volunteers will be to help relocate equipment). The majority of new storage areas in gyms are designed with rolling or garage-like doors so that large equipment can move in and out easily.

Because gyms are such hubs, it’s important that every high school gymnasium design considers the needs of the school and the community. When done well, new gyms become a place of pride and somewhere everyone looks forward to going.

Want to learn more about our experience? Click the magazine below:

Workforce Skills Training in K-12 Facilities

Since 2011, 11.5 million jobs have been created in the United States for workers with education past high school. However, only about 47% of working-aged adults in Indiana currently have degrees. One way to fill this gap is to include workforce-ready spaces and programs directly within high schools. Think auto shops, TV broadcasting spaces, welding labs, hair salons, etc.

We touch on why it is important to teach these real-world skills, the different focus areas, design considerations, and our project experience in this magazine below:

If you have questions or want to know how we can help with your next project, reach out!

5 Tips for Designing More Interactive Classrooms

Interactive learning is one of the best ways for teachers and educators to make sure their students are actually grasping the knowledge and skills they are sharing.

An effort to combat Mark Twain’s famous sentiment of higher education being “a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes without passing through the brains of either,” interactive learning encourages students and educators to get actively involved. In fact, some of the best interactive classrooms can, at first glance, look chaotic because of this type of engagement and often physical movement.

But, as research shows, not giving students an opportunity to interact is likely to impede their ability to really learn – not just memorize and repeat. And teachers agree. In a recent survey, 97% of all educators said that interactive learning experiences undoubtedly lead to improved learning.

Here are some tips for building and designing more interactive classrooms that will benefit both teachers and their students.

1. Provide Flexibility

An interactive classroom needs to be a welcoming, easy-to-use classroom. When designing the space, it’s important to make sure all students, including ones with disabilities, find it easy to move around, join in conversations, sit at tables, etc. Furniture layouts should be flexible, going from lecture-based to project-based collaboration spontaneously. The more a classroom is able to adapt to the subject or project of the day, and whims of the teacher and students (think about including elements like movable tables, rolling/swiveling chairs, comfortable furniture), the more interactive it will be.

2. Smart Surfaces

From large interactive walls to mobile smart boards, the surfaces in the classroom need to be functional and attractive. Teachers should also have access to multiple surfaces, preferably not just at the front of the room, to help facilitate conversations and offer guidance for specific subject material. Increasing flexibility even more, mobile teacher presentation carts allow the teacher to un-tether from a wall location and move about the room.

Mary Castle Elementary

Multiple Writing Surfaces & Mobile Technology Boards for Teachers – Mary Castle Elementary

3. Adjustable Lighting

Light plays a big role in the classroom environment. To help students feel comfortable and relaxed while interacting with each other and teachers, design lighting fixtures that can be adjusted and controlled. Dimmers as well as ambient lighting, not just the standard overhead lights, allow the environment to be changed as needed and will better facilitate conversations, presentations, etc.

4. Maximize Visibility

The best interactive classrooms don’t have a designated “front of the classroom”. Create spaces with your design that allow student seating to be optimized from every point of the room. Students should feel connected with their teachers – not separate from them. By eliminating the ability for students to be placed in designated “back” and “front” of the classroom, design can help equalize the playing field for all students.

5. Technological Savvy

Almost all modern design incorporates the latest technological needs, but perhaps it’s most important when applied to the classroom setting. In order to create interactive classrooms, technology almost always needs to be incorporated. Wireless technology provides the most flexibility in connecting students and teachers to projectors, monitors, and each other for sharing work. Provide multiple charging locations, including floor boxes with USB ports, throughout the room for both students and teachers.

While every classroom can be tailored to specific subjects and grade levels, all interactive classrooms will share the same basic fundamentals. And, because the best interactive designs allow space to be easily reconfigured, these types of classrooms are highly adaptable, making them a great asset for schools across the country.

 

If you think we would be a good fit for your next project, reach out to us!

A Word from our Owners – Greenwood Community Schools

Mike Hildebrand

Mike Hildebrand is a retired Indiana State Police Detective with over 23 years of service. He began his career in education with the Pike County School Corporation in Petersburg, Indiana in 2003. Mike was hired by Greenwood Community Schools in 2014 as the Director of Operations. He is the Administrator over the facilities, grounds, maintenance, transportation, and School Safety. Mike enjoys everything about the Greenwood Community Schools System because it is a great place to work and a great place for an education. He says it is a corporation where everyone feels like family. Mike and his wife Ruthann reside in Greenwood, and they have four grown children and 10 grandchildren. Of course, he is also a huge Alabama Football fan. Roll Tide!

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When you walk through the new Greenwood Middle School, you can easily forget that you are even in a K-12 facility. The school is designed around a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) curriculum that engages students and staff in project-based learning opportunities. All 160,000 square feet, each of the three floors, every single educational space was built with the student in mind. We wanted to talk with Mike Hildebrand to see how the engineering systems bring everything together, creating an efficient learning environment for all.

Greenwood Middle School

Tell us a little about the why Greenwood needed a new Middle School.

I can say the new Middle School was an absolute necessity, not just for our students and staff, but for the community. If you hadn’t seen the old school, just imagine décor from the 60’s to the 90’s, old restrooms, dark hallways, outdated cabinets in the classrooms, poor lighting, and few windows. The HVAC system was as old as the student’s parents and some grandparents. This new middle school is a better setting for our students. The better the learning atmosphere, the more desire there is to attend school. This gets teachers more excited to teach. Even the food tastes better in the new cafeteria!

The entire school is now welcoming, has easy lines of sight, and the aesthetics are wonderful. Just enough to make it appealing without the cost of fancy features.

Have you seen an increased level of occupant comfort in the new building?

Comfort is a must in every classroom setting. The Siemens control system is wonderful. The features are easy to understand, and changing a room or area’s temperature is a breeze. The ability to go to a night or unoccupied set back has saved us a considerable amount on utilities as well. Our custodial and maintenance staff dove in head first and are continuing to learn new tricks every day. The air quality is also a vast improvement from our old middle school, which had some sections starting from 1960’s.

The design of the facility itself makes the visual observation of students during the passing periods simple. One faculty member can stand at the junction of the two wings and see both halls from one vantage point. The design and features of today’s school has changed so much since I was in school, back in the 60’s and 70’s. The newest technology is used in every classroom, students are learning robotics at a much younger age, and every aspect of this facility was discussed to determine if this was going to benefit our students for the better. This facility was designed just to do that very thing. It was done the Greenwood way.

How has the learning environment improved daily life here at Greenwood Middle School – for the students, teachers, and those maintaining the new systems?

As you know, lighting is an important feature in any educational facility. Having gone from our old school’s lighting to new LED is absolutely a huge improvement, both for the students and staff. The automatic light features that turn on/off upon entry was a huge success with our staff. The dimmer capabilities are used almost daily by all of our staff while instruction is taking place with the overhead units onto the whiteboard marker walls. Each classroom has outdoor light access as well, offering the inviting ray of sunshine in for our students.

The HVAC units are definitely a well-received item and the biggest change from old univent systems to the new buildings system. No more high fan speed noise disrupting instruction, and no more too cold or too hot depending on where you sit in the room. The capability to change the temp + or – 3 degrees at the thermostat is awesome. Students learn better when they are comfortable in their environment.

In the old school, each classroom had a univent system. When there was a failure you could count on at least a 4-hour repair as you had to pull the unit from the wall, make the repairs, and then put it back in place. What a difference the vertical unit ventilation systems have made. Easy access, easier repairs, and less time consuming for our maintenance staff. Even the filter change is simpler and can take only a couple of minutes.

In general, what have you heard from staff, teachers, parents, and students about the new school?

Superintendent Dr. Kent DeKoninck and Asst. Superintendent Mr. Todd Pritchett were an integral part of the success of the construction and completion of our new school. All of the physical aspects–the aesthetics, flooring, cafeteria area, media center and classrooms–have been praised by students, staff, and community. Our easy access points for the office area during the school day or the secondary entrance for our indoor athletic events are very welcoming without going over the top in costs.

The pride of Greenwood Community Schools has once again peaked to the point of happiness. Even our residential neighbors have had nothing but good things to say about what once used to be a farm field to now becoming a modern and beautiful school facility. In short, no one is more pleased than our students, our parents, our staff and our school leaders. We could not have hoped for more than what we’ve received in our new Greenwood Middle School.

How would you describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates, specifically the engineering team?

My experience of working with Schmidt Associates has been wonderful, from the design portion all the way through to completion. Even with minor punch list items remaining a year in now, the cooperative effort has been amazing.

As issues would arise during the construction, the Schmidt team would provide detailed alternatives to the issues, have quick remedies as a solution, and implement the changes into the plan. Our relationship with Schmidt Associates has become one of trust, and their team of experts have addressed our needs and concerns in a timely manner.

Greenwood Community Schools has also used Schmidt Associates on other projects, and we are in the process of beginning yet another project at our High School.

 

If you think we can help with your next project, reach out to us!

 

Q&A Session with Kyle Miller

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Miller's Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Six Biophilic Design Tactics

“Biophilia is the humankind’s innate biological connection with nature. It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows and heights instill fascination and fear; and why animal companionship and strolling through a park have restorative, healing effects.”

Terrapin Bright Green

What Biophilic Design?

Biophilic design is the broad application of connections with natural environments, elements, and patterns. It can be viewed as the relationship of science, nature, and the built environment combined. Humans impact nature as much as nature impacts humans. This isn’t exactly a new concept – people always have and always will associate closely with the natural world, even when we are inside a building during most of the day. But we are coming up with new ways to talk about it, think about what it means, and apply the findings to design.

Why does it matter?

There are two main factors that drive the need for biophilic design:

  1. We spend about 90% of our time indoors
  2. Urbanization: increase in buildings and decrease of green spaces

As designers, we are tasked with bringing some of those natural elements back to human lives. The benefits to biophilic design elements are mutually beneficial to the end users and to the business’ bottom line. Backed by research, these basic benefits include:

  • Improves mood, physical and mental health, and cognitive function
  • Reduces stress levels
  • Increases productivity, performance, engagement, and creativity
  • Advances the natural healing process

How do we do it?

First off, as designers, we listen to our Owners to gather insight on their needs and priorities for their end users. Then we determine what is possible in terms of biophilic design and how it will benefit the end user and Owner. In the design process, we strive to find the sweet spot between quality and quantity within the space – ensuring we don’t over saturate. A school will have obviously different requirements and needs than an office building, but the basic design tactics are the same:

  1. Natural Daylight

Introduce natural daylighting into buildings to the greatest extent possible for maximum benefit, but do so 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 of having a wall full of windows? Don’t worry, this is where engineers come in and 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.

Biomorphic - natural daylight

  1. Fabrics, finishes, and lighting

Choosing fabric colors, textures, and patterns that occur naturally in the environment around them is a simple way to provide connection to the outdoors. Using palm tree patterns, nautical textures, and beachy colors may not be the best choice for a building in Indiana – it would be best to incorporate something more authentic to the geology of a specific place. This can be wood planks, limestone features, and a neutral color palette.

As for lighting, try to include technology that allows users to mimic the lighting outdoors. For example, include dimmers so lights can be slightly lowered as the sun goes down. Shadows within the space will mimic what is happening outside this way as well.

Biomorphic - finishes

  1. Real plants and water features

Make sure not to forget large and small plants when planning interior design elements. Naturally weaving organic materials into a design helps to give an authentic and cool vibe. Other than being aesthetically pleasing, natural plants also help improve indoor air quality.

It is important to consider what windows face outside – plants and/or water features should be placed strategically outdoors as well. The benefits to biophilic design will be heighted when the user is looking at big trees, colorful flowers, or peaceful water fountains even when the users are still indoors. A courtyard area (inside of out) with a water feature and plants creates a calm refuge area from the busy day.

Biomorphic - plants and water features

  1. Give them a view

Like we mentioned above, give a visual connection to nature and let plenty of natural light in. Panoramic views, or large windows positioned next to common or lounge areas give users a chance to have a moment to practice mindfulness, a good breather from the busy day. Plan office layouts that position desks to face windows.

If designing for an exterior courtyard, arrange an indoor seating area around those windows so people can still peer out at the activity even when they can’t join. Providing movement within users’ line of sight will give them a visual break they need to stay focused.

Biophilic - give them a view

  1. Biomorphic design elements

This means integrating naturally occurring shapes, forms, or patterns suggestive of nature and living things into the design of the built environment. This can be merged into the previous point (fabrics, treatments, and finishes) and/or through the building’s structural and ornamental design. Apply biomorphic design elements to two or three surfaces, too much could cause a negative reaction for users.

Biomorphic patterns

  1. Artwork

If there is little opportunity to give users a full view of the outdoors or to incorporate organic materials, murals of a landscape scene can serve as a good alternative. On a smaller scale, paintings or sculptures are nice touches to add to a space that provides a good view of the outdoors.

Biomorphic - artwork

 

There will always be restrictions – budget, priorities, safety, or available square footage – on how grand the biophilic design gestures can be. But even the smallest touches can create a big overall impact on users. If you can’t do a huge wall of windows or provide a jungle-like courtyard, sprinkling biophilic design elements sparingly in common spaces and high-traffic areas can still have a significant impact on users. So take a short (or long) break and find a way to immerse yourself in nature to improve your day and health!