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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

WOYS #5

The middle of winter is hands down my least favorite time to live in the mid-west. While I love the changing of the seasons – the trudge post-holidays to mid-March takes twice as long as it should.  The only way to survive is with a glass of wine, a nice fire, and a few good books.

Try these to warm up from the inside out:

 

The Nightingale

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

“In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.”

In The Nightingale, two sisters find their way through occupied France in WW2. With full acknowledgment that I am a sucker for this type of fiction, this is a wonderful story of becoming who we really are. Kristin Hannah’s writing is compelling, and her process of robust research allows the reader to experience a far less documented side of war to see what it’s like for the women and children left behind. I particularly appreciated the relationship between the sisters – full of all the love, history, and hurt that come hand in hand with family.

 

Uncommon Type

By Tom Hanks

“It turns out that Tom Hanks is also a wise and hilarious writer with an endlessly surprising mind. Damn it.” – Steve Martin

It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true. Tom Hanks can write too. Uncommon Type is a book of short stories, all just the right length to read a few as you wait for basketball practice to end or right before bed. The stories are quirky, funny, sad, and unexpected. The characters are both unique and fully developed – quite an accomplishment in a few short pages. Like pretty much every other thing Mr. Hanks does, Uncommon Type is worth your time.

 

Drawndown

By Paul Hawken

“If you are traveling down the wrong road, you are still on the wrong road if you slow down.”

When I tell you Drawdown is a book on how to reverse global warming, I understand the inclination to put down this review and reread the one about Tom Hanks. However, if you can resist the urge, Drawdown is a good read. It focuses on how we can overcome confusion, apathy, or just being overwhelmed by the idea of global warming. The book takes 80 strategies and solutions, organizes them by sector, describes them in easily understandable language and ranks their effectiveness using the total CO2 impact, and the long and short-term costs.  Each solution is only a page or two long, with lots of photos and illustrations, so you can digest each idea in small bites. Ultimately, I left Drawdown feeling hopeful and better equipped to make a difference through design.

 

Want more recommendations?

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Blog #4

How Can Architecture & Design Affect Higher Education?

Butler University College of Education

Butler University – College of Education at CTS

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

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

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

We think so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multipurpose Facilities (MPF’s)

Multipurpose Facilities (MPF’s) exist in many forms. As we consider the transformation of existing facilities into part-time athletic venues – ad hoc “field houses” – a plethora of sports can reasonably be considered. Indoor track and field, cheerleading, dance, and gymnastics, indoor soccer, baseball batting cages, tennis, and competition court activities (e.g. volleyball, basketball, and handball) should all be considered.

While each sport has its own unique requirements, there are 4 critical considerations shared by all:

1. Dimensions

  • Column Grid
  • Structural Height

2. Materials

  • Flooring

3. Lighting

  • Natural
  • Artificial

4. Amenities/Support

  • Restrooms/Locker Rooms
  • Food/Vending/Ticketing
  • Spectator Viewing
  • Parking

Multipurpose Facilities graphic

 

Dimensions

The structural grid, both layout and height, is the primary driver of sport appropriateness in existing facilities. Strictly governed court sizes, including overrun areas and required clearances, will likely determine both how many and what kind of courts can fit into any given building efficiently.

Material

Most purpose-built Multipurpose Facilities have multiple courts with a mix of both wood and synthetic floors. Wood floors are more preferred for sports like basketball and volleyball while synthetic floors are best for activities such as baseball, tennis, or even flag core. Soccer players, on the other hand, prefer natural grass, with turf as a distant second best. In an existing facility that will be a “sometimes” sporting venue, the selected sport will determine the surface. Whatever surface(s) is(are) selected, each appropriate surface needs to be easy to install in a foolproof fashion – so athletes are not injured. In addition, storage for each surface must be accommodated.

Light

Competitive sports all require consistent high-quality lighting, ideally with no glare, shadow, or hot spots. To that end, while natural light makes things nicer for spectators, it is often highly problematic to athletes. Solar studies of existing buildings can help discover lighting trouble spots.

Amenities/Support

Storage and some form of changing space or locker rooms is a necessary component of a successful MPF for the athletes. In addition, accommodations for spectators and the public is critical. This starts with parking, a ticketed entry, and some form of lobby space. Easy access to restrooms and concessions becomes almost as important as spectator viewing areas.

 

Ultimately, most large event facilities are capable of supporting athletics. Evaluation using the critical considerations above, can help determine what fits easily and what may require more extensive and expensive modifications. Of note, considerations for new facilities are very similar to those above, however they have the benefit of preplanning. With a new facility, flexibility can be enhanced by being purpose-built to accommodate the desired athletic functions from day one.

WOYS #4

Summer is almost here!

Time to pour a tall glass of lemonade, find a shady spot, and start a great book! We are back with another edition of “WOYS” – What’s On Your Shelf to help you out.

I have listed three books that are worth reading while soaking up some good Vitamin D:

 

 

children of blood and bone - summer reading

Children of Blood and Bone

By Tomi Adeymi
This New York Times Best Seller, has everything I love in a novel – magic, love, friendship, adventure, and memorable characters in a familiar yet totally unique world. The West African roots of the story weave texture through the narrative, and the heroines’ struggles with power (her own and others), personal responsibility, the pull of family, and the meaning of loyalty are infinitely relatable. This “young adult” book is worth reading in one delicious, big gulp. You can thank me later.

 

dreamland - summer reading

Dreamland – The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

By Sam Quinones
When a book is recommended to me multiple times, by people in totally different corners of my life, I tend to see it as a sign that I have a new reading assignment. That’s how Dreamland ended up on my list and I’m so glad that it did. This is a well-researched, infinitely readable, story of addition in America. From Mexican villages, to Appalachian pill mills, from pharmaceutical company board rooms to suburban home, Sam explains how we got here – to an addiction epidemic. While it isn’t a fun story, you owe it to yourself to dive in and come out enraged and enlightened.

 

frankenstein - summer reading

Frankenstein

By Mary Shelley
Feel like you need a reading buddy? Frankenstein turns 200 this year, and it is the focus of the One State/One Story program (a statewide read sponsored by the Indiana Humanities and the Indiana State Library). Shelley’s themes, specifically the role of science and our own humanity, still ring true today and are a great jumping off point for a full slate of discussions, podcasts, and the first-ever Indiana Sci-Fi & Horror Writers Festival – coming this October. Your high school teacher will be proud of you.

 

Get to your nearest library, and get reading this summer!

Want more recommendations?

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Brain-Based Design

Your brain is a vastly complex system with billions of neurons and interneurons constantly firing. And with billions of people in the world, with their own unique neural pathways to process daily experiences, it is safe to say we all think, interact, work, and learn differently than the next.

That said, our brains are similar in many ways. When we understand the patterns in how our brains work, we can design environments to help us learn better.

Our team is passionate about learning. In our roles as architects and engineers, we tailor our designs to optimize educational attainment through engaging the best in brain-based design research. This research includes findings with direct ramifications for environmental factors including, but not limited to:

    • Immersive Environments
    • Active / Passive Spaces
    • Natural Light
    • Stimulating / Enriching Spaces
    • Comfort and Security
    • Flexible Environments
    • Social Spaces

Our Brain-Based Design magazine covers each concept in-depth, and shows why it works. Click the link below to read in full screen:

 

What to learn more about how we tailor to brain-based design in our projects? Reach out!

There Is No Box

Milton, red stapler guy in the classic scene from the movie “Office Space”, whines on the telephone from his cluttered cubicle “if they move my desk one more time…” Milton wouldn’t last at Schmidt Associates. He probably wouldn’t have met our employment predictive analytics criteria at the outset.

As the CEO, I often remind staff and clients we don’t believe in out-of-the-box thinking, which is a really tired cliché, because Schmidt doesn’t believe in boxes. We don’t allow preconceived ideas, concepts, or notions to impact our thinking or finding solutions. That means we are responsive and nimble, proactive or reacting quickly to constantly changing conditions. If you don’t have a box holding you in, you don’t have to worry about thinking outside of it!

This summer an Inside Indiana Business Television’s Culture Matters segment reviewed the productive and unique Schmidt culture and environment. Our staff shifts from one team to another as a long-term project requires. Collaborative space is available to all teams. This builds teamwork and communication as each person is present with the entire team to make spot-on and on-the-spot collaborative decisions, eliminating meetings, endless e-mail chains, and deadly conference calls.

Our culture breeds creative, productive, cool projects for our clients on budget and on time. We’re flexible because we don’t have boxes… or set-in-stone spaces.

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Want to be a part of our team?  We are hiring for several positions – check them out on our careers page or our LinkedIn page to see if you could be a good fit.

Read Part 1 here

 

 

Creative Culture : Smooth Sailing

 

Walk into our lobby early on the second Monday, and you’ll hear energetic applause rocketing up the stairway from the monthly all-staff meeting. One set of applause is a rhythmic cadence – one, two, three claps. Another starts with one clap – escalating to 15 claps in unison. This isn’t a random party. Each applause set recognizes a staff member’s anniversary years at Schmidt Associates. If you’ve worked for us for three years – you get three claps!

This is our culture of including, valuing, and recognizing each member of our team. It’s more than feel good. It leads to more creative, better, and productive projects and buildings for our clients.

This summer an Inside Indiana Business Television’s Culture Matters segment reviewed the productive and unique Schmidt Associates’ culture and environment. IIB noted our mentor and Sherpa on-boarding process leads to people working for us for a long time. It’s not unusual to hear more than 20 claps in the meetings.

Our “Sherpa” process connects a new staff member with an office guide to whom the new person can turn for the most basic questions: “How do you turn on the copier? How do I reset my password? How do I present this to the client? Where’s the best place to eat in the neighborhood? ” The new hire’s Sherpa is there for her or him, providing an easy and welcoming on-boarding process.

Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, says Harvard Business Review, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. Our culture has a wonderful history of productive, lively, meaningful, and friendly smooth sailing.

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Want to know more about Schmidt Associates’ culture and what makes us different? Check back in for Part 2 of the series next week.

Want to be a part of our team? We are hiring for several positions – check them out on our careers page or our LinkedIn page to see if you could be a good fit.

 

40 Years of Change – Redevelopment of Mass Ave

AIA Regional

Sarah Hempstead and Wayne Schmidt

September 28, 2017

Every place evokes feelings for people. A great place feels welcoming, exciting, curious, comforting—and maybe even inspiring. Your designated place always has the opportunity to evoke vastly different feelings than it does now. But change doesn’t happen overnight. Placemaking, if done correctly, is a marathon, not a sprint. We covered what Mass Ave in Indianapolis was 40 years ago, and how it has become revitalized to the vibrant destination point it is today.