Q&A Session with Steve Schaecher

Whether it is the Taj Ma-Stall by Emperor Shah Jahan or Flushingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright, Steve Schaecher—Senior Project Architect and one of the newest Principals of the firm—is quite knowledgeable about architecture and is happy to share this knowledge through humor.



What makes you tick?
I am an architect, so obviously I have a creative side and love using it in all aspects of my life. I like to create things that get a little rise out of people or make them laugh. I enjoy seeing the reactions of people to things I think are funny. However, its always a tightrope—one of my kids always tells me that I am not supposed to laugh at my own jokes. But humor is a big part of my life, and I believe laughter is the medicine to cure all.

Other than architecture, what outlets do you utilize for your creativity?
I have always enjoyed drawing. In high school, I was the cartoonist for the school paper—it was the first time I had something in print. I invented a strip called “Dr. Cartoon” and made up humorous diseases around our school every week. Though I didn’t do much with cartooning in college, after graduating, the local AIA Indianapolis Chapter started a newsletter. I was talking with a friend of mine who was the editor; one thing led to another, and I ended up drawing the cartoons for the newsletter.

About six months later, National AIA started the AIArchitect, a monthly national newspaper for architects. I contacted them, and the next thing you know, I had a national audience for my cartoons. That is where I created my first outhouse—Frank Lloyd Wright’s, Flushingwater.  After that, I thought, “I could make a calendar out of this.” So, I put together 12 different samples and researched calendar publishers. I lucked out, the first publisher I approached liked the concept, but suggested it expand to a permanent book instead of a temporary calendar.

The first book—”Outhouses by Famous Architects”—was well received. Within a year, I suggested a sequel—”Mobile Homes by Famous Architects”—and eventually I rounded out the trilogy with “Phone Booths by Famous Architects”. Eventually the books were also converted into calendars.

Another interesting tidbit, a publishing company in China picked up the books and published them in Chinese! I don’t think the translation picks up the humor very well, though.

Steve Schaecher - Outhouses book

“Outhouses by Famous Architects”

What do you do in your free time?
I genuinely enjoy hanging out with my kids. We attend a lot of soccer games.

As an architect, it seems like I always have some kind of home improvement project going. I designed my own home, but there is always something to re-do.

Steve Schaecher

What’s one thing not everyone knows about you?
I went to a Catholic School and the nuns were somewhat strict. One day, I had the hiccups and went to get a drink from the water fountain. I looked up to see Sister Calista (the meanest of the sisters) walking down the hall; then I bent down to get another drink. I got in trouble for taking more than one drink! She busted me and scared the right hiccups out of me!


Steve Schaecher - Family

Tell me about your family.
I have been married to Susie, a true Speedway girl, for 23 years. Together, we have three kids—Nathan, a sophomore at Purdue studying industrial engineering; Lindsey, a junior at Avon hoping to become a teacher; and Nick, a 6th grader heavily involved in travel soccer.


Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia Brant, Liam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, and Kyle Miller

5 Common Façade Systems and Materials

What is a façade?

Façade, by definition, is the face of a building. It is what you can see from the exterior that protects the interior. Façades are an integral part of the building shell – keeping us humans warm in the winter and cool in the summer, while also providing a barrier from outside elements and even fire in some cases. Façades are also key elements to the beauty of our structures. Architects use façades to creatively display rhythm, balance, proportion, experimentation, and spirit. Architects must balance their designs between performance and aesthetics. There are always new technologies that open new possibilities in the design of the façade. Architects and manufacturers are constantly exploring new façade systems, pushing the envelope (pun intended), to help achieve the architect’s vision and provide a high-performance shell for the end-users.

There are many façade systems and materials used in an architect’s catalog of projects, each with their own aesthetic, pros and cons, and price point. We thought it might be helpful to breakdown some of the most common types used here at Schmidt Associates:

1. Masonry veneer

For its performance and durability, brick is hard to beat as a material in Indiana. Although many view brick as an expected solution to their façade, we compare it with other materials on nearly every project for costs, performance, and aesthetics. Brick usually wins the contest because of its durability, flexibility, and familiarity. Our standard walltype consists of a brick veneer, air gap, 3” rigid insulation, and backup wall. This construction may sound simple, because it is, but it offers a competitive price point to other wall systems, good durability, and good insulation, as well as a common aesthetic rooted in the Midwest. There are options, as with any material, for brick sizes, colors, texture, and more. Other masonry types such as stone and CMU can be used instead of or with brick as well. Masonry is simply the most common façade type we utilize in our projects.

  • Pro: Cost, durability, flexibility, and familiarity
  • Con: Weight, detailing

Plainfield High School masonry

2. Metal Wall Panels

Metal panels may be an appropriate choice for a building skin – depending on the Owner, type of project, and budget. These wall systems often come to mind when picturing a modern, sleek, building aesthetic. Metal panels offer a wide variety of options to achieve the look desired and performance. However, this material is often a more expensive option than other materials and can affect a project’s schedule. Field verification and production of the panels can have a major impact on a project schedule and enclosing the building. Working with manufacturer’s standard panel sizes is important to keep costs down.

Insulated metal wall panels can provide a higher R-value than typical wall construction with encapsulated insulation. Depending on the system and the backup wall construction, supplemental framing may be required to support the façade. Although some manufactures indicate additional sheathing is not required, it is recommended to include the sheathing on your project to allow the building to be enclosed and not delay interior finishes from being installed.

  • Pro: Modern, expensive look and high insulation value
  • Con: Price and schedule implications

Regenstrief metal panels


Exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) is a veneer system that insulates and can achieve a wide variety of looks. Many people recognize this product as stucco. This material has been developed to replicate other materials in appearance. A lay-person may not be able to detect if they are looking at EIFS or stone. There are EIFS systems that even replicate brick and metal panels. The system generically consists of a rigid insulation board adhered to back-up wall construction with a sprayed-on, or troweled-on, finish system. Since the material is applied as a liquid, architectural expression with details is easily achieved by carving the rigid insulation as desired. It is also very lightweight compared to other façade systems and can be used without much need for support. EIFS is the most economical system per square foot with the insulation performance it provides.

The downside of EIFS is its durability. The EIFS shell over rigid insulation is thin and can be damaged easily. A puncture can occur from a flying rock from a lawnmower. Colors can sometimes fade or the surface can stain and get dirty over time. Due to these characteristics, we often use EIFS at higher parts of a building to keep it protected.

  • Pro: Lightweight, variety in appearance, and cost
  • Con: Can be easily damaged

Protsman EIFS


4. Cementitious (Fiber-Cement) Siding

We use this system on our residential projects or other projects where it may seem appropriate. Cementitious siding is becoming more and more prevalent in commercial buildings, and there are many manufacturers (James Hardie e.g.) of this type of material. The material is most comparable to wood lap siding, although it is also available as panels and panels made to look like lap siding or shakes. This façade systems hold up well under the elements and doesn’t require much maintenance. It is available pre-finished or can be field-painted. It is relatively lightweight compared to masonry, but detailing this material with continuous insulation can be challenging. Cost wise, it is comparable to EIFS and would provide more durability. However, insulation needs to be considered.

  • Pro: Costs, ease of installation
  • Con: Residential in appearance

Penrose Courtyard

5. Precast concrete

Occasionally, precast panels will be used as a façade system. These panels offer several benefits for a project. They provide an entire wall and structural system, and they can be effective when dealing with tight construction schedules. There are many options with precast concrete panels as far as appearance goes. But to make it competitive to other wall systems, we find it best to maintain consistent sizes and limited detailing. If there are many panels sizes or irregularities between panels, cost is added. The panels are built in a factory, delivered, and installed onsite. They are held in place with braces until the roof structure is in place. Erection time is very quick, but the lead time can be over 6 months to have panels fabricated. This needs to be evaluated closely to determine if it will benefit a project more when compared to other systems.

  • Pro: Quick erection time, cost
  • Con: Long lead time, customization in façade

Vision Academy precast concrete


Want to learn more about which material/system is best for your project? Reach out to see how we can help.


Project Blogs: What are They and how do They Work

Schmidt Associates believes it is important to keep Owners, users, and the members of the surrounding community involved with the design process. However, it can be a challenge meet with all of those people and keep them informed without delaying a project’s schedule. To address this need, Schmidt Associates has developed project blogs to serve as a two-way communication tool—benefiting the Owner, the community and our design team and reducing time spent by all parties.

Project blogs can have different purposes, depending on whom the audience is intended to be and the information that is desired to be communicated (e.g. community consensus, or design decision communication, or merely community awareness). The blog created for Lake Central High School, a $100 million additions and renovation project, worked well as a programming and design tool. This project was on an accelerated schedule to keep the School Corporation’s promise of having their freshman students use the new facility before they graduated.  Typically, the design phase of a project like this could stretch to 3 or 4 months, but with the use of the project blog that time was shaved to roughly 6 weeks.  During design, meetings were held with select individuals from the School to review program and design information. The results of these meeting were posted shortly thereafter to the blog including graphics showing proposed layouts, etc.

Renderings of what Lake Central High School would eventually look like from different views

Renderings of what Lake Central High School would eventually look like from different views

Details and preliminary renderings of the athletic space

Details and preliminary renderings of the athletic space

The blog was then shared with all of the teachers and other users of the facility for review and comment. The process allowed all of the staff to be involved in the design, know how they would be affected, and have an opportunity for input.  It also condensed the reiterative process of design and allowed the project to meet the schedule.

Receiving comments on designs shared is an important aspect of the use of blogs. Gathering a community consensus, positive or negative, can help steer a project’s direction.  Most public blogs have comments built-in to the posts, but as you may know comments can be destructive to a process as well especially when commenters have an advantage of anonymity.  To address this issue, most of the blogs we produce only allow comments through emails.  These comments are received and shared with the Owner, outside of the public posts of the blog. This allows Owners and the Design Team to identify the commenter,  and address the comments in a direct, discreet (return email) fashion or a public fashion (blog post) that other involved parties can view.

Schmidt Associates simply offers these blogs as another service to Owners— allowing them to have total control over how much information is shared on a blog and who will have access to view it. Some blogs are private, open only to a project committee, and others are open to anyone and everyone. Some Owners even choose to have both a public and private blog. The Owner may want the public to only be able to view floorplans, leaving everything else accessible to the project committee.

In summary, there are several benefits to Owners who choose to implement project blogs for a project:

  • A wide range of information is share to those interested in seeing a project’s progress that normally would not be involved
  • Ability to trace comments and opinions
  • Users are one click away from the information they need and can share it with others
  • Seeing floorplans and 3D modeling gets people excited about the finished product
  • The Owner controls the content not the Design Team
  • Owners can view our past blogs to get a sense of how blogs can work for them

Sustainability: Indiana University Rotary Building

The Rotary building on the IUPUI Campus in Indianapolis was originally constructed in 1931 as a home for orphaned and ill children. It was later turned over to IU for academic and administrative purposes.  The facility is one of the few remaining historic structures on the IUPUI campus. Its location offers the building as a link between the new Eskenazi Health Complex and the IU School of Medicine.  The purpose of the project was to renovate the existing facility into medical offices and support spaces for Indiana University.

Rotary Building Lobby


Some of the key design opportunities for this project were:
•  Re-establish the original 2nd floor balcony terrace overlooking the therapeutic gardens.
•  Replace existing windows and create a more efficient building envelope.
•  Increase amount of natural light into the building.
•  Incorporate grand communicating stairway.
•  Open top floor ceilings to create dramatic voluminous space.
•  Integrate high-performance building systems
•  Achieve LEED Silver certification.

Rotary Building Break Out Space


The renovation construction was completed over the summer of 2014. The facility recently was awarded LEED Silver certification, achieving 57 points. The scores for the renovation project were as follows:
•  Sustainable Site: 16 out of 26 possible points
•  Water Efficiency: 4 out of 10 possible points
•  Energy & Atmosphere: 18 out of 35 possible points
•  Materials & Resources: 4 out of 14 possible points
•  Indoor Environmental Quality: 9 out of 15 possible points
•  Innovation & Design Process: 3 out of 6 possible points
•  Regional Priority Credits: 3 out of 4 possible points

Rotary Building Central Stairs and Conference Room


The renovations to this existing facility have provided IU with a great office space that meets their programming needs and sustainable design goals. The urban location contributes several points to the project. The renovations included energy efficient mechanical systems, upgraded electrical power, lighting and data.

This project’s new use allows it to maintain its presence as a jewel on the IUPUI campus.

Sustainability: Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences at Marian University

This landmark facility has been in operation for a while now. It is Indiana’s first new medical school in the last 110 years and it is the nation’s first osteopathic medical school at a Catholic university. The facility was honored at the 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Awards for Merit in Architecture.

In March of 2015, the building received LEED Gold certification, scoring 62 points using LEED 2009. LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is a green building certification program that recognizes the best-in-class building strategies and practices. It is a scoring system verified by the USGBC (US Green Building Council) that focuses on sustainable design different categories. The Michael A. Evans Center scores in each of the categories were as follows:

•  Sustainable Sites: 21 out of 26 possible points
•  Water Efficiency: 7 out of 10 possible points
•  Energy & Atmosphere: 12 out of 35 possible points
•  Materials & Resources: 5 out of 14 possible points
•  Indoor Environmental Quality: 9 out of 15 possible points
•  Innovation & Design Process: 5 out of 6 possible points
•  Regional Priority Credits: 3 out of 4 possible points

The urban location of Marian University obviously was key to achieving so many site credits. The regional credits achieved were also site related. The building utilizes a water-cooled VRF (variable-refrigerant-flow) mechanical system which contributes greatly to its Energy and Atmosphere score achieving 26% more efficient than ASHRAE 90.1 – 2007 threshold. For a Health Care facility this is a very respectable score, since these type of facilities tend to use much more energy to accommodate all of their systems and patient comfort.

The innovation credits achieved for the project were for exemplary performances for use of recycled content (30%), maximum open space, and regional materials (30%).

The facility has elevated the expectations for future developments at Marian University as well as the City of Indianapolis.