Hands-On Healthcare Education

What makes a successful learning environment for training much-needed healthcare providers? Facilities geared toward experiential learning! Students today must learn differently while new information is being generate faster than ever before. Designers of healthcare teaching facilities are tasked with creating flexible, experiential learning environments to fulfill this need, and Schmidt Associates has worked with many collegiate partners to create facilities to train future healthcare providers.

Experiential learning requires flexible, hi-tech classrooms and laboratories, as well as unstructured learning spaces.

Classrooms must accommodate:

  • state-of-the art technology for technical medical equipment and information,
  • distance learning
  • digital display
  • flexible furniture for collaborative and varied learning
  • enough wireless data capacity for 4-6 devices per student

Marian University COM Classroom

Laboratories must address the many needs of simulation equipment, including technology to run high-fidelity mannequins, adequate space for medical furnishings and equipment, and appropriate infrastructure for simulated gasses and utilities.

Labs also need multiple support spaces: storage for equipment and supplies, information, display and set up space, and potentially small group meeting space. All of these may double the space need for laboratories.

Ivy Tech Franklin

Unstructured spaces are the “accidental” learning spaces that allow students to continue a learning moment with faculty, study in peer social groups, and study on their own while still feeling part of a larger learning group. Breakout spaces, extra large corridors, coffee bars, and lobby areas all provide space for enhanced learning and positive community building.

Marian COM Lounge


Schmidt Associates truly understands these varied learning environments and has expertise in uniting them into cohesive facilities. From the recently opened Marian University Michael A. Evans Center for Health Sciences (housing the first Catholic College of Osteopathic Medicine in the country), the Ivy Tech Dental Lab in Anderson that serves its community through free and reduced-cost dental care, the Marchant School of Nursing in Bloomington, and the IU Student Health Clinic, hands-on health science facilities are critical to addressing our healthcare crisis.

Ivy Tech Anderson Dental Clinic

As our population continues to grow and age, healthcare education is increasingly important to remedy the shortage of personnel to serve unique and changing healthcare needs. Higher education institutions have stepped up to fill this gap, and collaborative, hands-on training has become the standard pedagogy for medical, nursing and dental school programs.

If we can help transform your facility into an interactive environment for future healthcare professionals, reach out!

Getting Real About Value Engineering

“Value engineering” is perhaps the most overused and under-realized term in the design/construction industry today. It has become the catch bucket for any exercise that involves reducing costs.

By definition, value is the ratio of function to cost. Value is increased by improving function or reducing cost. A great example: the benefit analysis of solar shading provided by extending the overhang of a roof. Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) and special software programs, we can determine the optimum energy savings obtained from shading by applying the most cost-effective roof extension (the ratio of function to cost). Our analysis identifies the point of diminishing return – the point when the increased cost of the roof begins to yield lower shading benefit. This is value engineering.

In contrast, most references to a “value-engineering exercise” are in reality a “cost-reduction exercise.” It involves compiling a list of items (or functions) to eliminate from the project, thereby reducing cost. This is not necessarily a bad thing to do. In fact, it is often an unavoidable part of any project since needs and wants are almost always greater than budgets. However, calling it “value engineering” is a misnomer because the function is eliminated along with the cost.

It is important to recognize that value can be lost with the cost reduction. This often occurs when a function that yields a long-term benefit (reduced energy or operational cost) is eliminated to provide an initial cost reduction. A clear understanding of the difference between “value engineering” and “cost reduction” helps avoid decisions with unintended consequences or “de-value engineering.”

Does Your School Really Need New Construction?

Schools serve as a fixture within their communities, stirring up nostalgic moments for past students. Like for the college student driving past their old elementary school on their way through town during their first break away from school, remembering those days on the playground during recess. Or for the parents of high school students, strolling through the familiar hallways during parent-teacher night. Or for the spectators who pack in the basketball gym, year after year to support the town’s team. These schools serve as a significant piece of the community’s history far beyond the lessons taught within the classrooms.

When these schools inevitably start to age, the student population starts to grow, or when the schools simply can’t keep up with new programming demands, there needs to be a discussion about what to do moving forward with the facility. Do you really need to tear down the school that has been standing on Main Street for generations and build a completely new building? Can you just update the systems on the inside? Is there enough land on the lot to add a new wing?

Determining whether your school needs new construction begins with developing a space needs facility assessment, looking at both the physical conditions of the building and its capacity to serve educational programming needs. When used correctly, this tool accurately reflects the programs offered and how a facility should look under ideal student loading conditions. We described this tool in a previous blog here as a mechanism to establish criteria to determine equity between and among facilities.

In conjunction with spaces to accommodate the educational program, it is critical to identify and quantify the support areas, such as cafeteria, media area(s), small- and large-group spaces, administrative and mentoring spaces, and the core requirements of restrooms, mechanical, and technology support spaces. Incorporating adjacency studies helps assess whether an existing facility can be adapted, expanded and repurposed, or if it would be more educationally appropriate and cost-effective to build something new.

Adjacencies and facility layouts play a significant role in selecting a new site. Site size is important, but access to the site for vehicles and utilities is equally important to the ultimate success of a new educational facility.

Three key factors contribute to school site selection:

  1. Site size and configuration, including grading, natural vegetation and surrounding contextual elements
  2. Site location and access, as well as the feeder mechanism or facility transformation of elementary, middle, and high school space needs
  3. Natural and legislated external factors, such as drainage ways, utility access, and zoning.

As always, we recommend talking with an architect about your facility before determining if you need new construction.

Third in the Series of Four Core Principles of Design at Schmidt Associates – A Closer Look at the Stewardship Principle

Design at Schmidt Associates flows passionately and intentionally out of our Core Principles of Design. We covered the strategic principal in our previous post of the series.

The second of these principles is Stewardship. Design solutions respond to this principle through their functional usability and the way in which people are able to flexibly activate their spaces, serving their needs now and in the long run. Effective design solutions are developed to provide the client long-term value. These solutions must be affordable: maintaining usability, sustainability, and energy efficiency.

Questions to consider include:

  • What are the functional requirements of each space, and how can we create more value and effectiveness through adjacencies, dual use, or access?
  • Is there flexibility that we can build into a space that will enhance its value and purpose for the users?
  • What sustainable features and energy efficiency measures are most appropriate given the budget, the context, and orientation? What are the owner’s and user’s desires and abilities to manage them?

How well the built solution responds to these questions will greatly determine its success as the most effective solution and appropriate value for a given owner/user group.

Buildings are a substantial investment for a client. Designing for sustainability protects that investment.

We will cover “Integrity” in our next series.

Making Magic – Approaching Conceptual Design

Many people seem to think there is some sort of magic that happens when architects develop early project design concepts. It’s a big part of the fun; the first steps in connecting the client to their dreams. Not that it’s a simple exercise, but it actually involves many of the same replicable steps each time.

  • Understand the client’s needs and wants, as well as the real problems and opportunities that need to be explored.
  • Understand the building program elements – the what and how much.
  • Finally, understand the context.  Not just the physical site or location for the proposed project, but a clarity of what will give the project substance and delight for a given client.


The first two steps are ones that you likely knew or could guess. But the last one is what will provide a solution which will transcend an Owner’s expectations, making it even more special than they imagined by giving it a meaning unique to them and their specific opportunity. That’s the magical part of the equation. It’s not something to be calculated, but rather it is experienced. These are tangible outcomes of seeking the less tangible understanding of what the building really means for a given Owner, not just what it needs to do for them.

The Johnson Center for Fine Arts at Franklin College offered an outstanding opportunity for a special project, especially with its prominent location along an external campus edge and an internal campus pedestrian mall. Paying attention to these contextual situations to make it work effectively with the site, but paying attention to its purpose will lead to taking advantage of unexpected opportunities that will make it special for all who experience the building.

Art infuses this building, finding its way into planned niches and surprise locations around the building and the exterior plaza. The pyramidal skylights which top the atrium gallery were equipped with hanging points to allow sculpture to float above the atrium floor. Even the donor plaque became an artistic expression in curved dichroic glass, etched and backlit in the central rotunda.

Ultimately, a building and it’s spaces are most successful if they make the users smile while allowing them to do what they need to do more effectively and efficiently. That’s the magic we work to bring to each project.

Elevate Your Expectations for Downtown Development, Part IV

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

Face up to the fact that urban dwellers may not have cars, which means we’ll need more forms of public transportation.

Yes, the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare is great. And huge public transportation projects between the suburbs, downtown and the airport are on the drawing boards. Urban dwellers need additional simple solutions.

Before choosing a place to live downtown, a professional has already figured out how long it will take to walk, bike, or bus to work. They (and retirees who opt for walkable downtown living) have already scoped out restaurants, bars, a gym, and a grocery.

One day they will need to make a major shopping trip, see their doctor, take their dog to the vet, attend an event that’s too far to walk, or visit grandma for Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe they walk to work, but their spouse can’t. What then?

Good news

  • Options have improved in recent years. We already have taxis, Uber and rental cars that deliver. Lyft ride share can get you to Castleton for $27 or the airport for $26. Rent-by-the hour Zipcars can be found here for about $7 an hour plus a membership fee, but we need more of them to make them a true convenience. (If the costs seem high, remember how much YOU’RE paying for car payments, insurance, fuel, repairs, and parking.) BlueIndy electric car rentals will be here later this summer.
  • Megabus can take you from city to city, and are within walking distance for most downtown residents.
  • IndyGo’s new Downtown Transit Center, scheduled to open late this year, should make transportation around the city easier and more pleasant.


Here’s more we could add to elevate expectations:

  • A simple system of shuttles to take people from one part of downtown to another. It’s a relatively low-cost solution that Indianapolis has implemented off and on. Let’s make it reliable and easy for everyone.
  • Trolleys. We’ve tried them before, but we may have the population density now to support them. Besides, it’s just fun to ride a trolley.
  • Do something bold and make it permissible for people to hail a cab. A no-cost solution.
  • Create more covered and pleasant bus shelters. We have some; we need more.
  • More Segways. Segways are available downtown – but for organized tours that originate in White River State Park. That works for tourists, but what if Segways were available for spur-of-the moment rentals in convenient places for downtown residents? We could make pick-up and drop-off sites adjacent to the Pacers Bikeshare locations and repurpose old phone booths as Segway vending machines!
  • Make transit planning an essential element of big events. Remember the radio ads for bus service to the Indy 500? Public transportation is a welcome solution when it’s well planned and communicated effectively. (Of course the Indy 500 service usually required you to drive somewhere to catch the bus, so we have to get past that.) What if we had “Blue” shuttles to take Colts fans from restaurants and bars to the game, easing the congestion around the stadium as St. Louis does in its entertainment district? And what if that ride was fun?
  • If we had unlimited money… What about more trains? More elevated monorails? An airport tram? A combination of busses and underground trains like Seattle? An “L” system like Chicago?
  • Driverless cars. OK, I know that sounds futuristic. But they’re coming sooner than we think — and it’s going to change everything. When they arrive, you’ll know I’m a genius for being among the first to tell you!


To read my IBJ column, click here.

What Makes a Hotel Easily Accessible?

There are plenty of rules and guidelines when it comes to designing accessible spaces—but there are things that still do not make it EASY for people to use.

When working with The Arc of Indiana to design their new Training Institute and Teaching Hotel, we had the opportunity to sit down with a group from the Self Advocates of Indiana. We learned from them what it is like to experience life when you walk with a chair. Their insights were invaluable and helped shape many of the design features in the hotel. Some of those include:

  • Wider doors to accessible rooms with actuators – Have you ever tried to carry your luggage, while trying to finagle your key card, and open your door? Sure, we all have. But have you ever tried to do that in a wheelchair? In order to make room access easier for guests, all accessible guest rooms will have wider entry doors for maneuverability and actuators to automatically open the door.
  • Three areas of the room with a full turning radius – Accessible rooms are set up for an individual to turn around. When you have more than one individual walking with a chair, space to maneuver quickly becomes very tight.
  • Mirrored accessible rooms providing restroom fixture controls on either side – Since most hotel rooms’ stack, there is a good chance all accessible rooms are replicas of each other. This can be a huge problem since there are some disabilities that effect one side of the body and not the other. If you have a room where the controls for your shower are on the wrong side, there is no way to reach them.
  • Windows located next to Areas of Refuge in the stairwells – In the case of an emergency, people with mobility issues will be able to see what is going on while waiting for evacuation help.
  • Grassy areas to accommodate companion dogs – Located in a downtown setting, an area for dogs can be difficult to come by. Space has been maintained just outside the side door.


Overall, designing a hotel has many components. When thinking of a hotel featured to accommodate persons with disabilities, you have to think outside the box. The lessons learned above should be applied to all hotels for increased mobility, not just The Arc of Indiana’s new Training Institute and Teaching Hotel.

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.

How to "Right Size" Your School

Has your school or district experienced influxes or decreases in student population due to shifting enrollment patterns or unanticipated variables that impacted your demographic projections? Having too few (or too many) students in a building affects space utilization, staffing, and operating costs.

Typically, the capacity of a school is determined by the number of classrooms available. This is combined with a loading factor that establishes the ideal number of students per classroom—the resulting number is the “functional capacity” of the building. This technique is most effective for traditional elementary schools where students are “parked” in a classroom for the day and all subjects are delivered in one setting.

However, this is no longer a typical educational model for most elementary schools—and certainly not for middle and high schools. Student-centered, interactive, and exploratory lab settings, combined with small- and large-group activity areas, have changed the traditional concept of classrooms lined up in a row along a hallway.

In a typical elementary school, the total area of classrooms represents only about 30% of the total school. In a typical high school, the percentage of the area devoted to classrooms drops to about 25%. The balance is devoted to the cafeteria; support and specialized areas; restrooms; gymnasiums; hallways; and space for the mechanical, electrical and technology systems. Merely counting classrooms to determine potential capacity is short-sighted by as much as 75%.

State and national trends in educational facility utilization ratios suggest the following.

Utilization Ratios

These recommendations change slightly if your enrollment is higher or lower than these typical ranges.

A basic assessment of utilization and capacity divides the student count by the gross square footage. If the resulting number is within one of the ranges suggested above, utilization and capacity are probably balanced. If the number falls below the ideal range, the facility is probably crowded. If the number is higher than the ideal range, the building probably has room to absorb additional capacity.

Sample High School Programs

Schmidt Associates has developed a more sophisticated mathematical model to capture the ideal space needs for an educational facility. Our mathematical model is based on the number of students enrolled in each subject or grade level, combined with the actual programs offered or anticipated. The model factors in appropriate cafeteria size, the number of plumbing fixtures and resulting area for restrooms, as well as the approximate floor space for mechanical and electrical systems.

This model allows us to explore the effect of variations in student loading to assess whether an existing facility has capacity to absorb students, or, if there is a shortfall of space, where that shortfall is located.

We often find that even when sufficient classrooms are available, lack of space in the cafeteria, for example, requires additional or shortened lunch periods, has an impact on class scheduling. In the example below, the projected space required for the anticipated population is almost twice as large as the actual area available.

Twice the Size

The result impacts the number of students who can be scheduled in classes around lunch, ultimately limiting the overall population of the facility.

The same tool is an excellent resource to “re-purpose” underutilized areas of a facility to boost capacity, improve utilization and operate more efficiently.

Patience is a Virtue – A New Academic Facility for Ivy Tech Anderson

North Exterior Ivy Tech Anderson has a defined mission to accommodate unprecedented growth over the past decade. As such, they were committed to constructing a new building to provide much needed academic space to continue the commitment to change lives in Indiana through education and workforce development.  This building will provide additional academic space for the Anderson community to help support the rapidly-growing student population that has increased at unprecedented rates.South Exterior

Schmidt Associates began working with Ivy Tech with master planning efforts for a new regional campus for the Anderson area back in 2008.  A new 85,000 SF Academic Building was envisioned to include new classrooms, collaboration space, labs, faculty offices, student commons, student services, library, bookstore, and academic support centers.  The site needed to accommodate parking for approximately 520 vehicles with  expansion area for an additional 250 cars in the future.  Master planning of the site includes a Phase 2 future addition that would include a conference center, as well as additional classrooms and labs.Collaboration Zone

The community and university was extremely excited.   However, In 2009, the project was placed on the shelf until state funding was approved.  The University had to be extremely patient while waiting on the unknown timing of state funding approval.  Many university short-term plans had to be adjusted and placed on hold.  However, In July of 2013 design efforts were commissioned to continue as state funding had just been approved.  Although some faces and program needs may have changed over time, the fundamental core needs remained unchanged.

Schmidt Associates quickly re-visited the original design with key university and community personnel with the common goal of getting the first shovel in the ground by spring of 2014.  This meant an aggressive design schedule and many decisions needed to be finalized quickly.  The project ultimately received bids in December 2013.  The bids were very well received and the Owner was able to accepts all alternates—and then some.  Although the original design process began back in 2008, the new facility is scheduled to open fall of 2015.Student Commons