Posts

A Perspective on Pools

At Schmidt Associates, we know pools are community assets—no matter their location. Today’s generation is able to experience pools built for specific purposes to maximize the experience and benefit. There are four basic categories of pools: competition and diving, instructional, recreational, and therapy pools.

  1. Competition and diving pools are designed and constructed to meet strict state and national guidelines that regulate the length of swimming lanes, the depth of the water, the height of the diving boards and starting blocks, the illumination levels, the air quality, and the temperature and chemical composition of the water. Competition pool and diving pools are either in the same pool tank with different depths of water, or as separate tanks in the same facility.
  2. Instructional pools are usually part of an overall aquatics program that feeds into a competition swimming program. This type of pool can be adapted from a competition pool to maximize investment. Typically, a “shallow” entry point to accommodate instruction can be located in the middle of the pool. Depths associated with racing dives from the “ends” of the competition pool are suggested at seven feet. If there is sufficient room around the pool, there could also be an adjacent entry pool that is outside of the defined swimming lanes.

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    Munster High School Competitive and Instructional Pool

  3. Recreational pools place the emphasis on “fun”. In these facilities, competition components are not primary functions. Though some may have lap pool components—water slides, spray features, and lazy rivers are the primary features. Also different from competition and instructional facilities, recreational pools are warmer environments. A higher rate of water filtration and air circulation are also found in recreational pools.
  4. Therapy pools have very specific applications for physical or occupational therapies. Assisted access and water jets are key components, as well as in-pool windows for observation. This allows therapists standing outside of the pool to monitor patients as necessary. Water temperatures are usually the highest in these types of facilities.

Any of these pool types could be indoor or outdoor—but in Indiana’s climate, an indoor facility is the only year-round option. Schmidt Associates delivers responsive, aquatic environments to meet the most demanding aquatic challenges—no matter the type of pool. From the fastest, smoothest, most competitive water, to the relaxing swish of a lazy river, Schmidt Associates has 40 years of experience in exceeding expectations, creating environments to break records and stretch smiles, and providing the backgrounds for the memories that last a lifetime.


Take a look at all of our aquatics experience:

 

 

 

Assessment-Based Insights

Building Quality Depends On Decision Quality.

And Quality Decisions Need Rock Solid Foundations.

In times of budget pressure, every capital project in every school has to make the best possible sense for all stakeholders. Our assessment-based approach provides a trustworthy and transparent foundation for key decisions.

Every Decision Rationale Needs To Be Rational

It goes without saying that every administrator, every educator, and every parent wants the very best for every aspect of their students’ learning journey. Yet it rarely needs to be pointed out that there is huge pressure on financial resources too. Reconciling the ideal with the feasible is both an art and a science. With Schmidt Associates’ process, the science is present and proven. We don’t deal in approximations. We do apply a method of analyzing a situation that, while recognizing fully the emotional investment involved, also addresses the bottom line.

Our Conditional Facility Assessment takes an expert and structured look at all the school structures and other physical issues involved in a potential project. Our in-house specialists assess the key categories of site conditions, building shell, building interior, and equipment and environmental conditions. We carefully and objectively score conditions and performance against a five-point scale and allocate a suitability rating to the individual components of the school’s built estate. We then calculate a dollar projection for the costs associated with bringing each component up to optimum standards.

When Everything Is A Priority, It’s Crucial To Understand Real Urgency

Schmidt Associates’ assessment-based insights replace speculation with the accurate information that administrators and educators need to take rational, high-quality decisions. This information can help optimize decisions around whether to renovate or to rebuild, which projects to prioritize and which can safely remain on the back burner for a while.

A solidly rational rationale for decisions proves time and again to be a significant advantage when presenting final proposals to key stakeholders and the community. This advantage is carried out by the number of our assessment-informed projects that have been successful at referendum.

 

 

Components of a Facility Assessment

As a school corporation determines the future of its buildings, it must look at both the physical conditions of the existing buildings and systems, as well as their capacity to serve the needs of the educational programs. Step one is a Facility Assessment to develop priorities for upgrading, repairing, or even replacing each building. The Facility Assessment has two components—an assessment of Educational Suitability and a Conditional Assessment.


The Educational Suitability assesses the spaces needed to meet the requirements of educational programs, such as classrooms, cafeterias, media centers, gymnasiums, etc.

The Conditional Assessment provides concrete and reliable data to enable achievement of educational goals and objectives. As conditions change, it is critical to apply the most current information to ongoing decision making.

Both the Conditional Assessment and Educational Suitability component require a team experienced in processing, evaluating, and developing environments to support education. The assessments must look at more than space considerations. A comprehensive Facility Assessment also will analyze access to technology to support creative exploration, as well as mechanical and electrical support systems that create efficient, effective, and comfortable learning environments.

 

 

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Q&A Session with Tom Neff

TomNeffJust sitting down for a friendly conversation with Tom Neff—Principal—you can understand why he leads our K-12 Studio. It’s always an interesting education and a fantastic conversation!

 

 

 


Tell me about your background
I grew up in Coshocton, Ohio, and attended The Ohio State University—one of the last Beaux Arts programs in the nation—for both my undergraduate and masters in Architecture. That lead me to teaching at the University of Notre Dame (also a Beaux Arts program) and then into practicing Architecture.

Uhm, Tom … what is Beaux Arts?
It’s a very rich and lavish type of architecture. But at The Ohio State, it was a style of presentation as well. Everything was done in watercolors and freehand drawing. It is more of a classical design training process, emphasizing color theory too. All work had to be drawn and watercolored beautifully when we turned it in. Each student’s project was hung on the wall and we were asked to leave the room. At that point, the faculty would get up and throw the ugly ones on the floor. It really forced the students to take a lot of self-initiative to stay in the program.

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Painting in Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what inspires you?
My children and my wife. Each one is so talented and giving in their own way. I love watching them use their talents to achieve remarkable results and truly make a difference in this world.

As far as design, it needs to have a sense of meaning that reaches and pulls from the past, follows through to the present, and moves on to transform the future. A true piece of architecture is something you can always go back to, but understand something new each time. If you understand everything from the outset, then it is over. To me, there always needs to be something new to see and discover.

Tell me about your family.
I have been married to my beautiful wife, Marilyn, for 40 years. She is a speech pathologist who specializes in early intervention. The things she does to help families is absolutely incredible.

My son, Matthew, is married to Alison and they have a son, Yasir, 14. Alison had been working at a foster care agency with Yasir for several years. After his seventh foster home didn’t work out, Matthew and Alison knew he needed to join their family.

My son, James, is married to Susan, a childhood cancer survivor. As such, they are extremely active in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Together, they raised more than $100,000 for cancer research last year!

Maxx is my schnauzer mix—a pound puppy from Kokomo. We are so lucky. He is a great dog and loves to travel!

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What do you do in your free time?
Well, I am an avid swimmer. I aim to swim roughly 2000 yards a day. And as you might imagine, I enjoy painting, drawing, sketching, watercolors, etc. Oh yeah, and I love to cook crazy things! I think my favorites are out of Food and Wine magazine.

Do you have a favorite movie or type of music?
As an architect, I loved the movie Gladiator. The reconstruction of the Coliseum was unbelievable!

As far as music, I like it all—opera to jazz to Broadway to classic rock, country western. My playlist is a fusion of many different styles.

There is so much more to Tom than we have time to get into here—be it his travels, his love of wine, or his animated personality. If you are ever looking for a great conversation, give Tom a call!


Also learn about Sarah Hempstead, Tricia Smith, or Charlie Wilson

 

 

An Auditorium is an Auditorium, Right?

Planning for a new or renovated auditorium in your school is more complex than one may think. You must design for what audiences SEE, and for the parts they don’t see as well.

There are three main components to auditorium design projects:

 1. The Main Seating Area

  • Seating is based on approximately 18 s.f. per person.
  • The guideline of 18 s.f. per person allows for aisle ways, sound and light control areas, and entries that trap the light when late-comers arrive.
  • View angles are critical components of seating layouts; every seat should have a great one.
  • Acoustical control is a science, and the use of 3D computer models is essential to develop the optimum “sound environment”.

2. The Stage

  • The stage is sized to accommodate the largest group to be featured. How big is your biggest band? Do you anticipate a band and choir performing together? Allow for your largest group in the design instead of being sorry later!
  • Assume that the typical stage is 30-35 feet deep with a proscenium opening of 40-50 feet wide and up to 30 feet tall. The side stage should be at least half the size of the proscenium opening on each side.
  • Ideally, access to the stage is handicap accessible. You can accomplish that with side aprons on the same level as the “cross-aisle.”
  • Computer-controlled stage rigging and LED theatrical lighting have become standards in most performance venues.

3. Support Spaces

  • One of the most important support areas is the set construction area. This is a combination of storage, as well as space to build sets.
  • Don’t forget the dressing rooms.
  • Plan for a ticket booth, a “green room” that can double as rehearsal and instructional space, and a general storage area.

We’re also getting a number of requests from schools to design auditoriums that also have an adjacent small and flexible performance space—think “black box” theater or small recital hall for music or dance.

Pardon the pun, but a little “out of the box” thinking can be helpful, because auditoriums are a valuable asset for serving students—and for inviting families and community members in to have a pleasant experience at your school.

 

To get a quick snapshot of our Performing Arts experience, flip through our digital magazine

Safety & Security in School Planning

To K-12 student and parents, learning in a safe and secure environment is just as critical as the quality of education provided. Tom Neff, a Principal of the firm, put together a short white paper that covers the basic guidelines to design ‘safer’ schools according to Campus Safety Magazine, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Read it here:

 

 

Communities Build Schools

With Schmidt Associates’ 40th birthday just celebrated, we thought it would be interesting to explore some of the ways in which the challenges and expectations of our clients and their stakeholders have evolved over the last four decades. This month, we’re publishing four spots on what “40 years on” have meant for the team in our K-12 Studio.

In our fourth and final blog post on key issues in the world of K-12 and its evolving built environment, Tom Neff, a Principal of Schmidt Associates, takes a sideways look at the ways in which communities have come to play a major role shaping their schools and their evolution.


40 years ago, although the community may ultimately have funded the school, its role in and impact upon the look, feel, functions, and ethos of the premises was much more limited. And the notion of stakeholders – as opposed to “official” paid professionals acting on behalf of parents, students, and the community – was virtually non-existent. Four decades later, community power is prominent and the wishes of key stakeholders are at the forefront. What are the implications for the school design process and those who lead and guide it?

At Schmidt Associates, it would be very fair to say that the single most important piece of learning we have acquired in the K-12 Studio is this: if you want to create a school that truly functions as part of the fabric of the community, it is to the community that you must turn. It’s important however to point out exactly what this philosophy is not – as well as what it does represent. It is not a cop out. We are not neglecting our responsibility as professional designers and an expert resource. We don’t expect “do it yourself” from the community. What we do expect of ourselves is the ability to listen, hear, and capture the needs and the specific knowledge of a community, in ways that drive the foresight and insight on which we pride ourselves.

The “wisdom of crowds” has long been recognized for its power over and above the views of a narrow group. This wisdom is even more potent when the “crowd” concerned happens to be made up of expert witnesses and contributors drawn from the parents, friends, students, and communities for whom the school has special significance. Tapping into this wisdom brings enormous advantages, advantages that were very largely overlooked 40 years ago. The most important of these in our experience is relevance. No imposition from outside will ever have the same relevance, or will ever hit the mark as accurately, as a solution that contains the community’s own unique knowledge.

The next indispensable advantage is differentiation. If the people concerned are given a real say in the design outcome, it becomes virtually impossible, as well as undesirable, to give them a standard, “cookie cutter” response. They will recognize the approach that truly speaks to them and their needs. Equally, they will spot, and reject, the clone and the impostor. There are many more reasons for co-opting stakeholders than space allows us to explore here. But one of the most important must surely be enthusiasm. People who, rightly, believe that they have contributed to any endeavor are correspondingly more likely to get behind its current and future progress and welfare. You can sense this in the very vocabulary that people use. When “that school” becomes “our school”, warm feelings and a positive sense of ownership are assured.

Desirable as these feelings are however, they do not “just happen”. Over four decades, we have learned that the environment for gathering and capturing stakeholder input must be as carefully considered as the school environment itself. That’s why we have developed a number of communication forums and channels, from public meetings and project update blogs to detailed working sessions, where people can join our architects and designers to actually take part in the process of developing solutions through our room-by-room process. This is infinitely more than a public relations exercise. It identifies issues before construction starts, drives positivity and buy-in, and removes obstacles to progress that a less involved or more prescriptive approach could only magnify.

We are proud to reflect on four decades of successful service to the needs of the many K-12 school communities we have had the privilege to work with. It is no exaggeration or flattery to state that much of this success derives directly from the contributions of those communities to unique design solutions. And our experience has left no doubt in our minds that, just as schools build communities, we will see in the next 40 years that communities do indeed build schools.


Missed a blog in this series? No worries…

School’s Out for Summer?

With Schmidt Associates’ 40th birthday just celebrated, we thought it would be interesting to explore some of the ways in which the challenges and expectations of our clients and their stakeholders have evolved over the last four decades. This month, we’re publishing four spots on what “40 years on” have meant for the team in our K-12 Studio.

In the second of our blog posts on key issues in the world of K-12 and its evolving built environment, Tom Neff, a Principal of Schmidt Associates, takes a sideways look at what happens when “school’s not out for summer”.


Four years before Schmidt Associates was conceived, a young and shockingly exciting Alice Cooper sprang the anthemic School’s Out for Summer on an unexpecting world. That world was immediately split between those who disapproved (or had to look as if they disapproved) and those for whom there has never been, before or since, a more expressive celebration of the freedom and promise of the summer vacation.

Scroll forward 40 years and numerous cover versions – and the time when school had absolutely fixed periods of operation and could effectively close its doors for every vacation –  is in the rear view mirror. Today, communities demand flexibility of access and operational issues such as renovations and repairs need to be scheduled to “service the engines while the plane is flying”.

A combination of issues, from the needs of young people to access engaging and fulfilling activities during long holiday periods to a desire to reduce “knowledge loss” stemming from prolonged absence from the learning environment, means that school up-time requires more time than ever before. What are the implications for design and engineering professionals and their clients?

The short answer is that we have to become ever smarter in our approach to anything that might result in disrupted availability to even a small part of the school environment. Nor are our smarts restricted to the summer vacation. Year round and job by job, we now have to ask ourselves a series of routine questions that would probably not have occurred when Alice was first strutting his stuff. How can we achieve the most in the shortest possible time? How can we combine activities most effectively to minimize disruption and downtime and get every facility back in full usage as quickly as possible? How can we do the most with the least? (In terms of resources ranging from money to materials to manpower.)

The best answers derive from the most effective relationships between the general and the specific. At Schmidt Associates, our general K-12 philosophy is that most of the focus should be placed on areas where the real differences are made: positive interactions among and between students, teachers, and their environment. That means everything else in the school should be the servant of the purpose of the school. Infrastructure should work quickly, quietly, efficiently, and responsively. Physical facilities should enable educational purpose. However, we are also well aware that we need to be able to follow through with practical approaches. And that’s where the specific comes in.

Across 40 years of ever increasing expectations on infrastructure and resources, we have developed our own techniques to make us as responsive as possible to the K-12 needs. Without getting overly trapped in the detail, our essential approach is to treat each school as each school treats each student: as an individual. That means we don’t trade in generalities or thereabouts. We examine the detail, in detail. That involves spending time on the schools’ grounds. It means assessments that document with great precision what needs to be done today, what can be safely put off until tomorrow, and what can make the greatest long-term contribution to keeping the school up and running.

In the course of this process, we quickly discovered that two heads are better than one and one hundred are better than two. A school is a complex ecosystem of individual and linked sub-systems. So it pays to be able to draw on the skills of our own in-house architects, designers, engineers, and technology and specialist trade experts in one unified analysis of the situation. This way, we can come back with a remarkably accurate view of how to proceed.

The outputs can be as simple as avoiding ripping up fresh plaster this month to renewing decaying pipes that were overlooked last month. (Simple, yes, but how many school hours have been lost down the decades by precisely this kind of imperfect timing and avoidable disruption?) Or they can be transformational – the adoption of expertly specified infrastructure that transforms a previously uncomfortable or even unworkable school environment. In all cases however, across these 40 years, we are proud to have honed the skills that mean, the words of the immortal Alice Cooper don’t apply at any time of the year: school’s out for summer, school’s out for ever”? Not anymore.

K-12 And The “Space Race”

With Schmidt Associates’ 40th birthday just celebrated, we thought it would be interesting to explore some of the ways in which the challenges and expectations of our clients and their stakeholders have evolved over the last four decades. Over the next four weeks, we’re publishing four spots on what “40  years on” have meant for the team in our K-12 Studio.

In the first of our blog posts on key issues in the world of K-12 and its evolving built environment, Tom Neff, a Principal of Schmidt Associates, takes a sideways look at “the space race” that’s happening inside our schools.

Four decades ago, outer space was still capturing a great deal more of the public imagination than it seems to in the second decade of the twenty first century. That we had put men on the moon was both miraculous and an on-going source of national pride. Today, we are somewhat more inward looking in certain regards. Our fixation on the trackless wastes of outer space has shifted to a more earthbound preoccupation: making the most of the space within our immediate built environment.

And nowhere is this more pronounced than in our schools. Today, and likely even more so tomorrow, the “final frontier” for architects and their clients is an exploration of how we create flexible learning spaces that can accommodate ever-changing demands. And with the average supermarket-bought electronic calculator now packing more computing punch than the Apollo spacecraft, those demands are likely to become both more technology-focused and more challenging to interpret and satisfy.

Perhaps the biggest single change we have witnessed since Schmidt Associates was founded is the end of the “teacher at one end, students at the other” model of classroom layout. Knowledge is no longer exclusively “transmitted” while students sit in static blocks “on receive”. We now have more insights into how the best learning comes from co-creation of knowledge, with students exploring together and teachers taking a role that is far more like cross-pollination, as they pass through small working groups to offer encouragement and advice.

We now think in terms of “knowledge journeys” rather than a rigid progression through a fixed menu of robotic learning. And students are as likely to be making and doing as they are to be sitting. Even the blackboard, that some of the more senior among us may recall with varying degrees of fondness, has been completely reinterpreted for the information age. With IT now forming a part of basic literacy and life skills, learning spaces need to be wired for data and communications in ways that would likely leave those astronauts of 40 years ago dumbfounded.

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Western Boone Jr.-Sr. High School

So what are some of the key impacts this progression in learning has on the spaces where learning actually takes place? And on the people who design that space? The first point to acknowledge is that we’ve had to get a lot smarter. Designing rigid, rectangular boxes won’t cut it any more. We want to encourage and foster thinking and working outside of the box. We’re now thinking in terms of “innovation labs” where different activities can all be accommodated in a single physical area. We’re thinking about the challenges of accommodating as much individuality as possible, while accepting that a school is a community too and that the community has an important role to play. And we’re learning all the time from the people who are in the best position to teach us: students and their teachers.

What are some of the results of this remarkable process of evolution? The single most gratifying effect in our view is just how exciting and involving schools are becoming. All around Indiana today, you’ll find world-class school environments where the buildings are truly matching the imagination and natural innovation capabilities of their students. Organic, flowing layouts are replacing fixed and hierarchical structures. Students are as likely to find themselves in “pods” that correspond to their stage on their educational journey as they are to be working in old-fashioned grade classrooms. Spatial influences and relationships as diverse as the beehive and the Roman forum are informing the way we design the schools of today for tomorrow.

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Crestview Elementary – Media Center

Visit our most innovative schools and you’ll find an excitement within their spaces that’s as palpable as the thrill around the space races all those years ago. It all seems like a very long time since a “flexible space” meant pushing the tables and chairs to the side of a country classroom. Today, we’re pushing boundaries instead.

What are the Design Components for an Auditorium?

An auditorium is an auditorium, right? Actually, planning for a new or renovated auditorium in your school is more complex than that. You must design for what audiences SEE, and for the parts they don’t see as well.

There are three main components to auditorium design projects:

 1. The Main Seating Area

  • Seating is based on approximately 18 s.f. per person.
  • The guideline of 18 s.f. per person allows for aisle ways, sound and light control areas, and entries that trap the light when late-comers arrive.
  • View angles are critical components of seating layouts; every seat should have a great one.
  • Acoustical control is a science, and the use of 3D computer models is essential to develop the optimum “sound environment”.
Lake Central Auditorium

Lake Central High School

2. The Stage

  • The stage is sized to accommodate the largest group to be featured. How big is your biggest band? Do you anticipate a band and choir performing together? Allow for your largest group in the design instead of being sorry later!
  • Assume that the typical stage is 30-35 feet deep with a proscenium opening of 40-50 feet wide and up to 30 feet tall. The side stage should be at least half the size of the proscenium opening on each side.
  • Ideally, access to the stage is handicap accessible. You can accomplish that with side aprons on the same level as the “cross-aisle.”
  • Computer-controlled stage rigging and LED theatrical lighting have become standards in most performance venues.
LaPorte PAC

LaPorte High School – Performing Arts Center

3. Support Spaces

  • One of the most important support areas is the set construction area. This is a combination of storage, as well as space to build sets.
  • Don’t forget the dressing rooms.
  • Plan for a ticket booth, a “green room” that can double as rehearsal and instructional space, and a general storage area.

Warsaw Community High School

  • We’re also getting a number of requests from schools to design auditoriums that also have an adjacent small and flexible performance space—think “black box” theater or small recital hall for music or dance.

Lake Central High School

Pardon the pun, but a little “out of the box” thinking can be helpful, because auditoriums are a valuable asset for serving students—and for inviting families and community members in to have a pleasant experience at your school.