Category Archives: Project Spotlight

Oh What a Difference We Can Make

Deb France

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, students returned to Reynolds High School in Portland, Oregon after the summer break. Media were gathered at the curb and security officers were poised to guide the parents, students, faculty and community members on a guided tour of the gym. This was only 47 days following a tragic shooting in the locker room where freshman Emilio Hoffman was shot and killed by a fellow student, and a teacher was injured before the shooter took his own life.

“The space has been transformed,” says Superintendent Linda Florence. “Remodeling the building plays a key role in helping students feel safe again.”


Reynolds High School students excitedly gathered around a new video wall during the opening of the renovated gym lobby.

My firm, Oh planning+design, architecture, was working with the school district on summer projects that included a renovation of the locker rooms where the shooting occurred. I received the call after the June 10 tragedy that the gym lobby was damaged from the shooting and needed to be included in the design. The construction crews were already prepared to start work on the locker rooms, with only 46 days remaining until the new school year began.

There was no doubt that we had to renovate the lobby area, but time was going to be tight!  Design plans needed to be drawn, knowing that accessing available building materials within such a short timeline would be difficult. This had to be a project that represented the entire building community. If we approached all the needed improvements in a unified way, we could do more. The lobby transformation could only be completed if the materials were selected from overstock and readily available products.

We wanted to provide a sense of renewal, safety and hope to the students when they returned, so I made it my mission to personally reach out to the materials suppliers and ask them for whatever they could offer, including donations. The response was immediate and overwhelming. The outpouring of help was very touching and really sent a strong message of unity and support to the school, students and families. Each community member has a role in forming a safe environment for learning.

The project architect, Jackie Gilles, and the team at Oh planning+design, architecture, as well as contractors from Centrix Construction, worked long days and weekends to build the expanded design and install the donated materials. It was incredible to see how the design and construction team pulled together to make this project happen at lightening speed.

One of the first companies to respond was Interface. Interface was a natural fit for this project because of their support of the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools and their shared commitment to provide safe and healthy learning environments through the Green Apple Day of Service. When they received the call to participate, they did not hesitate even for a moment. Interface donated 1000 square feet of the entry walk-off carpet for the two main entrance doors.


All of the building materials were wholly or partially donated, including the Interface carpet tile for the lobby entry-way.

Thanks to Interface and other manufacturers, no part of the gym lobby was left untouched. All materials were wholly or partially donated to make this a success. Other donations were received from Designtex, Pacific Window Tinting, 3M, JS Creative Arts, Viridian, 9Wood, Hunter Douglas, Beynon Sports, EB Bradley, Lumicor, Lewis Audio Video, Armstrong, Inpro, Miller Paint and Daltile.

The collaboration transformed not only the physical environment, but also the hearts of the students who attend Reynolds High.

Deb France is the founding principal at Oh planning+design, architecture in Portland, Oregon.

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New Direction. Fresh Start.

Jean Nayar

A new corporate headquarters facility serves as the foundation for a culture change that has driven Biogen into a new era of growth

When George Scangos took over as CEO of the biotech giant Biogen in 2010, he brought with him a bold new vision that laid the foundation for a new phase of explosive growth. “Coming into the company, he hoped not only to launch three to four new products over the next three years, but also to change and improve the culture of the company,” says Ed Dondero, director of real estate and planning for Biogen. “Among the steps he took to move the company into a dynamic time was to change the way our people work to reflect what he estimated us to become—a rapid-growth company.”

Unfortunately, the design of Biogen’s headquarters building in Weston, Massachusetts, contrasted with Scangos’ vision of how the company’s employees should most effectively work. So he undertook an effort to locate a new site and design a whole new headquarters facility that would take the company into a new era. And the new 507,000 square-foot, multi-structure headquarters and R&D facilities completed last fall have been instrumental in driving the culture change that is taking Biogen to a higher level of productivity and growth. “His idea for changing the culture turned out to be spot on,” says Dondero.


Biogen Research & Development designed by NELSON. Photography by Halkin Mason Photography.

Designed by the Boston office of the global firm NELSON, the new headquarters facility promises to provide Biogen the flexibility it needs to readily adapt and change as it continues to evolve. It also facilitates the collaborative, top-down/bottom-up approach to working that Scangos envisioned. Yet, its success, says the facility’s lead designer, Micheal Bourque, can ultimately be attributed to the interactive approach through which it was developed. “Ed Dondero initiated a pilot project to test some of our concepts, and we learned that we got a lot wrong,” says Bourque. “It wasn’t an inclusive process for the employees, and it turned out that the layout and major circulation ideas didn’t work for them and that going completely to a desking system was too radical for the Biogen culture.” So they teamed with ARC, a change management division of Steelcase, and undertook in-depth interviews through all levels of the company along with an employee town hall session that enabled employees to participate in the development of the design. “The process became educational for the employees and with the feedback we received on concepts developed through the interactive design process, we were able to move forward full steam ahead,” says Bourque.


Biogen Research & Development designed by NELSON. Photography by Halkin Mason Photography.

Ultimately, the new headquarters spaces are divvied up between two new facilities—a 200,000 square-foot research and development facility and a 307,000 square-foot office space for general administrative functions, such as human resources, legal, finance, and IT. These are situated in an urban campus context in downtown Cambridge and adjoin two historic buildings that are also part of the headquarters complex and house a community lab and training center. The end results for the new buildings are open-plan office spaces with plenty of natural light for everyone, including the CEO. “We thought we might have 20 percent enclosed space, but instead we wound up with completely open work areas with gestures of boundaries,” says Bourque.

The workspaces are defined with a desking system that was customized for a measure of privacy with 42” high panels. “A modified, more open panel system was definitely preferred,” says Bourque. As a trade-off for so much open space, the designers developed plentiful huddle rooms, a collection of enclosed spaces with as many seats as there are desk seats. “These are unscheduled two- to six-person nooks or team rooms that people can duck into for impromptu meetings,” says Bourque. Each building also contains different shared elements, such as a cafeteria, daycare space, and fitness center, which draw employees housed in one facility to the other and keep people interacting.


Biogen Research & Development designed by NELSON. Photography by Halkin Mason Photography.

In higher density open spaces, incorporating elements that can absorb sound are critical to maintaining a viable acoustic environment for working. Among the elements that support proper acoustics are a white noise system, fabric-covered panels, and carpet. The choice of carpet tiles from Interface was also critical in physically defining work zones and enabling the space to be adaptable. “Because the space needed to be flexible, we opted to install a 4” raised floor with electrical and data systems running beneath it,” says Bourque. “This allows changes to be made overnight and steered us toward selecting the carpet tile, which is equally flexible, as flooring.”

Even the color scheme of bright blues, greens, and reds, which is evident on walls and many of the carpet tiles, reflects a new kind of energy that now brims throughout the office spaces. The variegated carpet tiles also enabled the designers to flexibly define ever-changing work areas with minimal expense and fuss. “In addition to the huddle rooms, we created what we call ‘cloud areas’ that are easy-to-assemble and easy-to-move 10’x20’ or 20’x20’ enclosed rooms. A concentration of carpet tile in a single color gives employees a cue as to where these spaces are located,” says Bourque. “The fact that the carpets are sustainably manufactured is a bonus,” adds Dondero.


Biogen Research & Development designed by NELSON. Photography by Halkin Mason Photography.

So what is the upshot of the inclusive design process in the new headquarters of the second largest biotech company in the world? One measure of its success, says Bourque, is that decisions are being more efficiently made in an unscheduled manner, which was reported to the design team in an informal post-occupancy survey and corroborated by the fewer documented bookings of the large conference rooms. Another is the positive reception of the space by employees, says Dondero. “At the start of the process we ran a survey and found that only 10 percent of the employees were in favor of a more open-plan concept,” he says, “after 90 days of occupation, 92 percent were either neutral or favorable toward the new space.”

With such a dramatic culture change, it may come as little surprise that the company is now also experiencing the unprecedented growth its new CEO envisioned.

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On Top of Their Game

Jean Nayar

Re:Vision designs a new state-of-the-art headquarters facility for real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle that reflects best practices in commercial design across the board.

If there’s anyone who can truly appreciate the value of well-developed property it’s a real estate professional. So when the powerhouse global real estate advisory and investment management firm Jones Lang LaSalle prepared to relocate its Philadelphia headquarters recently, it was very clear about its requirements—and its intentions to demonstrate to its clients a workspace that would be well ahead of the curve in every way. After interviewing a group of design firms to create its new space, the company’s management honed in on Philadelphia-based Re:Vision Architecture for their ability to think outside the box.

“We were an unconventional choice for JLL because we’re a niche firm that focuses on sustainable design,” says Drew Lavine, Re:Vision’s lead architect on the project. “But they wanted something different and we demonstrated a real commitment to innovation.” JLL’s primary aim was to develop a state-of-the art regional hub that would serve as a functioning example to its clients of innovative practices in tenant fit-outs. “They wanted a space that would reflect their culture and their collaborative work approach,” explains Lavine. “And they also wanted a sustainable design that would meet LEED Platinum standards.”

At the outset of the project, Re:Vision facilitated collaborative programming sessions with JLL to define and develop consensus-based space needs. With a clear sense of its organizational foundation, the architects worked with the client to assess a series of premier locations in the Philadelphia central business district, doing qualitative and comparative analyses of base building systems and amenities as well as space conditions such as views, light, and orientation. They also worked out test fits of the program to the actual spaces for layout efficiency and design concepts, which ultimately led to the selection of a 10,000-sq. ft. space for 40 employees in a Class-A office tower at 1650 Arch Street.


Innovation was a key concept driving the design. “The client really wanted to express a sense of the firm’s vitality, not through excess, which is more common in real estate, but through innovation,” says Lavine. “So we emphasized innovation throughout in our space planning, in our integration of technology, and in our sustainable approach to design from day one.” Like any good real estate professional, JLL is particularly focused on the needs of its clients, who are involved with both commercial office space as well and industrial real estate. “JLL isn’t just brokering deals, it also serves as owner’s representative through design and construction and leasing and property management, too,” says Lavine. To visually inspire both groups of clients on first impression with their design, the architects challenged the spatial and material conventions of Class-A office space by exposing and polishing structural concrete floors, detaching ceilings and exposing deep steel beams, creating freestanding, transparent rooms in large open spaces, and defining public and work spaces with industrial materials, such as plywood and blackened steel.

To address the company’s collaborative approach to working, the architects developed a dynamic workplace organized around “neighborhoods,” which include a mix of structured and informal meeting spaces to accommodate different modes of collaboration. “As they move further away from paper-based working, their work style has become more akin to working in a café than in an office and flexibility was key to the design to accommodate future growth,” says Lavine. Among the different meeting areas anchoring the two ends of the office are a state-of-the art conference room designed for global teleconferencing and an informal café that functions as the multi-use heart of the office. Small zones with lounge seating offer additional relaxed areas for small group interaction. From a planning vantage point, JLL chose to move toward fewer assigned workspaces and more workspace sharing options. Rows of desks in collective work areas were designed to accommodate more “densified” seating over time as the workforce grows. State-of-the-art AV and networking interfaces allow for a variety of collaborative interactions.

Setting the sustainability bar as high as possible, JLL and Re:Vision also aimed for LEED Platinum certification—and the project is the first to achieve it for Commercial Interiors in Center City Philadelphia.

Among the broad cross-section of sustainability strategies employed, the architects reduced built space by more than 20 percent than the original program and more than 30 percent than the original RFP. This unbuilt space translated to a significant reduction in environmental impact not just through the embodied energy involved for new construction but also through reduced energy use over time. Through smart design and fixture selection, they also created a base lighting system that is 23 percent more efficient than code minimums. Plus, advanced occupancy and daylight harvesting controls from Lutron bring this efficiency to more than 50 percent better than code. The architectural and furniture design allow access to daylight and views from every workstation and all collaboration spaces.

One hundred percent of JLL’s furniture from its previous office was diverted from landfills, either by reusing it in the new space or sending it to corporate storage for use in future offices, and more than 60 percent of construction and furniture material was manufactured regionally. The custom carpet tiles from Interface offer high design, low-cost, sustainable characteristics and adhesive-free installation using TacTiles®, which made them a top choice for the architects in the office and conference areas.

In sum, the new headquarters space of this dynamic international real estate firm deftly reflects its culture and supports its business, and also proves JLL’s commitment to walking the talk of well-developed, well-managed, and sustainably designed real estate.


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Functionality and Timeless Design: Presbyterian Senior Living

Meeting Expectations From the Floor Up

When Presbyterian Senior Living (PSL) decided to install Interface carpet tile in six of its many mid Atlantic locations, it was for two key reasons—functionality and timeless design. With the task of managing home-like living and resident care, PSL needed a flooring product that not only met various codes for senior living environments, but from a design perspective offered a wide selection of styles, patterns and colors  to allow each facility to have a distinct look and feel.

Ease of installation, selective replacement and maintenance also prompted them to use Interface carpet tile. And after working with their design firm and seeing much success with the new buildings, PSL decided to install Interface carpet in its renovation projects as well.

Less hospital, more hospitality

_98F7853With senior living facilities straddling the line between residential and healthcare, the flooring must exude a home-like, healing, hospitality aesthetic while also meeting functional needs. As an interior designer who has worked with Interface for 15 years, Adair E. Pagnotta, director of interior design at Noelker and Hull Associates, knew that Interface products would fit the bill. “We needed a timeless, hospitality design that would meet the owner’s overall goals and codes and represent Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County heritage,” she says. With a wide range of styles, patterns and colorways, Interface covered the floors of a number of new buildings across PSL’s campuses, including independent living, personal care, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, giving each its own distinct, yet cohesive, look.

Functional, flexible, and fresh

With faster installation and minimal downtime in occupied spaces, PSL’s renovation projects were much easier using Interface carpet tiles. According to Rodney L. Fenstermacher, Corporate Director of Construction and Environmental Services at Presbyterian Senior Living, since it didn’t disrupt the day’s activities, it was much more convenient for residents than other flooring alternatives. And when damage to the flooring occurred—as is expected in senior living spaces—Interface carpet tiles changed out with ease. Fenstermacher recalls when a medication permanently stained a floor; just the one tile was replaced without altering the look of the floor. He points to this flexibility as a critical advantage of using Interface modular carpet over broadloom.

Fenstermacher also appreciates that all Interface products include Intersept®, the proprietary antimicrobial preservative that protects the carpet against odor causing bacteria. “We have various events that involve liquid and keeping spills from settling to the lower surface is very important to us to prohibit mold and odor,” says Fenstermacher.

Lasting impressions

In addition to the aesthetic and performance advantages of Interface carpet tile, Interface also strives to offer a positive customer experience. Pagnotta attests to Interface’s exceptional customer service, saying that her Interface representative is “someone who cares about us as a firm and cares about our work with the customer. They take pride in what they do to ensure that not only as designers we are able to work with Interface, but there’s confidence garnered with the customer in the end,” she says.

But the real test was with the residents and staff. After conversations with residents, Pagnotta heard only positive feedback with the most resounding response being that it’s a “beautiful installation.” She says, “Some didn’t even realize it was carpet tile until someone told them.”

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Easy Maintenance Meets High Level Design

When the Hamilton City School District in Ohio commissioned Cincinnati-based SHP Leading Design to design eight new elementary schools, the objective was to make the schools more equitable across the district. The scope of the project, completed in 2010, included classrooms, extended learning areas, media centers, administrative offices, gyms, and cafeterias. While each school was to have a distinct, high level design aesthetic, ease of maintenance and sustainability rounded out the top criteria for the newly designed spaces. Interface carpet tile answered the call on all counts.

Distinct design, equal impact

To create a unique look and feel for each school, SHP devised two sets of themes. Four schools reflected the four seasons with a palette based on winter, spring, summer, and fall, and the other four schools were inspired by the elements (fire, water, earth, and wind). Using these themes to determine the colors and signage, SHP began with the floor. “We actually started with the Interface carpet tile as the foundation of the color scheme for the themes,” Malatesta says of how the interior design scheme evolved. “It was the spring board for the color theme for the rest of the materials. We were looking for a lot of blues, some neutrals, lime green – basically every color in the rainbow. We were also able to do some intense, larger scale patterns and provide more of an impact than what you would find in a typical school,” she asserts. “And the feedback from students, staff, and parents has been overwhelmingly positive.”


Easy to maintain, tough to stain

“The main thing we were looking for was a product that would be easy to maintain, [and] carpet tile allows easy replacement for any damage or soiling. So, that is what drove the idea behind the carpet tile,” explains SHP senior interior designer Carrie Malatesta. As such, Interface became the impetus for the entire design scheme with carpet tile being used in many spaces.

“I’ve had great results with the modular carpet,” says Dennis Haynes, custodian at RidgewayElementary School. “It’s easy to clean, and I’ve only had to replace one piece in about three years.

Throughout the facilities, SHP used a combination of Interface modular carpet with TacTiles® connectors glue-free installation system or spread adhesive, based on area of need. Not every classroom was carpeted, so in areas with VCT flooring, the designers created area rugs using TacTiles connectors to adhere the carpet tiles to each other.

Crissy Ponder, a custodian at Highland Elementary School, attests that Interface carpet tile definitely performs better than the old carpet. “It’s pretty hard to stain, and if needed, it changes out easily. We had to replace four tiles when someone welded an object and didn’t use a drop cloth. The selective replacement was great.”

Points for sustainability

Sustainability was an important part of the criteria in choosing a flooring solution for this large scale (90,500 square feet) project. Conscious that LEED Silver Certification was a requirement for all of these facilities, Interface carpet tile was a logical choice. “These schools are partially funded by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission, and all of those schools need to have LEED Silver certification. So we were definitely looking for materials and products [like Interface carpet tiles] that would contribute toward LEED certification,” says Malatesta.

Beyond the potential contribution to LEED credits, Interface carpet tile also offers the environmental benefits of a long, useful life. The high-performance flooring holds up well against the wear and tear of young students on a daily basis, and the option of selective replacement extends the life of the overall floor. To that end Malatesta says that she was in one of the Hamilton schools just months ago, and the Interface carpet tile looked like it had just been installed—three years after its actual installation.

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