Category Archives: Project Spotlight

Small Space, Big Impact

Kimberly Miller

Who said you can’t make a huge impact in a small space?

In downtown Akron, Ohio, “The Rubber Capitol of the World,” sits the former 1871 B.F. Goodrich complex and what is left of the once booming manufacturing facility. Within the remaining buildings is the headquarters of GPD Group, an interdisciplinary architecture and engineering firm that has called this historic complex home since 1988. Over the years, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to re-use and adapt our 90,000 square foot complex.

Design Scope

Our most recent opportunity was a small remodel of a 3,000-square foot space for our marketing department that supports our 12 offices nationwide.

Over time, we’ve established corporate design standards with a grey and purple color palette and angled walls for visual direction. These standards have proven very impactful for our associates and clients to know that they are in a GPD environment. And, this type of design is especially successful when we are occupying partial floors within a corporate building.

GPD Group

GPD Group designed a more open and creative environment for its marketing department while keeping in line with the company’s design standards and color palette of gray and purple.

For this project, our company President tasked us with addressing the needs of today’s work place and proposing a more open and creative environment. All while keeping in line with our design standards. As a designer on the GPD team, I had the opportunity to be a part of taking a dark, isolated space and transforming it to an open layout with multi-functional furniture and fresh finish choices for our associates.

Working within a small space

With such limited space, we wanted to change the perception our company had about the modern work environment. The design scope needed to address six key requirements: private offices, a conference room, work stations, a production area, a flexible team space and a kitchenette.

Getting to work

We started by eliminating walls within the space and constructing necessary walls out of glass to transfer the most natural light into the space, centralizing private offices in the corridor with glass fronts to create an open plan. The offices and individual work stations were smaller than typical GPD spaces, so we selected multifunctional fixtures and furniture to maximize storage and work surfaces.

 

GPD Group

Capturing natural light, framing pleasant views and specifying materials that are reminiscent of natural surfaces, like Interface’s Human Nature™ Skinny Planks™, were key parts of the vision of the space.

The large collaboration space has multiple seating options and large, moveable magnetic marker boards to encourage impromptu creative meetings. With so many functions required for each associate, we really focused on materials and furniture with multiple purposes. Our team looked to specify finishes and furniture separate from our national standards. This included open mobile and stationary workstations with plenty of work surfaces, as well as pieces with upholstered tops to function as seating and storage in one to allow for impromptu meetings.

“I saw a big difference between the meetings that we conducted in the conventional college classroom type space vs. the ‘collaborative space’ ….  People relaxed more, put down their guard and spoke more freely.” –Darrin Kotecki, GPD Group President

Inspiring creativity

We were inspired by how ideas flow more freely in an open space and how our minds and bodies respond to being in or around nature. Capturing natural light, framing pleasant views and specifying materials that are reminiscent of natural surfaces were key parts of our vision of the space. We incorporated research in key areas of ergonomics, biophilia and office well-being for our associates. This combines to create an open culture for the associates’ creative growth within their personal work and with others.

 

GPD Group

Before and after: The combinations of updated finishes and furniture helped to show the GPD Group associates, their executive board and their clients how to create healthy and functional work spaces.

Almost every surface, whether horizontal or vertical, can be utilized for individual or group work, to pin up sketches, draw concepts and discuss designs. We equipped workstations with the most ergonomic sit-to-stand desks, monitor arms, task lighting and task chairs.

Private offices utilized every surface to be the most efficient and flexible space for the individual. The private office furniture systems took advantage of every vertical and horizontal surface to create ultra-efficient offices. And, the moveable wall system created better use of space through easy reconfiguration.

Results

Within the first few months, the associates noticed a complete 180-degree experience from their past offices and workstations.

The initial thoughts were that it would be too open to complete tasks that need your full attention while others were meeting. Or that the space had too much glass and would cause distractions and not enough privacy when needed. One associate felt that there was too much natural light and it would cause work issues with the technology.

 

GPD Group

Floor plan of the GPD Group remodel project for its 3,000 square foot marketing department

Most, if not all, of these concerns never came to fruition after months of being in the space. In fact, the energy in the space is greater and more open to all the new creative ideas we were designing for.

 “It is easier to approach colleagues because you can see and hear them from your own seat. There are more collaborative spaces, so it’s easy to gather and discuss things on a whim.” Maria Krause, Marketing Coordinator

Key takeaways from this project

Each piece of the design had a large part in how we could provide the most functional and inspiring space possible. Using well-designed products and materials took the interior to an inspiring level. The combinations of updated finishes and furniture helped to show our associates, the executive board and our clients how we can create healthy and functional work spaces.

The team was able to incorporate the needs of the marketing department by meeting all of their requirements, which has led to a new and improved working environment and demeanor. The marketing space – though different in detail from other GPD spaces – can easily be identified through use of similar colors, angles and design details. All the standards exist in the new space, but they have been updated to reflect a more contemporary and open office.

“We are rocking!  It is way better to be creative in an environment that supports creativity and allows us to produce some great work.” Mike Morrison, Director of Marketing

The project was such a success that many of these features will be implemented into remodels in our other offices nationwide. And, while it was an upgrade in our Akron marketing office, it is now a showcase for potential clients.

Posted in Category Biophilic Design, Design Inspirations, Project Spotlight | 1 Comment

The Bullitt Center: Raising the Bar with the Living Building Challenge

Jean Nayar

Known for his high risk efforts in advancing an eco-friendly mission for decades, Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, has fueled the ever-growing environmental movement in America since he organized the first Earth Day in conjunction with then-Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970.

Thanks to his efforts as a leader on environmental issues, sustainable strides in this country have been taken on multiple fronts. And Hayes’ most recent bet on creating the first significant net positive energy office building paid off. On April 1, 2015 the Bullitt Center became the first office building to earn Living Building certification.

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The 52,000 square-foot, six story Bullitt Center stands as a shining example of the accomplishments Hayes and the Foundation have achieved in their quest to remain at the forefront of the sustainability movement. Photograph ©Nic Lehoux

The Bullitt Center

Hayes opted to develop the building after searching to no avail in Seattle for environmentally sensitive office space that would meet his criteria. “We were looking for offices that reflected our values,” says Hayes, adding that “our focus is on human ecology with an emphasis on how we can design built environments that are proper, healthy habitats for our species.” Once the head of the Solar Energy Research Institute during the Carter Administration, Hayes continues to advance environmental initiatives supported by the Bullitt Foundation, which offers grants to organizations working on environmental projects in the Pacific Northwest. The 52,000 square-foot, six story Bullitt Center, which is owned by the Bullitt Foundation, stands as a shining example of the accomplishments he and the Foundation have achieved in their quest to remain at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

The Living Building Challenge

The structure was designed to achieve certification as a Living Building, which is significantly more ambitious than LEED Platinum certification. To meet it, a building must generate as much energy as it uses each year and use rainwater for all purposes, including drinking. It must also meet lofty standards for eco-friendly materials and indoor air quality.

Located on a site that was a forest filled with Douglas fir trees before European settlement, the building was designed by the Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership to function as a tree would. “Not only does it provide shelter and sustenance for its users, like a tree would for deer, elk, birds, and squirrels, it also produces its own energy from the sun and rain, it doesn’t produce toxins, and it recycles its waste as nutrients.”

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The Bullitt Center was designed by the Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership to function as a tree would. Photograph ©Nic Lehoux

A building for all

Since the Bullitt Foundation operates with only seven employees and needed just 4,000 square feet for its own business, the building was designed to be leased out to additional tenants to make it commercially viable.

Among the numerous companies and organizations that have opted to occupy the building are the International Living Future Institute, founder of the Living Building Challenge, which defines the standards for Living Building certification, various small companies, and a substantial engineering firm, which completely tailored its business processes to drive down its energy demand by 82 percent with no loss in productivity or convenience. “We tell our tenants how many kilowatt hours of energy they’re allowed to use, and if they exceed it they pay a stiff penalty for high energy bills,” says Hayes.

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The Seattle office of the International Living Future Institute, founder of the Living Building Challenge, calls the Bullitt Center home. Photograph ©Benjamin Benschneider

Harnessing solar energy

The building relies on solar energy to meet its electricity needs, so educating tenants on ways to reduce consumption is necessary to keep the building’s energy use in check. Yet, since the building began operating about two years ago, its energy generating and energy conservation systems not only allow it to meet all of the energy needs of the Bullitt Foundation and other tenants in the building, but also enable it to produce more energy than it consumes, making it the first commercial office building of its size in the U.S. to operate as a net positive energy structure, generating 60 percent more energy than it used in 2014.

“The Energy Use Index (EUI) for an average office in Seattle is 95, under our new energy code the index will fall to the low 50s, for LEED Platinum buildings it reaches the low 30s, and for our building we aimed for 16,” says Hayes. “But it has exceeded our wildest hopes. Our EUI in 2014 was 9.4, making it by far the most efficient office building in America.” Its excess power is sold back into the electrical grid for use by others.

Creating an eco-friendly space

A few of the building’s other eco-friendly highlights include a robust rainwater collection and filtering system, onsite treatment of sewage, composting toilets, and project certification from the Forest Stewardship Council—the first office in the U.S. to achieve this status.

Red-List Materials

The building also excludes 362 “Red List” elements that are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or endocrine disrupting. Materials and furnishings devoid of “Red List” elements were also chosen by Robin Chell, principal of Seattle-based RCD, who worked with the Bullitt Foundation to design the interiors of its own offices. “Because we needed to avoid products that contained elements on the “Red List,” everything was rigorously scrutinized and had to be formaldehyde free,” explains Chell.

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A few of the building’s eco-friendly highlights include a robust rainwater collection and filtering system, onsite treatment of sewage and composting toilets. Photograph ©Benjamin Benschneider

Acoustic Performance

The Bullitt Foundation also needed soft furnishings that would serve as acoustical buffers in the space. So, in keeping with the notion of biomimicry, which guided the design of the building’s mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and lighting systems, Chell chose felt art works, wool-upholstered soft furnishings, and earth- and moss-inspired eco-friendly modular carpet from Interface’s Urban Retreat collection.

“We wanted to bring in colors of nature with finishes, art, and furnishings that were inviting, stimulating, and reflected their ethos,” Chell explains. “So we started with the carpet, which inspired the tones of the other elements. Aside from offering environmentally friendly products, Interface has an amazing array of design innovations that are almost always ahead of the curve,” Chell adds. Honored with IIDA’s People’s Choice award last year, Chell’s design is ultimately as eco-friendly as it is practical and appealing to the eye.

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In keeping with the notion of biomimicry, Robin Chell Design chose earth- and moss-inspired eco-friendly modular carpet from Interface’s Urban Retreat collection for the space occupied by the Foundation. Photograph ©Brent Smith Photography

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“We wanted to bring in colors of nature with finishes, art, and furnishings that were inviting, stimulating, and reflected their ethos,” Robin Chell explains. Photograph ©Brent Smith Photography

Tackling project challenges

Since Seattle’s climate is often cloudy and gray, creating a six story building that relies on solar energy to meet its power needs was risky. But Hayes was convinced that the potential return on the investment made taking the chance worthwhile. “Other buildings have been designed to meet these sustainable standards, but they are small—usually 2,000-6,000 square feet,” he says. “We wanted to dramatically increase the scale and felt it was doable. Even if we set out and failed, we thought it was still a heroic leap, so we decided why not aim for the moon and give it a shot? We wanted to be taken seriously not only by the academic community, but also by those who actually build.”

Judging by the number of tours (about six per week) that the Bullitt Center hosts in its building for developers, architects, and facility managers, Hayes appears to have succeeded in capturing their attention. And if the building achieves Living Building certification, which it hopes to do later this year, the building will no doubt generate even more interest.

Posted in Category Biomimicry, Biophilia, Biophilic Design, Design Inspirations, Project Spotlight, Sustainability | Leave a comment

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.”

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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.

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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.

Posted in Category Culture & Play, Project Spotlight | 1 Comment

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.

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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

Interface

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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