Category Archives: Project Spotlight

ANF Architects Creates Dynamic Workspace

Bill Ferguson

When Teacher Town Commons desired a dynamic, invigorating space for its new offices, they partnered with ANF Architects/Interior Design to convert two floors of a 1930’s narrow, concrete, column-filled freight warehouse into a modern workspace. A think tank and incubator for 15 to 25 small education-related nonprofit organizations, Teacher Town USA sought an energizing design to initiate person-to-person work relationships, new ideas and capacity-building collaborations to strengthen and grow the organizations.

Teacher Town conference room

The 4th floor boardroom contrasts Interface UR501 in Red with Walk The Plank in Hickory. Photo by Ken West

Challenges abounded at the onset of the remodel. The long and narrow floorplate filled with closely spaced columns created a confining grid; existing interior floor slabs were uneven and un-level; sounds bounced off every surface; and a series of 46’ by 158’ floors made the space feel close and restricting. ANF was poised to solve for each.

To break out the grid, the ANF team created a wide diagonal path starting at the front corner entrance stair and running across each floor to the opposite rear stair and elevator. This path reoriented the space while walls angled akimbo, furniture groupings and lighting reinforced a free-flowing layout, with conference and private collaboration spaces varying by floor.

Teacher Town office

The wide diagonal path was created with Interface Walk The Plank in Ash while the work area features color Hickory. Photo by Ken West

A top priority was pulling together occupants while enabling semiprivate and private workspaces. Materials and design accomplished this. Existing hard concrete, brick and glass surfaces were mitigated by carpet, ceiling panels and high-acoustic gypsum walls.

For acoustics and softness underfoot, the broad diagonal path was covered with Interface’s Walk The Plank™ carpet tiles in the Ash colorway, installed in one-third offset running brick bond, laid parallel with the centerline of the path. For the abutting open office and office areas, a slightly darker grey carpet tile was oriented sidewall to sidewall to visually widen the floor. Selected for this application was Walk The Plank in Hickory, installed in one-third offset running brick bond.

Bursts of accent colors on wall edges and furnishings identify individual groups and enliven and differentiate assorted areas, assisting with placemaking and wayfinding. Red, the primary accent color, is used in the flooring and runs up various walls. The right choice for this accent was Interface’s Urban Retreat™ (UR501™) in Red.

The modular carpet is complemented by hard floor surfaces specified in stained concrete that appear in the refresh bars, coffee room, elevator lobby, restrooms and service rooms. This decision helped the budget, and the industrial look worked with the exposed columns, piping, conduit, ducts, and old side windows.

Teacher Town common area

This common area on the main path is ready with creative tools. Shown with Interface Walk The Plank in Ash and Hickory. Photo by Ken West

Sustainable materials and methods were considered vital for the comfort, health, recruitment and retention of the 20- and 30-something occupants and their growing organizations. The 100% recycled content of Walk The Plank and Urban Retreat carpet tiles helped the design team achieve this goal. Also, the tiles were installed glue-free with Interface TacTiles®.

To benefit both Teacher Town USA and the building owner, ANF selected all finish materials including carpeting to be easily cleanable and durable. Interface modular carpet is tough, easily cleanable and protects against soil, stains and bacteria. In addition, the pattern is forgiving and it is carpet tile, so selective tiles are quickly replaceable.

As the most consistently seen surface, even in high-ceiling rooms, flooring sets the immediate tone that workspaces invoke in their occupants and guests. Its durability and maintainability affect the longer term tone of those spaces. This naturally affects the attitudes of people – in this case, at their workplace. ANF often turns to tiled flooring products because of their versatility. There are so many ways to install and mix them that the possibilities seem all but unlimited.

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Investing in the Future

Gayle Smallwood

Businesses need talented, skilled individuals, and graduates – high school or otherwise – need jobs. But how ready are they for the workforce?

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THINC College & Career Academy extends learning beyond the traditional classroom.

Recognizing the need for better prepared workers, Troup County’s Strategic Planning Group explored what other communities were doing for workforce development and discovered that the most successful had high school, college and career academies. Before moving forward with one here, they did a bit more homework and surveyed local businesses to learn more about their current workers and what their ideal workforce looked like. From that five educational pathways emerged – healthcare, engineering, mechatronics (highly skilled aspects of manufacturing), business & marketing, and energy. As Robby Burch, Interface’s Director of Customer Care and Treasurer for THINC Academy’s Board of Directors, puts it, “If the business community built a school, this is how they would do it.”

THINC Academy classroom

THINC Academy offers five educational pathways – healthcare, engineering, mechatronics , business & marketing, and energy.

Open to all Troup County high school students who are on track to graduate, kids spend half of their day at their base school and the other half at THINC pursuing their particular pathway. It allows the schools to offer equal opportunities for career education without the expense of a lab, classroom, materials and instructor at each school. In fact, unlike Georgia’s other college and career academies, THINC is funded outside of the Troup County school system. Space for the school was donated by West Georgia Technical College and nearly $10M was raised in both state grants and private funding from local businesses like Kia, which is providing $3M over a 5 year period. Furniture systems were donated by Bretford out of Chicago, IL, and of course, Interface carpeted the floors in a variety of styles and colors for a creative, energetic space.

THINC Academy classroom

Interface carpeted the floors in a variety of styles and colors for a creative, energetic space.

But what happens at THINC is unique as well. It’s all collaboration and hands-on learning through interactive projects. Robby explains, “They’re treated like adults and are expected to understand how to regulate what they’d like to do with what they’re expected to do. Thirty percent of their grade is based on “soft” skills – showing up on time, knowing how to collaborate, being respectful – skills that are needed to succeed in a business environment.”

THINC Academy public space

Interface is looking to THINC Academy students for employment and summer internship opportunities.

Ideally, students will engage with local businesses for real work experience and take advantage of dual enrollment opportunities with WGTC and graduate with both a high school diploma and a technical certification. Robby says that Interface is looking into what opportunities might be available here for high school students, as well as working with those who go on to college and bringing them back for summer internships. “We want to get in on the front end, so that we’re not taking what we can find, but getting what we need and want. It may take some companies a little longer to figure that out but we figured it out pretty quickly.”

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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. Re-using and adapting 90,000 square feet in the complex over the years for all of our many disciplines brought us new design opportunities.

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.

The latest opportunity was a small remodel of a 3,000-square foot space for our marketing department that supports our 12 offices nationwide. Established corporate design standards with a grey and purple color palette and the angled walls for visual direction are very impactful for our associates and clients to know that they are in a GPD environment. The design is especially successful when we are occupying partial floors within a corporate building. Being tasked by the President of the company to address the needs of today’s work place and propose a more open and creative environment while keeping in line with our design standards were key. 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.

“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

With the 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 teaming space and a kitchenette. 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 the private offices in the corridor with glass fronts to create the open plan. Offices and individual work stations are smaller than the typical GPD spaces, so multifunctional fixtures and furniture were selected to maximize storage and work surfaces. 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, which included open workstations with plenty of work surfaces and file cabinets, both mobile and stationary, have upholstered tops to function as seating and storage in one to allow for impromptu meetings.

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.

 “First thought, WOW, I can’t believe I get to work here! Feels like an upscale, modern office in a big city that you would see on TV.” Alexandria Reiter, Marketing Coordinator

We were inspired by how creative 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.

“… it holds all my things just great, and the space is so much more functional than my old office. It is a very efficient space!” Mike Morrison, Director of Marketing

Almost every surface, whether horizontal or vertical, can be utilized for individual or group work, to pin up sketches, draw concepts and discuss designs. The workstations are equipped with the most ergonomic sit-to-stand desks, monitor arms, task lighting and task chairs. Some furniture selections were mobile to be flexible for the individual throughout their work needs but also could hold a group in any work exercise with a few simple movements. Private offices utilize every surface to be the most efficient and flexible space for the individual. The private offices furniture systems installed take advantage of every vertical and horizontal surface to create ultra-efficient offices. The moveable wall system gained better use of the space by having the ability to make sections of the wall magnetic marker board, tack board and a slat wall with the bonus of being able to reconfigure much easier than typical walls.

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.

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. 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

Each piece of the design, whether a finish or furniture, 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 the more contemporary and open office. Being such a success, both aesthetically and functionally for our marketing department; 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.

“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

GPD Group

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

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

Raising the Bar

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 if his most recent bet on creating the first significant net positive energy office building in the country pays off, then the world will likely be inspired to get a whole lot greener in the years ahead.

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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

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 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, says Hayes, 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

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

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.

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. 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

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

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.

Editor’s note: On April 1, 2015 the Bullitt Center proved its status as the greenest commercial building in the world by becoming the first office building to earn Living Building certification.

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.

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