Cost Effective Solution: Safety Glazing Film

by on May 21, 2015 - Leave A Comment

Recently on an industrial expansion project we designed, the contractor made some revisions to the storefront system and stairs of the building in the office area. Due to the proximity of the stairs and stairs landing, the glass, which previously did not need to be safety or tempered, was now falling into an area that requires safety glazing per Ohio Building Code (OBC) Section 2406.4(10).

Safety Glazing FilmUnfortunately when this happens, there is usually no choice but to change out the panels of glass that fall into the area of protection with safety glazing glass, a process that is time consuming and costly. However, there is an innovative product on the market now to alleviate this issue at a lower time and cost commitment: safety glazing film. This glazing film can be applied to existing windows, so it’s not necessary to replace previously purchased windows. The film meets all the criteria of OBC Section 2406 and the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 16 CFR standard for impact test.

At first being skeptical is natural, but after researching the product on the International Code Council’s Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The ICC-ES has been researching products for decades through technical evaluations of building products, components, methods, and materials, making it easier to determine whether a product or material is code compliant and enforces building regulations.

For this product, the ICC-ES Report ESR-2487 from August 2014 evaluates Llumar SCL SR PS4 Safety Film. When the film is job-site applied, it meets the requirements of OBC Section 2406 and CPSC 16 CFR for glazing in hazardous locations. Also, the approximate cost of this film installed is $7.00/SF. That figure is considerably less than the cost of a new safety glazing panel change out and installation to address areas where glazing may need to be upgraded; a panel change out could be as much as $20.00/SF.

I always find it encouraging when products are developed that provide a simpler and more cost effective solution in addressing code issues which may occur during construction. Don’t you? Have you worked with this material before or come across this same setback? Share your comments below and what solution you found.

Posted in: Code Compliance, Design, Expertise, Projects

Change Management Part II: Our Process

by on May 14, 2015 - Leave A Comment

In my Part I of this blog, I went over what change management is; now it’s time to determine what the process looks like and how we can help you through it.

Collaboration is where magic happens. To have a successful outcome in change management, there needs to be a foundation of collaboration, communication and understanding between you and your design team. The first step is some good old-fashioned face time. We’ll all sit down and determine what your goals are and what changes you are seeking to make. We will ask questions. Lots of them:

What are your top priorities in which you need buy-in from your employees?

What are the areas you want to make more efficient?

How do you work or interact with each other?

What amenities do you want to add to attract new employees and retain current staff?

Once we know these answers, we can help develop a strategy to introduce ‘the vision’ to other members of your team.

Change Management Info Graphic_ Vertical Version

The second task is identifying people within your company to help relay the vision to other employees. We lovingly call these team members User Group Champions (UGC) and they are vital to making the change process run smoothly. The UGCs help bridge understanding between those who are making the changes and employees who will be adapting to the changes. When UGCs are defined early in the process they help foster excitement and trust throughout the office and ultimately assist with a quicker buy-in. If employee buy-in takes too long it can slow the process down in the form of rumors, complaints and resistance. The more people on board with the vision, the merrier everyone will be!

While the UGCs are off creating internal excitement about the vision, we will need to gather empirical data about how each division within your office works. This knowledge will support your vision being implemented correctly. Our first steps were all about looking at things from ten thousand feet; next we have to dial in to the ground floor details. This sort of ‘information-dive’ is done through staff interviews, review forms, and surveys. The feedback received from these pieces is key because it provides valuable understanding of how the different employee groups actually work, not just how your leadership perceives them to work. Most importantly it makes everyone feel like their voice is heard—because it is! We’ll then cobble all of this information into our planning process to start to envision what the physical space should be, what working styles will help you work best, and what components, if any, are missing. Then we’ll review all of this with you and the UGC’s so that together we can make informed decisions. Once a consensus is reached, we’ll begin the testing phase and start to introduce small practical applications.

Business meeting

The testing phase is when we REALLY want to make sure the UGCs are involved. It’s at this juncture that their role as educators becomes critical. Employees are going to start seeing plans, office layouts, and workstations that they will be asked to try out. It is crucial that when an employee tries something new a UGC is there to help answer questions and/or relay their questions to you and to us, the designers.  This will help eliminate misinterpretation, intimidation and confusion. Another round of interviews and surveys follows to capture feedback from the test group about what they liked and didn’t like. We want employees to feel comfortable sharing their preferences, so we can confidently move forward. Facilitating a constant dialogue between your employees, the UGCs, and the design team is vital. Consensus between the team is imperative as you move into the final phase of implementation to make sure everyone is ready and aware (and hopefully excited) of what is coming.

So, how important is the testing phase? Let’s look at the design of Bob Evans Farm’s new corporate headquarters. Bob Evans wanted to transition to a more collaborative environment, but with the existing office spaces being more private and less open, there was very little dialogue or interaction among staff members. Reversing that environment and providing more opportunity for collaboration was the vision set forth by Bob Evans and the design team. However design change was more than a physical change, it meant changing the way employees thought about open office environments. During the testing phase, feedback was received and employees were struggling with how lower-paneled, open workstations didn’t mean less privacy or more noise. We learned that we needed to slow down our communications and be transparent on expectations to receive staff buy-in. Now, the employees have really embraced the fact that they can work more efficiently in adjoining workstations, rather than private offices.


The last phase is where you’ll see magic happen. From testing, we move to delivery and implementation of your new space. Encourage your UGCs to lead by example to help ease the physical and emotional transition of staff into their new environment and way of working. As cliché as it sounds, you must continually tell yourself not to be afraid of change, but instead focus on the new opportunities the change will create. A positive mentality is crucial to achieving the objectives and vision you laid out at the very start of the project. Once the change is implemented, take a step back, try to be objective, and give it a try. Then you’ll be able to see what follow-ups and tweaks might be needed to finalize your new office environment and culture.

6 things to take away:

1. Internal User Group Champions (UGC) are KEY to keeping lines of communication open and helping deliver the right information organically throughout the company. Choose them wisely.

2. Change Management is just as much about work culture as it is about a physical relocation/renovation. Employees need to buy into the vision—everyone’s input is critical.

3. Embrace new ideas and trends! This is a major way to improve functionality, efficiency, and increase employee retention.

4. Education and communication is a CONTINUAL PROCESS. There is no “one and done” here, continue to explain and reiterate as changes are implemented.

5. Always, Always, ALWAYS follow-up with the employees and the design team. Little changes can make big impacts. We are here to help even after the project is done.

6. Choose your design team wisely. Every company has a different process. Choose a partner that you feel in your gut will complement your process and make the change smooth and enjoyable.


Posted in: Design Trends, Uncategorized, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tel Aviv Architecture + Design

by on April 23, 2015 - Leave A Comment

In the winter of 2014-2015, I took a two week trip to Israel where I participated in the program Livnot U’Lehibanot, a Hebrew term that translates as “To Build and Be Built.” This program is based in the historic town of Tzfat in Northern Israel and offers an integrated experience of volunteer work, hiking, and community building. During this trip, I helped construct stairs for a home for trouble teens, engaged with residents at a retirement facility, and hiked throughout Northern Israel. While the majority of my time was spent in Tzfat, I also ventured out on my own to explore other regions of the country. Architecturally, one of the most significant places I visited was the city of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv, or Tel Aviv-Yafo, was founded in 1909 and is currently the second most populated city in Israel. Known for its financial presence and vibrant nightlife, one often overlooked aspect of the city is its architecture. Amid the hustle and bustle of this sprawling metropolis sits an area designated as the “White City.” This term refers to a portion of about 4,000 buildings that were constructed in the 1930s in a unique form of the Bauhaus building style.

Israel Architecture 2

Originating as a German art institution, founded by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus school integrated traditional curriculum with a unique blend of fine arts and modern design principles. This academic style later evolved to become a full-on movement that placed an emphasis on Modernist concepts and techniques. The Bauhaus movement was significant in architectural development and remains attributed as one of the most influential components of modern design. So how does this European-based design process correlate to Israel?

Following the 1930s Nazi invasion of Germany, many German Jewish architects and Bauhaus students fled Europe and resided in Israel, bringing their artistic talents and training. This influx of European culture led to an evolution of the Bauhaus style by creating an architectural fusion of Modernist principles and the Mediterranean climate.

Modernism, as a whole, represented breaking away from traditional views and ways of interacting with the world. While these characteristics were portrayed internationally through many facets, architecture was one of the most common threads. This time period proved to be significant in the development of apartment buildings and other urban complexes and Tel Aviv was no exception. However, dilemmas posed by the Mediterranean climate forced the “traditional” European Modernist style to adapt to its surroundings. Considering the brutal summers with high temperatures and harsh sunlight, it was crucial that these residential buildings be constructed to withstand such factors. One of the most notable approaches was the use of white paint as a reflective surface (hence the name “White City”). Other techniques included replacing large windows with smaller recessed glazing, to minimize heat transfer and glare, and replacing sloped roofs with flat ones to develop roof-top gathering spaces. Buildings were also raised above ground on pillars, creating play areas below and allowing wind to blow through voids and cool the apartments.

However, despite these various building initiatives, the standard concrete used throughout projects remained ineffective at cooling apartments during the unbearable, hot summer days. As houses and apartments became so uncomfortable this time of year, residents began to utilize the city and neighborhoods around them. This lead to a more social, communal aspect of the city with residents spending more time outdoors and meeting at coffee shops, playgrounds, restaurants, and the sea. It has been speculated that these developments contributed to the friendly, communal lifestyle still prevalent in Israeli society and culture today.

Israel Architecture 3

Israel Architecture 4

Israel Architecture 1

Posted in: Design, Design Trends, M+A News, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , , , , , ,

2015 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria — A Collaborative Effort

by on April 16, 2015 - Leave A Comment

For those of you unfamiliar with Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, it is a sustainable certification program specifically designed for use on affordable housing projects. Last week marked a big milestone in the continuance of this widely used system, as Enterprise officially released the 2015 version of the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria.

The 2015 Criteria marks the culmination of a year long process of reviews and revisions from partners across many different disciplines all contributing to an enhanced end result.  It is this collaborative effort that is at the heart of the new criteria, which contains much refinement of existing credits, as well as the creation of new credits that align with the direction of green design in the industry.


Over the past several years, fueled by a growing generation of internet and social media savvy professionals, the architecture, engineering, construction and development industries have seen an increase in collaboration from all aspects of a project.  Professionals that normally wouldn’t talk with each other during the design process are getting the opportunity to learn from each contributor’s expert knowledge base.  Architects get to hear from the facilities manager, engineers get to learn from the owner, everyone is sharing their ideas with an end goal in mind – increasing the quality of housing for the end users.  While this may seem daunting to some and invoke the opinion of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” more knowledge only seeks to enhance the decision making process.  It is this notion which has seemed to fuel several of the changes in the 2015 Green Communities Criteria.

2015 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria

Source: Enterprise Green Communities (click to visit)

The most widely revamped section of the new 2015 Green Communities Criteria surrounds Integrative Design Process, which relies primarily on early collaboration from the entire team in the planning of a project.  Enterprise Green Communities believes that “a successful integrative design process facilitates the design and development team’s achievement of their objectives throughout the project life cycle.”  With greater descriptions on Goal Setting (credit 1.1a) and Criteria Documentation (credit 1.1b) and new sections dealing with Designing for Project Performance (credit 1.1c) and Resident Health and Well-Being (credits 1.2a & 1.2b), the new 2015 Criteria helps foster a unified team throughout the design process.

Leveraging an Expanded Team

Having an expanded set of stakeholders involved it’s easy to get off-track, however there are several ways to help maintain the focus of the team:

1. Have a strong leader steering all of the meetings. Having agendas and priorities for each meeting are a must to make sure time spent is valuable. Time is one of the most precious commodities to any professional.

2. Set goals early and with the entire team. Making sure everyone feels they had a part in setting the path for the project keeps the team on track for the remainder of the project.

3. Establish personal priorities for the end user and owner. This can be something as simple as “only use products from a certain manufacturer,” or can be as big as “the percentage of energy efficiency that will be attained.”

4. Be prepared to share your expertise but also be willing to listen to team members on areas in which you’re less familiar. The more knowledge being shared, the better informed decision making will be during the design process.

While highly sustainable and green projects can be complicated, a strongly led team with a collaborative, holistic approach to design is more advantageous. The 2015 update to the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria has done an excellent job of supporting team collaboration and success. Throughout the criteria document, you will find online resources and recommendations from others who have fully embraced the collective effort needed for these projects. Through the 2015 Criteria update, design and construction professionals will continue to share ideas, fine-tune the process and pave the way for innovation in the sustainable community.

Posted in: Commentary, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Sustainability Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Change Management Part I: Cultural Change

by on April 10, 2015 - Leave A Comment

We hear it from our clients and experience it in our own office – workplaces are evolving, and it is happening quicker than you can snap your fingers. Younger generations, particularly Millennials and the newly deemed, Gen Z, want to work differently and have more flexibility than any generation before them. Just looking at the single fact that 51% of them prefer to talk to co-workers face to face, has major implications on how an office must be structured to attract their interest, let alone keep them long-term. Having four generations in the workplace means companies have to find a balance to keep everyone happy. As architects and interior designers, we are constantly researching how to tackle this dilemma because it not only affects our internal office culture, recruiting, and retention, but also our clients’ efforts in those arenas.

Creating an envious office environment is more important than ever, especially considering the increasingly transient nature of professionals in upcoming generations. However for many in the moment, there is nothing scarier than change. To combat this fear which manifests in the form of employee rumors and leadership anxiety, you need to change the mentality by focusing not only on the physical change, but addressing the cultural change as well.

In 2010, M+A designed and transitioned to a new location, going through a cultural change ourselves. Through this intimate experience we learned that, while the unknown can be hard to adjust to, it’s also full with rich rewards in the form of: brand integration, social connectivity, collaborative space office-wide, and a rejuvenated culture. As many of our clients continue to embark on this journey of change, we continue to learn the best practices to create forward thinking workplaces that, aside from being attractive to younger generations, are more efficient and functional. These practices include:

– Workflow improvements
– Integrated branding signage
– Collaborative workstations
– Technology integration
– Teaming zones
– Amenity integration

Changing locations or updating an office space is without a doubt a major project, but transitioning the cultural changes that happen simultaneously as a result, needs to be addressed with the same level of attention and care. Herman Miller reports that 70% of change initiatives end in failure and culture related changes can be the most challenging and unpredictable, possibly because the intricacies are often overlooked or overshadowed by construction or the other physical elements of the transition. Cultural change must be handled through an organized process, so that it can be more exciting than daunting. Then you’ll find that projects involving elements of change management are actually the most rewarding. They instill in your employees trust and confidence in your leadership and make them less fearful of future change.

Change management can mean a lot of things for a wide variety of scenarios, but it’s vital when moving to a new location, consolidating into one location, rearranging existing space, or updating an existing work environment. And remember, share your vision for the project. A vision and its intriguing potential is something for employees to get excited about. When communicated correctly, it can help bring new life to a workplace and reinforce the meaning of company brand to employees.

* Be on the lookout for Part II of this blog where we’ll dig a little deeper and share our process for helping clients manage their facility and cultural changes.

Leave Your Comfort Zone Blackboard Concept


Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Expertise, People, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , , , , , ,