Are Energy Code Upgrades Required with a Change of Occupancy?

by on September 26, 2016 - Leave A Comment

change-in-use-time-warner-offices-in-smith-brother-buildingQuestion: Does a change in occupancy or a change of use to an existing building subject it to comply with the Energy Efficiency Code of Chapter 13, of the Ohio Building Code (OBC) therefore requiring energy code upgrades including improvements to the building envelope?

Answer: Not necessarily. The Energy Efficiency Code of Chapter 13 of the OBC in turn references to ASHRAE 90.1 or the International Energy Conservation Code. The following code section occurs in the 2009 IECC which is referenced.

101.4.4 Change in occupancy or use. 
“Spaces undergoing a change in occupancy that would result in an increase in demand for either fossil fuel or electrical energy shall comply with this code. Where the use in a space changes from one use in Table 505.5.2 to another use in Table 505.5.2, the installed lighting wattage shall comply with Section 505.5.”

interior-lighting-power-allowances-tableBasically, if the change of use results in more fossil fuel usage due to an upgraded mechanical system, or if electrical use will increase due to added power or lighting, and a new electrical panel is needed, either of these would trigger that the building would need to be brought up to code as far as energy compliance. The converse of this is also true, that is if the fossil fuels or electrical energy will not increase due to the change of occupancy, then the building is exempt from meeting the energy envelope requirements. (One can still add insulation, but it is no longer a prescribed amount for compliance.)
Not part II of the above, this refers to a change of use per Table 505.5.2 for lighting.interior-lighting-power-table

You will note that if you have a previous retail space, which has a 1.5 W/SF power allowance, to which you wish to put offices within that space, at 1.0 W/SF, the new office use would need to meet the 1.0 W/SF. Thus this case would meet the exception for energy code upgrades as well.

As a final note, if you have a space that was unheated and now it is planned to be a heated, cooled or conditioned space, it needs to meet the following section:

101.4.5 Change in space conditioning
“Any non-conditioned space that is altered to become conditioned space shall be required to be brought into full compliance with this code.”

Hopefully these guidelines will help you in determining when an existing building would need to comply with the present energy conservation codes.


Posted in: Code Compliance, Commentary, Expertise Tagged with: , , , ,

MIND THE GAP: Bridging the Professional and Academic Divide in Architecture

by on September 7, 2016 - Leave A Comment

A world with complex problems must have proactive solutions. Rather than avoiding the disparity between (architectural) academia and the (architecture) profession we should instead collaborate—which is fundamental to innovation– and bridge the professional and academic divide in architecture. Academia and the profession are stronger when they work together. It comes down to one word: synergy. Our professional and academic differences are our strengths, but alone cannot achieve our full potential. Opposites (should) attract and here is why.




Too often, academia operates in “digital architecture.” They explore new technologies looking at the past, present and future for the benefit of their intellectual growth. The academic time-frame is elastic with self-imposed deadlines that have little consequence. In architectural education, the goal is to become a problem solver, to think outside of the box – but what is the result? The bulk of knowledge and hard work is thrown in the trash at the end of the academic calendar. We should take this studious inquiry and exploration to the next level and apply it to real world, turning various design challenges into solutions.


The architecture profession largely operates in the everyday calendar and the “built world.” They function in the present based with a focus on the billable time, client budgets and deadlines. While time is limited, the impact from our decisions are not. What gets drawn, (most of the time) gets built. What gets built in turn impacts the way in which the world lives, works and plays.


In order to best serve our clients and society, we need to utilize the best available evidence when making decisions. Without time for studious inquiry and applied research, the architecture profession is unable to fulfill its full potential while leading clients. Conversely, it is essential for business to find an outlet from the urgency of day-to-day demands to look ahead, sense impending change and make innovative adjustments. We must revolutionize the professional and academic paradigm by developing a process to tap into thinkers and do-ers that are readily available. It is said, “Good planning costs less than good reacting.” This is very true in a world full of competition and complex problems.


1. The profession and academia must come together in a conference to identify issues that interest us and impact us on a global, local or “glocal” scale. Without pursuing problems that we are passionate about, the fire will fade.
2. Academia must apply their studious inquiry to investigate the past, present and future of the topic at hand.
3. Findings must be communicated effectively in order for the profession to apply insight.
4. All team members must collaborate amongst each other in a think-tank to develop solutions.
5. These solutions must be brought to clients in order to apply the best available evidence to real world applications.
6. By utilizing this process for innovation, we ALL lead. Professional practice has a leg up on competition; clients improve their investment; academia contributes to real-time and real world challenges; and last, but not least, current and future generations benefit from smart design that adds to their success and not demise.


“For architecture to flourish as a profession, we must have a reliable and researchable base of knowledge shared among ourselves and proven in ensuring people’s health, safety and welfare.” – Thomas Fisher


This is not about the profession; this is not about academia. It is about a shared road and a need to synergize the professional and academic divide in architecture with human capital (people/mentorship), knowledge capital (time/research) and financial capital (money/innovation). Each piece of the puzzle goes hand-in-hand and is needed in order to innovate. Innovation is the catalyst that will push positive progress in the architectural profession and academia, rather than maintaining the status-quo.

We must ask ourselves these questions, “What do you have that I need?” and “What do I have that I can give?”

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Trends in Brand Integration

by on August 12, 2016 - Leave A Comment

Integrating brand into a physical space has been called many different names: graphic design, branding, environmental graphics, experiential design, brand integration, the list goes on and on. But no matter what title you give it, brand integration into physical space(s) has been appearing on nearly all of our clients’ wish lists lately.

These clients aren’t just corporations wanting branding on their office headquarters either. Educational clients want their students to be inspired, healthcare institutions want to create a calm and safe experience for their patients and clinicians, retailers want to appeal to consumers through their physical spaces, and office clients want their physical brand to attract and retain talent. So how do you accomplish this? Finding the right balance of brand, wayfinding, space and identity is key.


The Ohio State University, College of Nursing

Although brand integration can be as simple as placing a well-designed logo on the wall, it has grown to encompass so much more beyond that. It is that intangible identity you feel when you walk into a space. You can understand the core values and culture of an organization before you even talk to a single person there. However on that same note, it is also those super graphics that grab your attention, communicate information and guide you through a space. No matter how it’s designed, interior branding needs to be intentional and work in harmony with a building’s architecture and interior design.

So if interior branding has become a staple, what are the trends that distinguish timeless and well-designed spaces from the rest of the pack? What trends are still going strong? Below are my own insights, not in any particular order, backed up by real internet sources. So they have to be true.

1) Material selection is everything (seen on this list at #2)
Consider all things as having potential for an installation or brand piece. I’ve seen everything from pencils to sticks to empty paint cans artfully arrange to echo a brand. Thoughtful arrangement and intention is key when using raw and unexpected materials.

Material Selection 1       Material Selection 2

2) Getting personal (seen here at #2)
I’m convinced people are tired of only seeing the surface level of a brand. These days people work for companies and companies work for clients that align with their ethics, work culture and core values. But that alignment can’t just been known, it has to be seen and felt.

3) Designing for Employees (seen here at #3)
Integrating brand into the physical workplace not only gives employees a sense of place and pride, but is a wondrous tool for recruiting and retention. Especially for those Millennial folk. win/win/win.

4) Digital Integration (this whole thing)
With the constant advancement in the digital arena, digital brand elements have become incredibly popular to integrate within a space as a standalone element or as a part of a more static design. Digital integration helps spatial branding stay current and also, adds a dynamic element that triggers our other senses to experience a space.

            Digital 2

5) Health conscious branding (seen on this list at #7)
Our whole world is shifting to be more health oriented (yay!) and the up-and-coming environmentally conscious WELL Building Standard Certification is triggering a whole new set of spatial graphic requirements that integrate health and wellness elements.

Wellness 1

Wellness 2

Posted in: Commentary, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Visualization / Graphics Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

ACA Impacts: Designing More Efficient Medical Facilities

by on June 27, 2016 - Leave A Comment

It’s been more than six years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law and overhauled health insurance. The ACA impacts the design of healthcare facilities across the United States as well in order to accommodate the estimated 20 million Americans that have gained health insurance coverage since 2010 (

The ACA impacts have brought two major shifts to the designing of healthcare facilities:

-operational efficiencies to support healthcare as a financially viable business

With programs such as Medicare Value-Based Purchasing which reward acute-care hospitals for the quality of care they provide, the ACA is pushing patient-centeredness, patient satisfaction and patient engagement to a whole new level. Doing business as usual is no longer an option when it comes to efficiency for health systems. The ACA legislation is asking providers to do more with less to reduce costs. Health systems are challenged to achieve financial and care-delivery goals in new ways. They’re becoming more efficient while providing a better, more holistic patient experience. This explains why many systems are looking to the retail, corporate workplace, and hospitality industries to discover new approaches to operations and facility design. The ACA impacts have made it difficult for healthcare facilities to accommodate increased patient volumes — this is where we come in.

Our projects have been no exception to these ACA impacts—designing a more complete patient experience is the overarching purpose behind the facilities we design.

“We pay a lot of attention to what is happening in each space. For example, an exam room in a primary care practice could have an exam chair instead of an exam table, which could reduce building area,” said Wes Hawkins, director of our healthcare studio. “We are also unitizing the spaces to retain ultimate flexibility in the changing environment of healthcare. An exam room, a consult room, and a manager’s office are all created to be interchangeable as needs fluctuate.”

For example, research has found that 30-40% of medical office building real estate is tied up in private offices that are unoccupied 90% of the time. That is a lot of costly square footage that could be used in other ways. To curb this inefficiency and allow for better utilization rates, you can provide small hoteling stations where doctors can have private phone calls and do notations however, these areas aren’t dedicated to one specific doctor.

Whether it’s consolidating different centers into one space or minimizing private offices in medical buildings, we are all about helping our clients update their facilities to maximize flow and efficiency.

Taking cues from retail and hospitality, we’ve also been designing waiting rooms to be more engaging. “Retail environments are designed to attract customers and that’s one of the new aspects of healthcare architecture,” said Hawkins. Moving beyond a few rows of chairs and scattered magazines, waiting areas can be consolidated into a shared space that serves the whole medical office building. Patients would have the opportunity to choose seating that matches their comfort level, whether that’s a table to do something on, a comfortable couch to read on, or an intimate setting with family.


Healthcare project manager Mark Hollern adds that “in retail settings the public are expecting comfortable environments that clearly direct them to desired services or products. We choreograph our integrated finishes and wayfinding elements into a warm, calming and attractive experience that veers away from the common sterile healthcare environment and provides the consumers with a sense of healing, clarity of services and positive distractions.”

These changes aren’t easy. Some doctors and other healthcare staff can be resistant to change, but with more ACA regulations going into effect each year and patients becoming more like consumers—thoughtfully choosing their healthcare providers and services as active decision makers—healthcare systems will need to be proactive in enhancing operational efficiencies and being more patient-centric.

Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Healthcare Design, Projects Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

ADA Reform Supports Businesses and Limits Lawsuits

by on June 8, 2016 - Leave A Comment

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act was intended to make the built environment accessible to those with disabilities and be more inclusive of all people. An unintended result of this legislation is that businesses are now threatened by serial plaintiffs who serve demand letters requesting money in exchange for not filing a lawsuit – basically lining the pockets of unscrupulous attorneys. Worse yet, these demand letters never state what the violation actually is, so that businesses can correct the violations.

Property owners should be given the opportunity to fix any violations or respond to the complaint, within a reasonable time period, without a lawsuit being filed. As a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) Ohio Government Relations Committee, we have been testifying as a proponent for House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 32 in support of federal legislation HR 3765, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2015. These bills will provide disincentives to filing these frivolous lawsuits, requiring that the violation be identified and a 120 day notice and cure period be provided prior to the commencement of any lawsuits. This will ensure that problems get fixed, rather than paid off without consequences.

Throughout my career there have been several experiences with clients where it became clear that we can do everything right, yet the client is still exposed to lawsuits, and thus we are exposed to lawsuits.  This is especially true in existing shopping centers where the requirements are vague and up for interpretation. In addition, there are federal requirements (ADAAG and FHA regulations), state requirements (ANSI) and city building code requirements regarding accessibility that can conflict and it is often difficult to determine what regulatory body governs.

Shoppes at Union HillFor example, when working on a shopping center renovation project our client was hit with an ADA lawsuit the week we started demolition. For existing facilities, ADA and the Ohio Building Code require that 20% of the cost of the alteration be spent on reducing or eliminating barriers. To determine where to spend dollars for barrier reduction the code establishes a list of priorities in the following order:

1. Accessible entrance
2. Accessible route to the altered area
3. (1) Accessible restroom for each sex
4. Accessible telephones
5. Accessible drinking fountains
6. Lumped together accessible parking and storage

As this was an existing center, the owner had a budget of approximately $4.9 million to renovate the interior and exterior of the center. They spent in excess of 20% on upgrades that reduced barriers including modifying grades leading to accessible entrances, providing automatic door openers, leveling the interior floor to eliminate cross slopes, modifying restrooms, modifying slopes at accessible parking and the route to the entrances from the parking.

In spite of all this, they were hit with a lawsuit by a plaintiff who had 17 open cases in Central Ohio at that time (and 89 cases in the Southern District). This plaintiff did not bother to check the building plans that were on file with the city showing the scope of work to be done —including a sheet labeled “ADA Compliance Plan” that clearly clarified a vague situation. Our client had to spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting the suit to eventually have it thrown out.

To combat these lawsuits, M+A Architects has taken extraordinary steps to mitigate ADA lawsuit risk for our clients. By reviewing all the city, state and federal accessibility regulations and taking the most restrictive requirement from each, we’ve created our own standards in excess of ADAAG requirements. For example, regulations do not account for construction tolerances, so we add 1 inch to all clearances, on all sides. Not to mention, with the freeze / thaw cycle, what complies in the summer may not comply in the winter.

The goal for ADA reform is to be accessible to everyone and go beyond usual measures to make sure this is the case. HCR 32 urges Congress to pass common sense updates to the ADA. Allowing a property owner to address such minor issues is not only good for business, but it protects the true intent of the ADA.

Let’s make the world more accessible, not make unscrupulous attorneys rich.

Legacy Crossing

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