A Guide to Success in Healthcare FF&E

by on July 17, 2015 - Leave A Comment

In the construction process, FF&E (furniture, furnishings and equipment) installation has one of the most sensitive time frames in the project. Just after construction wraps up, but not too long before the space will be occupied by its healthcare users and their patients. This tight time frame, and the importance of first impressions, means high expectations for success the first time around and little room for error.

Understanding these high stakes, what can be done to avoid pit falls and plan for a successful outcome?

Invite people with input to the table, and invite them early.

Healthcare FF&E

Early collaboration can make or break the success of a project. The industry term “FF&E” lumps together a wide range of product types. In the healthcare industry, this can range from ottomans to biohazard trash cans to ceiling mounted procedure lamps. Different stakeholders often know about, and care about, different aspects of what is needed, so it is important to capture input from the full team of people that will participate in the many different phases of the project—from conceptual design, through finite selections, and then all the way through to construction and installation.

The following groups all bring an important perspective and should be sitting at the table during initial architectural design and project planning meetings.

1. FF&E Planners and Experts
Furniture and equipment specialists, whether they are members of the architecture and design team or outside consultants, should have a thorough understanding of healthcare FF&E specification requirements. Whoever they are, it is critical that they are invited to the initial project planning meetings, as they bring a unique perspective and focus to the project. When it comes to specifying products, they will understand what features really make a piece of furniture appropriate for a healthcare setting. Bariatric requirements, wall saver features, level of durability, and fabric selection (typically a fabric that wears well, cleans easily, and helps minimize the spread of bacteria and bed bugs) are all things that an experienced healthcare FF&E planner will take into account.

2. Users
Giving users an opportunity to voice their opinion early in the process will help to expedite the planning process. The earlier you can understand the routine of the medical professionals using the space, the better you will be able to account for their specific requirements. The work flow of the occupants is often very specific to their practice and they will know exactly how they need their spaces to function – if not always what the options are for achieving the result they need. To that end, a thorough, experienced FF&E planning team will assist the users by asking questions meant to uncover alternate, and often better, design solutions to fulfill a user’s functional needs. For example, does their work flow require a particular piece of equipment to sit on a counter surface, or could it be wall mounted? Finding ways to take advantage of all available space in tight healthcare suites is a great opportunity to pursue a satisfying team approach to project planning.

3. Healthcare System Design and Construction Members
Understanding the standards of each healthcare system is critical to FF&E planning and execution success, and asking lots of questions is a great place to start. What is the existing vocabulary in the building? What type of products do they prefer to purchase? Are there items in the warehouse that can be re-used to help meet the project budget? What are the building maintenance routines? What products have or have not been successful in the past? The healthcare system team members bring these requests and knowledge of what is best for the healthcare system to the table. A good FF&E planning team will work with them to deliver the best project outcome.

4. Construction Team
Whether it seems as if the construction team should be involved in FF&E conversations or not, they bring an important perspective to the discussion. Will that wall mounted unit require blocking? Should we be planning for power and data? Will the counter height need to be adjusted for that under-counter model you are considering? All of these are concerns that should be coordinated in the construction documents. Having input from the construction team early on will help bring awareness to the coordination of FF&E with the building architecture, so these instances don’t come up as a surprise just before the furniture or equipment is scheduled to be installed.

Finally – communication, communication, communication. We’ve heard it a million times, and we know it is crucial when you’re working as a team. Embracing a team oriented attitude and focusing on communicating across trades will positively impact the end result of an FF&E project. By integrating FF&E early in the project planning process and capturing differing perspectives from the team, you’ll end up with a job done right, happy clients, and patients that have a positive first impression of a brand new space. Success!

Posted in: Design, Expertise, Healthcare Design, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

Midwest Manufacturing Renaissance

by on July 10, 2015 - Leave A Comment

Being the daughter of a Northeast Ohio manufacturing plant manager, the decline of the “Rust Belt” was hard to go unnoticed in my household. However, the promise of economic renaissance in the manufacturing realm brings hope to the Midwest region.

Working Harvesting Combine in the Field of Wheat

While the industrial sector has been making strides for the last couple years, the first annual Trust Belt conference, recently held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Columbus, reignited the conversation. Internationally acclaimed economic development leaders, politicians, and educators shared insights and metrics which have started to shatter the “Rust Belt’s” stigma of economic depression. They’re seeking to re-brand the region as the “Trust Belt” to showcase its pivotal role in America’s economic recovery.

Sophia Koropeckyj, a managing director at Moody’s Analytics who has studied economics in the Midwest for nearly 20 years, was one of the presenters. As the Metropreneur reported in their June issue:

“The Midwest economy has not been in as good shape as it is now in 20 years, Koropeckyj says. It has been through its fair share of restructuring, but is making a strong comeback. She says it’s time to put the past in the past and move forward on the strengths the region possesses now.”

One of the largest areas of growth has been the Midwest manufacturing industry, which had flourished in the region nearly 40 years ago. Since 2010, there’s been 346,000 manufacturing jobs created in the Midwest, with Ohio accounting for 17,100 of those in the past year. With 52 of Ohio’s 88 counties heavily relying on manufacturing, the revival of this industry couldn’t come at a better time. Released just last month, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported that Ohio’s unemployment rate is still 5.2%, while that figure is slightly lower than 5.7% in 2014, it could still stand to decrease.

Distribution sorting

Bringing back a long missed industry will not only bring more jobs to Ohio, it will match industrial organizations with quality workers who may still be under-employed. The Midwest was called the “Rust Belt” for a reason. We have seasoned workers that blossom in innovative industrial environments, with many of our cities, including Columbus, OH, ranked as having some of the hardest-working populations in the United States. As such, the Midwest region is a great place for companies looking for hard-working, experienced, and available workers within an already healthy and still-improving economy.

Specifically looking at Ohio, we’re not only shaped like a heart, we’re the pulse of America. We’re centrally located and highly accessible via train, plane, and port. And we’re anticipating growth in our talent pool. Valuing more affordable housing and less-cramped environments, “millennials” are choosing Midwestern towns to put down roots, said Joel Kotkin, internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends, at the Trust Belt conference.

Steel workers welding, grinding, cutting in metal industry

And while the technology era continues to shape our culture, industrial companies are innovating and inspiring change more than ever. As described by Matt Hlavin, President and CEO of Thogus, in his recent TEDxCLE presentation, the industrial market is changing perceptions and evolving. In the past, manufacturing was viewed as reactionary, dirty, and labor and capital intensive. Being highly dependent and “at the mercy of the customer” Hlavin explains that a change was eminent. Industrial organizations are becoming more LEAN, employee-focused, and forward thinking.

When you combine business-friendly, fiscally sound and innovative state governments with one of the country’s most well-educated workforces, you’ll land in the Midwest. It’s a perfect place for the most innovative industrial companies to choose to grow their businesses. The only downside to all of this? Traffic. The Dispatch recently reported that Columbus residents have one of the easiest commutes in the country. But that’s a small price to pay for decreased unemployment rate, thriving industrial sector, and overall economic growth. I think we can handle a little more traffic.

Posted in: Commentary, Industrial, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

35th Anniversary | 11 Milestones

by on June 24, 2015 - Leave A Comment

My career at M+A Architects spans 34 years, and with this year being the celebration of our 35th Anniversary, I suppose I am the most suited to speak of it, in that I have worked here nearly the entire existence of the firm.

The M+A we are today, although true to the principles it was founded on as Meacham & Apel Architects, is a drastically different firm than it was in 1980. Not only just our sheer size of staff, but the expanded types of projects we do and where they are located.  Inside our office walls is a creative, youthful, and constantly evolving group of designers. Together we foster not only a driven, collaborative and fun work environment, but accompany it with a culture that is family-centric and flexible.

35th Anniversary

In lieu of describing our 35-year history filled with firm milestones and key turning points (what I think is an interesting read), the millennials in my office suggested I create a top 11 list to be featured on a Anniversary blog.  Why 11 and not 10? I have no idea.  But since David Letterman has now retired, so with him, I think it is time for the “Top 10 List” to be put to rest as well, so let’s go with a top 11!

So here it is, the top 11 things (in chronological order) that have made the biggest impact on transforming M+A into who we are today:

1. Westerville Municipal Complex – constructed in 1987, it cemented our firm’s position as a high level civic design firm, received an AIA Honor Award and its exterior plaza has become the premier place for community ceremonial events

2. Mill Run Church – (now Upper Arlington Lutheran Church) built in the late 1990’s, this very visible facility exemplifies our firm’s early commitment to religious design and expression

Mills Run and Westerville

3. Easton Town Center – brought not only a national presence but transformed our portfolio

4. Our first transition in firm ownership – with new leadership came a shift in culture

Easton Town Center

5. The recession – leadership worked feverishly to preserve the firm by improving inefficiencies, enhancing marketing and expanding project types

6. Rebranding from Meacham & Apel Architects to M+A Architects – accurately represented the firm we became and enhanced perception in Central Ohio

7. Opening a Russian office – although no longer a part of M+A, it provided a gateway to diverse international work and recognition

8. Moving our office to Grandview Yard – provided a more urban location and allowed us to design our office as a showroom and direct reflection of our work

M+A Office

9. Merging with a healthcare design firm, KMA Design Partners – drastically expanded our healthcare portfolio

10. The Bob Evans Farms Corporate Headquarters – a marquee project for us in architecture, interior design and branding

11. Opening a Cincinnati Office – diversified clientele and provided a new region to help build

Bob Evans

M+A CIncy

Posted in: M+A News, People, Projects, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , ,

Retail Design and Millenial Consumers

by on June 17, 2015 - Leave A Comment

Millenial Consumers: Where Are They Buying?From the ICSC to Forbes to Goldman Sachs, we’re all very curious about the rising generation of Millenials. What, why and how are they buying? And how does this influence the retail environment? Being the largest generation since the baby boomers at 75 million strong and having a buying power of $200 billion annually, the oldest Millenials are reaching upper levels in the business world and starting families making their buying potential skyrocket. To speak to these Millenial consumers, we’ve learned that traditional marketing/advertising doesn’t work. We need to speak to them on a more intimate level to create that brand loyalty — which translates to not only what they buy, but where they buy it.

The “Town Center” model of retail has evolved to become the norm. It’s more than a mall, it’s a community hub where you can take your kids, clients, significant other, and parents. While this community atmosphere gets the consumers to the space, it doesn’t necessarily get them to buy. Sifting through vast amounts of research (some interesting reads listed below), I’ve come to the conclusion that Millenial consumers, while driven by technology and price, still want the traditional shopping experience. Sure, they’ll compare prices and look online, but when they’ve decided what they want, they’ll still visit the brick-and-mortar stores.

In fact, ICSC reports that 37 percent of Millennials prefer mall shopping while only 27 percent would rather shop online. While ecommerce is becoming more prevalent, brick-and-mortar is still on the map. Leveraging the store’s interior design in unique ways can help foster brand loyalty among consumers. For example, H&M knew their consumers were browsing more than buying in the physical stores. So, they created a runway in the store, so that shoppers could flaunt their new outfit. They also filmed the shoppers and used the best videos on the storefront screens. Talk about a unique experience!

Also, creating an infrastructure that supports omni-channel buying habits will help drive traffic. Big box retailers are experimenting with consolidating the physical and the digital. Darrell Rigby, from Harvard Business Review, says it best:

“Websites and mobile apps are not just e-commerce ordering vehicles, they are front doors to the stores. Stores are not just showrooms, they are digitally-enabled inspiration sites, testing labs, purchase points, instantaneous pickup places, help desks, shipping centers, and return locations.”

The Greene Town Center

The Greene Town Center, Beavercreek, Ohio

In the retail environment, we’ve found that creating an environment that serves multiple purposes creates that enhanced experience the tech savvy, fast paced Millenial consumer is craving. Items such as walkability, hospitality areas, anchoring green spaces, integrated community events, and work spaces allow this generation of consumers the ability to use the retail environment for a variety of purposes. They can consolidate many areas of their busy lives and support their active lifestyle in one trip. And don’t worry about your smart phone dying, there will be a charging station nearby.

Interested in more about this topic? Here’s a few resources to check out:

ISCS Recon: Millennial Shopping Habits and What They Mean For Retail Building Owners
Forbes: 10 New Findings About The Millenial Consumer
Elite Daily: Millenial Consumer Study 2015
Forbes: Target, Tools And Tequila: Data Shows What Millennials Are Really Buying
Goldman Sachs: Data Story Millenials (Infographic)

Posted in: Commentary, Community, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, M+A News Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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