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

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

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