Pelotonia ’15 – We Raised, We Rode, We Believe in ONE GOAL

by on August 28, 2015 - Leave A Comment

Let’s just start by saying Pelotonia is pretty incredible.  If you aren’t aware of what the organization does or what the event is, you must keep reading, then go to their website and plan to ride next year…

…okay you don’t have to do all that, but at least keep reading.

Starting Pic

When a co-worker and fellow Pelotonia alum and I first brought up the idea of starting an M+A team, we were hoping to have enough interest to make up the minimum requirement for a team – 5 people. So you can understand why I was BLOWN AWAY when we ended up with 14 riders! It was awesome to see such commitment, yet such a sad realization to see how cancer has touched all of our lives in one way or another. But this is why we chose to ride. It’s not only about the ride, it’s about the fundraising, research, and community support Pelotonia ignites well beyond the boundaries of the OSU James Cancer Center and Columbus.

Our team included a mixed bag of 10 M+A staff members and 4 consultants and friends that covered a wide spectrum of cycling experience. Some hadn’t ridden (or owned) a bike in years, while some were cycling aficionados. Knowing the ride happens in August, we banded together in March and started to devise a master plan for our jersey, training rides, fundraising events and flat tire fixing 101.

Pre ride group shots

The Jersey.
Since I had ridden in Pelotonia before, I knew we needed jerseys that POP! One of the coolest part of ride day is the unveiling of all the bright, hilarious, obnoxious, sweet jerseys. With the help of everyone’s creativity, we came up with a vibrant team jersey that set the bar pretty high for years to come. Who says 14 riders can’t stand out among nearly 8,000 riders? Well you’re wrong – we got TWO megaphone shout-outs with my favorite being “we got architects in the house!”

Our jersey was also a major source of fundraising; we are fortunate to have such awesome and supportive A/E/C partners. For donating to our team, these partners got their logo on the back of their favorite architects’ jersey :). There were 19 amazing companies, to be exact, that made our jersey look even better – raising $11,000!!

Group Shot with jersey

While helping plan our team events, I figured out that fundraisers are called FUNdraisers for a reason. We partnered with some pretty fantastic companies and hosted three fun and successful events: a happy hour with the ever-cool and ever-delicious Land Grant Brewing Company, a Wine and Shine Wednesday Jewelry party with Miss Em’s, and capped it off with a wine raffle courtesy of a friend from Heidelburg Distributing. These events alone accounted for more than two riders’ fundraising goals! Whoa.

Our team’s fundraising goal grew with our riders. We started at what seemed like an attainable $14,000, then climbed to $17,000, eventually crept to $21,000, and ended at $23,000 – the amount we needed to have the 14 of us ride our desired mileage. With a lofty goal of $23,000, you can see why I was again, BLOW AWAY when we raised over $27,000. That isn’t a typo.


The Ride.
One fall, three flat tires, leg cramps and I can still say our M+A Peloton all had a fantastic ride weekend. Our riders rode between 50 and 100 miles, which makes for a pretty long day on a bike (and a bike seat), but despite some bumps, bruises and soreness I can confidently say this year sure won’t be our last. Through thousands of small efforts, Pelotonia riders have and continue to create one huge, united effort supporting cancer research, and on behalf of M+A, I can say we are proud to join that effort.

In closing, the team and I just want to say another gigantic THANK YOU to everyone who not only supported our team, but volunteered, rode, or helped organize the incredible weekend. With the efforts of so many, this event is one-of-a-kind. The sense of community behind Pelotonia was palpable from the moment I signed up as a rider to every lingering green arrow I see throughout the year.

We’ll see you next year Pelotonia ’16.


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

How to get Sustainable Affordable Housing on a Budget

by on August 25, 2015 - Leave A Comment

When selecting a site for affordable housing, there have been many trends popping up over the last several years. There’s flat sites that are optimal for “aging in place” and larger sites to accommodate renewable energy, but many of these trends may not fit into the ever-challenging affordable housing budget. However, passive heating and cooling design sensibility and technology has been on the rise and when done thoughtfully, can require no cost increases and provide you with sustainable affordable housing.

As defined by EcoMii, passive heating and cooling, or passive design, refers to using “natural elements, often sunlight, to heat, cool, or light a building.” By using a little bit of design layout know-how (and of course, the sun and wind), you can make a huge impact and find yourself with big returns when it comes to energy consumption.

When it comes to selecting a site that can exploit the sun as an energy source, you need to consider: orientation, product type, and layout.

Passive Design

Image from

1. Orientation
Choosing the right orientation is one of the easiest things you can do. In locations that are primarily cooling environments, select a site with a large north-south axis. This allows the design team to utilize prevailing cross breezes to ventilate and cool the home, rather than relying on air conditioning or other mechanical means. Conversely, in primarily heating environments, a site with a large east-west axis is of greater importance. This allows the building to maximize the sun’s benefit through south-facing glazing during the colder, winter months. However during the summer months, you should always have a way to shield the south-facing glazing. Passive benefits achieved during the winter will quickly be diminished by the excessive use of cooling if unshaded windows aren’t protected from the harsh summer sun. This can easily be done with the use of large overhangs or sun-shades that permit the lower angle of the sun in the winter but block the higher angle of the sun during the summer.

2. Selection of Product Type
While primarily influenced by market studies, different product types lend themselves more easily to passive heating and cooling than others. Single-family homes are very easily adapted to passive heating and cooling because they have flexibility in their configuration depending on the site available. They also typically feature front porches and overhangs that have the ability to protect glazing during summer months. Also, townhomes with their linear configuration can largely be utilized on sites that are trying to maximize passive heating and cooling principles. Having a long axis, townhomes can be situated with either the front wall pointed south for maximum heat gain in colder climates or they can be oriented to maximize use of prevailing winds for maximum cooling gains.

Elevatored buildings, with an interior corridor, can be one of the more challenging product types with respect to passive design. Because most of these buildings use double-loaded corridors with units facing both sides of the building, not every unit gets the opportunity to maximize the benefits that can be seen through passive design. However, if the project budget can support an elevatored building with units on one side, mass walls and ventilation stacks at the corridor can be used which are two of the most beneficial passive design strategies.

3. Layout of Spaces
The final piece of the passive design puzzle comes through unit layout. Going back to Orientation, we know that the sun path should be focused along the south face of the building in both summer and winter (albeit different angles). If you combine that notion with the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, you have your recipe for how to efficiently layout your units.

The living room, dining room, and family room should be situated in the southern most areas. These spaces get daylight throughout most of the day and capitalize on the most amount of solar heat gain. However, south glazing should be protected during summer months.

The eastern areas are best for the kitchen/breakfast area and bedrooms—provided you’re your residents are early risers. Throughout the year, the eastern areas get an initial solar heat gain first thing in the morning as the sun rises, then later in the day, when a majority of the cooking functions occur, the kitchen will be cooler.

The western areas of the unit can be good for living and dining spaces, but fall victim to the harshest sun of the day. This is due to a very low angle that often creates overheating and excessive glare. I encourage you to provide very little glazing on the west side of the home unless you are in a climate that needs the prevailing winds for cooling. If you have that need, make sure glazing control devices (such as window blinds) are installed.

Since the north facing spaces of the building get almost no benefit to solar heating or daylighting, these are the spaces best suited for the non-habitable spaces like bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, and stairs.

Passive Cooling

Passive cooling diagram from Indian Village Lodge

Passive Design – Built for Affordable Housing
Affordable housing developers, owners and designers are constantly looking for ways to increase the quality of life for residents of housing communities. By infusing the forces of nature into the building, passive design allows the occupants to feel engaged as they reap benefits from the natural elements.

Also, passive design has little or no cost impact. By following the basic principles outlined above, developers and designers can include some level of passive design into almost every type of housing by making the right decisions upfront. Passive design has been used for hundreds of years and will continue to be one of the few design ideas that will stand the test of time.

Here’s some other design resources if you’re interested in reading more about passive design:

Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Press Release, Sustainability Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

USGBC’s Holistic Approach to Green Building Certification

by on August 18, 2015 - Leave A Comment

On June 28, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) kicked off Convergence, its mid-year national conference, in San Diego, CA. Hundreds of USGBC members from across the globe all gathered for four days for a series of intense business meetings, forums, presentations, awards, hands-on sustainability projects, and inspiring conversations. I attended Convergence as a member of the Emerging Professionals National Committee (EPNC). This was my first time experiencing USGBC on a national level–and the experience was life-changing.

Never before have I been surrounded by so many passionate, intelligent, and driven individuals all trying to better the world by making our built environment more sustainable. USGBC is moving past LEED Certification and onto a more holistic approach of what it truly takes to make our industry ‘green’. Much of the discussion surrounded the four new green building certification and rating systems that Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) will be overseeing: WELL, PEERS, SITES, and GRESB.

Green Building Certifications

Click to visit GBCI for more information about these certifications.

The WELL Building Standard is a building certification system based on seven concepts: air, water, light, nourishment, fitness, comfort, and mind. WELL is the world’s first rating system based solely on human health and wellness. It takes into account how the user is interacting with his or her built environment and how we can use design technologies to encourage physical activity. This rating system is a great complement to the existing LEED Rating System and users will be able to cross-pollinate between the two. I think there is a tremendous amount of potential within the healthcare industry for this certification and I can’t wait to learn more about it when they announce more details at Greenbuild in November.

The other three rating systems discussed in the forum are also very exciting. PEER (Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal) is a rating process for measuring the performance of power grids. SITES can be described as an expansion of the Sustainable Sites section of the LEED Rating System, focusing on the importance of landscapes around our built environment. Its goal is to ‘create ecologically resilient communities’ that will be able to quickly recover from events like natural disasters. Lastly, GRESB is a real estate sustainability benchmarking tool for investors to be able to measure their portfolios. It aims to be the sustainability standard for the real estate industry. LEED will still have a vital role in our industry by continuing to push the barriers of what it means to be sustainable, but it is becoming more fluid with other methods and means of being green. It is not so much a ‘this or that’ choice anymore, but how can these systems work together to help us achieve our end goal of transforming our built environment.

Also introduced at the conference, was USGBC’s ADVANCE platform that connects skilled volunteers with community-based organizations in under-served areas to promote green building to all. It provides opportunities for those new to the industry to gain experience and learn more about sustainable practices and for veterans in the industry, it gives them a chance to give back to a cause that they care deeply about. For community organizations (i.e. non-profits, community centers, faith-based organizations, etc.), it enables them to build and operate a sustainable building that they would not have had the resources to do before.

In previous years, this conference was called the mid-year meeting, but USGBC realized that this did not reflect the actual experience. Meetings connote long, dry discussions that are not usually something to get excited about. That is not what this conference was or is. Convergence suggests people coming together and uniting, which seems more apt. This was not hours of discussion on the future of LEED and how to revise credits. Convergence was people coming from across the country and sharing their ideas of what it takes to optimize our existing and future building stock.

In a fast-paced four days, I met people from across the world, each working towards the same goal but in their own way. Architects were designing net zero energy buildings. Superintendents were creating green training programs. Entrepreneurs were creating green jobs and business plans. Financiers were finding ways to invest in sustainable projects. The paths toward sustainable leadership were endless. It was emphasized that USGBC is not just an organization, but a movement. There is no org chart, but instead a large group of talented individuals all bonded by one goal – “transforming the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” I must say, if the world is filled with more people like I met at Convergence, this movement is only going to continue to grow.
USGBC Convergence

Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Healthcare Design, LEED, Lighting Design, M+A News, People, Sustainability Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Construction Administration, an Owner’s Best Friend

by on August 7, 2015 - Leave A Comment

True or False
An architect’s job is done once construction documents are completed and construction starts?

We’re hoping you said the answer was false. If you already knew that, I think you’d be surprised how many owners have the preconceived notion that architects hand over their designs to contractors once construction begins. However, an architect’s job doesn’t end there. This is where architects can offer owners and clients the invaluable service of construction administration, which actually can be the most time consuming and record intensive of all architectural design services. Construction administration, or C/A, sometimes requires a separate contract between the owner and the architect, but its benefits can be large and quickly seen, as we’ve experienced over the years. C/A gives owners peace of mind that their project will be constructed per the drawings to ultimately ensure that the design is carried out, and additionally, lessens the design team’s liability.

CA pics

Architects performing construction administration make sure that the project is being built according to the design, including ADA compliance, proper material use, and fenestration locations.

Construction Administration Basics: Architects and owners agree to a certain amount of visits to the construction site (typically weekly). The architectural construction administrator prepares field reports that reflect their site observation comparing what is being built to the documents. The architectural construction administrator is NOT on site to direct or provide construction supervision – that is the responsibility of the contractor.

Now it’s time for a little thing we (and Jimmy Fallon) like to do called Pro’s and Con’s.

Pros and Cons

Pros for the owner:

– SAVES MONEY: Potential problems that might arise during construction can be identified early on
– PROVIDES OWNER WITH PEACE OF MIND: Architect’s involvement helps supplement Owner’s construction knowledge
– ENSURES THE PROJECT IS BUILT PER DESIGN: Requests for information (RFI’s) that could impact the design are reviewed by the Architect to maintain the project’s design intent
– KEEPS THE PROJECT ON SCHEDULE: Architects that return shop drawings and RFI’s to the contractor quickly can help avoid costly delays
– COMMUNICATION STAYS A PRIORITY: keeping meeting minutes is another duty of C/A. These reports can be vital if questions arise later in the construction process
– ENSURES THE PROJECT IS (REALLY) BUILT PER DESIGN: The architect will walk through the building when completed to see to it that everything has been constructed per design. Items that were not constructed correctly will be noted on a punch list, then the owner can decide to accept the change or request it be corrected.

Cons for the owner:

– Cost / Additional Contract but spending a little up front can save lots later (see first Pro above)
– No others. Seriously, none.

As an architect and someone who often diligently completes construction administration services, I view C/A as a vital service to ensure the Owner and Architect’s vision is brought to fruition.  It should be a collaborative and positive process between all parties to make the long and often tedious construction journey a smooth and successful one.

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

Demographic Impacts on Student Housing Design

by on July 31, 2015 - Leave A Comment

It’s the middle of summer and most college students are likely busy working their summer jobs or otherwise enjoying these long days of sunshine (okay, more like rainstorms here in central Ohio). Those of us who work in the field of higher education, know that summer may mean quieter campuses, but it doesn’t mean an end to our work. As we prepare for the fall semester, let’s take a look at the changing demographics on campuses across our country and how that affects student housing.

Stadium Centre at Florida State UniversityAs college certificates and degrees become more important to finding success, enrollment in American colleges and universities has grown significantly over the last two of decades. With that growth, the demographic base has begun to shift from the traditional definition of “student” and there are now record numbers of non-traditional domestic students and affluent international students attending schools across the country. When planning projects and programs on campus, including student housing, it is important to consider how best to meet their unique needs.

The domestic student population has become more diverse, including older students that are working to cover college costs and/or raising children. These challenges increase their housing insecurity. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Policy Development and Research, in their February 2015 periodical titled, Insights into Housing and Community Development Policy, “students’ housing challenges likely contribute” to large gaps in graduation rates between low-income and higher-income students. The question of where these students live while attending college, or rather what they can afford, is an important one to discuss.

The increases in the number of international students, according to a March 24, 2015 article in The Wall Street Journal titled, International Students Stream Into U.S. Colleges, have been “prompted by the rise of an affluent class in China and generous scholarships offered by oil-rich Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia.” The rise of these more affluent populations overseas has coincided with domestic budget problems. Because international students typically pay higher out-of-state fees, institutions are motivated to find ways to recruit and retain these individuals. While affordability is less of an issue with this subgroup of students, they do have several hurdles that must be overcome, beginning with language barriers and cultural differences.

While it’s widely accepted that there are many benefits to living on or near campus, student housing design is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Besides trying to accommodate an ever more diverse population, on-campus housing stock has not kept pace with the increases in enrollment. Facing budget shortfalls, institutions have had many problems maintaining or modernizing their aging residence halls. Utilizing private developers is an ongoing solution that provides a high-end product at minimal cost to the institution. However, this solution is not without risks. Unless there are agreements established to control costs, much of the new housing is likely to be out of reach of lower income students and could create an unintended socioeconomic division among the resident population. Also, without the support of student and residence life programs, many students could get overlooked and universities may miss their chance to retain these students.

The shifting demographics at our nation’s universities and colleges present challenges to the traditional methods utilized by the industry to support a student’s higher education experience. However, there are many opportunities to respond to these challenges with creative solutions that can help ensure our existing and future investments in higher education are more effective.

Posted in: Community, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,