Is WELL Building Standard the new LEED?

by on September 23, 2015 - Leave A Comment

There has been a new rating system popping up in the sustainability realm that has started gaining momentum: The WELL Building Standard. To date, there are not many WELL Certified Buildings (currently 7 projects seeking or certified on the WELL website) but that is not representative of the potential future of the program. The chatter is that this could be the next big thing. With that said, what do you need to know about this new rating system?

WELL will work very closely with the LEED Rating System. There are many synergies between the two and the same organization (GBCI) oversees the certification of them both. However, they are definitely not direct competitors. While there is still a ‘green’ thread woven throughout the WELL Building Standard, it is much more focused on how the built environment plays a role in occupant health. Take bike racks for example: including bike racks and showering facilities is a strategy within both rating systems, but the reasoning and method behind it is slightly different within each. With LEED, the main purpose for incorporating bike racks into a project is to encourage alternative transportation when commuting—decreasing pollution and land development. WELL recognizes the reduction of the carbon footprint, but it incorporates bike racks because it is a ‘healthy, low-impact mode of transportation that can help maintain weight and cardiovascular health.’

WELL Building Standard

Image courtesy of

The WELL Building Standard is the product of ‘seven years of research done by leading physicians, scientists, and industry professionals.’ It partially grew out of a concern over rising healthcare costs. As these costs have been rising, firms have been finding innovative ways to encourage their employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle. WELL marries that concern of human health and wellbeing with the desire for environmental sustainability giving us a building standard that allows for total human sustainability. It comprehensively looks at all components of a building and analyzes how that could affect an occupant’s health and comfort, in an attempt to be proactive instead of reactive. The standard directly relates each of its features (‘features’ are WELL’s nomenclature for ‘credits’) to body systems. For example, one of the features is called Circadian Lighting Design. The intent of this credit is to design the lighting systems throughout the building so that they reinforce the natural rhythms of the human circadian cycle, which determines our sleep and wake cycles. This feature will benefit our cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, immune, muscular, and nervous system.

Well Building Standard

Click the image to download the WELL Building Standard

While there is an obvious connection between the healthcare industry and the WELL Building Standard, this first version of the standard is optimized for commercial and institutional buildings. However, there are pilot programs for many sectors, including:

– Education
– Residential Multifamily
– Athletic Facilities
– Retail
– Arenas
– Healthcare

We are just at the beginning, but the future seems bright for the WELL Building Standard. Its approach is holistic, with 102 performance metrics and strategies covering all aspects of occupant wellbeing. It also requires performance testing for many of its features. Lack of performance measurements has historically been a criticism of the LEED Rating System (LEEDv4 is attempting to address this), so WELL is starting right with requiring so many performance metrics. The testing may make some potential users apprehensive at first though, as these will be immediate increased costs to a project budget. However, in the end, it is all being done to ensure we are building the most efficient, comfortable and healthy buildings for our future generations, so I think it is worth it. It is time to get excited about buildings and health!

Posted in: Community, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Healthcare Design, LEED, Lighting Design, Press Release, Sustainability Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Liberty Center – Designed for Millennials

by on September 14, 2015 - Leave A Comment

It’s an interesting thing, being a Millennial and reading endless articles about Millennials. I feel like I’m in a constant state of unintentional self-reflection. What makes me loyal? Do I prefer experiences over material things? Would I die one day without my iphone? Do I believe in climbing the ladder or googling where the closest elevator is? I’m sure you’ve read the articles, if not, take a moment to stay calm and click above.

Millennials are large and in charge and they aren’t following any patterns of past generations – which is probably why it’s so exciting and insightful for people to write about. Although we all live in a world where information, entertainment, communication and commerce are available with a mere swipe of a screen, Millennials are the ones creating the apps and technology connecting us to that world. The Millennial generation is one that is driven and activated by experience and this notion extends from the way we live, the way we work and into the way we buy.

Yahoo apparently agrees. “Millennials… are not your parents’ generation; they do things differently and in a big way….Nowhere is this influence being felt more than in the retail industry: recent research reveals that Millennials are changing the rules of brand marketing, redefining purchase habits, and revolutionizing the shopping experience as we know it.”

Now, I am no anthropologist, nor an expert on retail trends, however, I do know how I buy and how my friends buy. If we’re not shopping online (73% make purchases online), we pick shopping centers on experience and convenience, stores on reliably, and brands on recommendations and quality.

If you’re in-tune with emerging retail trends or live near the Cincinnati-Dayton area, chances are you have heard of the mecca that is Liberty Center. On the off-chance you’ve given up on shopping in stores and are bewitched by the convenience of online shopping, Liberty Center is a $350 million development between Dayton and Cincinnati that is setting a high, shiny new bar for retail and mixed use centers. I now have to acknowledge and excuse my bias for the project, since M+A is a part of the development’s realization, but I would be just as excited for this development if I didn’t work for M+A, I assure you.

From my professional Millennial opinion and first-hand knowledge of the project, Liberty Center isn’t just another shopping center. The development’s 88 acres and 1.2 million square feet are blanketed with a diverse livable fabric and embedded with walkability. Instead of just the live, work, play components, it folds together live, work, play with celebrate, dine, worship, grocery shop, exercise, and relax (among many more). This combination is clearly an intentional response towards the Millennial population and our tendencies to view shopping as entertainment, not just commerce.

“If it’s not fun, not meaningful, and not memorable, there really is no reason for consumers to shop there.” (

Liberty Center may be the first, but will undoubtedly not be the last development to create an environment that fosters diverse and changing experiences through the mixing of uses. By grouping retail with public spaces, event venues, and rooftop gardens, the project engages well beyond the consumer to residents, visitors and employees. Whatever someone’s reason is for being there, the appeal for them to stay, explore and return is driven by their unique experience.


“…this generation not only highly values experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them: from concerts and social events to athletic pursuits, to cultural experiences and events of all kinds. For this group, happiness isn’t as focused on possessions or career status. Living a meaningful, happy life is about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences that span the spectrum of life’s opportunities.” (Eventbright)


Also, as a resident of Cincinnati and past resident of Columbus, I can’t rightfully end this blog without mentioning two of the most delicious restaurant additions coming to Liberty Center: the Columbus-based restaurants Northstar Cafe and BIBIBOP. You reading this, should be VERY excited.

Posted in: Community, Local Developments, M+A News, Projects, Retail Tagged with: , , ,

Remembering a Passionate Architect, Leader, and Coworker

by on September 4, 2015 - Leave A Comment

Mike KarpinskiToday marks five years since the passing of Mike Karpinski, who after a long battle, succumbed to cancer in 2010. Throughout his last years, Mike maintained his sense of humor and positive attitude. Having the pleasure of working with Mike, we fondly remember his passion for architecture, his quick wit and humor, and his high level of professionalism that he demonstrated in his work.

Mike was an associate of our firm and was passionately focused in working on school projects. Oakmont Elementary School for Columbus City Schools (below) was one of his later projects that he completed with us. The success of the design of this project is a testimony to his knowledge and attention to detail.

I find it quite fitting that one of the projects of which he was instrumental in bringing into our office, an expansion to the St. Vincent Family Center in Columbus, has just recently been completed with classes opening this past week. I am sure Mike would have been pleased to have seen the realization of the school’s growth and enlarged facilities, as he was involved in its early planning stages.

Mike was a very dedicated family man and spoke proudly of his wife and two sons. Today, we remember Mike as a passionate architect, leader, and coworker.

Mike Karpinski and I at the dedication of Oakmont Elementary School in December 2008

Mike and I at the dedication of Oakmont Elementary School in December 2008

Posted in: People, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , ,

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: , , , , , , ,