For architects and urban designers, understanding zoning tools can be key to good design and good opportunities. While in much of the country municipalities try to create planning policies before drafting zoning codes, New York City and Miami (with its form-based code), for example, use zoning as the dominant tool for implementing planning policy. Whether that’s the best way to proceed or not, it hasn’t stopped those cities from innovating on policies for improving the quality of life and addressing other social concerns. Many of the ideas can help other towns and cities better manage change.
Public school buildings often stand at the center of our communities, geographically and architecturally, serving a range of community purposes while supporting the next generation’s education. Time, weather, and deferred maintenance can leave K-12 districts with major challenges, however. Another perennial concern is student-population growth.
Cost-effective and sustainable strategies for addressing these factors involve upgrading older school buildings with energy-wise envelope improvements and investing in smart, context-sensitive expansions. The following examples show how the School Construction Authority (SCA) of New York City kept two aging schools standing.
Whether you live in or build multifamily housing, there are many new demands on the baseline residential experience. The fact is, much of the older U.S. housing stock is out of reach and often out of step with the needs of younger residents and buyers. Old apartment and condominium configurations no longer have the same appeal and we need to explore enhanced solutions that meet the needs of millennials and their interest in authentic experiences and technology-infused lifestyles.
In cities across the United States, cultural organizations serve vital civic roles promoting the arts, addressing social needs, supporting education, and creating community touchstones. Nonprofit groups, such as community theaters, offer access to the arts and platforms that nurture local talent. Plus, many of these organizations provide space for neighborhood-based events and programming, all reinforcing a sense of local pride and community.
These days, going to the office doesn’t just mean going to work. Increasingly, today’s office buildings also offer a social experience and amenities that make employees feel “at home,” active, and entertained. Many of these are creative, boutique commercial magnets that serve this growing need as the concept of a work-life balance gives way to work-life integration.
Building construction and operation are major contributors to global warming. A 2016 report from the EPA shows that commercial and residential building operations account for 11% of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. Good design is green design, and architects have a responsibility to share best practices, including repurposing and upgrading existing buildings. There is almost unlimited potential in adaptive reuse and redevelopment, and rehabilitating historical buildings represents one of the most sustainable approaches to the design and construction of built space available to us, for several reasons.
As digital technology evolves at breakneck speed, the emergence of new design tools has opened valuable horizons for architects. In fact, architecture and design firms often feel immense pressure to adapt and adopt—or lose out on new opportunities.
Adding to the challenge, many firms report a lack of clarity as to which tools are most important and most likely to have enduring value. This is especially true for smaller firms: the time invested into researching the market and adapting practice structures and project workflows to building information modeling (BIM), for example, is a significant and unbillable expense. Yet, successfully deploying BIM provides any firm with the best prospects for long-term growth, since BIM is key to leaner design processes with improved outcomes, a lasting and valuable dataset, and better project-team communication with the building trades and clients.
With the rise of suburban shopping malls, followed by the boom in big-box stores and the advent of online retail, it’s easy to conceive that Main Street retail is under attack. Some municipalities have experimented with restaurant-only redevelopment of their downtown areas, but these have been shown to be remarkably vulnerable to economic downturns. Successful retail options are, it would seem, vital to a thriving town center.
Urban-revitalization success stories can be inspiring to those who love great cities, especially when the unique character of a neighborhood or district is preserved and even celebrated. Cincinnati provides a perfect example. In recent years the city’s Over-the-Rhine section countered a decades-long decline into crime and urban decay. Development efforts reconnected the area to the neighboring business district, which encouraged new economic activity. Simultaneously, community and city leaders stressed social and cultural diversity and preservation of iconic buildings and Victorian-style row houses. The result is a resurgent Over-the-Rhine that makes “hot spot” lists in real estate and lifestyle journals, and a neighborhood believed to be one of the largest urban historic districts to remain predominantly intact—almost 1,000 notable buildings on more than 3,600 acres.
Building owners don’t love pop-up tenants—the temporary retail installations that occupy storefronts and other spaces before long-term leases are signed—but increasingly they really like them a lot. Think about their quandary: Should retail spaces sit empty for months on end, a sign that the property is somehow less than desirable, or maybe overpriced? Or, why not invite a big charity or a hip chef or artist, or perhaps even a fashion label to take over for a short while, drawing attention and activating the sidewalk out front?
Expectations are rapidly changing in American work and study spaces. These changes involve often surprising improvements to commonly used products alongside radically new concepts that better serve the ways people study and work. In this article, we cover some of the products and trends that are providing the solutions and flexibility architects require.
Less than a year ago this design firm acquired a virtual-reality (VR) technology system, which took residence in one of their studio’s precious few conference rooms. While this means it’s now more difficult to use the room for meetings, the space has arguably become more valuable. VR has quickly become a vital part of their design process.
By Lynn Brotman and Katherine Berger, Svigals + Partners
Only a decade or two ago, spending on brand expression was concentrated on product design and marketing collateral. Now it’s about competing for talent, market share, and customer affinity. For one global technology client, its newly designed offices strategically capitalize on its roots as a garage-based startup. To leverage this appeal, the solution integrates interior architecture with branded graphics to celebrate the culture of the technology-startup community.
By Brian M. Koshley, AIA,
Carrier Johnson + CULTURE
Should universities seek leaders with a significant business background? This question comes up frequently as some trustees seek corporate resumes to head their colleges. It raises a related notion: Are universities best operated like a big business? Opinions differ on this highly charged topic, but one thing is clear: Institutions of higher education spend billions on back-office operations. On most campuses, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education website, essential administrative spaces account for as much as a quarter of a school’s total square footage.
By Rachel Woodhouse, NCIDQ, LEED AP, Dyer Brown Architects
Businesses of most sizes and types thrive on the availability of talented people. Increasingly, that talent pool is dominated by the generation referred to as Millennials, or Generation Y, soon to be joined by the post-Millennial Generation Z members, who are just now coming of age. These younger demographics characteristically prefer to live and work in urban environments, which offer the highly integrated social atmosphere and density of social activity and amenities that suit their preferred lifestyles. But office space in these cities can be very expensive. Can emerging companies compete for top recruits in the suburbs?
By Joshua Zinder AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design
Is great architecture invisible? Depending on the project type, end-user studies by firms such as HOK and researchers at Univ. of California, Berkeley, show that at least 50% of a building’s perceived and actual performance is entirely unseen. Whether it’s acoustics, workplace/learning technology, or security and life-safety systems, key elements that shape end-user experience can often be difficult to discern at first glance.
By Victoria J. Cerami, CEO, Cerami & Associates, Inc.
One of the missing links in many U.S. cities is the need for new infill housing and mixed-use developments—smaller, neighborhood-scaled buildings that help fill in the gaps in many urban blocks. In places such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Dallas, and Houston, these small and medium-scale buildings are missing from the cityscape. Instead, we’re left with gap-toothed blocks that lack continuity and grace. Smart, friendly infill projects not only make economic use of those gaps, but they also make our cities more walkable, livable, vibrant, and resilient.
By Jason Boyer, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, Studio Ma
Too many in the healthcare and technology sectors find out the hard way that laboratories are not all created equal. Lab-facility owners, entrepreneurs, and scientists all have experienced what it’s like to work in less-than-ideal conditions. To achieve inspired breakthroughs in science, research organizations demand more than just workbenches, bright lighting, and powerful vent hoods. These clients deserve better, and they should expect more, too.
By Robert Skolozdra, AIA, LEED AP, Svigals + Partners
Time kills all deals, as commercial brokers and property owners know all too well. Wait too long to act, and the prospective tenant disappears. In previous economic cycles, tighter supplies of building stock gave some owners and leasing agents a bit of breathing room. Today’s markets favor lessees. In cities such as Boston, Atlanta, and Seattle, new buildings are adding to existing inventory, offering fresh options. Plus, end-users are shifting workplace strategies, reallocating uses, and even renting in what were once less-desirable locales. These new trends heap pressure on property owners to stay nimble and get creative.
By Deniz Ferendeci, Dyer Brown Architects
“Whether for new construction or renovation, the workplace design challenges for interior designers are usually familiar ones. Clients who operate in similarly competitive fields require the designer to strike an optimal balance among multiple project goals. We strive to create harmony between professional, aesthetically pleasing workplaces and flexible spaces that quickly adapt to changing needs.”
By Danette Ferretti and Stuart Fromson, Carrier Johnson + CULTURE
The shifting, expanding role of interior designers in the delivery of built space has been welcome news for building owners in recent years. Yet, it has created some confusion. Clients are navigating a marketplace that includes renovations of interiors in building shells in aging urban cores, while many tenants demand higher levels of specialization. This causes owners to worry that they may make unfortunate decisions based on bad information and guesswork.
Entering this marketplace is an innovative approach to practice: the integrated-design firm. These firms combine expertise in two or more disciplines under one roof. For example, many offer architecture and interior-design services, industrial design of products and furniture, and graphics and branding. Many commercial clients find this approach enormously valuable.
By Joshua Zinder, AIA, and Ashley Servis
Collaboration, community, and creativity: Those are the three watchwords and guideposts of today’s K-12 school architecture. For independent and public institutions, a design philosophy that links broad community goals in an engaging, productive process always helps achieve the most fruitful, effective, and lasting outcomes. This has been the case for Svigals+Partners, New Haven, CT, in the many schools we have designed, including the new replacement school created for the Sandy Hook area in Newtown, CT.
By Julia McFadden, AIA, Associate Principal, Svigals+Partners
Challenges facing U.S. universities and colleges today are significant, ranging from issues of affordability and access to greater diversity and a push for innovation. Fewer students are finishing their college degrees, and only about four of 10 full-time, first-time students nationally earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. Can new facilities—and better uses of existing buildings and grounds—be part of a solution?
By Ray Varela, Design Principal, Carrier Johnson + CULTURE
Economically and sustainably speaking, adaptive reuse is a winning strategy to consider when developing a project. Empty or decommissioned structures have enormous intrinsic value. Provided that an existing structure can be appropriately adapted to a new typology, owners and developers can save on construction through reduced total materials costs and shortened timetables. In terms of sustainability, reuse of timber, concrete, steel, and other materials represents significant reductions in the embedded energy and carbon footprint associated with the project.
By Joshua Zinder AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design
In recent years, commercial and institutional groups increasingly ask designers to create office settings that are more friendly, comfortable, and informal. “Lighten it up” is the new rule, not the exception. This has opened the door for real innovation. It’s also part of the stated mission at Svigals+Partners, New Haven, CT, to conceive productive playgrounds: environments that are conducive to open participation and creative collaboration, and the kind of grown-up play that supports progress, inspiration, and productivity.
By Christopher Bockstael, AIA, Partner, Svigals+Partners
San Diego is a living example of the power of effective mixed-use designs in urban settings.
By Michael Johnson, AIA, Founder and Design Principal Carrier Johnson + CULTURE
Designing for millennials boosts employee recruitment and retention and increases workspace value.
By Joshua Zinder AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, and Marlyn Zucosky, IIDA, Assoc. AIA
Integrating artwork into a project creates identity and helps build the bonds of community.
By Christopher Bockstael, AIA
How can commercial architecture become more authentic? The best way is to create building solutions that are true to their places, people, and legacies.
By Gordon Carrier, FAIA, NCARB
Include these five factors when designing environments that promote physical improvement and overall well-being.
By Joshua Zinder, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP and Marlyn Zucosky, IIDA