At Ankrom Moisan, we work hard to ensure an equal experience for all users of the spaces we design. We explore how to push beyond the expected with accessibility features on projects like Wynne Watts Commons, and we welcome updated codes and standards to address the needs of our community. As the 2021 Building Code takes effect in each jurisdiction, the embedded 2017 A117.1 Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities also takes effect. The new 2017 A117.1 provides significant updates to accessibility clearances based on a study of wheelchair users. The A117.1 is developed by the International Code Council (same authors as the International Building Code). Their challenge is to find the best design criteria for a wide range of abilities, from wheelchair users to standing persons with back problems to persons with low vision or hearing challenges. Ankrom Moisan has participated in their process as an “interested party” in one issue, kitchen outlets, and can attest to the countless hours that go into just one requirement.
At the Ronald McDonald House expansion we wanted to make all families staying for short or long stays be able to use all the amenities, including the common kitchens.
Overall impacts to projects by this change are modest, resulting in a few rooms being enlarged by a few inches. While the changes are minimal to buildings, they provide much higher levels of accessibility for impacted users. The most impactful updates are changes to the following requirements:
- In most cases, clear floor spaces grow from 30-inch by 48-inch to 30-inch by 52-inch.
- The turning circle that was a 60-inch “wedding cake” with knee and toe clearance all around is now a 67-inch cylinder with minimal knee and toe clearance.
When looking at a typical privately funded apartment building, the changes are minimal as long as they are understood at the start of the project. There are no changes to Type B units (except new exceptions for kitchens outlets were added), and for the Type A units, the kitchen, bathroom, and walk-in closet may grow a few inches. The trash chute access room will see the biggest change, growing up to 7” in both directions. The new code allows for rounding down for Accessible and Type A unit calculations and parking spaces. All these changes are minor when incorporated into the initial design of the building but could be very tricky late in the design process.
There are still some unknowns; If there are Accessible units in a project, they will now require windows to be fully accessible. While the height and clear floor space requirements are easy to meet, we are still searching for a window style and manufacturer that can meet the requirements that windows are operable without tight grasping and less than 5 pounds of pressure to open and lock/unlock.
Our work isn’t done; kitchen outlets were simplified in the corners where a range and refrigerator protrude past the counter with this code cycle, but we must wait for the next A117.1 cycle for kitchen outlets to no longer dictate kitchen design. Ankrom Moisan has been active, submitting code proposals to the State of Oregon, the City of Seattle, and to A117.1 to make kitchen outlets accessible with reasonable requirements.
At the Wynne Watts Commons the team provided universal design residential units that included cooktops that pull out and upper cabinets lower with the controls shown in the cabinet front.
Added complexity with new code change
From a designer’s perspective, the requirements of accessibility have grown exceptionally complex. For example, under the new A117.1, there are now different size clearances for new and existing as well as Type A and Type B units, and the definition of “existing” in the A117.1 does not match the definition in the building code. This adds to the already confusing accessibility requirements that require us to reference multiple documents for any given item (building code with unique amendments by jurisdiction, Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, etc.). Coupled with different interpretations from different experts and code officials it is no wonder why accessibility requirements feel a bit daunting to us and our clients. As an example, California does not adopt the A117.1 but rather chooses to write its own Chapter 11 of the building code with its own unique scoping and technical criteria. And that is just accessibility, our Architects are juggling fire life safety, energy code, constructability, and our client’s budget all while creating great places where communities thrive.
As a firm, we had a challenge to overcome; the new accessibility requirements do not apply to all our projects at the same time. Depending on where they are in the permitting process and the jurisdiction they are in, every project must determine when, and if, they are required to flip to the new code. While most of our projects will be using the new code by the end of 2023, many will still be under the old code for years to come. We had to develop Revit resources for our project teams that could work for both codes at the same time. Our Accessibility experts partnered with our BIM team to develop a system meeting these goals and requirements:
- It had to be as simple and easy to use as possible for our project teams.
- It had to be blatantly obvious, by a quick glance within Revit, what codes were being shown on any given project.
- It had to provide all the options now allowed by the standards and guide teams to pick the applicable option.
Our solution to this challenge was rolled out to our project teams in September 2022 and provided over 500 updated Revit families.
We have found so many nuances in the accessibility codes that it can be hard to make generic statements. We would love to talk to you about your specific project or topic. Please reach out to Cara Godwin at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about accessibility for your project.
by Cara Godwin, Senior Associate
Living Our Hows (1 of 6): Embracing Change
Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Embracing Change and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows.
With hybrid workplaces becoming a universal work experience, the technology and resources available to support this new way of working have been catching up. Manufacturers are increasingly offering furniture and technology solutions designed to support inclusivity, equity, and enhanced acoustics in a hybrid work environment.
Through user-centered design solutions and seamless integration, hybrid meetings can be inclusive, equitable, and productive. Meetings, events, and brainstorming sessions allow both remote and in-person participants to feel like they are in the same room and equally a part of the conversation. With more and more meetings taking place virtually, the need for a quiet space is crucial. Furniture pieces with total acoustic separation from the rest of the office provide a separate and quiet space.
Ankrom has begun to update our office space to better suit hybrid working. We wanted to make updates within our office that combined the furniture and resources we already had with new technology and furniture pieces that we are now seeing in the market. As we began our research prior to making changes, we asked ourselves some of these questions:
- How can we upgrade the acoustics to improve sound quality?
- How can we create a space that evenly distributes light to the user?
- Is there a way to add an element of privacy to an already existing room?
With these questions in mind, we began to develop ideas for three new space typologies: hybrid meeting spaces, individual Zoom rooms and Zoom pods.
Access to hybrid meeting spaces equipped for virtual meetings is essential. Working closely with our IT team, we created conference rooms that can easily accommodate virtual meetings with new technology such as newly installed smart cameras and larger monitors that are compatible with iPads and laptops to easily control these meetings.
Next, we honed in on individual Zoom rooms, which originated as our “phone rooms” with nothing more than bench seating and a side table. We modified these spaces to include a desk and monitor to provide access to virtual meetings along with upgraded acoustic properties.
Lastly, we have begun to place small “pods” throughout the office to create a space for an employee to sit down and take a quick call.
Through trial and error, we have created a great system for each room that is used for virtual meetings including external mics, higher quality cameras, ring lights, and new acoustic panels on the walls, all with comfort and accessibility as our top priority. Today, we must adapt to hybrid workplaces and embrace change.
by Jessica Kirshner, Interior Designer
Every year, around this time, we gather as a firm and celebrate design. It’s like an Ankrom Moisan holiday. A week-long tradition we’ve all come to know and love—AM Design Week.
This year’s theme was aptly labeled “Better Together.” And the mission was simple: share, have fun, be yourself, and embrace change.
Opportunities to join in workshops, collaborative exercises and group discussions were sprinkled throughout the week so that AM staff could connect, share ideas, and improve each other’s work.
Some of us gathered over Zoom for an origami workshop hosted by an instructor in Japan, others participated in a guided collaboration exercise, or joined in one of the many happy hours—on a rooftop in Portland, in a Seattle speakeasy, or at a San Francisco tapas bar. There were neighborhood walkabouts, design critiques, interactive collages, and so much more. In fact, there were more than 15 activities organized across our three offices.
After the week was over, Kerstyn—AM Content Coordinator—told us that “as a fully remote employee, the opportunity to connect playfully with others at AM was welcome and offered many moments of creativity to look forward to.”
And it really was FUN! Perhaps the best way to illustrate just how much we laughed during Design Week (besides showing you the pictures) is to share a few of the fan favorite “proverbs” we collaboratively generated during our AArdvark Design Labs workshops:
“Sometimes people have ideas from the brain that transcend time and wavelengths.”
“Don’t forget to remember how a dog sees the bathroom before eating.”
“The AArdvark workshop was entertaining and illuminating, with back-and-forth between small groups, focusing together on rapid-fire improvisation” Kerstyn added. “Design Week was a treasure-trove of connection, conversation, and collaboration.”
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Bringing Bigger Buildings to Smaller Jurisdictions
Over the last several years, more demand in smaller markets has resulted in increased proposals for larger scale developments. These jurisdictions have not previously had to review projects that utilize code criteria that are unique to larger building types.
From the construction permitting point of view, bigger buildings have different codes, and those codes have different interpretations from city to city, and sometimes reviewer to reviewer.
Jurisdictions are experts at the familiar but can often be resistant to the new. Given the role that building officials play in safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of their community, a conservative approach to new code criteria is a reasonably common practice.
Our experience in jurisdictions with more complex code usage can help clients understand the way others have successfully worked with designers to implement unfamiliar strategies in code compliance.
Our expertise in larger buildings in bigger markets can be valuable with code analysis and interpretation in smaller markets, both from the designer and reviewers’ points of view.
We have consistently seen that building official/fire marshal engagement prior to submittal is key. Meeting early and often minimizes unforeseen issues arising during plan check review. Our history of discussions/solutions from multiple jurisdictions allows for specific issues to be flagged and addressed with real-world applications that have been proven to be successful.
We have found that when discussing podium construction there are several key elements to consider within the wood-framed components that differ from applications that do not include a concrete podium. Here are a few key items to consider:
- Type III: A wood construction with two-hour rated exterior walls, from the inside and out.
When building height exceeds 70 ft., this construction type allows for building heights up to 85 ft., and requires non-combustible exterior wall construction, commonly achieved through the use of fire-retardant treated lumber. Cladding and its support elements must also be non-combustible above 40 ft. Critical considerations include close study of the highest occupiable floor level based on fire access set-up point. If the lowest point of fire access results in a dimension to the highest occupiable floor level that exceeds 75 ft., then high-rise criteria become applicable. Cost typically limits high-rise construction to projects which far exceed 75 ft. height. Designers must consider this cost impact, especially when contemplating occupied roof decks, which some jurisdictions will allow to exceed the 75 ft. height, while others will not.
Project Example – Hudson on Farmer (Farmer Arts), Tempe, AZ (Framing construction, completed building)
- Type V: A wood construction with one-hour rated exterior walls from the outside.
When construction does not exceed 70 ft. this construction type allows for reduced costs and more easily managed fire resistivity criteria. Building area is limited, and in many cases fire walls within the building are required to compartmentalize the structure. For multifamily buildings, corridors penetrate these walls requiring rated opening protection. Although these walls add cost, they provide an opportunity to reduce the number of stairwells when used as horizontal exits between building compartments. Designers must consider how, and when, to use the horizontal exit tool, ensuring that no more than half of the required exits from a floor level are provided by horizontal exits. Additionally, these opening assemblies can be provided via several options, including manufactured assemblies, and custom specified components. Designers must consider the comparative costs of the different approaches and the capacity of the project’s general contractor to manage the installation of the selected approach.
Project Example – Modera Northgate, Seattle, WA. (Final rendering, floor plan compartment diagram)
- Type I: Podium/basement non-combustible construction of one, two, or three levels can be provided as a podium for multiple stories of wood construction above.
The ability to allow for the wood frame construction type of the building above to penetrate the podium reduces costs when stairs are able to be built of wood. Exterior wall framing must be built of non-combustible framing, however, when using metal studs, exterior insulation is often required to meet energy code insulation values. Using fire-retardant treated lumber can be an effective tool in allowing for exterior sheathing and cladding planes to align across the podium level.
Project Example – Canopy (Shea Aurora) Phase II, Shoreline, WA (podium construction photo, final rendering)
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, being able to work from multiple points of view allows for specific concerns to be addressed, while looking to past successes for location-specific solutions.
by Don Sowieja, Principal AIA, NCARB
An Integrated Approach to Revolutionary Healthcare Design
Population health relies on more than simply treating sickness. Leading a healthcare shift to a value-based model whose viability depends on people maintaining their health, from a fee-for-service financial model, our client’s strategy embodies this pivot with a new healthcare center that integrates traditional clinical services with wellness facilities. The Providence Reed’s Crossing Wellness Center is a dynamic new healthcare facility that communicates warmth, healing, approachability — holistic architecture that sees people as more than patients. Community-oriented general fitness and wellness spaces act as bridges to more specialized functions like integrative health, dermatology, retail, physical therapy, imaging, women’s care, pediatrics, and more. Our design connects services with open, blended thoughtful architecture and interior design in an active urban environment.
Our hope: To help people get and stay healthy.
This radical new facility feels like it’s part of Main Street while feeling unlike anything else out there. To successfully integrate wellness with clinical services, we start by focusing on how to maximize operational benefits. Our design must communicate warmth and professionalism, relaxation with dynamic activity, aspiration, and inclusion. It’s not enough to simply combine traditional healthcare design with wellness. Our design concept must holistically communicate both. Because our client’s vision treats patients as complete people whose individual health is affected by diet, behavior, mental and emotional states, as well as physical abilities, our core interior design concept likewise promotes overall healthy living and wellbeing. Biophilic elements like natural light and exposed wood elements soothe visitors and decreases stress while they’re working out, learning about nutrition, or waiting to see their physician. Beautiful, integrated color palettes that fit each program will guide and orient people within the facility. Indoor/outdoor spaces further connect our design to its community and bioregion.
Our hope: A design that feels kinetic yet relaxing, empowering and healing, and completely revolutionary.
Mass Timber: Harder Mechanical
A fifth-generation Portland family business, Harder Mechanical needed a new, modern headquarters to last them for another 80 years. Because reinvention tends to be part of their business—they gain expertise in the newest processes, be it mill work or high-tech manufacturing, and periodically transform themselves along the way—they were looking explicitly for an innovative showcase office.
Harder Mechanical building needed to stay rooted in the past while being built for the future. Because the owner is a mechanical and plumbing subcontractor and will self-perform their own scope, the Harder team became an integral part of the design process.
After learning who they are, how they view their work, and what they needed in a collaborative working session, our design encompasses a beautiful, durable brick building using renewable cross-laminated timber (CLT).
Their desire for an innovative approach—to not only the design but also the design process—led to an adapted integrated project delivery method. This allowed for close collaboration with Harder, the General Contractor, Swinerton, and their trade partners to achieve efficiencies and innovative construction methods that meet both design and construction goals.
The wish to showcase Harder’s own work and innovation led to exposed ceilings and exposed structure and mechanical systems. It is here where the Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) structural system became a central design element. Utilizing Swinerton’s expertise in this area, the CLT simultaneously provides environmental benefits both to the occupants and in broader terms, along with time and cost saving installation.
Externally, the company’s rich history combined with the historic neighborhood led to the selection of both a durable and beautiful dark brick facade reminiscent of the surrounding context. This traditional material paired with a contemporary aesthetic allows the building to become part of MLK’s future whilst respecting its past. The building will last for decades, aligning with and improving the Elliott neighborhood in a way that’s both timeless and exceedingly modern.
Wynne Watts Commons
It is undeniable that housing insecurity affects millions across the United States. Rents are up and homelessness is on the rise. There are many factors that lead to these crises, including high housing costs relative to income, poor housing quality, unstable neighborhoods, or even health concerns and peripheral medical challenges and costs. Add to that the encompassing environmental impacts of climate change and a driving need to design and build more sustainably; we are faced with the need to take a more holistic approach to housing and accessibility to address our growing concern for the wellbeing of our communities.
We partnered with Albertina Kerr, an organization dedicated to supporting people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), mental health challenges, and other social barriers, to design the largest affordable and accessible housing project in the PNW. This joint project became one of the largest Zero Energy affordable housing projects in the U.S.
This four-story, 150-unit complex features 30 accessible units designed to provide adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, earning 30% or less than the average median income, a place to live independently. Three units are available to families needing temporary housing and the remaining units are reserved for low wage direct service providers. This project showcases innovative technologies and design features readily available today to achieve better health outcomes for residents, minimal overall carbon emissions, and significant savings on energy bills. Energy-efficient features include a 660 KWh PV Array that will produce 727 MW-hours of electricity annually, enough renewable energy to fully operate the building with no utility cost to residents.
Albertina Kerr’s in-house staff were consulted to help inform the direction of features that are most useful to the residents. Smart-home integrations enhance safety and useability, and pull-out cook tops and mechanized upper cabinets help residents manage daily tasks. Thoughtfully integrated accessibility features include room darkening shades, RGB controllable lighting for chromatherapy mood management, and acoustically enhanced wall, floor, and ceiling construction that gives residents control of their space to prevent overstimulation.
Wynne Watts Commons is a huge step forward for sustainable and inclusive quality housing for some of the most vulnerable in our community.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Employee Spotlight: Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin
Empathetic, balanced, and calm—three words you’ll hear from Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin’s team if you ask them to describe her leadership style.
This month we’re excited to be spotlighting Jen, an architect and Managing Design Principal in our Seattle office. In her eleven years with AM, Jen has come to stand out as a female role model in architecture due to her unwavering advocacy for her teams, and for women in particular.
Jen approaches her leadership position with the intention to empower others. She creates an environment conducive to growth by “letting others get creative and do their best work,” as one of her colleagues has noted, “while at the same time staying engaged and providing feedback that guides the project in the right direction and helps you grow as a designer.”
We asked Jen to share her advice for emerging professionals in the industry. Here’s what she told us:
1. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and ask for opportunities.
2. Find your mentor—someone who will offer guidance and stand up for you when you need it. Check in with them regularly.
3. Don’t change yourself to fit into a higher-level role. There is room for you to become a leader while doing what you love and are good at. A great leadership role will be flexible enough to match your skills and passions.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Mass Timber: Moda Tower Lobby
For our first mass-timber curtain wall in Portland’s Moda Tower, our goal was to design a canvas that activates the new public art at its heart. Effectively renovating a lobby for public art means more than just designing a white gallery box. The renovated lobby space requires a design that both elevates the artwork and functions for practicalities like circulation, lighting and climate, and code.
Before, Moda Tower’s lobby was like many others: small, dark, and relatively constricted. After decommissioning the long-standing previous artwork, we enlarged the lobby and its windows, and replaced the dark, dated floor with bright, crisp materials. The new 30 ft mass timber curtain wall is punctuated by wood-accented and fresh white walls. Warmth and light now invite visitors entering the lobby.
More than just a neutral background, the renovated Moda Tower lobby and our mass timber curtain wall are integral parts of the featured artwork, “Canopy” by Portland-based artist Joe Thurston. Coordinating with our client Unico Properties and Thurston, our team created a lobby redesign that captures the artist’s idea of a springlike forest canopy – the feeling of trees reaching toward each other against the sky.
We want visitors to look up as they enter. The glass leaves of Thurston’s tree-inspired artwork hang from the lobby’s ceiling 30 feet up, spotlighted by our expansive, not-quite-neutral gallery space. Outside, passersby are treated to a bright, vibrant extension of Portland’s forests. Using mass timber and other wood accents brings a unique natural beauty and warmth that flows through the space. Within the lobby, people should pause, even momentarily, to look up and find something unexpected.
Spotlight: Intern Jules Stafford
Q: Tell us what you learned through your summer internship at Ankrom Moisan.
A: This summer, I’ve gotten the chance to work on so many different projects, participate in client meetings, go on site visits, and get to know some wonderful people. I’ve learned so much this summer, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to be the best designer I can be. I’ve learned to step out of my comfort zone and be open to new experiences and lessons. I hope that as I step into my career I will continue to learn; pulling from all of the lessons and experiences I’ve had here at Ankrom Moisan!
Q: What was the biggest surprise you experienced?
A: How welcoming and kind everyone I met has been! I was definitely intimidated to walk into a large Architecture and Interior Design firm as a summer intern, but all of the designers and architects have been so kind. I remember walking in on my first day and it was as if everyone had known me for years. Everyone is ready to jump whenever I have any questions, ask me for my opinion, and trust me with decisions. They have become great mentors and have treated me so extremely well. It’s been such an amazing surprise.
Q: What story do you think you will tell all of your classmates?
A: At George Fox University, we have a tight knit group of Interior Design majors. My cohort is small, but we’re growing, so I want to give reassurance to my peers. As students, it can be overwhelming to walk into a firm and need to learn so many new things, so fast. Suddenly you’re aware of just how much you don’t know. So, a story I would tell my peers is how I’ve learned, despite my fears, that I am capable of so much. We are learning exactly what we need to learn. All the projects and homework is so helpful and valuable. I’m excited to go into my last year with everything I’ve learned and work on new projects.
Mass Timber in the Office
It is a challenge right now for employers everywhere to get people into the office. It has us rethinking ways to encourage people to want to physically show up to work. We are envisioning what the office of the future could be, and are considering how to simplify, how to incorporate holistic wellness, encourage connection, and sustainability. Mass timber, used in office building design, meets many of these needs by offering occupants a healthy, efficient, inviting, and sustainable workplace environment. It is not surprising that more businesses are seeking out the benefits of biophilic design and timber-built architecture to pursue and retain their best employees. Locally and sustainably sourced, prefabricated mass timber is not only considered a sustainable building material but can also streamline the construction timeline and decrease the construction budget.
Researchers suggest that mass timber provides both physical and psychological biophilic benefits that go beyond the warm, natural, and comforting aesthetic appeal of wood. Mass timber reconnects people with nature by bringing the outside into the workplace. The biophilic benefits of timber speak to a person’s four out of five senses; one can see the variations of colors and grain within the wood, as well as experience touch, smell or even sounds of the timber. Wood, as an environmental design choice has been known to reduce sympathetic nervous activity and blood pressure. These sensory cues naturally remind people of their connection with the outside environment and nature. This is important as people who relate to nature often find themselves in an improved mood, feeling more productive, calmer, and experiencing a higher degree of concentration. Mass timber workplaces have been described by occupants as relaxing and soothing environments which in turn naturally ease stress. Employers have reported that they have seen improvement in their bottom line, along with increased morale, fewer sick days, and less employee turnover since moving into a mass timber interior environment. These experiences contribute to an overall healthier workplace.
Wood naturally provides benefits that impact our human health. Mass timber has shown to have low VOCs, and that wood can regulate indoor air quality and relative humidity to comfortable ranges for most people. When conditions are dry, wood can release moisture into the air. Similarly, when the air contains humidity, moisture can be absorbed into the mass timber, maintaining a healthier and more balanced environment. Wood is naturally antimicrobial, as bacteria is less easily transferred from wood than from plastic.
Material matters when it comes to a sustainable built environment. When appropriately and efficiently sourced, wood is a renewable and sustainable material that reduces carbon emissions in the environment. Those seeking mass timber buildings have successfully found that they can substitute wood in place of other construction materials typically used, such as brick, concrete, and steel.
Designing with mass timber inheritably simplifies the interior finishes as the wood unquestionably becomes the predominate feature. The ceiling, structural beams, and columns remain exposed without requiring finish applications. The long-spanning structural system of mass timber not only brings nature inside, but additionally, offers ample natural light and easily accommodates both an exposed ceiling design as well as an open office floor plan.
Mass timber simplifies and decreases construction cost and schedule. Because mass timber is lighter in weight than steel and concrete structural counterparts, often smaller and less expensive foundations and other structural components are required. By constructing with prefabricated timber, which increases efficiency, the labor needed on-site decreases and saves on overall costs.
by Kim Gonzales, Senior Associate / Interior Designer
Employee Spotlight: Ryan Miyahira
Ankrom Moisan Managing Principal Ryan Miyahira recently hosted AM’s second annual Pickathon, a video showcase of the firm’s many talented musicians.
We chatted with Ryan, who is a talented musician himself, to hear more about the inspiration behind AM Pickathon, an event he not only hosts but also created and produces.
Q. What’s your musical background and how did Pickathon come about?
A. I’ve been playing music since I was a kid. I had a band in high school and another in college, playing mostly 80s indie music. After college, my wife, Lara, and I started a band called the Hip Replacements. We cover old r&b and soul music. We’ve performed at several Ankrom Moisan Christmas parties and still play the occasional bar gig.
One of my favorite things to do is to go see live music. During the pandemic, we watched a lot of streaming concerts and I thought it would be fun to do an Ankrom version. I’ve had the chance to play music with other AM employees so I knew that we had a lot of musical talent in the firm. I wanted to show off those hidden talents in a fun way.
Q. How long have you been with AM and what has motivated you to stay?
A. I’ve been with AM for 22 years. Back in 2000 when I was looking for a job, the most important thing to me was to find the coolest group of people. I was looking for creative, hardworking, and fun people that wanted to do their best, but were also easygoing enough to have a good time while doing it. That’s how I landed at AM. I’ve noticed that it seems to perpetuate itself—a group of good people is like a magnet that attracts more good people. That’s what has motivated me to stay for so long.
I also appreciate that it’s been a very supportive and fun environment where you can make your own way. There’s so much room for passion and exploration at AM. If you have an idea, like hosting a Pickathon, and the drive to do it then the firm will support it.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Our incredible in-house visualization team is testing out some VR upgrades! Virtual reality has proven to be a valuable design tool for our teams so we’re expanding our capabilities with new equipment. Soon, we’ll have upgraded VR stations in each of our three offices.
So, how do we use VR?
VR allows our designers to get a true sense for the scale and feel of a space as they are designing it—adding efficiency and improving end results. For instance, virtually walking through a unit during the programming stage helps inform early layout and square footage decisions so that costly last-minute changes can be avoided and the resulting unit design will better meet pricing expectations.
It also helps our interior designers to visualize details previously left to the imagination such as how flooring patterns would look repeated on large scales or how the placement of a lighting fixture might affect the overall feel of a space. Getting these small details right leads to a more cohesive and intentional end-product.
By providing our clients the opportunity to experience different design variations within their projects, we can aid their decision-making processes. While designing Olympic Tower, a luxury senior-living high-rise in Seattle, we gave our client, Transforming Age, the opportunity to tour the building two years before the project even broke ground. After using VR to experience the tower’s premier amenity, a performance hall, the client realized the scale was not what they had imagined. As a result, we increased the ceiling height, changed the dimensions of the stage and adjusted the lighting. VR helped convey the nuances of the design so the client could make informed decisions on where to allocate resources, and they didn’t have to experience any surprises during construction.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Mass Timber: Skylight
Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District is poised to transform its character and vibrancy. Designed to capture and elevate the essence of this historic industrial area, the 115,000 sq. ft. Skylight is our refined rendition of the modern office for creative technology and design professions. The structure is a mix of concrete, hybrid wood trusses, and steel, but the Nail-Laminated Timber (NLT) floor panels are the material binding the whole building together – offering both style and function.
We designed Skylight as two offices bridged by core and amenity spaces, like the wings and body of a butterfly. Our team used structural materials that unite the separate spaces with a raw, edgy, but down-to-earth aesthetic that appeals to creative office users. Exposed mass timber and hybrid wood trusses support a bright, open, and warm office environment. These natural elements contrast with cool concrete, steel framing, and visible architectural joints, adding visual activity and energy to the interior. An array of skylights at the heart of the building brings natural light to otherwise unaccessible spaces.
Use of NLT at Skylight also serves functional goals of our creative office design. The texture of this material has acoustic benefits for the space and exposing the natural finishes removed the added cost of applied interior finishes. We also coordinated with the MEP engineers and subcontractors to hide unattractive parts of typical office systems neatly beneath a raised floor, maximizing exposure to the beautiful natural wood and open space. Supporting mass timber with innovative, long-spanning hybrid trusses also allowed us to create a more flexible and unobstructed layout for existing and future tenants of the office building. Skylight used this method to reduce layout obstructions while maximizing versatility through 35’-40′ spans and only a single row of columns breaking up a 70’-80′ floor plates. To achieve this literal stretch from traditional 20’-25′ mass timber grids, our team designed an innovative, double glulam truss.
This project fired us up about new mass timber applications. While NLT is not as cutting edge as Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) panels – a mass timber technology exciting the industry today – Skylight helped us explore and apply the full potential of NLT to establish a new standard for this evolving neighborhood. Its success relied on strong collaboration between the design, development, construction, and engineering team members, who include Turner Construction, DCI Engineers, Glumac, Shapiro Didway, Mackenzie, and Potestio Studio.
Employee Spotlight: Lori Kellow
Lori Kellow, Ankrom Moisan’s longest standing employee, has been with the firm since 1985. After a nearly 37-year tenure, Lori has a uniquely broad perspective on the architecture industry and Ankrom Moisan’s place within it. We recently sat down with Lori to hear her insights. Lori touches on what the industry was like for women in the ’80s and how technology has changed the design process.
Q. What is the biggest industry change you’ve seen since you started working at AM?
A. Technology, absolutely. In just the past few decades the standard design process has shifted from primarily utilizing manual tools, such as hand-drafting equipment, to being almost entirely computer-based. To research and draw using technology is so powerful. I remember when we had to visit the library and flip through physical binders, the Sweet catalogues, to find products to specify. Now all this information is right at our fingertips and efficiency has just soared because of it.
Q. What has motivated you to work at AM for 37 years?
A. In the mid-80s it was still very difficult for women, especially in architecture, to get a seat at the table. At Ankrom Moisan it was different, leadership showed me from day one that my opinions and ideas were valued. I’ve always been treated with respect and paid commensurate to my skills.
It was within 3 years at the firm, in 1988, that I was promoted to Principal, becoming the first woman in a leadership role. In the many years since, I have not lost that feeling of being valued and the sense of opportunity. I believe that if you have passion and drive, there are not many roadblocks to growth and success at Ankrom Moisan.
Q. What is your advice for professionals beginning their careers in the architecture and design industry?
A. Explore. I am a firm believer that you must try as much as you possibly can in order to find your passion. I spent years working on diverse project types and taking on varying roles. Eventually I discovered my passion for social service healthcare projects. I find a great deal of fulfillment in creating places that help people heal. Through exploration, I’ve also realized I am especially adept at big-picture thinking and I prefer to do schematic design work. I’m fortunate enough to work with a firm that has allowed me the freedom to explore and provided the opportunity to tailor my role to match my strengths and passions.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
In pursuit of the best solutions, we create opportunities for collaboration.
After all this time meeting and sharing ideas through screens, we are thrilled to be able to collaborate in-person again.
Designers from our Portland office got together recently for a charrette at the pin-up wall—sharing design concept ideas for our on boards project, Fairfield Burnside. Through discussion of neighborhood context and influences, the team began generating a diverse scheme of building concepts for this upcoming 8-story mixed-use development.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Ankrom Moisan’s Community Service
Old Town Cleanup Community Service, Ankrom Moisan Represents!
Many of our employees provide valuable time, skills and efforts on meaningful activities in and around our communities. In March there was a cleanup of Old Town, Ankrom Moisan’s Portland Office neighborhood, organized by SOLVE, an Oregon non-profit, and Ankrom Moisan employees were there!
Volunteers organized at the Portland offices that morning, and SOLVE provided trash collection tools. A big thank you to all who contributed time and energy to the Old Town Cleanup!
Which organizations and services do you champion with your time and energy?
📸: Jason Roberts, Laura Seracin
Mass Timber: The Standard at Seattle
With study spaces for every occasion, social areas, luxurious amenities, and ground floor retail just blocks from campus, The Standard at Seattle’s two high-rise and one mid-rise buildings will welcome students and locals. We took guidance from our client, Landmark Properties, one of the nation’s largest student housing developers, and inspiration from the neighborhood’s eclectic character to design student housing that fosters a community away from home.
In the mid-rise, Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) construction will allow us to achieve higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible, with greater efficiency, durability, and beauty – three key reasons why we champion mass timber. Using mass timber from the Pacific Northwest also reduces the building’s carbon footprint. Wood on the exterior around the entry draws on the beautiful CLT inside and serves as a beacon for people arriving from the nearby train station. Since exposed mass timber is uncommon in Seattle student housing, we were excited to have the perfect opportunity to use this functional and stylish material at The Standard.
Standing at 26 stories, the two high-rise buildings will be amongst the tallest in the University District upon completion in 2023. Our design team used colors and materials to create a conversation between The Standard’s trio of buildings and its eclectic neighborhood. They conceptualized the high-rises as one form, pulled apart to reveal dark blue interior panels that shift in color as the sun hits the surfaces at different angles. The throughway with ground floor retail and afternoon sunlight will be a relaxing destination for the community. With gold details, the throughway is like a yellow brick road to the mid-rise building.
Amenities housed in the high-rise, but accessible to all residents, include a swimming pool, sauna/steam room, and rock climbing wall. All of these options will be easily accessible via a skybridge between the high-rises. The offerings caters towards providing residents as much choice as possible without having to travel far, a feature that our student housing experts know today’s young people desire. The interior design mixes natural elements with refined playfulness and warmth to keep the design appropriate for the city’s urban, tech-forward, and multi-cultural university students.
Celebrating Earth Day
Our Workplace Design Team is highlighting our integration of salvaged products and materials to celebrate Earth Day! We intentionally source and specify materials made with recycled content and naturally renewable resources in our projects. Beyond these materials there’s an abundant opportunity for reusing products that have already been manufactured, this keeps new items out of the landfill and is less energy-intensive than reforming old into new.
Salvaged goods are not always an obvious choice. A client, in financial services, was consolidating their office space in Seattle, which meant they had a lot of surplus furniture in great condition. The design team took inventory of the existing furniture and strategically incorporated over 140 pieces of furniture throughout multiple floors of the office space. This included conference chairs, task chairs, lounge furniture, and break room furniture. All of the unused furniture was donated to Green Standards to be resold or recycled. This project achieved its LEED certification in 2019!
Incorporating salvaged or unconventional materials in tenant improvement projects with fast schedules and tight budgets is the challenge we are looking for! For a project with Los Angeles Sanitation, we brought the concept of recycling into the design. Our designer researched recycled materials and discovered an artist who uses metal cans to create artwork. To exhibit this artwork, the designer, in collaboration with a casework fabricator, created a decorative panel to be installed into the face of the reception desk. A quote from the artist was included in the bid documents to make pricing by the contractor a breeze. Thoughtful planning and smart design allowed us to seamlessly incorporate a design element that reflected the client’s values. This was a success for all.
At 38 Davis, our firm’s office in Portland, we concepted our design to reflect our values. Sustainability and environmental stewardship are at our core. This is demonstrated by incorporating salvaged wood, from Pioneer Millworks. The salvaged wood material was applied in multiple locations – from ceiling clouds and wall cladding in the conference rooms to rolling benches and booth seating backs in our entry area. The selected wood contrasts the mass-timber construction, while maintaining the warmth and texture only wood can bring. The final project achieved LEED v4 Gold.
Interior Design Camp
One of the most rewarding aspects of my career in interior design is sharing it with young people. Many years ago, when my, now, college-age daughter was in elementary school, she expressed an interest in interior design. I said “Great – let’s find a summer camp so you can explore more!” Well guess what? There were ZERO interior design camps in the Portland area. This was quite a surprise considering what a creative city Portland is. Fortunately, I had a 4-week sabbatical coming up – and an idea was born. If there weren’t any interior design camps in Portland, I’d create my own! After all, my daughter can’t be the only young person interested in interior design.
My sabbatical began and I got busy. Interior Design Camp flyers were sent out to the community and local schools. To my surprise and delight, I got a strong response. Camp was booked solid! Kids were excited! They had been looking for a camp like this! Our tiny home was quickly transformed into a design camp. Worktables went up in the family room and our kitchen was transformed into a sample library. For two wonderful weeks that summer our house became what I call a “beautiful mess.” It was crowded, there was very little workspace, but the kids were excited, talented, and caught up in the joy of creating their beautiful projects. I realized I happened across something special.
Over the years Interior Design Camp continued to grow. As word spread, more and more kids started signing up. Kids started coming from as far away as San Francisco, Seattle, Eugene, and Bend to attend. I very quickly moved camp to a larger space – my parents’ home. The week-long summer camp continued – offering kids an overview of interior design. They explored everything from concept development and space planning to finish selection and furniture. I also started adding 1-2 day camps throughout the year with different themes. From Designer Dollhouse to Wedding Design to Fixer-Upper – you name it, there was a camp for it.
From its inception, the support the Portland design industry has given this camp is incredible. From showroom tours to providing samples to giving presentations, the industry has always been welcoming and supportive of these young creatives. I think it is as rewarding for them as it is for me! Some field trip highlights over the years have been touring the RH showroom, meeting with the display designer at Anthropologie Portland, visiting the slab showroom at Architectural Surfaces, and exploring the plumbing fixtures at Kohler’s Signature Store. (the Bluetooth toilets were the highlight of camp that year!) We also visit Ankrom Moisan each year, where the young people get to explore the amazing workplace and interiors library as well as hear presentations from Ankrom’s talented interior designers.
The Camp was growing and flourishing. Then, in 2020, the world shut down. Young people transitioned to online learning and summer camps closed. But as we all learned to adapt and work in a new way, I realized that design camp could adapt as well. So once again I got busy. I sent out flyers asking if anyone wanted to attend a Virtual Design Camp. The response was overwhelming. Kids were stuck inside, they were bored and they wanted to be creative and continue to explore interior design. Interior Design Camp transformed into an online camp. Students received a “Design Kit” in the mail prior to the start of camp containing all their project materials for the week as well as a mini sample library of their own. The first day of camp we all jumped on Zoom and I was thrilled with what I saw. Each student had taken their design kits and set up their own design studio at home. They were excited to be there and ready to create! We learned about design and completed and shared our projects throughout the week. By the end of the week the kids were putting together digital design presentations and presenting them to the group over Zoom. My SUV was transformed into a “Mobile Sample Library” and could be seen zipping around town between our Zoom meetings. It was like curbside delivery – but for samples. Although Virtual Design Camp was not the same as being together in person, it gave us the opportunity to explore design and create beautiful projects even though the world was shut down around us.
This past year we saw another exciting evolution of Interior Design Camp. Ankrom Moisan generously opened its doors and invited us to hold camp in their Portland office. This gave young people the unique opportunity to learn about interior design within a professional design office. Spending a week in such a beautiful, dynamic environment added a whole new layer to the design camp experience. From exploring the design library to having access to digital design tools and utilizing expansive layout spaces for projects, Ankrom Moisan provided an incredible experience for these young creatives.
Creating the Interior Design Camp is one of the most rewarding things I have done. Every year it continues to grow and evolve, but most importantly it continues to inspire young people to explore design and create beautiful projects.
For more information about Interior Design Camp, including how to register for Summer 2022, please contact Beth Rear at email@example.com or (503)-516-5219.
by Beth Rear, Interior Designer
📸 Casey Braunger
Sustainability & Ankrom Moisan Interiors
Q: What efforts are Ankrom Moisan making to provide better information and resources when it comes to sustainability?
A: Ankrom Moisan was an early signatory to the AIA Materials Pledge, which encourages architects and designers to shift the way we evaluate the products and finishes we specify; taking into consideration the materials to improve the health of ourselves and our planet.
Erica curates and maintains a list of resources for our interior designers and architects to easily reference as they are evaluating and looking for the most appropriate product or material for their project. She also coordinates and organizes our vendor presentations and educational sessions; selecting topics around sustainability and healthy materials. The library prioritizes and highlights products to support human health, social equity, climate health, and a circular economy.”
Members of our sustainability reform group are also active members of the Portland Materials Transparency Collaborative (PMTC) and the Healthy Materials Collaborative (HMC). Both provide education, tools, and resources collected by our local A+D Communities. Additionally, this group works toward reformatting our specification template to make healthier and more sustainable choices the default. As part of that exercise, the team has created internal resources for prioritizing and selecting sustainable materials, such as resilient flooring.
Our firm sponsored eight interior designers to complete the Parsons Healthier Materials and Sustainable Buildings Certificate Program. This is a four-course program that allowed the designers to take a deep dive into sustainable material selections and bring enthusiasm and knowledge back to the firm, to their projects and clients. The designers who participated in this course were Jamie Kreger, Clare Goddard, Maddy Gorman, Ruth Bernal, Seaian Wood, Laura Serecin, Kaci Mespelt, Sydney Ellison. Ankrom hopes to have more interior designers complete this course in the future.
Q: Other firms have opted to remove all Redlist products from their library – Is this something that Ankrom Moisan is considering? Why or why not?
A: This is something that Ankrom is exploring as a firm-wide initiative, though we haven’t made the leap yet. The library is a resource to serve the designers and their projects. Steps in this direction that have been implemented were with PVC. We removed vinyl fabrics from the library and created a dedicated section for PVC-fee wallcovering. We also highlighted flooring products that are PVC free and/or provide full disclosure of material content to make it easier for our design staff to specify healthier flooring choices.
Q: How can we as designers do more to incorporate salvaged materials or encourage material reuse rather than replacing them with new ones?
A: Ankrom Moisan has relationships with a handful of salvaged wood brands in the region, as well as a salvaged metal fabricator.
As an interior design group, we collectively understand the importance of building relationships with local salvage companies to incorporate more reused materials into projects rather than buying new ones. We have an ongoing discussion to share experiences or ideas on how we can work with existing conditions and materials creatively to effectively reuse them in projects.
Q: What tools and resources are available to designers to help us educate our clients about the importance of using sustainable products and implementing sustainable practices?
A: Our greatest resource is the designer’s ability to strategically engage with the client and draw out what their values are around sustainability, equity, human health, and then being able to link those values back to your material selection strategy. Does the client have an Environmental, Social and corporate Governance (ESG) framework or vision that you can point to and say, “this is how healthier material selection can support your sustainability goals?” And then prioritize, together with the client, what aspects of sustainability you are going to focus on in your material selection, whether that’s human health, carbon emissions, social equity, DEI, etc. In the end, you work with the client to establish a goal around material selection and then use your material expertise and influence as a designer to execute on that goal. You also need the construction team on board, so they are on the same page when product substitutions are suggested.
Q: Where do you see the future of sustainability in Interior Design and Architecture? Do you see any changes on the horizon when it comes to how our industry approaches sustainability?
A: The conversation around climate change and sustainability is becoming more mainstream both within and outside the industry. Erica attributes this to the influence of Gen Z, who highly values sustainability, high-quality products that last longer, social equity, racial justice, and environmental responsibility. “They live these values in their consumer spending choices, where they chose to work, how they travel, etc. They have a positive influence on brands and manufacturers, pushing for change. They get it, they are listening, and the brands who want to remain relevant and stay in the game are trying to change and make products that match these values with processes and materials that are carbon positive, safe for humans, the environment, and society.”
We are seeing more and more businesses adopt Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance (ESG) mentioned in the previous question. This is a rating system developed by the United Nations that scores a company’s social and environmental factors. This is used to make informed choices around investments and future growth. As more and more companies adopt this the design industry will need to respond to help our clients make choices that align with their values and priorities.
Erica Buss, Senior Associate, Research & Information Services Manager
Designing for Inclusivity
Designing for inclusivity is something that is always on interior designers’ radar. ADA regulations instituted in 1990 blossomed into the concept of universal design: the creation of environments that, despite differences in age, size, and ability level, are safe for all users, can meet their needs, and support their health and well-being. However, the pandemic experience, the current political and social climate and the new need for virtual connectivity have challenged interior designers to push beyond implementing basic strategies to create inclusive environments.
What are some of the characteristics of inclusive environments? How can interior designers and their clients pivot to prioritize inclusivity?
Inclusive environments recognize that not all people experience space in the same manner. People want to feel supported and represented by the spaces they inhabit. The visual narratives that space creates for one person may trigger very different feelings within another. How do the colors, textures and light level affect one’s experience of a space? A conversational design process that discusses how elements within an environment land for the user helps to create relevant (and desired) environmental experiences.
Inclusive environments recognize that different people need different things in order to perform their best. And, that these things may change over the course of a day or may depend upon one’s mental state or the tasks at hand. Spaces that offer the user choices are key to managing these nuances. Some points to consider are: what posture might one want to have while in this space or performing their task(s)? Will they want activity to surround them or will they prefer more solitude? Do they want to see activity nearby or should visual distractions be minimized? What level of acoustic privacy is desired? These questions illustrate that not “one size fits all” and that inclusivity is prepared to provide options for users.
Inclusive environments enable everyone to participate equally, confidently and independently. People can move through and use the space intuitively – or, the information needed is provided and is easy to understand and implement. Wall graphics, signage, artwork, the integration of technology are considered. Also, not all accessibility concerns are centered around a permanent condition – our needs may change over the course of a lifetime or in different situations: we might experience limited mobility if using crutches, navigating a stroller or carrying bulky luggage. Empathy for the user helps interior designers consider as many variables as possible. This allows for intellectual and emotional access to a space and invites users to feel relevant and engaged.
Designing for inclusivity is important because it propels our culture forward. Inclusive environments and the experiences users have within them tell them their opinion and perspective matters. It allows them to be present and to bring their skills and knowledge into the conversation and hopefully, enriches everyone.
By Laura Serecin, Interior Designer
Mass Timber: 38 Davis
At 38 Davis, work and home is integrated through mass timber. Located in the heart of Portland’s Old Town Chinatown District, this building was the first ground-up construction to occur in the district in over a decade. One of the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 certified developments, the building was designed with software guided fans and operable windows rather then relying solely on an HVAC supported air conditioning and heat recovery system. A testament to our commitment to sustainability, the 124,000 sq. ft. headquarters also features a greywater reclamation system and green roof that treats water and removes contaminants on site.
The six-story, mixed-use timber-framed building, which is home to our Portland headquarters, combines office, residential, and retail spaces. Expressing raw craft with care, the mass timber used in 38 Davis is more than warm and honest-it’s structurally sound and sustainable, lowering the building’s overall carbon footprint.
Utilizing a historic method of a traditional 3×4 tongue-in-groove floor panel system, the building features locally sourced Douglas fir timber beams and exposed columns, which can be seen from the inside as the beams come together in an energetic display of raw materials and craftsmanship that mirrors the work we do. This post-and-beam system allowed our team to create larger interior spaces, high ceilings, and large window openings, achieving our vision of a background “warehouse” space overlaid with a tech-forward workplace that is all parts beautiful and utilitarian, yet historic and comfortable.
As you enter the building, you flow through the ground floor communal thru lobby connecting entries along SW Davis and the semi-private mid-block courtyard with a custom backlit metal art was designed to represent the flow of the Willamette River as it moves through downtown Portland. In the lobby, reclaimed wood wraps the threshold to shared elevators guiding visitors from retail on the ground floor to office space on the second through fourth floors, and workforce housing on floors five and six.
We believe that diversity and sustainability are of paramount importance to the vitality of our lives, neighborhoods, and cities. Designing from an owner’s position, we seized the opportunity to create a vibrant, mixed-use development where we can live, work, and learn alongside local community members. The communal lobby, elevator, rooftop, bike storage, locker room and gym area create dynamic interactions between our staff, building residents, and University of Oregon students. A unique, inter-use greywater reclamation system filters runoff shower water from the upper residential floors and uses it to flush the toilet’s of the offices below, saving an estimated 202,800 gallons of water annually.
Employee Spotlight: Keith Larson
Did you know Ankrom Moisan has an in-house model maker?
Meet Keith Larson. While he’s been working as a professional modeler since the 1990s, his craft started as a kid playing with LEGO sets. To say he is detail-oriented is an understatement.
From making props on movie sets to creating 1/32” scale replicas of commercial airliners, Keith has an incredible portfolio from which he draws inspiration. Although his career has taken him through a broad spectrum of industries, his love for architecture and design has continued to bring him back to this world.
Since starting with Ankrom Moisan in 2016, Keith has collaborated with our project teams on models small and large, simple and complex. With such a diversity in markets and locations, every project brings something unique to the workbench.
When we asked our in-house model maker Keith Larson to share his current projects, Sandy Health Center was top of mind. The 1/16” scale finished type model includes scale people—a first for Keith’s work at the firm. Filled with details, the steep pitched roof was a particular challenge. Cutting the individual angles by hand and seamlessly assembling each piece was a personal triumph.
Keith worked very closely with the architecture team to ensure each detail was correct. The finished model represents a 9,500 sq. ft. facility that consolidates primary care, behavioral health, and dental services into one location. Following the Sandy Design Guidelines, the final architecture is a modern take on a rustic aesthetic.
🎬: Ankrom Moisan
The new standard is that services, products, and conveniences are available to people in a matter of minutes. Residents demand their communities to keep up with these changes and accommodate their needs seamlessly.
Download the Convenience Factor to explore how design can better address modern conveniences like food delivery and online shopping while also embracing the sharing economy.
Insights from the Advancing Mass Timber Construction Conference
Mass timber technology continues to develop rapidly as more and more projects seek to implement this beautiful, sustainable, and durable material. Our firm’s subject matter expert in this field, architecture senior associate Benjamin Stinson, attended the Advancing Mass Timber Construction Conference earlier this month. After participating in workshops, lectures, case studies, and more, Benjamin shared some of his key learnings and how they will influencer our projects.
Q: Why did you choose to attend this conference?
A: Mass Timber is an expanding construction technology solution in our industry and we need to stay ahead of the progress in both code and implementation strategies so we can best serve our clients that are interested in pursuing this great option. Mass Timber is also a construction strategy capable of providing the most substantive environmental impact that our industry has seen possibly ever. The use of Mass Timber at scale could take a huge bite out of the carbon debt we have built up and need to rectify in the coming years, so it is our responsibility to make it as easy a choice for our clients as possible by knowing as much as we can.
Q: Which conference session had the biggest impact on you?
A: Eric Corey Freed of CannonDesign gave an inspiring presentation about sustainability in design that moved me to want to do more to pursue sustainability with our clients, even when it may not be their first project priority. There is a social responsibility we face to make changes in our industry, and I think we need to do our best to make saying no to those changes in a project as difficult as we can.
I also saw a few great presentations about the Ascent Project, which is a 25 story residential project in Milwaukee, WI that includes 19 stories of mass timber. This project started before developments in the 2021 IBC new Type IV construction types that allow taller mass timber buildings and had to work through a lot of challenges to bring it to market. Even with those challenges, the developers were able to make it a beautiful, viable project. With our strong background in housing, there should be nothing stopping Ankrom Moisan from working with our clients to make mass timber housing projects a reality.
Q: What was something unexpected that you learned at the conference?
A: I had previously heard hints, but I learned that there is a proposal (G147) coming up for a vote that would open projects in the IV-B construction type up to 12 stories to allow 100% exposure in ceilings for the next code update. Exposure of the wood is often critical to bringing mass timber to projects, so opening this up for taller buildings will help our ability to present this as an option to clients. Fingers crossed that the vote goes through, and we can use this as a basis to get more exposed timber in our buildings.
Q: How will your learnings apply to your current projects (if at all)?
A: As Ankrom Moisan’s Mass Timber research lead, I am involved in mass timber discussions for multiple projects. What I learned at this conference will come to bear for a lot of our work currently considering mass timber for their schematic design. We are particularly focused on how this can become part of our broad scope of residential projects and how to bring more exposed timber to the living environment.
Q: So, what’s next for mass timber?
A: A key set of innovations that goes hand in hand with mass timber is prefabrication. Mass timber is systemically a prefabricated set of components and integrating prefabrication concepts into the construction process seems like a critical milestone in moving this construction strategy to scale. Constructing a building with prefabricated components can pose a significantly different process for contractors and partners, and streamlining is critical to making mass timber a viable solution. Change can be hard (and potentially expensive), but the more we know about the mass timber process, the more we can help our partners learn this great, new innovative structural solution and bring more buildings to market that make you feel as good being inside as you do being outside, standing among the trees.
Project Materials Spotlight
A trend our workplace team has been observing lately: landlords are considering their tenants more like customers and creating spaces as a lifestyle brand to attract and retain tenants in their buildings. In response to this trend, TMT Development contracted with our team to turn an irregularly shaped, difficult-to-lease suite on the 25th floor of the Fox Tower into a communal space where employees can meet, socialize or relax throughout the day/ after work.
We presented three design concepts to TMT, and they ultimately chose the “Staycation” scheme, which would bring a vibrant, fun environment to a generally overcast and earth-toned city view. Pulling inspiration from colors and textures from travels around the country and the world, I wanted the lounge to feel like you just stumbled into a lively, hidden gem of an outdoor bar in a historic area of town; a secret only the locals know about.
Materials are everything. They create mood, texture, ambiance, curiosity, and comfort. To achieve the “Staycation” look and feel, I specified Portola limewash paint to create a washed, rough texture on the walls, giving the effect of aged concrete walls. The terracotta light fixtures bring warmth through the natural clay material, while the sconces and surface mounted, handmade ceramic fixtures by local lighting company Cedar & Moss, add a touch of artistry and craft. In one of the early schematic mood boards, we included an image of a monkey light fixture; the client fell in love. We sourced the same fixture to add whimsy, humor and an element of discovery to the bar area. It hangs above the shuffleboard, camouflaged into the leafy wallpaper, a reward for those who pay close attention to their surroundings.
The mischievous monkey thread continues into the Private Party Room. From afar, the Astek wallpaper used in this room, meant for private gatherings and celebrations, looks sophisticated and simple. As you step closer, you realize your party is crashed by a bunch of wildly playful monkeys, again rewarding those who pay close attention to details! In contrast to the lush greens in the main lounge space, this room leans into warm tones with beautiful terrazzo floor tiles, and large bright planters.
Located on the 25th floor, this suite has beautiful, vast views of downtown Portland and the forested hills beyond. The irregular shape of the suite lent itself to opportunities for a variety of seating types, including both social and more private areas. I knew I wanted the lounge to feel open yet “zoned” for different activities, so my original intent was to use modern breezeblocks to create a partially open partition to bring the natural light further into the main bar area and delineate between the main bar and the dining area. Because of cost constraints and limited installers that were willing to install the breezeblocks, we came up with an alternate, less expensive solution: a rope wall. Using simple brass rope attachments, manila rope, and an opening framed with walnut wood, this wall visually connects the two spaces and adds more textural material and character to the lounge.
The furniture and fixture selection was critical to the design concept: rope, leather, wood, and color were materials and elements I looked for. Bent-wood chairs hang from rope, swinging gently in front of the nearly full-height windows. Dark walnut chairs pleasantly contrast against white oak tables. Woven leather lounge chairs, solid wooden log side tables, and green powder-coated chair legs are placed throughout. And lastly, a bright yellow Smeg refrigerator in the main bar attracts your wandering eye, a piece of functional art. The result of these elements working together is a lounge that lifts your spirits as soon as you step foot inside. ✨
Maddy Gorman is a certified Interior Designer specializing in Workplace design, based in our Portland office since 2015. In her free time, she enjoys elements of discovery whether that is in nature, finding new delicious food combinations, uncovering patterns and stories through Tarot, exploring inward while lying still in a float tank, or traveling the world.
Office Design that Supports Employees Holistically
With more employers offering the ability to work from home—and most employees preferring to continue doing so, at least part time—a new challenge has arisen to develop workplace solutions for companies that are not able to offer remote options. Creating safe, welcoming, and enriching office environments are essential for businesses to foster a positive culture especially when their services necessitate in-person operations. How do designers and companies collaborate to address post-pandemic employee priorities and offer workplaces that are equitable, uplifting, and inviting to anyone who might want or need to be in the physical office space?
Human centered design strategies that focus on the employees’ perspectives and experiences are essential cornerstones to providing supportive solutions. We begin with conducting surveys or interviews to uncover a company’s unique work culture, concerns, and desires. These discoveries influence the entire design process and fundamentally shape our final solutions, rather than relying solely on our benchmarking and our expertise alone. For a recent client we discovered that if employees had to work in the office, they wanted spaces and tools to help them perform their job functions well and nurture themselves holistically.
With this insight as our guiding light, we developed four design prompts to help interior designers and business leaders evaluate and create space from the end-user’s perspective.
1. I am Valued:
Implement office features that help employees work effectively, thereby letting them know their efforts and commitment to being in the office is recognized and valued.
– Presentation stage with stadium seating open to everyone at any time.
– Integrated noise mitigation (acoustical wall panels, furniture screens, or ceiling baffles, as well as a white noise system)
– New, user-friendly technology (audio-visual equipment and high-speed wi-fi)
– Fully accessible floor plan
2. I am Well:
Recognize that health is currently a primary concern, especially for employees who must work in shared spaces. Provide designated areas where employees can decompress and designs that encourage movement in a safe and healthy manner.
– Wellness and Fitness Center (yoga or multipurpose exercise room)
– Connections to nature (outside views and plantings)
– Gaming area with active games like ping pong and foosball
– Advanced HVAC and lighting (increased fresh air and natural light, and enhanced controls so they can customize their work environment)
– Increased Bike Storage and shower amenities
– Daylit and cheerful break areas/kitchen/kitchenettes with specialty items such as espresso and fitness beverages.
– Multiple options of outdoor space with different orientations providing choices influenced by weather, activity, and time of day.
3. I am Learning:
Support employees in their lifelong education and growth by encouraging career development, learning, skill sharing, and team building opportunities.
– Focus rooms
– Library space for quiet studying
– Environmental graphics and design details related to the history and identity of the surrounding area
– Large gathering spaces for events and trainings
– Roof deck cooking classes
4. I am Caring:
Foster opportunities for employees to connect with their communities in the office and beyond to encourage a rewarding culture of caring.
– “The Great Hall” for local vendors to periodically sell their wares
– Community Leadership council room
– Outdoor entertaining area for neighborhood events
– Indoor entertaining area for movies and World Cup
– Local and natural materials to promote sustainability
With hybrid in office and work from home employment models becoming the norm, the stakes are higher for companies who are limited in their options for offering remote work. People want their employers to show them, through the very design of the physical office environment, that they are valued, their wellness matters, and they have opportunities to learn and offer care. Business success hinges upon creating a rewarding environment that reflects the principles important to employees and provides a conduit to enact positive change.
Lifestyle Experiences at Work
Natural light. Fresh air. Lush greenery. Hospitality-inspired amenities. Companies want to give employees a lifestyle package that makes people excited to come to work. To support their client’s heightened expectations, building owners and property managers must change their overall strategies and transition from seeing occupants as tenants to supporting them as customers.
Our designers collaborate with landlords to ensure their properties offer shared amenities—or, rather, services and experiences—that enhance the missions, lifestyles, and brands of their target clients. Human centered design, practiced with inclusivity and equity, is essential for creating common spaces, ensuring that they support diverse lifestyles and professional needs. We have developed three key guidelines for landlords to consider when creating a lifestyle-oriented workplace amenities strategy:
1. Identify the demographic and psychographics of the tenants they want to attract. Building amenities do not add value if they are not in touch with the professionals using the space.
2. Prioritize common spaces or amenities that the tenants share. Especially as many businesses are downsizing their physical office footprints, it is the combination of services and experiences available to all occupants outside of their suites that gives a building competitive edge.
3. Create spaces that address different lifestyle needs. Each business is unique. The landlord’s mission is to help enable both the individual and collective lifestyle goals of their tenants.
The challenge is that lifestyle expectations are ever evolving. We have seen repeatedly how office amenities transform from rare, exclusive offerings to eventually becoming table stakes. The current popularity of bicycle parking is a prime example. Curating unique, targeted amenity programs that make an impact immediately and long-term are key. Simple, underutilized spaces can be transformed to specialized lifestyle experiences that make a property stand out from competitors, by implementing unexpected, innovative amenities that are future forward.
Some strategies and tactics that we have recently designed for our landlord clients include:
– Repurposing underutilized or challenging-to-lease spaces;
– Creating Indoor/Outdoor connections – maximizing views, increasing connection points with the exterior, and, highlighting year-round meeting space on decks and patios;
– Relocating amenities to more visible locations;
– Reinventing bicycle parking and locker rooms to increase capacity and provide an elevated experience;
– Transition security stations transition to concierge desks;
– Expand Fitness and Wellness Centers to foster a holistic, healthy lifestyle message;
– Integrate innovative biophilia installations.
In a fluctuating, competitive market heightened by the pandemic, interior designers bring expert knowledge of places, people, and tactical concerns within commercial real estate. We support our clients in strategically elevating communal amenities, responding to tenant lifestyle needs now—and anticipate what is next.
Before the pandemic, relaxing with coworkers in the office breakroom or preparing meals in the communal kitchen were typical, stress-free, even enjoyable aspects of the workday. Now, as employees are returning to offices after months of remote work and social distancing, sentiments around common spaces are more cautious and varying from person to person.
Practicing human centered design going forward means recognizing and respecting employees who have different levels of health concerns. Workplaces should give options for experiencing a space so even some of the most cautious individuals will feel safe.
While technology enabled businesses’ transition to remote work in 2020, now technology is helping us make the office feel more comfortable, clean, and caring. become more important components in our projects moving forward. Recently, we implemented several enhanced features into a client’s new corporate headquarters to reduce touchpoints and improve hygiene long-term.
Automatic doors reduce practically everyone’s points of contact from the moment they enter the building to their exit, along with increasing accessibility. Installing advanced HVAC systems improves fresh air flow. Our interiors and architecture worked with the client to ensure the special equipment was seamlessly integrated into their open, airy office design—high functionality without feeling intrusive or disruptive.
Touchless technology improves comfort and cleanliness in shared bathrooms. We used Bradley’s WashBar, an all-in-one automatic faucet/soap dispenser/hand dryer. It eliminates three potential touchpoints, reduces waste, and adds a sleek aesthetic element. We also installed traditional motion-sensor paper towels dispensers. Offering both methods maintains touchlessness while honoring employees preference for either option. After hours, a UV light will disinfect the bathroom as an added precaution for both employees and facilities staff. Touchless fixtures extend to their breakrooms, locker rooms, and wellness/mother’s room, creating a consistently cleaner, contact free user experience in communal areas.
Solutions do not have to be high-end or technology-reliant—it can be as simple as how trash and recycling bins are stored. Instead of cabinets or drawers opened by hand, a touchless solution is hiding the receptacles under counters with holes that waste is simply dropped into. Of course, this method is far from new, but it is more applicable than ever for our minimal contact approach.
Touch means something different now to everyone. Through contact-free technology and thoughtful design details, we can find a solution that works for any workplace.
Project Materials Spotlight
In early 2020, TMT Development contacted Ankrom Moisan Interiors to design several small tenant improvement projects in the Studio Building and the Fox Tower in downtown Portland. The Studio Building at 919 SW Taylor is one of the oldest buildings in the downtown center, built in the 1920s as a musical conservatory. Now housing modern office space, TMT desired to add a bike room amenity to the existing basement, to provide tenants with ample bike storage, two shower rooms, and a bike repair area.
Roberta Pennington, the project manager, looped me (Maddy) into this project as the designer, and we went far beyond TMT’s expectations. Inspired by the historical music background of the building, we presented two musically inspired design options: Jazzy & Classical. Ultimately, TMT decided to move forward with the vibrant and energetic Jazzy scheme to bring more life into the existing spooky basement. “Jazzy” pulls inspiration from vintage jazz posters, historic palettes, and art motifs of the 1920s and 1960s jazz eras.
Working within the existing dark, concrete basement, we strove to brighten and enliven the space while creatively guiding employees from the elevators to the bike room down a long hallway. Being a budget-conscious project, we used simple and inexpensive design moves to add major impact and character to the space and keep up with the fast-paced timeline.
First, old, unused pipes and conduit were removed from the existing ceilings of the hallways and storage room (which would eventually become the bike storage space). The remaining pipes and structure were then painted with vibrant colors to not only create a beautiful, cohesive aesthetic, but help group what would otherwise be chaotic and overwhelming utilities into a visual whole – the Gestalt effect. Dozens of exposed pipes became a sculptural, colorful ceiling.
The existing concrete floor remained, but was cleaned and repaired as necessary. Keeping an existing painted red stripe on the floor (which led to fire suppression equipment down the hall), we incorporated this into the design as a wayfinding feature by adding a simple yellow stripe on top to connect the spaces (confirming that altering the stripe wasn’t against code). We also added a special custom tile inset signifying the entry to the bike room. Working with the AM Brand team, the design is a play on Oregon’s motto “She Flies with her Own Wings,” becoming Rotae Volat Propriis, or “She Flies with her own Wheels.” While Daltile can manufacture custom mosaic tile layouts onto their mesh backings, this added significant time and cost to the project, which we did not have. Instead, we simplified the tile design and reduced it down to two colors, and ordered whole sheets of black tiles and whole sheets of white tiles. The tile installers only had to swap individual tiles to create the lettering. By having the majority of the layout already adhered to the mesh backing; this saved time and cost in the end for the custom design & install. In the shower rooms, we used a waterproof uncoupling membrane underneath the new tile floor, allowing the tiles to move separately from the building structure and help prevent cracking and damage. The irregular cement tile floor design was inspired by the night sky often seen in jazz posters.
The walls in the elevator lobby, hallway and bike room were treated simply and inexpensively with fresh paint. Near the elevators, we created a bike repair wall, featuring decorative wallpaper inspired by simplified Art Deco shapes. We tested the durability of multiple wallpaper materials by scratching samples with our house keys, to ensure the wallpaper would hold up to expected bumps and scratches in the future. We added simple linear light fixtures following a curved arch shape on the wallpaper, visually suggesting sound and expression of excitement. In the hallway, our Brand team riffed off the wallpaper shapes to design custom wall decals to abstractly resemble racing bicyclists. These also act as a wayfinding feature to the bike room. At the bike room entry, a custom-designed Portland biking map is framed and mounted to the wall. The walls and plywood are painted a vibrant red-orange, electrifying the experience. The bike racks and lockers are painted a different shade of red-orange in contrast, resulting in an unexpected explosion of color. Inside the shower rooms, the walls are lined with recycled clay tile from Fireclay Tile, making each of the tiny shower rooms fully waterproof and beautiful. Custom half-moon mirrors add another Art Deco element to the scheme.
Overall, the design and finish decisions resulted in a project that was within budget, on time, and made a huge impact on the user experience.
Maddy Gorman is a certified Interior Designer specializing in Workplace design, based in our Portland office since 2015. In her free time, she enjoys elements of discovery whether that is in nature, finding new delicious food combinations, uncovering patterns and stories through Tarot, exploring inward while lying still in a float tank, or traveling the world.
Simplifying the Specification Process
Within my design passion comes a desire to learn about how spaces and their materiality affect people mentally, psychologically, physiologically, and emotionally. One of the initiatives toward my career goals is researching and distilling technical material knowledge so it is easily accessible to all designers.
I enjoy dissecting the details about products and learning how to properly use materials in my work. I believe having a thorough understanding and awareness of the technical side of specifying finishes and materials is incredibly important to being a great designer. In the spring of 2020, I completed a course called the Healthy Materials Lab through the Parsons School of Design, which opened my eyes to the importance of the specification process as a designer. We have the huge responsibility to design spaces that are healthy for both the occupants and the environment, while also balancing efficiency, budget, and beauty.
When I first started in the interior design industry in 2015, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information interior designers are expected to learn and acquire over time, and I didn’t want to wait for that to come through my experience on the job. I desired a central resource for information, a “go-to” for all the questions I had about various finishes, to design my projects right the first time. After all, interior designers are jacks-of-all-materials, and with new and innovative products being introduced all the time, it can be difficult to keep up with the knowledge, even with the help of our wonderful product reps.
I attempted my version of data collection through lunch-and-learns and personal research, scribbled across multiple notebooks, and documented in digital files, but never succeeded in one place. The peer culture of my design studios in architecture school was extremely positive and supportive, which unfortunately isn’t always the case, never leaving a fellow studio-mate behind to get ahead yourself. I wanted to carry that same outlook into my career by sharing knowledge to help us all improve.
In entering the industry, the structure of learning about commercial products consisted of lunch-and-learns, NeoCon, on-the-job experience, and research on your own time. In a time where crowdsourcing information is the norm, the processes of ordering material samples and learning about products were challenging and out of date. I often asked myself: “Hasn’t this question been asked before?” and “Why isn’t this information easier to find?”
When Ankrom Moisan moved into our new Portland office in Old Town, our designers had access to a new, state-of-the-art material library run by our dedicated librarian and researcher, Erica Buss. While this was an immense improvement from our situation in the previous office, there was still the missing piece of how to use these materials successfully. When should I use resilient flooring over carpet? What is the difference between these three textile options? How will this countertop perform over this other material? There was crowdsourcing between designers through our office messaging apps, but sometimes you just need a thorough overview of all the important factors in specifying.
In January 2021, I was approached by Nicole Schmidt, the CEO of Source, to write blog articles detailing the important aspects to successfully specify various commercial finishes and materials. It felt like this gig was made for me. What I appreciate about the vision of this resource is the articles are meant to be informative, succinct, and easy to read for any level of design experience. I incorporate multiple perspectives by interviewing different manufacturer representatives for each product type, so there is a holistic and comprehensive overview. I ask reps to clarify common misconceptions and mistakes made by designers and recommended solutions, for any sustainable alternatives or aspects to consider, regarding the longevity of a product (and thus keeping it out of the landfill for longer). I include any lesser-known “tricks of the trade,” such as the Coffee Spill Test coined by fellow AM interior designer Roberta Pennington to test coffee spill visibility on carpet samples. Source has other resources available to designers, such as material cost estimates to assist designers with their project budget constraints, and a central material library with dedicated researchers.
Keep your eye out for my next post, where I dive into a few recent projects and the stories behind the finish palettes.
Maddy Gorman is a certified Interior Designer specializing in Workplace design, based in our Portland office since 2015. In her free time, she enjoys elements of discovery whether that is in nature, finding new delicious food combinations, uncovering patterns and stories through Tarot, exploring inward while lying still in a float tank, or traveling the world.
Designing for Comfort
Our homes should be comfortable, should rejuvenate us, and they can make or break our capacity for resiliency. Designing for comfort goes far beyond material or FF&E decisions to include communal space, biophilic design, sensitivity to place and culture and history, even flexible spaces that adapt to fit each residents’ individual conceptions of home and relaxation.
Download Comfort now.
Discovering a Love for Design
This is a familiar story for many interior designers. I wanted to be an interior designer since I was in grade school; the signs were there from the beginning. I remember sitting at my dining table, butcher paper sprawled hastily across and sketching cross-sections of the earth. I drew mom and dad above rabbits and groundhogs below. Or, of course, all of my dream homes: the one that sat up in the tree canopies where the light casts shadows of wavering leaves on my bare walls, the one on a lake built around a central outdoor firepit where we laugh and play games together, and the one without permanent external walls, open to the fresh air at all hours of the day.
Playing with Legos and woodblocks alongside my brothers, I always took a different approach from their spaceships and tanks meant to destroy, and built homes instead, developing thorough storylines of the families that lived there. And, like many other peers from my generation, playing The Sims for hours on end had a large influence on me. Interior Design is an intersection of things I love: people, emotion, art, science, storytelling, psychology, behavior, and the senses.
I discovered the career of commercial interior design through my high school art teacher, who encouraged me to apply for the accredited Interior Architecture program at the University of Oregon. Through the program, I fell in love with the idea of creating and designing spaces that many people can enjoy in their everyday interactions with the world.
I continue to follow the breadcrumbs of my personal design passion: design for healing. I read Healing Spaces by Dr. Esther Sternberg and was hooked on the idea that well-designed environments can heal. This does not mean healthcare, but in every space we inhabit daily. Our workplace, our homes, the experience of grocery shopping, or the classrooms we have to sit in every day as children have an immense subconscious effect on our wellbeing. I want to promote a sense of safety and positivity for as many people as I can.
For my final comprehensive project in college, I designed a community space called the Ethical Culture Center of Oregon (or ECCO), a non-theistic sacred space and educational center based on ethics and humanist values, where everyone is welcome to explore what sacredness in their life means to them, while also learning what it means to others. I created a large contrasted communal room for listening and learning, with individual darkrooms for meditation and reflection. This marked the beginning of my journey in the search for knowledge to heal & connect.
In the next blog post, I’ll share how I am assimilating information to build a foundation for my knowledge and present that information to the industry.
Human Centered Design
As designers, we are redefining what sustainability means by placing the human experience at the center of design solutions. In order to fully address the diversity of the human experience, equity and inclusion must be the foundation of sustainable design to create holistic communities and transformative workplaces. A truly sustainable workplace is built to anticipate and meet human needs, fostering a collegial and welcoming environment for all, where people can focus and think as easily as they can collaborate, learn, and grow. At its core, sustainable design is empathic, equitable, and human-centered.
What does this mean from a design perspective? Small design decisions say a lot, from minor adjustments to accommodate all body types and abilities, to the inclusion of private spaces for health and wellness activities. We view spaces through the eyes of all people who will inhabit and interact with them, incorporating the best practices of universal design.
We are committed to educating and challenging ourselves to actively design for social equity. As part of this commitment, we have signed the Call-to-Action Pledge with NOMA NW to advocate for equity and diversity within our profession. We have also partnered with The Diversity Movement to help us build & strengthen our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy and insure it is woven into the fabric of our work. Truly sustainable design cannot be achieved unless it begins with a human centered approach that prioritizes equitable opportunities for all.
Before the pandemic, it was common for businesses and office workers to have an insulated experience within the community in which they worked. There was a binary relationship between work and home. Your real community was where you lived. Your work community barely registered beyond the front door of your office. When offices emptied out last March, leaving central business districts empty and local retail and restaurants on life support, the limitations and, frankly, harm, of this or compartmentalization was suddenly brought to light.
Resilient communities are predicated on a collaborative relationship between businesses, workers, retail, and civic groups. Now, as workers slowly trickle back to the office, we must use this opportunity to re-imagine a more collaborative relationship between workers, businesses, and government within the blocks, cities, and districts in which they call home. Workplaces and their surrounding communities need to be agile, resilient, and inclusive in order to thrive in the future. To get there, employers and community leaders must recognize the interdependence of workplaces and their communities. As workplace designers, we strengthen communities when our design solutions are informed by the symbiotic relationship between workplaces, retail, services, and housing.
So, what are we doing today to address this? We are actively engaged with our workplace clients to elevate the discussion around their, as well as our own, engagement with the surrounding community. Public-private partnerships, together with design solutions that promote inclusivity, can enhance the quality of life, improve safety, and create equitable opportunities that are critical in building resilient communities.
What is the responsibility of an organization or building owner toward the larger community in which they inhabit? Studies show that the long-term implications of the work-from-home trend could have an unintended adverse impact on downtown business districts, commercial real estate, and local businesses. The situation demands new and innovative thinking to ensure our cities remain vibrant.
We believe that in order to rebuild and restore connection and engagement between workplaces and the surrounding community, employers and community leaders need to form partnerships rooted in shared values and civic pride. Workplaces can play a critical role in the vibrancy of our communities and must rise to the challenge of being a strategic partner with local jurisdictions and community organizations.
What is the role of design in all of this? The answer lies in connectivity. Our design solutions encourage connection between the building and the surrounding neighborhood. For example, active and engaging ground floors that provide space for community programming, wellness services, or experiential retail environments serve as vibrant and vital assets that benefit the broader community. By engaging multiple and diverse stakeholders, including the local community as co-creators in their design solutions, designers and their clients play a major role in the revitalization of urban centers.
To learn more about how you can get involved and flex your civic pride, check out the advocacy work of the Downtown Portland Clean and Safe, the Seattle Downtown Business Association, and the Downtown Los Angeles Business Improvement Districts.
What’s Next for the Workplace?
What will it take to revive central business districts across the US? What role will your workplace play in this recovery? What makes a community resilient, balanced, and livable and what role do workplaces play in this equation? What would it look like if your office was more integrated into the community?
As the pandemic loosens its grip and businesses prepare to return to the office, we believe there is an opportunity for workplaces to imagine a better future and play a larger role in reviving and restoring our communities. We surveyed industry partners, urban planners, end users, and market experts to get their take on the trends and opportunities they see for a revitalized urban core.
Based on our research, the notions of civic pride, symbiotic communities, and human centered design are fundamental to re-imaging the relationship between workplaces and their surrounding communities. Over the next few days, we will explore each of these principles and unpack what they mean for workplace design.
Ankrom Moisan’s Jeremy Southerland, Alissa Brandt, and Chris Ebert led a presentation at the 2021 LeadingAge California Virtual Conference to discuss the research and insights our team has uncovered that will have the biggest impacts on senior housing development in 2021 and beyond.
Three ways to improve senior housing design:
- Affordability – adapting to meet demand.
- Technology – revolutionizing senior communities.
- Wellness – a deeper connection.
Pre-pandemic demographic trends remain relevant and will affect development moving forward. Boomers continue to flood the marketplace with 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day; and this market surge will last until 2029. The demand continues, and the new things to pay attention to include affordability as well as a leap forward in technology, which ultimately impacts community wellness. Traditional models of retirement housing are no longer going to meet the market’s needs, and senior housing developers and planners will need to adapt to address the lack of affordable housing and embrace a surge in technology.
Looking at cross-market trends, there are a few things happening in other market sectors that will spill over into senior housing. As offices in urban cores reopen, high-value renters will also return. Seniors have been experiencing a sense of “bored in the ‘burbs’” and more of them are looking to relocate to vibrant, dynamic city centers, so senior housing planners should evolve their sites to address this desire. Hyper-localism is another insight we have seen accelerate as well as value-based spending, so expect seniors to look for the same things in their big purchases.
Shifting back to the development landscape environment, developers and clients are still being driven by their biggest concern: cost. The same lessons we have learned from affordable housing development can dramatically reduce costs and increase efficiency for senior housing communities. As we move ahead, we will continue to apply strategies for affordable housing so we can maximize our spend and have extra money left over for high-market-value items like elevated interior finishes, specialty amenities, or simply more affordable housing.
Creative partnerships and joint ventures are another major strategy we have seen successfully used to reduce operational costs and enhance service offerings. Built-in services and shared resources and amenities help create resident-focused communities which interact with the wider community. We also expect wellness to play an even larger role in design, landscaping, and architecture as residents look for more ways to socialize.
Technology and the rapid advancement of telehealth and telemedicine during Covid-19 will likely cause the biggest transformation of the senior community landscape. The emergence of creative healthcare models such as pop-up health centers and roving busses that bring services directly to residents will revolutionize senior housing, connect seniors to affordable programs, and eliminate the need to transport residents off-site. Infrastructure for virtual visitation (ranging from boosted bandwidth capacity to spaces designed specifically as “Zoom Rooms”) is finding its way into building programs.
With an increased access to and use of technology comes improved wellness, allowing seniors to stay better connected to healthcare providers, loved ones, and each other. This advancement, because of the pandemic, also means a shift in how developers see senior communities as healthcare coordinators, not just providers. This has forged a deeper connection and sense of community between staff and residents. Everyone is working together to keep residents safe and healthy.
Senior communities have needed to adapt to a rapidly changing world and have learned how to function when conditions are less than ideal. In the future, senior communities will look for even more ways to incorporate wellness into the entire design of a project, create flexible layouts, and use the latest in technology to provide an environment that helps seniors age in place comfortably.
Apartment buildings are micro-neighborhoods, offering residents opportunities to connect to the community around them. And as individual unit sizes get smaller, people are looking more and more to a property’s amenities to function as an extension of their home.
Download Multi-Faceted Life for three foundational elements to designing amenities with a thoughtful and deliberate strategy.
Fitness is Integral to Wellness
The connections between exercise and overall wellness are well established—but how can we, as designers, create senior communities that encourage healthy movement for people of all physical abilities? How can we design fitness into residents’ everyday lives? These design insights reflect our solutions over decades’ worth of projects.
Download Fitness now.
Balancing Elements of Design with Light in Mind
With access to natural daylight, we’re sharper and happier during the day, we sleep better at night, and we recovery faster when we’re sick. To properly daylight indoor spaces, designers must balance glazing, climate, solar and thermal gain, external views, nighttime darkness, and many more interdependent factors—far more than simply adding extra windows.
Download Light now.
There’s a new focus on the changing needs of residents in an evolving world. Future-ready units with practical and customizable features will increase in demand as renters seek a new way of living, one in which they have space to live, work, and thrive on their terms – and within their own homes.
Download Adaptive Living for a post-Covid world.
Leading the Evolving Market
As people adapt to the shocks of the pandemic, multi-family communities are responding to the long-term shifts in residents’ daily lives.
Finding new ways to work and play, stay connected, and achieve balance are now essential and we are taking a look at how multifamily communities can adapt to meet the demand of current and future residents.
Download our lookbook PDF on multifamily living in a post-Covid world.
Vitality in the Village
Understanding the connection between a well-designed community and people’s overall resilience and health, our campus master plan for Mary’s Woods encourages residents to socialize with each other in a large-scale, pedestrian-centered village environment.
Download example here.
Approaching Air Quality Holistically
Fresh air and wellness are intrinsically connected. With ready access to fresh air, people are more alert, physically healthier, able to heal quicker, happier, and more relaxed. And indoors, constantly refreshed air is far safer than stale or poorly filtered air. Our insights explore how designing for fresh air is part of designing for resiliency in senior communities.
Download Air now.
With the rapid acceptance of remote work, we are examining how residents’ needs are changing in multifamily communities. Building amenities in housing for different people with a variety of jobs will need to offer options and flexible spaces that can adapt to individual work needs.
Download [Home]Work to learn about four distinct ways to support residents working from home now and looking towards the future.
What is the purpose of the office now? And in the future? To answer these questions, we surveyed nearly 400 people from various industries and across different generations. We analyzed the data and the many thoughtful write-in responses and discovered four distinct themes.
Download re-connect now.
The New Suburban Office
Natural ventilation and access to fresh air are priorities for post-pandemic office spaces. With people’s growing interest in shorter commutes, suburban office parks are becoming more popular.
Our latest non-urban office design reimagines a typical campus, including amenities with metropolitan flair that blur the lines between indoor and outdoor lounge spaces. This facility updates an indoor cantina break area with a lounge and gaming table, opening to an exterior space via a dramatic, overhead pivoting glass door.
Outside are a tiered seating area called “The Skybox,” private seating nooks, lounge seating around a fire pit, and a barbecue area. We preserved a mature spruce tree, protecting its roots by a raised boardwalk. Coordinating palettes and eclectic furniture and accessory choices unify the indoor and outdoor spaces. These new amenities address tenants’ post-pandemic concerns and give the owner a unique selling point for the building.
Evolution of Office Amenities Q&A
COVID-19’s influence on the future of office space is one of the real estate industry’s million-dollar questions today. With many employees planning to work from home into 2021, is the traditional office environment outdated?
This question cuts to the heart of what we do, so we found a lot of insight (and encouragement) from this Colliers International report.
After interviewing experts in office leasing, tenant representation, workplace strategy, and more, Colliers International believes that offices continue to play an important role in how we conceptualize work. Read their report to learn about:
- The effects of the work-from-home experiment
- What changes can help make a return to the office more viable
- How amenities can evolve to attract workers back to the office
Click HERE to view the Colliers International report.
We conduct site feasibility studies for our clients, which are divided into three tiers. From Tier 1 to Tier 3, each tier deals with increasing amounts of information and concurrent time to prepare. Ask us how we can conduct a site feasibility study customized for you.
Download our Tier 2 Example to see what types of information are included in a Tier 2 package.
Accommodation Around Dining
Sharing meals is essential to people’s social and emotional wellness. Our insights support safer communal meals in senior living campuses that can adapt to social distancing requirements. Spatial redundancies—multiple dining venues, for example—and operational flexibilities—like easily rearranged seating—enable safer, more diverse, and more resilient food services.
Download Nourishment now.
AM Design Week 2020
For Seattle Design Festival’s 10th anniversary in August, 2020, our Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco offices celebrated Design Week virtually. Over five days, we explored what drew us to design, the realties of this present time, and the many ways our neighborhoods and cities are changing. We shared over 400 photos, 500 posts, and 1,829 emojis. At time when connecting with people isn’t easy, Design Week gave us a chance to see the world through each other’s eyes.
Here’s a tiny sample of what we shared.
Our wellness solutions are realistic and evidence-based. By investigating how the coronavirus affects workplace design, setting clear outcomes, analyzing conditions, and matching our recommendations to your situation, we design workplace wellness strategies that align with your company’s culture—and that can succeed.
Download re-new now.
Apartment Innovation Insights
After interviewing hundreds of apartment residents, we distilled their responses and refined our observations into practical design insights.
Here are opportunities to evolve apartment design in a way that meets people’s changing needs: by focusing on many sought-after features that designers often remove when pursuing value engineering.
Download the Apartment Innovation Survey Insights now.
Ankrom Moisan has spent decades designing healthy, empowering workplaces. Working quickly and cost-effectively, we design and implement strategies that help people feel safe about reentering the workplace during uncertain times—and help our clients safely transition to their new workplace reality.
Download re-entry now.
Our own reentry strategy for 38 Davis, Ankrom Moisan’s Portland headquarters, puts our design insights into practice. Discover how we redesigned for entering our workplace, using restrooms and gym amenities, and managing the building.
Download re-imagine now.
We surveyed 300+ people about returning to the office, and their responses were loud and clear. A holistic, employee-centered approach is essential to any reentry strategy. Following our survey findings, we’ve developed three design insights that can ensure a healthy future for the workplace: Invest in wellbeing. Redefine connection. Fortify trust.
Download re-set now.
Download our latest lookbook on urban high-rise design.
Design for Living: Mid-Rise
Download our inspiring 2020 lookbook on mid-rise living.
Apartment Innovation Survey
Our survey, conducted from May 28 through June 17, 2020, yielded over 400 responses and 1,635 written comments about apartment living today.
We’ve compiled our raw data into this research brief, a useful reference that supports our more refined design insights.