New Code Increases Accessibility

December 1, 2023
with Minimal Impacts to Buildings

Background

 

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.

 

Changes

 

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. 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 submitted code changes that are now in effect in the 2022 Oregon Structural Specialty Code and submitted a proposal for the next version of A117.1 and can report that kitchen outlets will no longer drive design or require any special design or construction features in the next code cycle.

 

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 early 2024, 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.

 

Below is our graphic of the changes to the A117.1 that affect AM projects. The orange color helps all team members quickly identify the new families are being used.

 

 

 

 

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 carag@ankrommoisan.com to learn about accessibility for your project.

 

* Originally published October 6, 2022, updated 12/01/2023 

 

 

 

by Cara Godwin, Senior Associate

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Living Our Hows (1 of 6): Embracing Change

October 5, 2022
Hybrid Meeting Spaces

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:

 

  1. How can we upgrade the acoustics to improve sound quality?
  2. How can we create a space that evenly distributes light to the user?
  3. 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

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Better Together

September 20, 2022
A Firm-Wide Celebration of Design

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

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Bringing Bigger Buildings to Smaller Jurisdictions

September 13, 2022
Our Experience and Expertise Lead to Successes

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

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An Integrated Approach to Revolutionary Healthcare Design

September 12, 2022
Providence Reed's Crossing Wellness Center

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.

 

Go to the Providence Reed’s Crossing Wellness Center Project Page >>

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Mass Timber: Harder Mechanical

September 1, 2022
Timelessly Modern

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.

 

 

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Wynne Watts Commons

August 26, 2022
High-Tech Accessibility for the Win

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

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Employee Spotlight: Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin

August 24, 2022
Empowering Others

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

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Mass Timber: Moda Tower Lobby

August 19, 2022
Activating Public Art and Springtime Through Renovation

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.

 

Go to Moda Tower Lobby’s Project Page >>

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Spotlight: Intern Jules Stafford

August 9, 2022
An interview with Jules Stafford, Summer Intern at Ankrom Moisan

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.

 

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