Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

March 14, 2024
Dancing Toward a More Efficient Design Process

The design process for healthcare spaces is multi-layered, spanning months to years, and involving numerous stakeholders. Healthcare Project Manager Greg Salandi is the first to admit that there are many areas where it can be improved. It isn’t unheard of for there to be hiccups when bringing a project to life, however, in the case of medical spaces, having to repeatedly go back to the drawing board to accommodate new information, changes in stakeholders, or evolving technologies can delay the opening of a project and waste both time and money. For the Healthcare sector, specifically, challenges like this can diminish or delay the much-needed care that patients in our communities seek.

 

To explain the current design process, where issues arise, and what Ankrom Moisan is doing to streamline early design and improve the process of designing healthcare spaces, Greg and Healthcare Principal-in-Charge Hao Duong sat down to discuss efficiency concepts in the design of healthcare spaces for better overall project delivery.

 

 

Greg and Hao in Ankrom Moisan’s Seattle office.

 

Current Process

 

The current design process employed by Ankrom Moisan’s healthcare team (AMHC) begins with a “dance of coordination with client stakeholders and the design mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) consultants as it pertains to equipment in a given space,” according to Greg. Within this dance, architects are typically viewed as the instructor who leads the choreography that all parties, including vendors and technical specialists, come together and orient themselves around, ensuring everything jives together before initiating a transition to the next step.

 

The process begins with understanding everything from organizational drivers for a project, to budget and schedule, and eventually the details of where precisely to locate specific ports and receptacles. Options are often presented by the design team and in turn, design decisions are made in collaboration with stakeholders. Decisions typically build upon each other so it is important to avoid revisiting these choices later in the process, as they may affect other decisions and result in increased project costs and extended schedules. For example, an early decision to not accommodate individuals of size in a patient room can profoundly affect many aspects of the room if reversed at a later date. Room size increases, fixture and equipment revisions, redesigns of overhead infrastructure, additional structural elements, and door size revisions are among some of the immediate impacts of a seemingly small shift in direction like that.

 

Generally, project stakeholders will come to the table with specific goals: the patient demographic, the type of nursing unit, special equipment or services to be provided, bed counts. Sometimes those stakeholders have more subjective goals such as the creation of an inviting, home-like environment to put patients, family, and staff in a more relaxed mental state. For a lot of projects, combining technical requirements with more atmospheric elements is a challenge for the design team.

 

After defining the project goals, the programmatic ensemble – where things land within the space and how workflow will come together – comes next. This step entails deciding room formatting and purposes, as well as ensuring that all surrounding spaces are cohesive, and that their positioning makes sense for everyday use and workflow. The design team puts their best foot forward, creating drawings to illustrate the parts and pieces of the design, the rooms, the adjacencies, and the details that flow between those elements. A recent project for Greg and Hao involved a nursing unit at a local top-rated hospital that included typical nursing workspaces, nurse stations, clean and soiled rooms, and nutrition and hospital operations closets. This project also included 12 patient rooms that were to be completely demoed down to structure and built back to refinished space.

 

Inpatient Programmatic Layout

 

Example of the In-patient Wing portion of a programmatic layout.

 

The process of demolishing the two floors of the nursing unit down to the structure provided an opportunity to revisit all aspects of the design, adjacencies, and flow from a base level. The healthcare design team went through the process of redesigning the whole wing, meeting with the project team and client stakeholders to define the essential aspects of the project and establish guide rails to define their goals for the space. Since everything other than the structure itself was redone, the AMHC team took it as an opportunity to work on the nuances of each space within the larger unit, discussing the equipment and features needed in those spaces.

 

As healthcare teams move towards smaller details like the location of outlets or determining where nurse stations will go, they start “creating hardline plans and designating zones and elevations for where those things will be found,” explains Greg. An increasing amount of documentation is produced at this step, with an equally increasing amount of design effort and coordination spent to create them.

 

Up until this point, all design work, plans, interior elevations, renderings, and story boards have only occurred digitally. The design has not jumped into the real world. This point is important because not all project parties are versed in the reading of design documents or drawings. Often, a physical representation of the project space is needed for many to “see” the design.

 

Once the programmatic layout is decided upon, a mockup of the space is put together to share with users and stakeholders so they can ‘dance’ through the physical space and make overall adjustments to the design. This mockup can be basic or diagrammatic, as long as it represents each item that will appear in the final room format. Mockups can be cardboard, foam, or even real building products, with details represented by post-it notes and/or pictures of physical design elements. The project stakeholders and design team walk through the space to discuss and tweak those details. At the end of such a session, the design team is inched closer to reality and further documentation is created to record that status.

 

 

A patient headwall during a project space mockup.

 

Another element of this process that is unique to healthcare design is the many different types of equipment that need to be accommodated within these spaces. This is often a challenge in one way or another. Whether it involves replacing an old MRI machine or adding a new dialysis machine to a patient room, “there is always some nuance of the new equipment or required infrastructure that has changed over time,” claims Greg. “It never just plugs right in, and often the impacts behind the wall or floor or ceiling are not readily apparent.”

 

The required versatility of healthcare spaces and the differing technology requirements for those spaces necessitates more of the right people to be in the room to provide their thoughts on the given space’s design. “There’s a lot of technology with lots of requirements within a constrained environment which requires additional detail, additional organization, all that stuff,” says Hao. Having a wider range of end users in the space to provide their individual expertise during a design review ultimately results in a more well-informed project layout. “Everyone has a say,” Greg explains, “everyone has the ability to provide their input, because they have an inherent knowledge and expertise of what they do.” If we miss an opportunity to get the right people in a space to provide their feedback, it can open a door to additional setbacks for the project.

 

 

Greg and Hao reviewing a physical mock-up of a project layout.

 

The key players consulted in this process are all project stakeholders ranging from the primary client (e.g. owners or provider reps) to the facilities personnel and end-users (e.g. doctors, nurses, patients). Having a wide range of perspectives on how a space will be used helps the design team meet the needs of the final occupants and allows them to maximize the full use potential of a room.

 

Typically, once feedback on a design mockup has been received, the process begins again, starting by incorporating the new design suggestions and user needs provided by stakeholders. The design team continues to build upon their drawings and create further secondary documentation to illustrate the project design. Time and money go into these efforts every step of the way.

 

Patient headwall diagram resulting from a mockup

 

Project design diagram resulting from a mockup.

 

With stakeholder input, the design team begins the process of submittals and reviews with the authorities that have jurisdiction (AHJ), such as the Seattle Department of Health, for example. Most AHJs only want to know about certain required features, such as the number of outlets or receptacles, meaning that the space’s design can still be a work-in-progress at this stage since the actual layout really only matters to end-users and stakeholders. This can take weeks, if not several months, to work through. All the while, the design team builds upon the ever-growing stack of drawings to create a Bid Set for general contractors to provide bids, or a Construction Document if the general contractor is on the project team already. At this point, nearly 70% of the design team fee has been spent documenting – on paper – the designs created through the several iterations of meetings and review.

 

Process Challenges

 

There are challenges to this process, however.

 

Hao points out that challenges like “changes in frontline staff and leadership are fairly common in projects that take a year or more to complete. Each new person brings additional experiences and ideas that, if incorporated, may improve the design. But additional input from new individuals can have the adverse effect of creating more work or rework, increasing costs, and impacting the schedule.”

 

An example of this type of challenge occurred during a recent project that Greg and Hao worked on. At the stage of in-field box walks, facilities users and representatives for MEP operations showed up to participate in the physical review. As the first time seeing the result of the mockup drawings, MEP reps identified necessary adjustments to several features, including the dialysis box’s design and location, which requires specific types of plumbing accommodations to move. Since those facilities users had not seen the original mockup, the design team had to redesign the head wall to implement those requested changes, opening the floodgates for additional weeks and months of design adjustments and site visits. Multiple iterations of a physical install were required to gain approval from final facilities users and stakeholders.

 

 

Snapshots from a physical box walk.

 

This demonstrates the importance of physical vs. digital or diagrammatic representation, with Architecture and Engineering processes existing largely in the latter. Combined with stakeholders that don’t 100% “read” or “see” the drawings or grasp the impacts that those details influence in the final product, there is a larger chance for information to slip through the cracks, requiring later revisions or adjustments.

 

Greg used the example of a dialysis service box – an in-wall infrastructure connection point for a dialysis machine – to explain this idea further. “Actual in-field location comes later in the design/construction process, before the facilities users can actually see a tangible example. Alterations at that stage can change the whole headwall. Movements to the box location to accommodate behind-the-wall plumbing changes the flow of the bedside, and it changes all sorts of other stuff, also behind the wall.” This means that the traditional linear documentation process takes on yet another iteration of design as all the components are fit and re-fit into the final physical space.

 

 

A dialysis box headwall that has had location adjustments following the initial box walk. Note the two dialysis boxes side by side – the one on the left is ‘moved loc.’

 

Because hospital rooms have all kinds of ports and receptacles, especially at headwalls, for both patient and staff use of equipment, the largest aspect of the challenge in designing these spaces is ensuring that those ports and receptacles are in the correct and most opportune position for everyday use. Electrical outlets, medical gas outlets, low voltage data outlets, equipment rails, workstations, dialysis boxes, and even in-room furniture like chairs or the patient bed are intertwined in a dance with each other in this way. Adjusting one often entails adjusting the rest. The real issue arises, as noted above, when the location or adjacencies of these ports and receptacles are indicated on design drawings in ways that can’t be visualized or understood by critical stakeholders. This can lead to things being missed or overlooked during drawing reviews that remain undiscovered and unaddressed until the rough-in stage is complete and box walks are done in-person.

 

Additional challenges that can complicate and prolong the design/construction process include the rapid pace at which medical equipment or its interface with the built environment, as well as the hospital code or construction requirements for those pieces of equipment, advances and evolves. Greg summarizes the issue, stating how “certainly over time, codes can change, particular equipment can change, the technical requirements or even the detailing requirements desired by a facility – the lessons learned from real world installations – for some of those essential elements, can change. That change or request can impact a longer-duration project, as those code changes or equipment changes throw off progress that has been made.” During the long project timeline, requirement changes or stakeholder requests can necessitate document changes in the drawings and potentially in the AHJ process that is already spinning away.

 

Requested changes to detailing and installation for the dialysis service box itself (not just the location) can necessitate alterations to the documents and submittals that brought the project to this skeletonized, built form. AHJ submittals need adjustments that require dialog with reviewers and ultimate buy-off on the new final product or install. The stakeholders requested a more robust installation for their new dialysis boxes, and those improvements were made during the active construction period, rather than during previous design phases, and based on lessons learned from previous projects. In this particular case, a change to the dialysis service box placement and detailing extended the project schedule by over one month, triggering many meetings and incurring budget impacts in excess of $100K. Ultimately, the project’s go-live date was pushed out farther into the future than originally planned, resulting in concern and frustration by hospital leadership.

 

Both of the situations noted above influenced the project’s schedule and budget. Additional time and costs are added with every change to the previously drawn documents in the prior design phases.

 

“Even though the process is multi-layered, it’s never going to be perfect,” Greg admits. However, just because the process will never be perfect does not mean it isn’t worth improving.

 

Solutions

 

Greg and Hao identify a few solutions embraced by the industry that address the primary challenges of the typical design process, such as changing staff, changing equipment and code, and extended timelines and budgets, among others. The solutions they employ range from the ‘big room’ idea where everybody is collocated in the same place to discuss everything both big and small, to the ‘design workshop’ idea, where the design process is more like a sprint from start to finish within a set amount of time. Both solutions occur early in the design development phase with the goal of solidifying all the details, parts, and pieces of a project, setting those decisions in stone, not to be revisited.

 

“There are some things that have been tried by other firms that have not been considered standards, and then there are other things that have evolved standards but are not yet adopted,” Hao clarifies, indicating that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the challenges faced by Ankrom Moisan’s healthcare team.

 

A lot of the proposed solutions are in no way new ideas for Ankrom Moisan. “It’s one of those things that has been there from the beginning of time, and we just keep trying to improve upon it and make tweaks to our process individually and as a team and as a firm that might differentiate us from others,” Greg explains. “Most solutions implemented follow a traditional design process timeline and cadence, meaning they are enacted early-on, before real, physical field work has been done on a project.”

 

Ultimately, Greg and Hao are trying to reorganize the early design documentation process to streamline the efforts of the project team and schedule, preventing re-work and safeguarding time and fees in the process.

 

In terms of making this a reality, the AMHC team intends to dedicate time and effort toward creating templated lists and details of requirements to be shared with stakeholders and end-users early in the design process. Having those templates on hand allows the project team to quickly vet those requirements for a given space with the stakeholders and end-users, and can therefore make headway on the design process for other spaces and areas of the project instead of focusing on the minutiae of the exact location of headwall ports and receptacles, for example.

 

As noted earlier, AHJs don’t necessarily need to know the exact location of a headwall element, and headwall elements don’t necessarily need to be drawn on the documentation. What the AHJs do want to see is that certain ports, receptacles, and quantities will be present at the project’s conclusion. The design and construction teams inevitably provide AHJs that information through inspections and record documents of those final locations. In this example, what Greg and Hao propose is diagrammatically designing the headwall for the purpose of stakeholder design intent sign-off and AHJ approval to begin construction, therefore continuing overall project cadence and momentum, moving those decisions and location changes from the drawn world into the physical. “We’re trying to prevent re-work by pushing those decisions into the built environment, which is more tangible to the everyday end-user than a set of technical drawings,” Greg reveals. The permitting documents can serve as a scaled-down design package that provides the necessary information for the AHJs initial approval for go-ahead into construction.

 

Once into the physical construction, the build and design teams produce the skeletonized headwall and can finally “see” locations and adjacencies. Project stakeholders and end-users typically participate in this review to “see” design solutions in a tangible form. After these reviews take place, the design drawings are finalized with the locations and dimensions of ports, receptacles, and equipment that will be provided to AHJs and submitted as a project record.

 

 

Final iteration of the diagrammatically-designed headwall assembled by Greg and Hao.

 

Solution Impacts

 

Greg summarized the impact of implementing these changes to the current healthcare design process, saying that it would be “an opportunity to get our arms completely around the large aspects of a project early on to ensure the linear design process keeps moving and advancing.” This is significant when trying to prevent backwards steps, as those backslides cost more time and money in the long run. “We’re always trying to have steps going forward so that every time we go to a new phase or the next step, the smaller details we incorporate build upon the existing design.”

 

Another positive impact of incorporating these changes is that projects can adhere to existing budgets and schedules without as many design iterations and backwards steps. “A lot of times with our clients, our stakeholders, they’re worried about getting a project open and operational to provide services as quickly as possible.”

 

Overall, a revision of current design processes to be more streamlined and efficient will have positive impacts on the design teams that create healthcare projects, as well as the owners, clients, stakeholders, and end users of those projects. It’s a win-win solution that establishes choreographed design and construction processes to secure the momentum and success of our healthcare work.

 

In the end, once the shuffle of design and detail coordination is over, these choreographer architects can lace up their shoes and begin participating in the dance of bringing their essential healthcare projects to completion.

 

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The Ins and Outs of Adaptive Reuse

February 20, 2024
Turning Underutilized Assets into Housing

What is Adaptive Reuse?

 

Adaptive Reuse Residential Conversions are projects that repurpose existing buildings for uses other than what the space was originally designed for.

 

Adaptive reuse offers developers the unique opportunity to save their investment, create and unparalleled story for end users, and make money by converting a disused or underutilized project into a one-of-a-kind residential space.

 

Chown Pella

 

Chown Pella Lofts, an old factory warehouse converted into a multi-story residential condominium in Portland, OR’s Pearl District.

 

However, updating old buildings comes with layers of complexity.

 

Since 1994, Ankrom Moisan has been involved with adaptive reuse projects and housing conversions. The depth of our expertise means we have an intimate understanding of the limits and parameters of any given site – we know what it takes to transform an underperforming asset into a successful residential project.

 

Why Conversions?

 

There are many reasons to choose conversion over construction when considering how to revitalize old structures or adapt unused sites.

 

Rental Housing Demands

 

According to the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks (NAOIP), the United States needs to build 4.3 million more apartments by 2035 to meet the demand for rental housing. This includes 600,000 units (total) to fill the shortage from underbidding after the 2008 financial crisis. Adaptive reuse residential conversions are an affordable and effective way to create more housing and fulfill that need.

 

Desirable Neighborhoods

 

The way we see it, the success of our buildings, neighborhoods, and infrastructure is our legacy for decades to come. Areas with a diverse mix of older and newer buildings create neighborhoods with better economic performances than their more homogeneous counterparts. By preserving and protecting existing structures, conversions contribute positively to the health and desirability of the neighborhood, leading to a quicker tenant fill.

 

Being committed to the places we occupy, live in, and care about is another reason to embrace adaptive reuse residential conversion projects; they revive our cities. Reducing the number of buildings that sit empty in urban areas plays a major role in activating downtown districts.

 

Reduced Waste

 

Saving older, historic buildings also prevents materials from entering the waste stream and protects the tons of embodied carbon spent during the initial construction. AIA research has shown that building reuse avoids “50-75% of the embodied carbon emissions that would be generated by a new building.”

 

New Marketing Opportunities

 

Aside from these benefits to the community, adaptive reuse conversions present a way for developers to recover underutilized projects and break into top markets like affordable, market-rate, and student housing.

 

Construction Efficiencies

 

Compared to new buildings, residential conversion projects save time, money, and energy, since their designs are based on an existing structure. Adaptive reuse conversions also benefit from not having their percentage of glazing or amount of parking limited by current codes, since they’re already established.

 

 

One-of-a-Kind Design

 

We don’t believe in a magic formula or a linear “one-size-fits-all” approach to composition. Each site is a unique opportunity to establish a one-of-a-kind project identity that’s tied to its history and surroundings.

At the outset of any conversion, we analyze each individual site and tailor our process to align with the existing elements that make it unique. Working with what you have, our designs and deliverables – plans, units, systems narratives, pricing, and jurisdictional incentives – are custom-fit.

 

It’s our philosophy that you shouldn’t fight your existing structure to get a conversion made; if you can’t fix it, feature it.

 

Chown Pella

 

Chown Pella Lofts.

 

Approaching each conversion opportunity with this mindset, we analyze the factors that set a site apart, and embrace those unique elements to ensure a residential conversion stands out. With this intricate and involved process, we’ve been able to get over 30 one-of-a-kind residential conversion projects under our belt.

 

Through these past experiences, we have identified six key characteristics that make a project a candidate for successful conversion, and six challenges that may crop up during the renovation process. To learn more about what attributes to look out for and what traits to be weary of when considering a residential conversion, read about our “Rule of Six” here.

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Design Director of Housing and Senior Principal, and Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator.

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Residential Conversion Case Study

February 15, 2024
A Retro Renovation in Sacramento, CA

Converted from a Holiday Inn hotel to a residential apartment complex, 728 16th St. embraces its midcentury hotel past while providing a new take on residential housing. By utilizing strategic efficiencies within the renovation process, Ankrom Moisan’s adaptive reuse and renovations design team contained costs, expedited construction, and completed the project in a sustainable fashion.

 

The Challenge

 

Originally constructed in the 1970s, the site of 728 16th St. had seen better days. Years of water damage to the roof and walls meant the building’s enclosure needed updating. Additionally, because the structure was originally designed for traveling guests, rather than as permanent lodging, many of the rooms lacked the necessary amenities for residential living, such as kitchen appliances and other utilities like washers and dryers.

 

Adding these appliances to the space uncovered unique challenges around the inclusion of proper ducts and plumbing for those utilities.

 

728 16th St. as a Holiday Inn

 

Before: 728 16th St. as a Holiday Inn

 

The Solution

 

Leveraging as much of the pre-existing space as possible resulted in the renovated 728 16th St. building’s unified design. Existing structure, utilities, and MEP infrastructure were optimized by the design team to maximize efficiencies and eliminate the need for a complete tear down. In this sense, the name of the game was understanding the parameters of the site and knowing how to work within those parameters to bring the design intent for the new building type to life.

 

Since the building’s enclosure was updated during the renovation, the design team was given the opportunity to reskin the building with a high performance rain screen system during the update, preventing any further water damage to the structure. This also allowed the team to shift the site’s layout and the location of amenities; the lobby itself was relocated, moved to a more central location of the site.

 

To increase the total number of units, portions of the existing hotel, such as the parking lot and food service kitchen were infilled and connected to the new lobby. Other existing hotel rooms were combined to create one or two-bedroom apartment units, with an emphasis on maintaining the pre-established bathroom layouts, since they contained plumbing fixtures and pipes that would be too difficult to relocate.

 

Rendering of 728 16th St.'s Renovated Design

 

During: A rendering showing what 728 16th St. might look like as a residential housing complex.

 

Addressing the challenges that were uncovered by the lack of plumbing, pipes, and appliance ducts in the individual new and existing units, the renovations team made large-scale adjustments to the height of the ceilings, to accommodate those appliance ducts and plumbing pipes.

 

The Impact

 

By maintaining as much of the original structure as possible and eliminating the need for a tear down, 728 16th St.’s renovation created an expedited development process that ended up being more sustainable than a new build.

 

728 16th St. following its renovation

 

After: 728 16th St., converted from a Holiday Inn hotel to residential housing.

 

Embracing the existing structure, room layouts, and utilities of the Holiday Inn, Ankrom Moisan’s renovations team turned the underutilized hotel space into an affordable-by-design residential project in a desirable area. Shifting the layout and positioning of the site itself allowed 129 new units to be built, both increasing the amount of available housing in the area and diversifying the unit types within 728 16th St., as the original design was repetitive.

 

The fresh perspective on modern residential housing brought to life by the Ankrom Moisan adaptive reuse conversion team sets 728 16th St. apart as a place that remains competitive in new markets.

 

Overall, the building type conversion for this project was successful because the site exhibited at least two of the six key characteristics for effective renovations, otherwise known as the “Rule of Six.” Being situated in a walkable location and having at least a 12,000 square foot plate set 728 16th St. up for success, but a prospective adaptive reuse conversion truly only needs one of the six key characteristics to be a qualified candidate for successful conversion. Read more about the Rule of Six and how to tell if your site would make for a successful residential conversion here.

 

For guidance through the adaptive reuse process, contact Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director and residential conversion expert.

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile

 

By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director.

Contact: +1 (206)-576-1600 | jennifers@ankrommoisan.com

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Should Your Building Become Housing? Critical Considerations for Adaptive Reuse

February 15, 2024
How to Evaluate Your Building's Candidacy for Conversion

It’s the question on every developer’s mind right now. Is adaptive reuse feasible for my building? Cost-effective? What will a housing conversion project entail?

 

Since 1994, Ankrom Moisan has been involved with adaptive reuse projects and housing conversions. The depth of our expertise means we have an intimate understanding of the limits and parameters of any given site – we know what it takes to transform an underperforming asset into a successful residential project.

 

For customized guidance through the adaptive reuse evaluation process, contact Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director and residential conversion expert.

 

The Rule of Six

 

While there is no magic formula or linear ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to conversions, we have a framework that should be considered when approaching an adaptive reuse project. We call it “The Rule of Six.”

 

The Rule of Six outlines six key characteristics that make a project a candidate for successful conversion, and six challenges to be prepared for during the renovation process.

 

With this informed process, we’ve been able to get over 30 one-of-a-kind residential conversion projects under our belt.

 

The Six Key Characteristics for a Successful Conversion

 

Not every building is a good candidate for conversion. By evaluating multiple structure types and working closely with contractors on successful projects, we’ve identified six key characteristics that lead to the creation of successful, low-cost, conversions.

 

If a property has any of these traits – whether it’s one characteristic of all six – it might qualify as a candidate for a successful conversion.

 

  1. Class B or C Office
  2. 5-6 Levels, or 240′ Tall
  3. Envelope Operable Windows Preferred
  4. Walkable Location
  5. 12,000 Sq. Ft. Plate Minimum
  6. Depth to Core Not to Exceed 45′

 

To find out if a property makes for a good adaptive reuse project, consider conducting a feasibility study on the site.

 

Reach out to get started on your feasibility study today.

 

The Six Challenges to be Prepared For

 

West Coast conversions can be particularly challenging with their seismic requirements, energy codes, and jurisdictional challenges – your conversion team should be prepared for these hurdles. The solutions vary by project; contact us to see how we can solve your project’s challenges.

 

  1. Change of Use: It’s the reason we upgrade everything. The simple act of changing a building’s use from office to residential immediately triggers a ‘substantial alteration.’ This label starts all the other necessary upgrades.
  2. Seismic-structural Upgrades: Buildings on the West Coast must meet a certain code level to be deemed acceptable for the health, safety, and welfare of end-users. Often, this required level does not match the current code, meaning negotiations with the jurisdiction are necessary.
  3. Egress Stairs: Stair width is usually within the code demands for conversion candidates, but placement is what we need to evaluate. When converting to residential, it’s sometimes necessary to add a stair to the end of a corridor.
  4. Envelope Upgrades and Operable Windows: West Coast energy codes require negotiated upgrades with jurisdictions, as existing envelopes usually don’t meet the current codes’ energy and performance standards. Operable windows are a separate consideration. They are not needed for fresh air but are often desired by residents for their comfort.
  5. Systems and Services Upgrades: These upgrades often deal with mechanical and plumbing – checking main lines and infrastructure, decentralizing the system, and adding additional plumbing fixtures throughout the building to support residential housing uses.
  6. Rents and Financials: Determining how to compete with new build residential offerings is huge. At present, conversions cost about as much as a new build. Our job is to solve this dilemma through efficient and thoughtful design, but we need development partners to be on the same page as us, knowing where to focus to make it work.

 

At the outset of any conversion, we analyze each individual site and tailor our process to align with the existing elements that make it unique. Working with what you have, our designs and deliverables – plans, units, systems narratives, pricing, and jurisdictional incentives – are custom-fit.

 

To better understand if adaptive reuse is right for your building, get in touch with us. We can guide you through the feasibility study process.

 

To see how we’ve successfully converted other buildings into housing, take a look at our ‘retro residential conversion’ case study.

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile

 

By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director.

Contact: +1 (206)-576-1600 | jennifers@ankrommoisan.com

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Biophilic Design in Healthcare Spaces

February 13, 2024
A Healing Environment

Biophilic elements have numerous positive health benefits for those who use and inhabit a space, as human connection to nature is inherent. The real, tangible impacts of exposure to natural, biophilic elements range from improved mood and quality of sleep, to increased mental abilities and energy levels, among other benefits.

 

Knowing the myriad of health benefits that being surrounded by nature provides, it’s easy to picture the positive impact of incorporating biophilia into healthcare spaces for both patients and providers. For medical spaces especially, the subtle sense of calmness caused by biophilic design means that check-ups and procedures, that may ordinarily be a source of stress or anxiety to some, are much easier for those patients to handle. From this perspective, using an evidence-based approach to wholistic care means the inclusion of natural, biophilic elements in project designs.

 

Looking at the intricacies of biophilia, we aim to dive deeper into how the Ankrom Moisan healthcare team utilizes biophilic design to support patients, providers, and visitors in healing spaces.

 

Healthcare Project Examples

 

Some examples of how biophilic designs are integrated into healthcare spaces to improve and enhance the patient experience can be seen below, in projects like CCC Blackburn, the Swedish Medical Center Ambulatory Infusion Clinic, and the Harborview Medical Center Pediatric Burn Unit.

 

Biophilic elements of CCC Blackburn

 

CCC Blackburn‘s use of color, texture, and space establishes a dynamic balance of tension and openness within its walls, leading to a combination of both open space and boundaries that emulates the harmony of woodland clearings and fallen trees in the wild. The building was pulled apart to allow natural light into the long hallways and corridors, expelling darkness. Wide, operable windows provide access to sunlight, fresh air, and open space at every level. Views of plants, animals, and insects affirm to patients that they are connected to the outdoors, preventing the feeling of being isolated or stuck in a sterile, empty environment that can be so common in medical spaces.

 

Biohpilia in the Swedish Medical Center Ambulatory Infusion Clinic

 

Similarly, the Swedish Medical Center Ambulatory Infusion Clinic utilizes natural materials, spacial variability, direct views to exterior natural elements, and the intentional use of both indoor and natural light to emphasize the subtle feelings of attraction and appreciation for beauty that results from biophilic design. These features also provide patients with a comforting atmosphere while undergoing treatment, so that even the building’s design around the patient is there to ease pain and reduce discomfort.

 

Biophilia in the Harborview Medical Center Pediatric Burn Unit

 

The Harborview Medical Center Pediatric Burn Unit also includes biophilic elements designed to help put patients at ease. Wall graphics that reference the outdoors bring color, curiosity, and excitement to the room while simultaneously avoiding placelessness by giving the space its own unique look, feel, and identity. Wood-look and other organic aesthetics combine with natural and artificial light to engage patients, ensuring that they are stimulated while waiting for and receiving care.

 

Projects that embrace biophilia and include natural features in their design have the additional potential to heal the Earth while healing individuals. This happens foremost through the restoration of natural spaces in and outside of project sites. By including natural features and views, projects often facilitate and encourage the growth of plant life, improving air quality, offsetting a site’s carbon footprint, and contributing to prosperity of the local ecosystem. This is commonly seen with the introduction of native plants and other species that attract pollinators, allowing them to reproduce and continue the circle of life.

 

We also know that biophilic design has benefits that go beyond pleasant visuals and feeling connected to one’s surroundings. Findings have shown that biophilia boosts immune health, supports mental and emotional health, and can even aid physical recover. Knowing this, designing healthcare spaces to include biophilic connections is a no-brainer.

 

Resources to Learn More

 

This only scratches the surface of the conversation around what biophilia is, its benefits, how it can be integrated into project designs, and why it is important. There are lots of materials out there to continue to learn more about this topic.

 

The resources used to develop the content shared in this blog include The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, Nature Inside by Bill Browning and Catherine O. Ryan, and “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design” by New York environmental consulting firm Terrapin Bright Green.

 

Christie Thorpe Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

By Christie Thorpe, Interior Designer, and Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator.

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Employee Spotlight: Amanda Lunger

February 8, 2024
A Q&A with Ankrom Moisan's Newest Sustainability Advocate

Amanda Lunger wears many hats and has lived just as many lives. Recently, she was promoted to the role of Sustainability Advocate. Reflecting on her journey to this new position, Amanda sat down to discuss sustainability, career advice, and how her final studio project at the University of Oregon – a passive house affordable housing project – led to her being recruited to work at Ankrom Moisan.

 

Amanda Lunger outside the PDX office

 

Amanda outside of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

Q: You were recently promoted to a sustainability role within the practice team. What can you tell me about that?

 

A: Well, we’ve had different groups in the office before to try and push sustainability initiatives and ensure there is adequate education about the topic, but now we’re taking the extra step of having a dedicated role that’s responsible for setting and executing goals and initiatives related to the sustainability of the firm. In this sense, I work in an overhead capacity to develop internal processes and education opportunities to further our sustainability efforts, and then also support projects as the need arises. It entails helping people set sustainability goals, research different technologies, and assisting with the selection of appropriate sustainability certification programs for projects. Eventually, I’ll assist with business development, telling the story of Ankrom Moisan’s sustainability expertise on our website and in RFPs, helping designers feel prepared to talk to clients about sustainability.

 

Q: What does sustainability mean to you?

 

A: I think to me, sustainability is recognizing the interconnectedness of all the decisions that we make as humans and understanding that those decisions have implications for all the other living things on this planet, as well as for future generations and even our future selves. Personally, my values and beliefs around sustainability are inherently tied to my spiritual beliefs, because I believe that all life has intrinsic value and that we have a moral obligation to look out for the wellbeing of all living things on this planet.

 

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

 

A: I hope to help create and push forward a culture at Ankrom Moisan where sustainability is just part of everything we do. Many different things might have to happen to get us there, but if Ankrom Moisan can be known as a firm with expertise in sustainability, and if our staff can really feel that, then that’s a good sign of success to me.

 

Luckily, firm leadership has decided that this is the year to really start prioritizing sustainability. I am so excited to be a part of that effort and to help with that push while we have the momentum and support of leadership. It feels like a good time to be stepping into this role.

 

Q: Aside from sustainability-driven efforts, what is your favorite type of work to do? Why?

 

A: I really love the work I’ve done here at Ankrom Moisan with our mission-driven nonprofits. Specifically, working on affordable housing with REACH has been very rewarding because I really respect the mission of those clients. What they’re trying to do is better the lives of the people they serve.

 

I also enjoyed being in more of an overhead support position with the transition to BIM, and now again with my new sustainability role. I’ve realized over the course of my career that I get the greatest fulfillment from helping my coworkers and making their lives easier. I feel very appreciated in those kinds of support roles – they’re what I enjoy most.

 

Q: How long have you been at Ankrom Moisan?

 

A: I’m a boomerang employee. Initially, I worked here for two years – from 2013 to 2015 – as an architect, but then left Ankrom Moisan to work at a few other offices. I came back in February of 2019 to work as a BIM specialist because I wanted to make a lateral switch in my career. For this go around, I guess I’ve been here a full five years. I’m entering my sixth year.

 

Q: What brought you here?

 

A: This is a fun story. So, I was at the University of Oregon in my final year of the architecture program. I was doing a terminal studio, which encourages students to focus their final project on an area that’s of special interest to them. At the time I had gotten really into sustainability and passive house because of one of my professors, Professor Alison Kwok. I went through a whole intensive passive house training program and got my Certified Passive House Consultant Accreditation (CPHC). For my final studio, I was looking specifically at the applicability of passive house to affordable housing and how mission-driven nonprofits could really benefit from the deep energy savings of passive house, since they’d be able to save money on building operations and funnel those funds back into their programs for clients and the people who live in their buildings. So that’s what I designed. I picked a site in San Francisco and a fake client – a nonprofit affordable housing developer – and I ran an energy model on it, demonstrating how it could meet the passive house standard.

 

Isaac Johnson ended up being one of my reviewers during my final review. I was really interested in Ankrom Moisan at the time because of the work the firm was doing with affordable housing. Well, after graduation I was working with another firm when I got a call out of the blue from Isaac Johnson. He said something like “Hey, so I remember reviewing your final studio project, and we basically have that project at Ankrom Moisan now. Do you want to come work for us?” He was talking about Orchards at Orenco which is a REACH Development affordable housing project that was pursuing passive house standards, so obviously I said yes. It was really cool coming out of college and working on a project with the exact same sustainability goals that I was passionate about.

 

Orchards at Orenco

 

Orchards at Orenco.

 

Q: What was it like when you first started out?

 

A: We were still on Macadam. It wasn’t the nice office we have now. I remember it felt a little more hodgepodge, but also like there were distinct families within the office. I worked in the basement – there were very few of us down there. We had our own kitchen and conference room; it was like our whole world. It was a very tight-knit group of people because of that. A lot of the young professionals were also recent college graduates like me. It was really nice having that community to commiserate with and co-mentor together.

 

I was part of two distinct families. There was Jeff Hamilton’s team in the basement, and then there was the recent college graduate family that was spread across different project types. Elisa Zenk and Stephanie Hollar started around the same time I did and were part of that cohort. We became really close friends, along with Elisa’s now-husband who was also part of that cohort. It was a cool way to learn about stuff that was happening across the office, because Elisa would be working on student housing, Tim on something else, and Will on something completely different as well. It made us feel more connected to the firm.

 

There were also a lot of recreation opportunities. We had a volleyball team; we would play soccer during lunchtime out at the park. It was a great community.

 

Amanda, Elisa + Stephanie on the PDX roof

 

Amanda with Elisa Zenk and Stephanie Hollar on the rooftop of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

Q: Since starting here, how have you grown professionally?

 

A: My biggest area of growth has been figuring out how to collaborate with other people. You can’t just rely on yourself. You have to work with other people if you want the best results. Knowing your coworkers’ talents and who to reach out to is a very soft skill that nobody really talks about, but I think it’s so critical to the success of the work that we do. As buildings get more complex and we want to use more and more data to inform our designs, having good collaboration becomes all that much more important.

 

Q: Since you started here, what has the biggest change in the firm or industry been?

 

A: It has to be the COVID-19 pandemic. That changed the way we work and the way that we collaborate. It also changed the culture of the firm a bit. I think one of the good things that come out of it is that there’s a greater understanding of work-life balance and mental health, and a greater awareness that those things should be prioritized. Sometimes it can feel like the division between work and home doesn’t exist as much, but I think in general, we’re just more flexible about how we work.

 

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working here?

 

A: My favorite thing about working at Ankrom Moisan is the people. I’ve found the across the board, in all echelons and experience levels, in all project types and studios, we just have great people. There’s so much support from everyone, not only because of what you can do professionally, but also just because of who you are as an individual. The people I’ve worked with have been excellent coworkers who take a personal interest in you.

 

Q: What inspires you?

 

A: It’s definitely nature. I know that sounds cliché, but you won’t find any better designs that what is found in nature. Any system you’re trying to optimize has been done in nature.

 

My favorite natural space is probably Milo McIver State Park on the Clackamas River. My husband and I are avid disc golfers, which is probably one of the reasons I love that place so much. It’s so lush and green and has such tall trees. There’s also the river there, which is very pretty. It’s so cool to see how the flow of the Clackamas changes seasonally.

 

McIver State Park

 

Milo McIver State Park throughout the seasons.

 

Q: What advice do you have for young professionals who are just starting out in their careers?

 

A: Don’t isolate yourself. Find your tribe. Find your support system of both other young professionals and more experienced people who you can learn from. It makes a huge difference. It helps keep you motivated and wanting to improve yourself. It also helps with mental and emotional health, knowing that you have a support person who you can grab coffee with or step outside to talk about the rough day you’re having.

 

Get in the habit of taking a personal interest in getting to know your coworkers. Don’t be that person who looks the other direction when you’re walking down the hallway who tries to avoid saying hello. If you’re genuinely interested in your coworkers, it’s a lot easier to pick up the phone and call them about something or send them a random message on Teams. It can even become something that you look forward to if you have coworkers that you enjoy chatting with.

 

Lastly, I would say, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Nobody is expecting you to be an expert. Take advantage of that by asking questions and learning from people.

 

Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

By Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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What You Need to Know About Biophilic Design

January 31, 2024
The Basics of Biophilia

Biophilia is the concept that there is an innate connection between humans and nature. Our love of nature and tendency to crave connections with the natural world is a deeply engrained and intuitive aspect of both human psychology and physiology. It’s part of our DNA.

 

Building off that concept, biophilic design is the intentional use of design elements that emulate sensations, features, and phenomena found in nature with the goal of elevating the built environment for the benefit of its end users.

 

Simply put, biophilic design is good design. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate; it just has to be intentional. Creating connections to the outdoors in the built environment can significantly impact users’ mental and physical well-being.

 

How Biophilia is Integrated into Projects

 

There are many ways to integrate biophilic elements into a project’s design. Some of the most common methods of doing this have been categorized by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as being either Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues, or the Nature of the Space.

 

1. Nature in the Space

 

Biophilic design that places emphasis on bringing elements of the outdoors into interior spaces would be classified as ‘Nature in the Space.’ These outdoor-elements-brought-inside can be anything from plants, animals, and water features, to specific scents, sensations (like the feeling of a breeze), shade and lighting effects, or other environmental components found in the natural world. They are organic features that are literally brought inside. An example of this could be a project using natural materials like exposed mass timber and green walls covered with living plants to mimic the sensation of being in a wooded forest.

 

2. Natural Analogues

 

‘Natural Analogues’ in biophilic design are human-made, synthetic patterns, shapes, colors, and other details that reference, represent, or mimic natural materials, markings, and objects without utilizing or incorporating those actual materials, markings, or objects. An example of a natural analogue might be the use of spiral patterns in a painted wall mural to link a project’s design to seashells and the coast, the inclusion of animal print motifs in fabric and material choices, or even the use of blue rugs and carpeting to link a site to a nearby river or other body of water. Subtle finishes, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) touches can also be a biophilic natural analogue, like the use of shelves that reference the pattern and shape of a honeycomb. Natural analogues are most often design and material choices that pay homage to recognizable environmental elements.

 

3. Nature of the Space

 

A focus on the ‘Nature of the Space’ on the other hand, pays more attention to a location’s construction, layout, and scale than its FF&E and other accessories or interior design. It utilizes spatial differences, the geography of a space, and other elements of a project’s configuration to imitate expansive views, sensory input, or even feelings of safety and danger that are found in the wild. This may manifest as an open stairwell that embraces rough, asymmetrical walls to subtly mirror the textures of a canyon, or as the inclusion of an atrium to give end-users a perspective that parallels the wide-open views seen from a mountain peak. ‘Nature of the Space’ can also be seen in the use of soft lighting and smaller scale spaces to simulate the felt safety and coziness of a cave. It is the utilization of a project’s site itself to replicate experiences and sensations found in the world of nature.

 

By emulating natural features and bringing the outdoors in, architects and interior designers integrate the benefits of exposure to the natural world into built spaces, creating a unique shared experience for a site’s users.

 

 

A list of biophilic design elements and attributes. 

 

When combined with intentionality and thoughtful design, these elements can transform ordinary spaces into spaces that support human health and wellness.

 

The Power of Biophilia

 

Aside from elevating design, the inclusion of biophilic elements in a project can have numerous positive health benefits for those who use and inhabit that space. Biophilia’s impact on health and wellness may not be something that we are conscious of, but it is a difference that we feel. Humans understand biophilia intuitively.

 

The amount of time humans spend interacting with nature – as well as the amount of time they are disconnected from the natural world – has real, tangible impacts on an individual’s health. In today’s industrial, technologically dominated world, it’s especially important to seek out connections with nature, since many built spaces often forgo biophilic features and the benefits that come with them.

 

The negative health impacts of not having enough connection to nature are:

 

  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tension
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep stemming from an unstable circadian rhythm
  • A weakened immune system
  • Poor focus
  • Weak memory
  • Attention issues like ADHD
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased emotional regulation

 

The positive benefits of exposure to nature, on the other hand, include:

 

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Feelings of safety
  • Restful sleep and a stable circadian rhythm
  • A strong immune system
  • Increased focus
  • Greater memory and learning abilities
  • Higher energy levels
  • Increased emotional regulation

 

Knowing the range of benefits that biophilia has the potential to provide, architects and interior designers have the opportunity to purposefully design spaces with the health and wellbeing of its end-users in mind, positively influencing the experience of a location as well as the feelings of the people occupying it.

 

Some of Ankrom Moisan’s expert design teams have already done this, including biophilic elements in the shared spaces of project to elevate the end-user’s experience of those environments. In a follow up blog post, we will take a deeper look at how biophilia shows up in three distinct Ankrom Moisan healthcare projects, discussing how the inclusion of biophilia can be leveraged to support an evidence-based approach to holistic, whole-person care.

 

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Making the Future Feasible

December 12, 2023
A Look into Ankrom Moisan's Feasibility Studies Service

Ankrom Moisan has offered feasibility studies as a service to existing and potential clients for decades. For those who are unfamiliar, a feasibility study helps assess the viability of a potential development on a particular property. It aims to help a real estate investor understand the future amount of revenue-generating area on a piece of land, and what a reasonable sales prices might be for that land.

 

Typically, the feasibility study process begins when a client, landowner, or broker reaches out to us. We usually start with a site analysis, to get an idea of the average unit size and parking ratio, and then conduct a ‘fit test.’ That fit test quickly and efficiently diagrams potential development outcomes that could be realized on the land parcel. When conducting a fit test, we look at the site’s zoning code, relevant building code, physical site characteristics, visible utilities, site context, and building typology constraints. These constraints are often related to building uses, building type, height and size, or the amount of parking required. For example, a housing-use structure has much different parameters than an office-use one. Further, a ‘Stick-Frame Wood’ building typology will yield something quite different than Cross Laminated Timber or Concrete.

 

Feasibility Yield Studies Graphics

 

Examples of a feasibility yield study.

 

 

If desired, we can go further and analyze architectural outcomes that consider preliminary ideas about building design and character. Sometimes, a client will provide their own constraints or parameters, like a more detailed unit type and amenity program. Renderings of varied detail may be added to this process to help visualize a proposed project idea; they are useful to illustrate the early-stage potential of development ideas to a wider audience.

 

Feasibility Tier 2 Study

 

Example of a Tier 2 Feasibility Study Perspective View.

 

 

We often provide our clients with multiple (and sometimes contrasting) design ideas. By discussing the advantages and drawbacks of each idea, we reach a point of mutual understanding with our clients and can begin to fine-tune their vision.

 

 

 

Animated early visioning sketch for a multifamily housing urban land parcel assessment.

 

 

It is all about leveraging future architectural solutions to effectively utilize what a site has to offer. We are constantly seeking improvement in this process and are regularly evaluating methods to do so. From a basic ‘back-of-the-napkin and a calculator’ approach to a deeper architectural examination informed by years of design experience, or even the use of Artificial Intelligence software that can automate metric evaluation of a site, we consider all possibilities and methods of maximizing a project’s design according to client desires and site parameters.

 

Feasibility 3D View Graphic

 

3D Massing Views and renderings conducted for a Tier Three feasibility study.

 

 

Through this process, we give clients, landowners, and brokers meaningful guidance towards the value of their land parcel. This process is especially helpful for people interested in working with Ankrom Moisan for the first time, as a feasibility study is an uncomplicated way for prospective clients to get to know us and learn how we work. It is a great opportunity to see if we work well together.

 

We have a vast resumé of work and pull from a wide range of past experiences with different building types – everything from tall to small, across a variety of uses (retail, hotel, office, hospitality, housing, etc.). We enjoy this work as it is an essential part of our process. We enjoy offering feasibility study services that share our expertise with longtime and prospective clients, landowners, and brokers alike, showing exactly why Ankrom Moisan is a valued design partner.

 

 
 

 

 

Jason Roberts HQ Headshot  Bronson Graff Headshot  Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

By Jason Roberts, Managing Design Principal, Bronson Graff, Associate Principal, and Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator.

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Employee Spotlight: Dani Murphy

November 28, 2023
Curating an Inclusive, People-Forward Culture

When it comes to fostering inclusivity and community, Dani Murphy knows the significance of a welcoming culture firsthand. Though she is still fairly new to Ankrom Moisan (she just celebrated her one-year work anniversary in November), Dani has quickly become a cornerstone for the firm’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) and culture efforts, making significant strides to ensure that everyone in the firm feels welcomed, accepted, and appreciated.

 

Dani Murphy PDX Office Rooftop Portrait

 

Dani on the roof of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

She wasn’t always involved with DEIB initiatives, though. Born and raised in Irvine, California, Dani graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Political Science. Now, she’s an HR Data and Systems Analyst. “I came into this field a couple of jobs back, purely from an analytical standpoint. I was asked to partner with the newly established DEIB team, and they asked me to do some analytics for them to report back to leadership,” Dani explained. “That’s kind of how I got interested in this field. I’ve slowly pivoted to DEIB programming since then.”

 

It’s been a great match so far, as DEIB programming is relatively new, according to Dani. “It isn’t something that’s been around forever, but it’s very, very important when creating an effective organizational culture.”

 

Since these programs are people-focused, it’s no surprise that Dani encourages planning and organizing them by starting with the people that make up Ankrom Moisan’s team members. “It all comes together mainly by communicating with people around the office, hearing from them and discovering something they want to learn more about,” Dani said. She stressed the significance of listening to coworkers, stating that “there’s no one-size-fits-all for programming. It’s all pretty specific to the people who make up the company. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is half of the [struggle]. When it all comes together and works, I feel extremely accomplished.”

 

DEIB Council Group Photo

 

Dani and the rest of the DEIB Council on the roof of Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

Through her many conversations with her Ankrom Moisan coworkers, Dani came to realize that people are “far more dynamic than who they are in the workplace.” She credited Principal-in-Charge Laurie Linville-Gregston and Senior HR Business Partner Charlene Brown as being the inspiration for that epiphany, explaining how she discovered that Laurie is a beekeeper who jars her own honey, and that Charlene rides a motorcycle. “I was like, oh wow, those are cool facts. I want to know more!” she said.

 

Dani organized an event for Ankrom Moisan employees to show off their hidden talents and be their authentic selves, remarking that “there’s a lot of amazing people here, but I haven’t even met like a third of them. Who knows what other secrets and hidden talents lay out there?”

 

The Women’s Walk event started off as a way to highlight the unique achievements and hidden talents of the women at Ankrom Moisan by walking around the office and speaking with them about their work and passions.

 

2023 Women's Walk Event

 

2023 Women’s Walk event.

 

The first AM Women’s Walk event was a major success. “There are some amazing things that were brought in. We work in a very creative industry, so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of great artists working alongside us,” Dani remarked. “Who knows if that’s what the event will be like in the future. It might be the same, it might be different, but the act of getting people together and showcasing a little bit more about who they are, I think that’s really something special to continue.” Alongside planning the Women’s Walk, Dani also contributed to the success of Ankrom Moisan’s Women’s Month programming, organizing the Women Rising Panel that featured five incredible female leaders from across the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.

 

Guest speakers at the 2023 Women Rising Panel

 

Guest speakers at the 2023 Women Rising Panel.

 

The Women Rising Panel aimed to provide perspective about the lived experience of being a woman in a leadership role in a male-dominated industry, and gave Ankrom Moisan Employees a chance to as these women questions, as it’s not very often we can hear from voices like these in a non-work environment. To make the event even more impactful, Dani did hours of research beforehand to formulate the most thought-provoking questions for the women on the panel. The composition of the panel was thought out and unique – Dani wanted to make sure that the women we heard from were not limited to being CEOs, presidents, or executives. In Dani’s eyes, it was integral to include all levels of leadership, because being a leader manifests in many ways, whether it’s for an entire company or a single team. Overall, the event was a huge success. The women who participated as members of the panel left celebrating the inclusive sense of camaraderie that they felt with one another.

 

Dani emphasized the immense importance of inclusivity in this sense, declaring that “when people feel comfortable and valued and heard, they’re able to be their authentic selves. Getting to know someone’s authentic self is very rewarding.” Furthermore, when people feel they can be themselves, they are more likely to share their true thoughts and opinions, leading to a greater sense of belonging within the company. As Dani puts it, “we need to understand each other and what we all value in order to create something that is worthwhile for all of us.”

 

“From a company standpoint, it makes so much sense to support initiatives [and programming like the Women’s Walk],” Dani continued. “When people feel that sense of community and inclusion at work especially, it has been shown to lead to higher levels of performance improvement, of retention, and it attracts candidates when prospective employees see that a company is dedicated to getting diverse groups of people together and making them feel included and supported; it just naturally builds community.”

 

To further bolster the supportive company culture of inclusion, community, and diversity, Dani sat down with Ankrom Moisan President Dave Heater during Pride Month to candidly discuss how his identity as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community has influenced and impacted his career in architecture. “It’s valuable to hear the wisdom of someone who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community and successful in this industry,” Dani explained. “It’s very similar to the Women in Leadership panel. It’s not easy to be vulnerable about the issues that affect marginalized communities in this field.”

 

 

This effort connects to Ankrom’s HOWs in the sense that by supporting and encouraging people to be their authentic selves and share their thoughts and opinions openly, Ankrom Moisan Employees are empowered to explore beyond the expected and make our firm the best place to work.

 

At the end of the day, Dani believes the people are the best thing about working at Ankrom Moisan. “We have a group of very passionate and creative people, and the more I talk to and meet these people, the more I realize how much [events and programming like] this means to some of them,” she stated.

 

Extremely modest about the depth of her involvement with the DEIB Council, Dani emphasizes how it’s never a one-person effort. “I want to hear input and create something meaningful for everyone,” she said. “I can help do it and help push [programming] in the right direction to make sure things get done, but at the end of the day it’s a group effort. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

Dani’s work extends past programming and into extracurriculars. Events like Women’s Month or Hispanic Heritage Month – which honored the existing community of Hispanic and Latino people at Ankrom Moisan by discussing how their background influences their work, and by celebrating their respective cultures through the rich, shared tradition of empanadas – are just one piece of the pie when it comes to the organizational culture Dani champions. If she can’t plan an event or put together programming, Dani does her best to compile a list of resources to help educate and celebrate any cultural celebration, from Black History Month to Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. These lists often include book, movie, and podcast recommendations, museum exhibits and other local events to attend, and minority-owned businesses to support, among other volunteer opportunities.

 

“There’s a ton of different initiatives and policies that the DEIB Council is going to be focusing on,” Dani revealed. “There are educational and volunteering opportunities, both of which connect us to the community at large. There are a ton of avenues for education.” That’s really what Dani’s position is all about: providing her coworkers with ample resources and opportunities to be themselves, embrace their passions, learn more about topics that pique their interest, connect with others, and show off the hidden talents that make them unique.

 

As for Dani herself, her hidden talents are her athleticism, artistry, culinary skills, and green thumb. During the pandemic, she punch needled an 8-piece solar system that she showed off at the AM Women’s Walk. “At the time it was a combination of what I was most interested in; space and punch needling,” she shared.

 

Dani with her punch needle solar system

 

Dani with her punch needle solar system at the Women’s Walk.

 

It’s clear that Dani’s efforts as both an individual and as a member of the DEIB Council make her a cornerstone of Ankrom Moisan’s company culture. She is always eager to meet new people, listen to their thoughts and feelings, and lift them up in ways that continue to make Ankrom Moisan the best place to work. After all, in her own words, it’s the people that make this place so great.

 

Black and white headshot of Jack Cochran, the author of this blog post.

 

by Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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New Seattle Development Design Review Exemptions

October 18, 2023
A Performance Option Synopsis

The City Council has amended the land use code to make two important changes to the design review program aimed at encouraging additional low-income housing. The first change permanently exempts low-income housing projects from the Design Review program. The second change provides a new Design Review exemption for projects that meet Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements by providing units on site via the Performance Option under the Land Use Code. Projects that opt into the Performance Option can skip MUP and Design Review and proceed directly to Building Permit where land use code compliance will be evaluated concurrently with other review subjects.

 

Expediated Timelines:

 

Bypassing Design Review and MUP milestones could yield significant time and cost saving on project delivery.

 

 

Schedule comparisons showing how fast the entitlements process can be if MHA units are provided instead of the ‘payment in lieu.’

 

Calculating the Number of Affordable Housing Units Required to avoid Design Review:

 

If a project contains commercial space, the area dedicated to affordable units required to satisfy the Performance Option is calculated as a percentage of the overall applicable area in commercial use. If a project contains residential space, the required number of affordable units is calculated as a percentage of the total number of dwelling units in the project. Developments that contain both commercial and residential space will use a combination of both calculation methods.

 

Performance Amount for Commercial Development:

 

The net unit area of affordable housing required to comply with Performance Option is outlined in Tables A&B for SMC 23.58B.050. The required square footage set-aside for affordable units varies respectively by zone, MHA suffix (M/M1/M2), and performance area intensity as noted in Map A for SMC 23.58C.050. For most zones, the area of affordable housing required ranges between 5-9% of the applicable commercial floor area.

 

Performance Amount for Residential Development:

 

The number of affordable housing units required to comply with Performance Option is outlined in Tables A&B for SMC 23.58C.050. The required percentage set-aside similarly varies respectively by zone, MHA suffix (M/M1/M2), and performance area intensity as noted in Map A for SMC 23.58C.050. For most zones, the number of affordable housing units required ranges between 5-11% of the total number of units to be developed in each structure.

 

 

Table from the Seattle municipal code indicating how many units need to be affordable for a project to be exempt from development design review.

 

Performance Standards for Qualifying Affordable Units:

 

Duration: Units provided to comply with the Performance Option must remain affordable for 75 years from the date of certificate of occupancy.

 

Distribution & Comparability: Units provided to satisfy the Performance Option must be generally distributed throughout the structure and be comparable to other units in terms of: Type of dwelling unit such as live-work unit or congregate residence sleeping room; Number and size of bedrooms and bathrooms; Net unit area; Access to amenity areas; Functionality; and Lease term.

 

Eligibility: Household eligibility varies with unit size and rental date.

 

At initial occupancy (lease-up), units with a net area of 400 sf or less are eligible to households with incomes up to 40% of AMI. Units with a net area greater than 400 sf are eligible to households with incomes up to 60% of AMI.

 

Thereafter at annual certification, units with a net area of 400 sf or less are eligible to households with incomes up to 60% of AMI. Units with a net area greater than 400 sf are eligible to households with incomes up to 80% of AMI.

 

Public Subsidy: Affordable housing units provided to satisfy the requirements of the Performance Option may NOT be used to earn public subsidy such as through the Multifamily Housing Property Tax Exemption (MFTE Program).

 

Rent Levels: Monthly rents for units with a net area of 400 sf or less, shall not exceed 30% of 40% of AMI. Monthly rents for units with a net area greater than 400 sf, shall not exceed 30% of 60% of AMI. “Monthly rent” must include a utility allowance for heat, gas, electricity, water, sewer, and refuse collection, as well as any recurring fees that are required as a condition of tenancy.

 

Annual Certification, Third Party Verification: Every year an owner of the rental unit must obtain from each tenant a certification of household size and income. Owners of rental units shall attempt to obtain third party verification whenever possible to substantiate income at each certification, which shall include contacting the individual income source(s) supplied by the household. If written or oral third-party documentation is not available, the owner may accept original documents (pay stubs, W-2, etc.) At the discretion of the Director of Housing, the owner may accept tenant self-certifications after the initial income verification and first annual recertification. The owner shall maintain all certifications and documentation obtained on file for at least six years after they are obtained.

 

Reporting: Once a year the owner of the rental unit shall submit a written report to the Director of Housing, verified upon oath, demonstrating compliance with Chapter 23.58C. The written report shall state: the occupancy and vacancy of each rental unit, the monthly rent charged for the unit, and the income and size of the household occupying the unit. The Director of Housing may require other documentation to ensure compliance including documentation of rents, copies of tenant certifications, documentation supporting determinations of tenant income including employer’s verification or check stubs, and other documentation necessary to track program outcomes and the demographics of households served. The owner of the rental unit shall pay the Office of Housing an annual fee of $150 per rental unit for the purposes of monitoring compliance with the requirements.

 

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile    Michael Lama Headshot

 

By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Managing Design Principal, and Michael Lama, Project Designer

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