The Modern Learner: Formal and Informal Learning Environments

February 20, 2020
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At Ayers Saint Gross, the design of new learning spaces starts with understanding the mission, vision, and values of the institution for which the project is being planned. Planning and designing successful learning spaces requires an understanding of today’s students: who they are, how they learn, and what their needs are. Learners come from a cross-section of backgrounds, ages, socioeconomic situations, ethnicities, and experiences. The campus learning landscape must be more inclusive of learners from all backgrounds and experiences.

Today’s students are not responsive to passive, row-based lecture methods, they want to learn actively through production and discovery. Integrating human interactions within learning creates connections and fosters retention, comprehension, and motivation. This holistic learning experience is supported through a combination of formal, scheduled learning space and places for informal, student-directed learning experiences.

FORMAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Classrooms, laboratories, and lecture halls have traditionally contained rows of desks facing one direction with a fixed lectern and singular teaching wall, but as the method of and behavior of learning is evolving, so too are formal learning environments; they are flexible, engaging environments. A thoughtful and well-designed space sets the expectation for active and collaborative learning. 

Formal learning environments need to have spatial flexibility: environments should be scalable, convertible, fluid, modifiable, and versatile. Flexibility ensures programmatic longevity by building plasticity into the architectural components of the space, thus allowing for the flow of information among faculty, students, and learning tools. A scalable room provides for a variety of student needs, including places for focus, team, sharing, and social connection to align with different work styles and the flow of ideas among peers in a classroom.

Alongside mobile furnishings, thoughtful placement of static architectural features and technology can enhance the fluidity of space. Designing spatial flexibility into a room enables the learner to appropriate the space for their perceived needs and allows for longevity as future needs evolve. When the learner has control over their learning style, it promotes choice and provides for a sense of connection among the students, faculty, and material created in the course.

Technology should be seamless, agile, and user-friendly while also being conducive to collaboration at a variety of scales. Space must be easily adaptable to new equipment and new styles of teaching and learning. Wireless technology allows a seamless connection to remote learners, creating environments that offer various models of engagement for both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Power should be easily accessible and at waist-height and software should allow instructors and students to control classroom technologies without relying on a static IT podium.

To successfully teach every student, the instructor must be able to reach every student. Furniture should be mobile, versatile, durable, and adjustable to accommodate all types of users. The layout and furnishings should champion pedagogical adaptations by the instructor and the students. Seating density should be proportional to room dimensions, and ergonomic furniture supports a range of postures, motions, and physical abilities.

Acoustic quality is a priority when specifying fixtures, furniture, and finishes. Soft surfaces such as carpet and wallcoverings allow sound to be absorbed, whereas angled furniture, such as high-back lounge chairs, contain and direct sound. Technology can enhance the learning experience for those with hearing differences by compensating for less than ideal acoustic conditions; however, the noise associated with powering and utilizing digital tools must factor into the acoustic design of formal learning environments.

Natural daylight and views optimize learning but can often compete with the many digital devices used by students. Operable shades allow user control heat and glare, providing an additional layer of flexibility for users. In addition, overhead lighting should be a mix of direct, indirect, and task lighting to accommodate different means and methods of instruction. Proper design of learning spaces considers sightlines for all participants during discussion-based, presentation-focused, and team-based activities.

INFORMAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

In informal learning environments, the ownership of learning lies with the individual to design their own experience, create their learning incomes, and self-assess. Informal environments have non-traditional lighting and seating and can incorporate non-learning experiences. Informal learning environments mix private, public, and collaborative spaces to accommodate all learning behaviors. These types of spaces should be available inside and outdoors, in a range of scales, and encourage both planned and impromptu interactions.

Social and study space outside of classrooms and laboratories should have comfortable seating that is durable, ergonomic, and mobile. Whiteboards and access to power provide boosts to these spaces with the tools digital natives use to communicate in support of anywhere and anytime learning.

Rich opportunities for learning and creating exist in research and student project labs, maker spaces, simulation labs, exhibition spaces, pitch platforms, incubator spaces, ideation spaces, and intimate in-between social spaces. Space should be adaptable to new programs and technologies through tensile, versatile, and student-centric design strategies. Informal learning spaces should be designed with the same care and attention to pedagogy as their formal counterparts to create a campus-wide holistic vision for the learning experience.

When locating project labs and innovation studios, an important consideration is access for collaboration across disciplines as well as with outside business and industry partners. For these, special consideration to spots with additional noise, exhaust, and security requirements (such as lockable storage space for student work as well as space for the storage of tools and materials) is necessary. Flooring in work areas needs to be resilient. Writable walls enhance collaboration, however, glass can still sometimes be a barrier so furniture and collaboration spaces should spill from the zoned project lab to add permeability between project and adjacent social and collaboration areas.

Adjacent to student project areas, exhibit and pitch spaces help students to practice oral and visual communication skills. Acoustics and lighting are essential factors in designing these spaces, as students will be showing and describing work to peers as well as faculty and industry mentors. Technology should be available to capture performances and also available to amplify acoustic or visual effects as desired by student presenters. Presentation and exhibit spaces are informal in that they are not usually scheduled but should present as formal spaces that emphasize the importance of creating and sharing new work.

Informal environments allow formal spaces to flex and evolve as new learning needs arise. They allow for connection, invention, and discovery that both enhance formal learning discussions and encourage independent exploration and collaboration. With limited budgets, it is important that all learning spaces are designed with careful research, thought and expertise in support of future-proof and student-centered learning environments inside and outside of the classroom.

How do we determine how much space a student needs in these learning environments? Join us for the next entry in March 2020.

Ayers Saint Gross projects featured throughout this blog:

Presenting Regenerative Design Principles at AASHE

January 14, 2020
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Recently, I presented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Spokane, Washington on the opportunity of regenerative design and the circular economy as it relates higher education projects and campuses. At the largest networking and educational event of its kind in North America, my session, titled “Defining the Finish Line: What the Circular Economy for Universities Should Look Like,” helped attendees understand how design principles extracted from the natural world can act as a guiding platform for colleges and universities to develop a circular economy on their campuses.

Sustainability as a concept is laudably a part of everyday discourse now. This prevalence, however, highlights the importance of non-complacency and continuing to think beyond. Sustainability is not an end unto itself, it is a mid-point on the spectrum of performance between degenerative and regenerative. We can do better, and it’s important to look to how our buildings can create a net-positive impact on the environment.

We needn’t look far. Processes occurring in the natural world provide an excellent toolbox. It is the job of architects and designers to translate these thoroughly time-tested concepts into the built environment. Principles outlined in Permaculture, a design practice developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the late 1970’s, do an excellent job of getting this conversation started. These concepts appear in many of our projects.

Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall, Washington College: Catch and Store Energy
Waste is not a pervasive issue in the natural environment – everything gets used as a resource somehow – nature excels at catching and storing energy to develop itself. With such abundant resources at hand, there is little reason that we can’t apply the same level of resourcefulness to the built environment. To create a circular economy, developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant is absolutely necessary.

Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall is designed to be a net-positive building, meaning it creates more energy than it consumes. Having this be a goal from the outset played a large role in the design. This brought together form, function, and performance beautifully. Rather than attempting to retroactively apply sustainable features late in the design process, extensive analysis at the beginning of the process to figure out the energy needs of the building helped to minimize its impact. By first analyzing energy requirements, then creating opportunities for energy conservation, efficient use of that energy, and optimizing the time of use management allowed for the design to minimize its energy use intensity. Not only did this help the net-positive goal, it also limited the disruption of the environment in the building footprint (originally, solar panels were needed on the landscape; the final design only required them on the roof).

Alfond Commons, Colby College: Use Edges and Value the Marginal
In nature, it is the point at which things meet where the most interesting and diverse interactions take place. These interactions often create the most productive elements in a system, as is observable in estuaries where salt water meets fresh water and mangrove trees thrive in conditions that break expectations for what trees need.

This holds true when exploring the ways in which institutions and their host communities interact. We’ve talked about the successes of Alfond Commons a number of times here, and we remain impressed by the positive results created by embracing the edges of campus with housing. Many institutions and communities struggle with how to interact with one another, but Alfond Commons demonstrates the eagerness of students and residents to interact and solve problems.

Hayden Library, Arizona State University: Creatively Use and Respond to Change
Change is inevitable. Nature excels at adaptation. When it comes to translating this process to the built environment, it is important not just to repurpose a space, but to focus on its historic, current, and future uses.

For this project, it was important to acknowledge the historic legacy of this building as an icon on campus for 50 years, recognize the changing function of a library on a modern university campus, as well as anticipate a similar degree of change for the future. Libraries as a limited function place, with a primary focus on books is no longer true to the way students learn and gather information. Digital resources have largely overtaken that function. With the Hayden Library, the building remains a crucial learning resource, but with open, flexible spaces encouraging collaboration and interaction.

Kyle Ritchie, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, is a Sustainable Design Coordinator working across all discipline groups at Ayers Saint Gross.

Alfond Commons in the News

December 12, 2019
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In the fall of 2018, Colby College opened the Alfond Main Street Commons, realizing Colby’s vision of housing 200 students and faculty-in-residence in the heart of downtown Waterville, Maine. The past year has proven this initiative to be a resounding success. Already the project has been recognized for multiple awards, including:

It is always fulfilling to see our projects advance the student experience within the campus community. Alfond Commons is especially gratifying because of its significant impact on both Colby and the Waterville community at large, which has been highlighted in several articles and publications.

In addition to an interview with Ayers Saint Gross president Luanne Greene, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s special publication, “The Campus as City” featured Alfond Commons and produced this excellent video.

Talking Stick, the publication from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I) wrote about both Alfond Commons’ place in Waterville and the active learning community that has been created there.

Finally, we have been proud to share the success of Alfond Commons at conferences around the country.

Recently, Eric Zahn presented the project with Brian Clark, Vice President of Planning for Colby College, at the ACUHO-I Academic Initiatives Conference. Their talk highlighted the unique synergy of civic, academic, and student life spaces within the building, and the aspects of its design that render it both forward-looking and expressive of its place. Eric also spoke about how our student housing expertise and design build teaming arrangement with Landry/French Construction helped get the project designed and delivered on an aggressive schedule. While of great value to the owner, more significantly, this hall has elevated the Colby student experience and established a compelling template for a community-driven co-curricular living community. The fact that it is already the most popular of Colby’s on-campus housing offerings is a testament to its success

Sustainable Design Coordinator Kyle Ritchie presented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference, on the principles of permaculture design, a platform that applies the patterns of natural ecosystems to the design of the built environment. Alfond Commons (along with Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall and the Hayden Library Reinvention) was presented as a case study for putting these principles into practice.

All in all, this news adds up to a remarkable year. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.

The 2019 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit

November 5, 2019
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Equity, diversity, and inclusion are core values at Ayers Saint Gross and are vital to increasing the representation and advancement of women in architecture and design. This September, the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit was held in Minneapolis. Spanning three days and featuring dozens of workshops and speakers, more than 750 women architects and design professionals gathered at this important event, themed “Reframe. Rethink. Refresh.”

I have attended the past Women’s Leadership Summit programs with fellow colleague Elizabeth McLean, AIA; Seattle in 2015, Washington, DC in 2017 (I was fortunate to be on the Mid-Atlantic strategic planning committee) and this recent summit. Reflecting on this year (the largest attendance on record), it was interesting to see a diverse range of attendees in Minneapolis – in age, geographical representation, and many first-time attendees. For me, the summits provide both challenge and encouragement — replenishing my well year after year. The women pioneers around these issues in our industry come; Beverly Willis and Rosa Sheng, among others. And so do the local chapter committees, sole proprietors from rural practices, and the mid-level architect struggling with what’s next for her career. They each have an impactful story, a welcoming spirit, and a wave of commitment to our practice.

The summit was spent unpacking leadership styles, practicing active listening, and uncovering intentional impact areas. The benefits are not only personal but bring into focus the strengths needed to continue to support Ayers Saint Gross’s diverse clients and projects.

The metrics still show small growth for women as they progress through our profession and into leadership or more prominent design roles. The 2019 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit demonstrated a record number of women and firms committed to accelerating progress. It is this level of conversation that our profession deserves and requires to continue the hard work to bring about more equitable architecture. In addition to myself, Ayers Saint Gross was proudly represented by multiple attendees from across our offices. I am happy to share their thoughts and impressions.

Elizabeth McLean, AIA:

The AIA Women’s Leadership Summit strives to raise the profile of leadership in architecture, share and promote the design work of women, explore paths to leadership, and provide women the opportunity to learn from each other. This format crosses boundaries and allows for both strength and humility to shine. Our participation is important, with it we recognize individuals at different levels and support them to engage, learn, and extend the conversation when they each return to their offices and communities. The summit offered a space to share and grow; to reconnect.

This year’s gathering supported the conversation around moving forward and regrouping. I appreciated reframing the conversation. The public acknowledgement that every woman in architecture is a leader is powerful, and it provided the opportunity to be more inclusive and allow the numbers to increase the inspiration and potential for impact. It shifted focus beyond the individual and promoted empathy and generosity, acknowledging that leadership is empathetic and comes with accountability.

There is still a lack of women in leadership positions. We are urged and inspired to be on the forefront of confronting the issue and not only aware of it. The summit operated as a laboratory to test the potential for change across scales. There is an action-based emphasis on commitment and accountability. Considering formal and informal power, and large and small commitments, we challenged – What’s the stance, goal, commitment, and change? With this, there is meaningful purpose to gathering together.

Anya Grant, AIA:

As a first time attendee to the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, I expected to be impressed by prominent women architects whose experiences paved the way and continue to clear a path for practicing architects like me. I was. What I didn’t expect was to also have the time and space to meaningfully engage with other women at various stages in the profession who are making their own mark as leaders. 

Through the medium of storytelling, we were guided through the personal accounts of women practicing in and reshaping the profession around the issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. As we grapple with how to maintain a sense of inclusion in our profession, several presenters made a case for how it is not only relevant in our workplace, but also in engaging our clients. They raised the following question – whose voices are considered when design decisions are being made and how can we elevate the voices that are often unheard? One speaker, Malaz Elgemiabby described her efforts to meet community members on an individual basis when designing a community center. She not only learned about global needs that informed the design, but also points of neighborhood pride that were highlighted in murals. Pascale Sablan, in highlighting initiatives that promote diverse representation in architecture, described a community fellow position where a community member impacted by a design project is selected for a paid position to have a voice in regular design meetings. These accounts, among others, challenged us to think of the architect’s ability to engage and empower.

After days of stimulating conversations, we were invited by Pascale at the conclusion of her seminar, to turn to our neighbors and tell our own stories of leadership. This moment, where each woman spoke confidently of her ongoing work to shape our profession, highlighted the collective power of the hundreds of architects in attendance.

Nicole Ostrander, AIA:

Priya Parker, the keynote speaker, immediately set the tone of the summit as a supportive, collaborative, and empowering gathering of women, focused on storytelling. For the first several minutes of her session, we were encouraged to get up from our tables and step from our sphere of comfort to connect with new individuals by sharing a piece of own story with each other. Through this activity, Parker, author of The Art of Gathering:  How We Meet and Why it Matters was creating what she defines in her book as a transformational gathering. The AIA Women’s Leadership Summit was a created space in which attendees could open themselves to each other and forge connections. Parker provides excellent insight on how to give your gatherings purpose – whether a meeting, workshop, or dinner party – to create meaningful encounters.

Many of the sessions at the conference were focused on the topics of leadership, professional and personal development, and time management. With a range of women, all driven individuals at various points in their careers, there was a common narrative of navigating our own professional and personal responsibilities through shared experiences.

Teri Graham, AIA:

This was my first AIA Women’s Leadership Summit. It was powerful experience both in self-discovery and connection with other women with similar journey. We are not alone. The session “How To Set Your Career Path And Lead Authentically” presented by Jill Bergman, Katie Fricke, and Sandy Tkacz focused on self-discovery and connecting with others to advance in our careers. Emphasizing the importance of investing in yourself, the first step is to know thyself. Accomplished by growing your soft skills, assessing your skill gaps, and being resilient and proactive, you can be your own change maker. The next step discussed networking by both giving and receiving through finding an advocate and advocating. Career reflection points combined both know thyself and connecting through discussion on coaching, listening, taking ownership, understanding purpose, leading, and believing you are worth it. The big takeaway was we need to be a BRAT: Being Bold, Being Resourceful, Take Action, Have Tenacity.

Alice Brooks, AIA is an associate principal based out of the Baltimore office. Contact Alice.

Ayers Saint Gross at Advanced Building Skins

October 24, 2019
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Sustainability is a core Ayers Saint Gross value and resiliency is a crucial aspect of this goal. With much of the research and technology looking into new construction, it is important not to forget the sustainable possibilities of existing buildings.

On October 28, we will be presenting at the Advanced Building Skins Conference in Bern, Switzerland. This conference brings together Architects, Engineers, and Building Scientists (as well as material scientists and academic researchers from technical universities around the world) to share both the latest theoretical developments in building envelope technology and real-world experience and creative solutions as these advancements are put into practice. We will be presenting on the innovative double-thermal mass skin implemented as part of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Nelson Harvey Building Exterior Over-Cladding and Interior Renovation.

For hospital buildings in particular, where there can be no loss of patient care and the building must remain occupied, maximizing existing resources is paramount. By avoiding the carbon footprint associated with demolition and site work, applying inventive design solutions to existing buildings gains not only the sustainability advantages of new technologies, but also leads to an overall improvement, a substantial cost savings for the owner, and a reduced construction schedule.

For this project, forensic and visual observations of the façade disclosed severe thermal and moisture failures with decomposed flashing and lack of insulation. Similarly, the building was constructed without allowing thermal expansion vertically or horizontally of the building envelope, so areas of the façade were structurally failing, bowing, and delaminating. Like many buildings built over the last several decades, however, the structure was still sound.

Innovative solutions using thin precast concrete panels in combination with existing masonry created a hybrid double-skin envelope. In addition to all of the environmental benefits of ensuring the resiliency of the building, the double-thermal mass wall decreases heat transfer gain/loss through the building envelope for any given season and capitalizes on the high heat capacity of concrete and masonry to delay heat flow through the envelope by an action termed thermal lag. This results in a higher performing building.

We are happy to share these advancements and real-world applications with the world, and look forward to learning all the latest developments.

Providence Innovation District Opens

August 27, 2019
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Recently, we celebrated the ribbon cutting for Point225 in Providence, Rhode Island. In attendance were the Governor of RI, Mayor of Providence, the President of Brown University, the I-195 Commission, the design team, and many more.

Point225, the first building implemented as part of the Providence Innovation District, is a project that carries extra significance for Ayers Saint Gross. As designers of both the building and the Providence Innovation District Master Plan, we are thrilled to see the vision come to life. The rerouting of I-95/I-195 in Providence created new developable land and removed a longtime barrier between the historic Jewelry District, home of Brown University’s medical school, and the city center. Reclaiming a brownfield, the plan envisions a million-square-foot mixed-use community containing housing, a new hotel, retail, labs, research space, and a variety of tech start-up spaces.

The building houses Brown University’s School of Professional Studies, Cambridge Innovation Center, and Johnson & Johnson, among others. These tenant anchors bring together academics, start-ups, and executives that provide mentorship and funding – a compelling mix that fosters innovation and acts as a catalyst for research and development. The signature building is a gateway that welcomes visitors, residents, and employees into the district with street-level retail and a lively streetscape. The architecture is dynamic, with movement on the facades that echo the vibrancy and excitement of the innovation happening within the district. At the core, a central green contains a one-story district hall that is open to the public and provides flexible meeting and dining space.

We are excited to design a platform that supports innovators and urban infrastructure—the entrepreneurs, the institutions, and the culture that make Providence such an iconic college town. In a city with prestigious universities, a strong arts community, and a friendly start-up environment, Providence is proving to be an ideal case study for innovation district success.

It is always striking at these events how many people and organizations it takes to make a building like this possible and the commitment it takes to make it a success. The project was an incredible team effort with a great process. The planning and implementation of this project has required the consistent coordination among Ayers Saint Gross as the designers, developer partners, higher education partners, tenants, and the city. This level of collaboration was crucial, and the celebration was well-deserved.

Ayers Saint Gross at ACUHO-I 2019

June 20, 2019
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We’re looking forward the ACUHO-I 2019 Conference and Expo in Toronto (June 22-25), and hope you’ll visit Ayers Saint Gross at booth 621. This is always an exciting time of year, as we connect with friends old and new, share our experience, and learn all the latest in student housing. We hope to see you there.

Be sure to pick up this year’s edition of our annual student housing book, Choose Your Student Experience.  It’s an interactive showcase of the creative ways we help colleges and universities craft a holistic student life experience through impactful, vibrant facilities. 

And join us for our educational session with Virginia Commonwealth University on the importance of designing for both private and communal spaces in student housing.

From Facility to Facilitator: Community, Privacy, and Inclusivity in Shared Spaces

For many first-year students, the residence hall is their first home outside of the family home. The most successful student housing facilities build a strong community among residents, while providing opportunities for the individual to have privacy when needed. Outside-the-unit spaces like lounges and laundry rooms are critical to community-building, while student units, even shared doubles, can be configured to provide moments of seclusion. Bathrooms are unique in that they bridge these two goals. Some daily activities demand privacy, while others confer an opportunity to strengthen the social connections formed through communal living. This program reviews case studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and other institutions to illustrate how thoughtfully designed outside-the-unit spaces and bathroom facilities in student housing can accommodate the individual’s need for privacy while building a sense of community and a culture of inclusion.

Presenters

Gavin Roark, Director of Residential Life & Housing,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Megan Becker, Ed.D., Associate Director of Residential Life,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Eric Moss, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Cooper Melton, Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross

Details

ACUHO-I 2019
Sunday, June 23, 2019
2:35 – 3:25 PM
Education Session 3
Room 712

Best Practices in Nursing School Design: Culture of Well-Being

May 30, 2019
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Ayers Saint Gross designs top-tier spaces to support educating nurses equipped to handle the future as healthcare delivery systems continue to transform. This two-part series dives into the influences that are changing the way nursing students learn and the way nursing faculty teach. Read Part 1.

Culture of Well-Being

Perhaps more than any other building type, schools of nursing and allied health have the special ability to promote health literacy and reflect the core values of their programs and the profession through building design and architecture. As healthcare delivery systems focus more on preventative approaches to health, lifestyle, and behavior, the design of the built environment should exemplify core values and be mindful of its impact on human health and wellness. Projects that want to advance healthy building strategies can seek WELL Certification to improve the health and well-being of its occupants.

Healthy building strategies that engage the mind and body include: incorporating biophilia through exposure to nature, activating interior circulation with prominent staircases, utilizing ergonomic and kinesthetic furniture to encourage occupant comfort, and addressing environmental needs for air, water, nourishment, and light. For example, designing flexible classrooms or exterior plazas to host fitness, wellness, or interprofessional events could be showcased as part of the building and professional outreach. Access to green spaces and natural light create healthier work and learning spaces for students, faculty, and staff. These design features become popular congregation spots, supporting a lively and collaborative culture.

Opening soon, the Duke University Physical Therapy / School of Nursing Education Building (designed by Ayers Saint Gross) will include a flexible seminar and wellness space for a variety of student activities. The room will function as a large seminar room for instruction, two small conference rooms for group meetings, or as a wellness hub for fitness and community outreach events. In the same vicinity, reservable low-speed treadmill workstations overlooking a landscaped garden will offer active furnishings to reduce the time faculty and students spend seated. Ergonomic furniture selection for both office and study areas is another important way that universities are promoting wellness.

Treadmill Workstations, Duke University Physical Therapy / School of Nursing Education Building
Low-speed treadmill workstations support wellness at Duke University

This type of flexibility in spaces has already proved successful at the University of West Georgia School of Nursing. A flexible seminar room off the building’s commons was designed as both a classroom and a yoga studio, utilizing an oversized barn-style door to allow overflow into the public spaces during a large wellness event.

Flexible Seminar Room, University of West Georgia School of Nursing
Flexible, multipurpose space at the University of West Georgia

Just as important, landscaped outdoor study areas provide meditative environments to support the well-being of students who will soon be supporting the well-being of so many others. 

University of West Georgia School of Nursing
Meditative outdoor space at the University of West Georgia

The culture of wellness in nursing and allied health extends beyond the school walls. Increasingly, schools want to be engaged in community health and gear curricula towards the regions they serve. This approach better prepares the workforce for local healthcare cases they will face in their careers. Whether it’s reaching patients in remote areas, screening clinics for a disease that’s especially prevalent in the community, or providing care at the student health clinic, it is a best practice of clinical education to consider these spaces.

University of Pikeville Health Professions Education Building
Skills learned at the University of Pikeville HPEB
help fulfill the health needs of the community

Community integration was embedded in the programming and mission of the recently launched Kentucky College of Optometry at the University of Pikeville Health Professions Education Building (HPEB). The school is in eastern Kentucky, a region with one of the highest rates of preventable blindness in the country. The HPEB includes a flexible classroom, assembly space, student lounge, study and meeting spaces, faculty offices, clinical skills labs, and an extensive primary care clinic with specialty operatory equipment. The project fulfills the university’s mission of service and defines the standard for excellence in optometric education and vision care in an area with an acute need.

Looking to the future, exciting developments in nursing education will broaden the impacts of community engagement and wellness. Interprofessional and cross-disciplinary education that engages other allied health disciplines and university majors like engineering can create dynamic teams to solve complex issues. Assistive technology and robotic solutions are continuing to advance healthcare. The built environment must support these developments with makerspaces and cross-disciplinary education labs to enable collaborations with engineering programs.

Understanding the latest technology and methodologies is crucial for students. Practical applications are seen in dementia care, where technology is facilitating seniors to live independently longer. To allow for easy monitoring, in-home devices record and send data about daily patterns to caregivers. Assistive devices are being developed to facilitate timely reminders for medication, locate items, or can trigger a comforting audio recording of a family member. Telepresence robots and companion robots can help improve mood or quality of life for people with dementia, to serve patients in a health crisis, and are finding their way into simulation-based education as a tool to practice communication and better prepare students for a career in nursing. Among the spaces that will be
located in the Duke University Physical Therapy / School of Nursing Education Building is the new Health Innovation Lab, which will provide for this interdisciplinary innovation and education.

As nursing schools plan for future curricula and building projects, Ayers Saint Gross will continue to lead the ways architecture can and should support the efforts of students, faculty, and staff to prepare the next generation of nurses for their careers. Educating highly qualified nurses and healthcare professionals fulfills a critical need, and well-designed spaces help meet this challenge. We look forward to seeing what the future holds, and working to create it.

Laura Hall, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP is an associate principal based out of the Baltimore office. Contact Laura.

Best Practices in Nursing School Design: Flexible and Adaptable Learning Environments

May 2, 2019
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Ayers Saint Gross designs top-tier spaces to support educating nurses equipped to handle the future as healthcare delivery systems continue to transform. This two-part series dives into the influences that are changing the way nursing students learn and the way nursing faculty teach. Read Part 2.

Flexible and Adaptable Learning Environments
Our allied health projects have flexibility embedded in the planning and organization of the spaces. Spaces that adapt to evolving methodology is essential as pedagogy, technology, healthcare demand, and specialized care needs shift. A well-designed building can be the framework that allows a program to endure changes and remain at the forefront of educating the modern workforce.

Creative and thoughtful design ensures clinical learning environments are both flexible (easily modified) and adaptable (able to serve a new use), while leveraging synergies and shared resources to maximize efficiencies. Considerate yet simple diagrams communicate the specific departmental aspects while illustrating where overlap exists and are the parti that translate into practical space layouts.

Concept Design – Frostburg State University Education & Health Sciences Center Department of Nursing
Concept Design – Frostburg State University Education & Health Sciences Center
Department of Nursing

Working with Frostburg State University, Ayers Saint Gross devised a concept to meet long-term goals for the Department of Nursing while adhering to the programmed space allocation. The inaugural Nursing program growth had surpassed the initial concepts outlined in the Part II program and future degree offerings necessitated a greater variety of space types. Understanding their drivers, we conceived two versions of an open skills lab that could also function as four dedicated simulation labs. Key adjacency to a flexible classroom essentially acts as a flex space to serve three functions: (1) a fully functional classroom, (2) a clinical learning class lab facilitating skills instruction and demonstration on the classroom side and hands-on implementation on the adjacent bays, and (3) a generous footprint for future simulation lab growth and program expansion. Providing a heightened level of flexibility with operable walls, mobile equipment, etc., allows instructors freedom to be creative in imagining scenarios.

As the healthcare delivery models evolve, Interprofessional Education (IPE) is becoming indispensable to modern health professions for the value it brings to education – providing hands-on collaborative clinical learning where students apply critical thinking to learn about and communicate with other disciplines in a safe environment. Initial space planning design should consider how the learning environments perform and transform to allow for a multitude of IPE scenarios and an influx of students and faculty from other health professions programs.

During design for the Auburn University School of Nursing, there was a distinct adjacency established between the large active learning classrooms, the building commons, and the outdoor greenspace for opportunities to host a variety of events. One success of this concept was realized during their inaugural Disaster Day Drill IPE event where Nursing and Osteopathic medicine students worked together to triage and treat patients in a large-format simulation. This scale and realism would not have been possible without Auburn and Ayers Saint Gross’s close collaboration and holistic approach to designing a building equipped to do more than standard skills training and instruction. The green space was transformed into triage spaces filled with simulated victims to be evaluated by the practicing students and the buildings’ EAGLES Center was transformed into the simulated hospital ER. “During the disaster drill, this spacious simulation area allowed for a total of 48 patients with 32 utilizing beds and 12 seated in chairs. The simulation area was divided into four “pods,” which acted as four separate hospital emergency departments.” Notably, the realism of this event prepared the osteopathic medical students to be tested for their Basic Disaster Life Support certification. The finale to the drill concluded in the dividable, flexible active learning classroom for a comprehensive group debrief.

As a formal learning environment, this space integrates technology and team-based learning, while also being flexible enough to test new pedagogies. A vertically folding operable partition expands the teaching environment to support a range of clinical learning scenarios. Down the hall, two collaborative tiered lecture classrooms allow for multiple learning arrangements, live demonstrations, and remote broadcasting.

Faculty and students acclaim that the new nursing building brings them together and note the impact of active learning environments being a “critical part of nursing education… specifically tailored to provide the necessary resources.” The space for informal learning, outside the classroom, was equally important to consider as classes scheduled in long segments necessitate spaces to inhabit during breaks. To maximize these options, the traditional prebrief and debrief rooms embedded in the simulation suite serve during off-hours as private or group study rooms. Occupants find that these spaces (with great daylight and views to campus) encourage faculty and students to engage for day-to-day interaction, capstone projects, and student organization meetings that supplement nursing training, such as global health initiative trips.

Adaptable Briefing Room Concept
Adaptable Briefing Room Concept

Ayers Saint Gross has designed three phases for Duke University’s School of Nursing. The Physical Therapy /School of Nursing Education Building bridges to the School of Nursing, continuing the expansion and consolidation of the school’s programs under one roof. The design team and user group worked extensively to conceive adaptable and flexible learning environments to meet their needs, focusing on strategies to mitigate resources taxed by the influx of distance learners during On-Campus Intensives. The design for a typical active learning classroom was adapted into three collaborative seminar spaces to supplement clinical learning, host workshops, and enable development in a state-of-the art learning environment.

Active Learning Classroom in Typical Configuration vs. On Campus Intensive Seminar Room Configuration
Active Learning Classroom in Typical Configuration vs. On Campus Intensive Seminar Room Configuration

The concept Ayers Saint Gross developed for Duke’s Standardized Patient Suite follows suit with maximizing adaptability and space utility. An “ante room” functions for charting, observation, post-exam evaluation, reflection, and as the separate entrance for the student or patient actor. The exam room side is fit out for a patient actor connected to a dedicated lounge and entry zone. Exam rooms are integrated with A/V capabilities and can also function for high-fidelity simulation utilizing a manikin.

Flexibility and adaptability are crucial, but these concepts are just the beginning. Join us for our next entry as we illustrate the importance and value of integrating wellness and community outreach into the design of nursing and health professions programs.

Laura Hall, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP is an associate principal based out of the Baltimore office. Contact Laura.

Green Week 2019: The Carrot Awards

April 17, 2019
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Ayers Saint Gross hosts an internal Green Week every year to advance sustainability literacy within our staff so we can provide better high-performance designs to our clients, reflect on our sustainability achievements to date, and plan for the year ahead.

Over the course of next week, we’re sharing information we’ve learned through project (or projects’) certifications, professional certifications, and conference attendance, as well as bringing in invited guests. We’re pleased to host Dr. Christine Sheppard of the American Bird Conservancy who will be speaking to our entire firm about Bird-Friendly Building Design. Anne Greenstone from Steelcase will be teaching our Baltimore office about the Fitwel certification and office wellness, and a representative from CMTA will teach our DC office more about design considerations for net-zero buildings.

Since 2011, we have annually reported the predicted energy use intensity of our whole building projects and the lighting power density of our interiors projects using the AIA 2030 Commitment. This data allows us to recognize and reward the most energy efficient of these projects from the previous calendar year with our annual Carrot Awards to inspire other projects to strive for greater energy efficiency.

We believe sustainable design and great design are the same. Our highest performing projects under design in 2018 illustrate strategies every project in our firm aspires to achieve.

We’re pleased to announce this year’s Carrot Award winners are the Hayden Library Reinvention at Arizona State University and the Brown Advisory Bond Street Office Third Floor Tenant Improvements. Congratulations to the design teams of these projects!

Hayden Library, originally built in 1966, is representative of a design and construction era that was limited by available technology and prioritized considerations for a library differently than today’s campus conditions require. The HVAC, lighting, plumbing, and architectural upgrades included as part of the library’s reinvention result in a significantly more resource-efficient building than the existing construction. The project is predicted to have an energy demand of 55% less than baseline and will offset a portion of its electricity load with a rooftop photovoltaic array. This work would not be possible without the collaboration of an engaged client and our team at Affiliated Engineers.

The Brown Advisory Headquarters Tenant Improvements provides commercial office space in Baltimore for a privately owned investment management company. The space we designed for them reduces lighting power density by 56%, more than twice the current AIA 2030 reduction target for interior spaces, through daylighting and LED lighting.

Be on the lookout for more sustainability-focused projects from our firm. For more on how Ayers Saint Gross approaches sustainable design, see our firm’s sustainability strategy, Take Action.

Ayers Saint Gross at SCUP Mid-Atlantic 2019

March 19, 2019
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The SCUP Mid-Atlantic Conference is March 20 – 22 at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a council member, I’m excited to be attending and hope you will join us. With the conference being so close to our DC and Baltimore offices, Ayers Saint Gross will have great representation, and I am looking forward to seeing many old friends and making new ones! Keep your eye out for Sally Chinnis, Alyson Goff, Adam Gross, Jordan Hawes, and Eric Zahn.

Thursday, March 21 is a big day for the firm, as we have two exciting concurrent sessions and a tour of the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center.

Student Engagement Leads to Thriving Residence Hall
This session will examine the successful process behind planning Trippe Hall, a residence hall at Penn State Behrend. The design process incorporated student input at various stages, from schematic design to furniture selection. Attracting prospective students means providing spaces where they want to cultivate their education and community. You will discover new ways to foster student engagement throughout your building design process, resulting in spaces that are ideal for today’s students.

Learning Outcomes
1. Involve students early in developing the program for your next campus building.
2. Create forums, panels, and surveys to collect end-user data that will inform the programming and design of your new building.
3. Create a student learning experience out of your new building project by giving them ownership over design ideas and allowing them to work through real-life plans and BIM models themselves.
4. Collect occupancy feedback from students after the building has opened; distribute surveys to students and then share your findings.

Presenters
Karen Kreger, Senior Director, Housing and Food Services, Commonwealth Campuses Pennsylvania State University
Michael Lindner, Director of Housing and Food Services,
Penn State Behrend
Jordan Hawes, Interior Designer, Ayers Saint Gross
Eric Zahn, Architect, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
Thursday, March 21, 2019
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
The Hotel at the University of Maryland, College Park, Calvert D

 

Measuring Classroom Performance: Design Process and Lessons Learned at University of Maryland
This session will explore how TERP (Teach, Engage, Respond, Participate) classrooms perform at the University of Maryland (UMD) Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center. You will learn how evidence-based design research supports budget, design, and utilization of active learning classrooms (ALC) by reviewing the ROI of TERP classroom performance, utilization, and learning outcomes assessment through student surveys. You will also establish criteria to measure ALC effectiveness and justify why increasing square footage and utilization accommodates collaborative learning in diverse disciplinary uses over the classroom’s lifecycle.

Learning Outcomes
1. Describe design attributes and performance criteria to be considered when designing formal and informal collaborative learning environments.
2. Summarize how to measure the impact that collaborative learning environments have on student learning outcomes.
3. Argue why collaborative learning environments are worth the additional funding and space.
4. Implement methods to collect student and faculty feedback in order to evaluate collaborative learning environment effectiveness.

Presenters
Elizabeth Beise, Professor, University of Maryland College Park
Alice Donlan, Director of Research, University of Maryland College Park
Adam Gross, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Kristen Ambrose, Principal, Director of Research and Development, Ratio (Former Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross)

Details
Thursday, March 21, 2019
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
The Hotel at the University of Maryland, College Park, Calvert C

 

Tour: Active Learning at the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center
The presentation and tour of the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center at the University of Maryland, College Park will be conducted with a brief presentation of planning, programming, and design concepts for the 187,400 gross square feet LEED Gold academic building. The tour will highlight innovations in active learning classroom design for large enrollment undergraduate courses.

Learning Outcomes
1. Review space guidelines for a teaching and learning center and understand the limitations of regulated state guidelines and standards that influence the design of active learning classrooms.
2. Prioritize space attributes and performance criteria to be considered when designing an active learning environment and describe the process of collecting precedent research and analyzing relevant examples.
3. Identify design criteria for learning environment design that considers universal design principles for diverse pedagogical approaches and access resources to produce a furniture mock-up of a proposed design condition that meets universal accessibility and ADA requirements.
4. Implement methods to collect student and faculty feedback and develop survey questions to create a post-occupancy evaluation survey for occupants to evaluate the effectiveness of learning spaces.

Details
Thursday, March 21, 2019
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM

 

Ayers Saint Gross at SEAHO 2019

February 25, 2019
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If you’re attending SEAHO 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida this week I hope you’ll visit Ayers Saint Gross at booth 319 and join us for our educational session on the importance of designing for both private and communal spaces in student housing.

From Facility to Facilitator: Community, Privacy, and Inclusivity in Shared Spaces
For many first-year students, the residence hall is their first home outside of the family home. The most successful student housing facilities build a strong community among residents, while providing opportunities for the individual to have privacy when needed. Outside-the-unit spaces like lounges and laundry rooms are critical to community-building, while student units, even shared doubles, can be configured to provide moments of seclusion. Bathrooms are unique in that they bridge these two goals. Some daily activities demand privacy, while others confer an opportunity to strengthen the social connections formed through communal living. This program will review case studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and other institutions to illustrate how thoughtfully designed outside-the-unit spaces and bathroom facilities in student housing can accommodate the individual’s need for privacy while building a sense of community and a culture of inclusion.

Presenters
Gavin Roark, Director of Residential Life & Housing,
Virginia Commonwealth University
Megan Becker, Ed.D., Associate Director of Residential Life, Virginia Commonwealth University
Eric Moss, Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Cooper Melton, Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross

Details
SEAHO 2019
Thursday, February 28, 2019
10:15 – 11:15 AM
Session 3
City Terrace Room 8