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: 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.

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

Food for Thought: Dining Hall Typologies and Design Drivers

February 15, 2019
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Today’s students and administrators are increasingly conscientious about nutrition, wellness, and sustainability. Campus dining programs are expected to cater to an ever more sophisticated and health-conscious palette. They must deliver diverse and nutritious cuisines in a dynamic and sensory place. Students want to know where their food comes from and how it is made; food allergies and specialized diets require sensitivity in food handling, storage, preparation to prevent cross-contamination. Likewise, administrators recognize the benefits to classroom performance and overall satisfaction that this holistic view of dining options brings.

To meet today’s expectations, many colleges and universities are stepping up their food service capabilities through the construction of facilities that not only raise the competitive bar for campus dining but also reimagine how spatial design can support learning paradigms of group study and socialization.

Good design celebrates and supports these objectives. There are many spatial models that can address the experiential and functional elements that drive a campus dining project. We have seen these trends evolve over time, from cafeteria-style models to spaces that promote the level of quality today’s students demand. Most dining halls can be grouped into one of the three following typologies:

Corralled

• Corralled. A corralled dining model describes what most remember as a cafeteria or a food court. Food is stored and prepared in bulk quantities in large back-of-house kitchens, servers present options to diners along a tray line, and seating is separate from the main servery. These facilities are designed to serve the singular essential functions of food service, three times per day, with the greatest efficiency.

A popular typology from the 1950s through the late 1990s, some larger facilities of this type present a vast sea of tables that lack a sense of character, scale and intimacy. We are often confronted with this when asked to evaluate possible futures for existing facilities. This typology, however, remains a great option for smaller dining areas where there is still a high level of intimacy and the efficiency benefits can have the greatest impact. In these cases, aesthetic improvements and modernizations are best to appeal to today’s students.

Fully Dispersed

• Fully Dispersed. In the mid 2000s, concern about the student experience came to the forefront of discussion among university decision-makers. Design thinking shifted away from corralled models to just the opposite: a fully dispersed model that exploded the back of house kitchen. In this dining typology, multiple food “platforms,” each containing their own kitchens and storage needs, are dispersed throughout a larger space, interspersed with seating areas.

The experience is one of themed “micro-restaurants” where the action of made-to-order cooking is presented to the customer. This layout results in a greater selection of customized food options and a seating experience that introduces a sense of variety and intimacy. It also establishes a clear connection between students and employees and provides a clear sense of how food is made.

Though this model has the benefit of enhancing the student experience, universities and food service operators realized that the lack of a shared, centralized prep kitchen compromised operational efficiency and increased operational costs.

Hybrid

• Hybrid. More recent food service models combine the operational benefits of a corralled model’s back-of-house kitchen with the experiential benefits of dispersed micro-restaurants. In some hybrid models, shared storage functions and preparation activities can take place in a back-of-house kitchen or even an offsite commissary. Items prepared in the back-of-house kitchen are delivered to semi-dispersed platforms or micro-restaurants as needed for final preparation and finishing. Some food platform concepts may be located immediately adjacent to the back-of-house kitchen, as in a corralled model. Integrating an advantage of the fully dispersed model and fulfilling modern demands, in more recently designed facilities, the kitchen activity is displayed to customers to promote a sense of connection between the students, employees, and the food being provided.

Whatever the typology, operations and aesthetics must be balanced to create the best possible facility.

Let’s first consider operations: sequences of entry and exit, including the location of the dish drop, are critical to flow and function. Everything from sustainable waste management practices, loading dock design, vertical conveyances, interior adjacencies, product flow, and mechanical systems integration must be carefully considered.

As a firm with both architects and campus planners, we have seen that enrollment projections and proximities to student housing and the academic core are key factors in dining demand. The nuances of a dining program can also affect demand models.

Operating hours also influence design decisions, especially as some institutions move toward extended dining hall hours and unlimited meal plans. A facility that provides food all day long will help mitigate demand at peak times, which in turn alleviates the pressure for more dining space overall. A dining hall that serves 5,000 people over the course of 24 hours can be smaller than a dining hall that serves the same number of people in 12 hours. We recommend performing a demand analysis and intensive program verification that takes these considerations into account to “right-size” a design.

Aesthetic values and ambiance are critical to a dining hall’s appeal as a place for people to share a meal, gather, and study. Notions of peak performance via dining drive the design of facilities in both higher education and private sector markets. Indeed, major corporations identify on-site food service experiences as a critical benefit of employment that promotes performance and well-being. Colleges and universities are following suit.

Many administrators now take a holistic view of student performance, satisfaction, and wellness. Good nutrition leads to better classroom performance and better overall satisfaction. Local sourcing can help keep foods free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides often found in industrially farmed produce and improve the town-gown relationship. To convey that the school values nutrition, sustainability, and belonging, foods and ingredients must be displayed attractively. Specialty cooking platforms and demonstration kitchens that promote a healthy and active lifestyle can also be considered learning experiences that contribute directly to student life.

Dining facilities no longer serve a singular function. They should be envisioned as multi-use dining and learning commons that extend the classroom and strengthen academics while meeting the nutrition expectations of a sophisticated student population. Ayers Saint Gross is committed to designing beautiful, functional spaces that enhance student life and classroom performance. We’re excited to see what we can create for clients, and what new and innovative typologies will emerge as more institutions embrace a holistic view of student experience and dining hall design.

Top Blog Posts of 2018

December 26, 2018
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We explored a lot on our blog this year, from floating wetlands to Winston Churchill to equity in design. Here’s a look at our most popular posts of 2018. We look forward to more exploration, discovery, and design in 2019 with the clients, partners, and communities we serve.

  1. National Aquarium Floating Wetland Prototype Wins ASLA Honor Award for Research. This innovative design earned our firm its first ASLA award. The floating wetland was created in collaboration with the National Aquarium and our teammates at Biohabitats, McLaren Engineering Group, and Kovacs, Whitney & Associates as a continuation of Studio Gang’s EcoSlip concept.
  2. A New Model for Floating Wetlands. For a deeper dive (pun intended) on the award-winning floating wetlands, check out this explainer on how the apparatus was designed and how it works.
  3. Renewal of Mid-Century Campus Legacies. As more institutions decide how to handle mid-century buildings, these case studies provide progressive strategies that make investments in current students and future generations.
  4. Legacy and Leadership: Designing the National Churchill Library and Center. Because Winston Churchill was a man of true historic importance, we designed his namesake library at The George Washington University to reflect his august legacy in a new and modern way.
  5. Hack the Block: Notes from the Equity by Design Hackathon. This Equity by Design event brought together designers to tackle how to improve justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession of architecture and in the communities we serve.
  6. 30 Years of Embracing Change: Reflecting on Jim Wheeler’s Career at Ayers Saint Gross. 2018 was the first time in three decades that Jim Wheeler was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the firm, although he remains our Chairman of the Board. His professional legacy lives on in our commitment to forward-thinking business and design strategies.
  7. Comparing Campuses: Student Housing. We examined campus living in our 20th annual Comparing Campuses poster. (We also have online archives of all the Comparing Campuses posters and our student life portfolio.)
  8. The Little Gray Bath House and the Great Residence Hall: Adaptive Reuse at VCU. The integration of a Neoclassical façade into a modern building illustrates how a perceived design obstacle can be turned into an opportunity.
  9. Green Week 2018: The Carrot Awards. Projects at The George Washington University and Washington College earned this year’s top sustainability honors.
  10. WELL 101: Creating Healthy Places. The WELL building standard poses a people-centric, rather than planet-centric, question: How can a building support better health, happiness, and well-being for its occupants?

Infographic: Student Life Snapshot

December 20, 2018
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2018 has been a busy year for our firm: 17 student life buildings designed by Ayers Saint Gross have opened on seven campuses in six different states.

To celebrate, we’ve created an infographic that illustrates everything contained in those 15 residence halls and two student commons buildings.

While these buildings geographically stretch from Maine to Florida, a thoughtful and strategic design philosophy unifies them: spaces that support individual students’ academic and personal growth lead to strong, engaged campus communities.

I extend my sincere thanks and congratulations to everyone—clients, designers, and partners—who made these buildings possible. We’re excited to see them in use, and look forward to designing more buildings that promote student success. If you’re interested in these projects and the rest of our firm’s student life portfolio, I hope you’ll reach out to learn more.

Ayers Saint Gross Wins Three AIA Baltimore Awards

December 12, 2018
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Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce that three of our recent projects have earned recognition from AIA Baltimore:

The Morgan Business Center, designed in collaboration with Kohn Pedersen Fox, is the home of the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management. It is situated on a historically significant site that was the location of student protests during the Civil Rights Movement and is the first of three buildings in a new precinct. The jury noted:

This year’s Grand Design Award winner underscores how architecture reinforces the institution’s mission and aspirations, while offering high-quality design that is publicly engaging and of service to the broader community. The design does an admirable job of breaking down what would otherwise be a very large building, while maintaining cohesion with beautifully detailed fenestration and massing. The building and landscape integration is very sophisticated, creating flow between buildings and the outdoors. The composition of the building as a backdrop to the spiraling garden offers a successful publicly engaging space as well as a connection to civil rights history…it is a good example of how to make use of a triangle, opening space in the middle which allows for deeper penetration of light. The green roof, visible from the ground, further integrates the building and plaza landscape, while integrating sustainable design and a wonderful elevated garden place.

The ISB, designed in collaboration with Payto Architects, creates a visible heart of the sciences at the head of Kent State’s Science Mall. It uses standardized modules to create flexibility for open labs, classrooms, and study spaces that overlook the university’s new Student Green. The jury noted:

The project does a good job of being sympathetic to the original brutalist buildings, while bringing them forward into a modern dialogue. It offers wonderful spaces on the interior and a good use of materials as a concept. The design creates a flow through the space and a connection to outside. A consistent use of material creates a seamless transition between old and new. There is restraint with the material palette and a subtle yet transformative symbolic gesture to the university’s blue and yellow colors. The interior environment makes exceptional use of daylighting.

The Sagamore Spirit Distillery combines a sophisticated whiskey production facility with an interactive visitor experience on a five-acre waterfront campus. Its design and materiality reflect two distinct pieces of American history: whiskey making and the prestigious Sagamore Farm. The jury noted:

The project transformed a brownfield industrial site into a cultural destination and brings the Sagamore brand to life…The combination of poetry and purposeful space-planning generates a village environment conducive to learning, connecting, and playing, in addition to the functional necessities of whiskey processing.

The aesthetic and programmatic diversity of these projects reflects the interdisciplinary nature of our firm. Great clients inspire great work, and we are honored that AIA Baltimore recognized our efforts on behalf of two great universities and an innovative company.