Two of our Student Housing sector leaders, Jason Jones and Cindy Schaumberg, give us insight into what’s next for student housing (goodbye amenity wars!) and why they’re excited about it. They also share what makes each of them uniquely suited for this work; from college-aged kids to past careers.
Cindy Schaumberg, Principal, Market Sector Lead
10 years of experience in student housing
Q: What do you like best about designing student housing?
A: I enjoy working on student housing because it allows me to contribute to the well-being and success of students. Providing a comfortable and safe living environment for students is incredibly rewarding. I love that thoughtful interior design can create a sense of community that will support students during their educational journey and make their time away from home enjoyable.
Q: What has excited you about future work in this sector?
A: There is a focus on creating inclusive and diverse communities within student housing. This involves designing spaces that foster a sense of belonging and respect for different cultures, backgrounds, and identities. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, student housing can become a place where students feel supported, comfortable, and valued.
Additionally, with increasing awareness of environmental issues, sustainable design practices have become a top priority in student housing. Incorporating energy-efficient systems, using eco-friendly materials, and implementing recycling programs are some ways to promote sustainability in student housing.
Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing student housing?
A: Students come from various backgrounds and have different needs and preferences when it comes to their living arrangements. Designing student housing that can cater to a wide range of preferences, from quiet study spaces to communal gathering areas, can be a challenge, but a challenge we feel is important to embrace.
Q: What inspires you?
A: My daughters! As a parent of two college-age daughters, I understand the delicate balance between providing support and fostering independence. This has made me more aware of the importance of fostering a sense of community and support within student housing. My daughters have given me firsthand experience and knowledge of their needs and preferences. I also have a better understanding of the amenities and features that are essential for a comfortable, productive and healthy living environment.
Theory U District
Jason Jones, Associate Principal
18 years of experience in student housing
Q: What do you like best about designing student housing?
A: For me, it’s all about the students and collaborating with like-minded individuals who share a passion for raising the bar in living and learning environments. I take great pride in knowing that I can contribute to positive change in students’ lives and their impact on society on our planet.
Q: What trends are you seeing in student housing?
A: I am excited to see a shift in our industry that is supporting affordable housing solutions that focus on mental, social, and physical wellness. Biophilia is an overused term these days, but it has a powerful impact on a human’s well-being.
Q: Is there anything that makes you uniquely suited to working in this sector?
A: My journey in this sector has been a unique blend of two professional lives—one as an architectural professional and the other as a development manager in student housing. These distinct roles have enriched my expertise and vision, allowing me to craft architectural concepts that seamlessly align with financial objectives while upholding the utmost quality. Quality and innovation are at the heart of my work, and I’m excited to keep pushing boundaries in this ever-evolving field.
Q: What’s a memorable career moment?
A: One of my first student housing projects was remodeling an old dining hall in a student housing complex. We had the opportunity to do some fun design work that we thought the students would love. The day it opened, I snuck in before the students came in and acted like I was going to school there so I could see what they had to say firsthand. Their expressions and the incredible praise of the design still inspire me today.
Q: What changes have you seen in this sector over the years?
A: Watching the amenity race die. Instead, projects are becoming statements of well-being and sustainability.
Union on Broadway
Want to get to know more of the Student Housing Team? Learn about Alissa Brandt and Matt Janssen here.
New Code Increases Accessibility
At Ankrom Moisan, we work hard to ensure an equal experience for all users of the spaces we design. We explore how to push beyond the expected with accessibility features on projects like Wynne Watts Commons, and we welcome updated codes and standards to address the needs of our community. As the 2021 Building Code takes effect in each jurisdiction, the embedded 2017 A117.1 Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities also takes effect. The new 2017 A117.1 provides significant updates to accessibility clearances based on a study of wheelchair users. The A117.1 is developed by the International Code Council (same authors as the International Building Code). Their challenge is to find the best design criteria for a wide range of abilities, from wheelchair users to standing persons with back problems to persons with low vision or hearing challenges. Ankrom Moisan has participated in their process as an “interested party” in one issue, kitchen outlets, and can attest to the countless hours that go into just one requirement.
At the Ronald McDonald House expansion we wanted to make all families staying for short or long stays be able to use all the amenities, including the common kitchens.
Overall impacts to projects by this change are modest, resulting in a few rooms being enlarged by a few inches. While the changes are minimal to buildings, they provide much higher levels of accessibility for impacted users. The most impactful updates are changes to the following requirements:
- In most cases, clear floor spaces grow from 30-inch by 48-inch to 30-inch by 52-inch.
- The turning circle that was a 60-inch “wedding cake” with knee and toe clearance all around is now a 67-inch cylinder with minimal knee and toe clearance.
When looking at a typical privately funded apartment building, the changes are minimal as long as they are understood at the start of the project. There are no changes to Type B units (except new exceptions for kitchens outlets were added), and for the Type A units, the kitchen, bathroom, and walk-in closet may grow a few inches. The trash chute access room will see the biggest change, growing up to 7” in both directions. All these changes are minor when incorporated into the initial design of the building but could be very tricky late in the design process.
There are still some unknowns; If there are Accessible units in a project, they will now require windows to be fully accessible. While the height and clear floor space requirements are easy to meet, we are still searching for a window style and manufacturer that can meet the requirements that windows are operable without tight grasping and less than 5 pounds of pressure to open and lock/unlock.
Our work isn’t done; kitchen outlets were simplified in the corners where a range and refrigerator protrude past the counter with this code cycle, but we must wait for the next A117.1 cycle for kitchen outlets to no longer dictate kitchen design. Ankrom Moisan submitted code changes that are now in effect in the 2022 Oregon Structural Specialty Code and submitted a proposal for the next version of A117.1 and can report that kitchen outlets will no longer drive design or require any special design or construction features in the next code cycle.
At the Wynne Watts Commons the team provided universal design residential units that included cooktops that pull out and upper cabinets lower with the controls shown in the cabinet front.
Added complexity with new code change
From a designer’s perspective, the requirements of accessibility have grown exceptionally complex. For example, under the new A117.1, there are now different size clearances for new and existing as well as Type A and Type B units, and the definition of “existing” in the A117.1 does not match the definition in the building code. This adds to the already confusing accessibility requirements that require us to reference multiple documents for any given item (building code with unique amendments by jurisdiction, Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, etc.). Coupled with different interpretations from different experts and code officials it is no wonder why accessibility requirements feel a bit daunting to us and our clients. As an example, California does not adopt the A117.1 but rather chooses to write its own Chapter 11 of the building code with its own unique scoping and technical criteria. And that is just accessibility, our Architects are juggling fire life safety, energy code, constructability, and our client’s budget all while creating great places where communities thrive.
As a firm, we had a challenge to overcome; the new accessibility requirements do not apply to all our projects at the same time. Depending on where they are in the permitting process and the jurisdiction they are in, every project must determine when, and if, they are required to flip to the new code. While most of our projects will be using the new code by early 2024, many will still be under the old code for years to come. We had to develop Revit resources for our project teams that could work for both codes at the same time. Our Accessibility experts partnered with our BIM team to develop a system meeting these goals and requirements:
- It had to be as simple and easy to use as possible for our project teams.
- It had to be blatantly obvious, by a quick glance within Revit, what codes were being shown on any given project.
- It had to provide all the options now allowed by the standards and guide teams to pick the applicable option.
Our solution to this challenge was rolled out to our project teams in September 2022 and provided over 500 updated Revit families.
Below is our graphic of the changes to the A117.1 that affect AM projects. The orange color helps all team members quickly identify the new families are being used.
We have found so many nuances in the accessibility codes that it can be hard to make generic statements. We would love to talk to you about your specific project or topic. Please reach out to Cara Godwin at email@example.com to learn about accessibility for your project.
* Originally published October 6, 2022, updated 12/01/2023
by Cara Godwin, Senior Associate
HCAI Made Easy(er)
HCAI can be an intimidating organization to work with. But it doesn’t need to be. Many simple projects can even be done without a building permit.
What building changes can I make without HCAI involvement?
The simplest answer to this question is probably that you shouldn’t make any changes without at least some HCAI involvement. That said, for many types of projects the amount of involvement is limited, and is more a matter of building relationships than building approvals.
An example of this type of project is recarpeting and repainting your lobby. This type of project would likely not require HCAI approval or a building permit. The Freer manual only asks that the Area Compliance Officer (ACO) be notified prior to the start of the project. The ACO will want to confirm that the products you are proposing and the process of getting the work done will not put your residents at risk. They will check that products are not a fire hazard and that you have a plan in place to maintain a safe exit through the area while the work is taking place.
Even if a building permit is not required, design professionals that understand how HCAI works can save you time and money. In the example above experienced designers will know not only which products will meet the fire safety requirements, they will know how to find and package the certifications and other product information HCAI looks for, for easy approval. And while a permitted drawing isn’t needed, a diagram or narrative using industry terminology explaining how the exiting will work can greatly simplify the discussion and avoid unnecessary delays.
Did you know that not all HCAI projects require a full building permit review?
Some projects qualify for expedited office review, while others may only require an on-site conversation with your Area Compliance Officer (ACO) and no permit at all. This list gives an idea of when permits may be required, and when a faster process may be available. We identify which process is right for your project and help make sure it qualifies for the simplest path possible.
Why does HCAI have a difficult reputation?
HCAI (formerly the Office of Statewide Health and Planning, or OSHPD) came into existence in part in response to the 1971 Sylmar earthquake which caused the collapse of the Olive View Hospital in Sylmar, and Veterans Administration Hospital in San Fernando. They are responsible for overseeing all healthcare construction in the state of California, with a special emphasis on seismic safety and disaster preparedness. The 1994 Northridge earthquake proved the effectiveness of the requirements. In that earthquake 11 hospitals collapsed, and others had to be evacuated, but newer hospitals, built in accordance with updated standards suffered only minimal structural damage.
Most buildings are designed for safe exiting for the public, and structural stability for first responders. They are not designed to remain in service after a disaster, or to function while damaged. In hospitals, and to a lesser extent in skilled nursing facilities, the building infrastructure provides life sustaining care which needs to continue to be available in the immediate aftermath of a major seismic event.
Additionally, the needs of hospitals and skilled nursing occupants are very different from most other buildings: many occupants cannot self-evacuate, are not mobile or confined to beds, and the corridors are unfamiliar, these factors and others complicate building life safety planning. The services these buildings provide are needed immediately after, or even during, a major seismic or other disaster event. All these factors demand a higher level of life safety in design.
This higher level of safety means that many products and methods common in the construction industry cannot be used. And many of those that can require much more intensive verification, quality control, and inspection. Contractors and designers that are not familiar with the requirements are often taken by surprise when products or processes they’ve used on other projects are not allowed, leading to expensive revisions, late projects, and cost overruns.
Careful planning with design professionals and contractors familiar with these constraints can help to mitigate many of these risks. Knowledgeable designers can identify products and processes that have been pre-approved by HCAI. This frees up design time and fees to focus on items not pre-approved, or to develop custom solutions and work with HCAI for approval before construction schedules are impacted.
Developers Are Setting Their Sights on Redmond, WA
Developers are setting their sights on Redmond, WA, and for good reason; the area is experiencing a rapid transformation resulting in unique development opportunities. Thanks to a comprehensive growth plan from the city, a strong employment base, increasing transportation options, and excellent recreational amenities, Redmond is a highly desirable location.
However, the opportunities in Redmond are not without obstacles. The challenging regulatory environment makes development in Redmond unpredictable for teams without prior experience. Complicated review processes and new zoning rules make familiarity with the proposed code changes essential to success.
Avalon Esterra Park
The draw of Redmond.
Strong employment base. Home to campuses for Microsoft, Meta, and Nintendo, Redmond has strong employment in the tech sector and a high Average Median Income (AMI). As a result, rents are high (almost equivalent to Bellevue and Seattle) but the market is still less developed, and many low-density central sites remain.
Increased transportation and connectivity. With the East Link Light Rail stations nearing completion (expected to open in 2025), Redmond will soon be well connected to the rest of the region, making it a more desirable community to commute to and from.
High livability. Another draw to the area is the large—and growing—collection of urban amenities, including public parks and trails. Redmond is one of a small number of cities designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community—thanks to an extensive network of on-street bike lanes and off-street trails providing easy access to downtown, neighborhoods, and even to other cities. Nearing completion is the already-popular Redmond Central Connector Trail, a 3.9-mile trail corridor linking Redmond neighborhoods. Redmond is proving to be a highly livable location and is an increasingly popular alternative for Seattleites looking to escape the urban blight issues common in Seattle. There is currently a 3% lower vacancy rate in Redmond than in downtown Seattle or Tacoma: Redmond vacancy is on par with strong submarkets like Bellevue and Ballard.
Aloft & Element Hotels
Opportunities to keep an eye on.
Upzones. Redmond is currently working on updates to their comprehensive plan and is showing considerable upzones in the Overlake area and Downtown. Redmond’s growth targets are significant, and the city is actively creating opportunities for a substantial number of new households to be added to the area in the coming years.
Increased FAR. We are already seeing much higher height limits and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) proposed in Downtown and Overlake. Now is a good time to start studying sites in these upzoned areas.
Available land. Existing landowners are studying and planning for development with the upzones and some will be looking to sell entitlements and available land.
How our Redmond expertise can help.
Navigating incentives. The new code has many possible incentives for development, many add substantial costs or have implementation challenges that have not been resolved, and the tiered structure is difficult to understand. We can help you select incentives that are right for your needs.
Relationships. We have personal contacts with Redmond City staff and an established rapport. We are also connected with Geotech consultants, cultural resource consultants, land use attorneys, and various specialty consultants required to get a project approved in Redmond.
Experience with new code. We have studied the implications of new code, attending meetings, following the code changes, and providing comments on behalf of owners.
Our Redmond experience.
We have significant recent experience in entitling sites throughout the city. A few examples:
- Avalon Esterra Park Blocks 4 and 7: 482 units: built
- Dual Brand Hotel Aloft/Element Hotel, 150/131 keys: built
- Avalon AVA, 386 units: built
- KGIP 16701 Cleveland, 125 units: in design
- Alliance Broadstone Redmond, 350 units: under construction
- Overlake East, 798 units: in design
Aloft & Element Hotels
We have recent experience modifying existing entitlements to suit new owners—troubled development properties are great opportunities.
Alliance Broadstone Redmond. This 350-unit development was modified from a prior SPE approval. Our client Alliance took over a previously entitled site that was not well designed for the market. We redesigned the development and modified the entitlement, cutting a year out of schedule from an entitlement that would have started from scratch.
Avalon Esterra Park. In 2011, as the current wave of development was just beginning, we were brought in to design Blocks 4 and 7 of what is now known as Esterra Park. Adjacent to the upcoming light rail station, this site is prominent, and our design work there became the precedent for an entirely new neighborhood. Our expertise helped inform the master developer and allowed them to successfully respond to market realities. We pivoted from a roughly equal mix of office and residential uses in the originally approved Esterra Park master plan to one that heavily favored residential development in the built Esterra Park. Our work on Esterra Park also helped set a materials precedent that has proved beneficial for the developer and the city. We worked closely with the owner, contractor, and suppliers to educate the city staff about the current cladding performance of fiber cement siding to give the city quality buildings at a price point that the developers could afford.
We have recent experience building multifamily in Redmond for multiple developers. A few examples:
- Alliance Broadstone Redmond, currently under construction
- Overlake East, Phase 1 and 2, projected start of construction, Q1 2025
- Three projects that are built with AvalonBay Communities
We are familiar with the proposed upcoming upzones and have studied sites in detail with the new land use code which is not yet in effect and have had conversations with the city about adopting these standards early if applicable.
We have experience with the master-planning process required for large multi-building sites, which there are many opportunities for in the Redmond Overlake area. Our projects with AvalonBay were the first to test the newly adopted master plan for the Overlake Hospital site. Overlake East is three phase project with first two phases mixed use multifamily, third phase optional multifamily or office building, 798 units in total.
Want to know more? Get in touch with us:
David Kelley, Executive Vice President, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
JP Emery, Principal, NCARB, MBA
Joe Tucker, Principal, AIA, NCARB
How Lighting Can Influence Resident Health and Wellness in Senior Care Settings
Lighting plays an important role in a building’s architecture, as it can enhance a space, create an aesthetic, and draw attention to different elements. But in senior care settings, lighting plays an even bigger role. When used strategically, lighting can influence resident health and wellness, as well as safety.
The Role of Lighting in Senior Care Facility Design
AM Principal Chris Ebert explains that as we age, the way our eyes work changes. “When designing for seniors, designers and architects must account for the effects of aging on how a person perceives color, light intensity, the negative effects of glare, and other health-related concerns, all of which can be addressed with the right design,” says Ebert. “Whether it is natural sunlight or specialty indoor lighting, high-quality lighting is proven to have a positive impact on one’s health and wellness. For example, the National Library of Medicine cites that blue lighting can accelerate post-stress relaxation.”
Aegis Living Lake Union
How Lighting Can Address Health Concerns
“Seniors generally benefit from higher lighting levels, more uniformity, and less glare. Together, these create a safer environment than poorly lit homes, reducing the risk of falls, and minimizing the difficulty of reading medicine labels,” explains Ebert.
Since seniors are more sensitive to glare than younger individuals, designers can reduce that glare with window shades, light shields, and finishes that aren’t overly reflective. “It is also important to provide uniform lighting through careful selection and placement of indirect and shielded direct lighting,” he says.
Circadian lighting can also help improve sleep and reduce agitation and depression. This kind of lighting changes color throughout the day, mimicking the way that sunlight changes during the day. Ebert notes that circadian lighting has also been shown to be especially helpful for seniors with memory issues like Alzheimer’s disease.
Best Practices When Designing Lighting for Senior Care Facilities
When designing a senior care facility, Ebert emphasizes the importance of natural light to support resident health and wellbeing. He notes that it’s important to ensure that common areas, living areas, and staff work areas have ample access to natural light. “When practical, designers should have windows on 2 or 3 sides of a room,” he says. “The numerous health benefits of access to natural daylight are undeniable. Science has shown that natural light makes us sharper and happier during the day, provides us with better sleep at night, and helps us recover faster when we get sick. For memory care patients, circadian lighting helps to reinforce the body’s natural rhythms and can help reduce the evening agitation known as sundowning.”
But integrating natural light into a facility also needs to be done strategically. “Bringing daylight indoors in a thoughtful way requires a delicate balance of interdependent variables,” says Ebert. “Simply adding more windows to a building is not a fix-all solution. To properly daylight indoor spaces, designers must balance lighting control, glazing requirements, indoor climate controls, solar heat gain, external views, nighttime darkness, and many other factors.”
By Chris Ebert, AIA, NCARB
New Seattle Development Design Review Exemptions
The City Council has amended the land use code to make two important changes to the design review program aimed at encouraging additional low-income housing. The first change permanently exempts low-income housing projects from the Design Review program. The second change provides a new Design Review exemption for projects that meet Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements by providing units on site via the Performance Option under the Land Use Code. Projects that opt into the Performance Option can skip MUP and Design Review and proceed directly to Building Permit where land use code compliance will be evaluated concurrently with other review subjects.
Bypassing Design Review and MUP milestones could yield significant time and cost saving on project delivery.
Schedule comparisons showing how fast the entitlements process can be if MHA units are provided instead of the ‘payment in lieu.’
Calculating the Number of Affordable Housing Units Required to avoid Design Review:
If a project contains commercial space, the area dedicated to affordable units required to satisfy the Performance Option is calculated as a percentage of the overall applicable area in commercial use. If a project contains residential space, the required number of affordable units is calculated as a percentage of the total number of dwelling units in the project. Developments that contain both commercial and residential space will use a combination of both calculation methods.
Performance Amount for Commercial Development:
The net unit area of affordable housing required to comply with Performance Option is outlined in Tables A&B for SMC 23.58B.050. The required square footage set-aside for affordable units varies respectively by zone, MHA suffix (M/M1/M2), and performance area intensity as noted in Map A for SMC 23.58C.050. For most zones, the area of affordable housing required ranges between 5-9% of the applicable commercial floor area.
Performance Amount for Residential Development:
The number of affordable housing units required to comply with Performance Option is outlined in Tables A&B for SMC 23.58C.050. The required percentage set-aside similarly varies respectively by zone, MHA suffix (M/M1/M2), and performance area intensity as noted in Map A for SMC 23.58C.050. For most zones, the number of affordable housing units required ranges between 5-11% of the total number of units to be developed in each structure.
Table from the Seattle municipal code indicating how many units need to be affordable for a project to be exempt from development design review.
Performance Standards for Qualifying Affordable Units:
Duration: Units provided to comply with the Performance Option must remain affordable for 75 years from the date of certificate of occupancy.
Distribution & Comparability: Units provided to satisfy the Performance Option must be generally distributed throughout the structure and be comparable to other units in terms of: Type of dwelling unit such as live-work unit or congregate residence sleeping room; Number and size of bedrooms and bathrooms; Net unit area; Access to amenity areas; Functionality; and Lease term.
Eligibility: Household eligibility varies with unit size and rental date.
At initial occupancy (lease-up), units with a net area of 400 sf or less are eligible to households with incomes up to 40% of AMI. Units with a net area greater than 400 sf are eligible to households with incomes up to 60% of AMI.
Thereafter at annual certification, units with a net area of 400 sf or less are eligible to households with incomes up to 60% of AMI. Units with a net area greater than 400 sf are eligible to households with incomes up to 80% of AMI.
Public Subsidy: Affordable housing units provided to satisfy the requirements of the Performance Option may NOT be used to earn public subsidy such as through the Multifamily Housing Property Tax Exemption (MFTE Program).
Rent Levels: Monthly rents for units with a net area of 400 sf or less, shall not exceed 30% of 40% of AMI. Monthly rents for units with a net area greater than 400 sf, shall not exceed 30% of 60% of AMI. “Monthly rent” must include a utility allowance for heat, gas, electricity, water, sewer, and refuse collection, as well as any recurring fees that are required as a condition of tenancy.
Annual Certification, Third Party Verification: Every year an owner of the rental unit must obtain from each tenant a certification of household size and income. Owners of rental units shall attempt to obtain third party verification whenever possible to substantiate income at each certification, which shall include contacting the individual income source(s) supplied by the household. If written or oral third-party documentation is not available, the owner may accept original documents (pay stubs, W-2, etc.) At the discretion of the Director of Housing, the owner may accept tenant self-certifications after the initial income verification and first annual recertification. The owner shall maintain all certifications and documentation obtained on file for at least six years after they are obtained.
Reporting: Once a year the owner of the rental unit shall submit a written report to the Director of Housing, verified upon oath, demonstrating compliance with Chapter 23.58C. The written report shall state: the occupancy and vacancy of each rental unit, the monthly rent charged for the unit, and the income and size of the household occupying the unit. The Director of Housing may require other documentation to ensure compliance including documentation of rents, copies of tenant certifications, documentation supporting determinations of tenant income including employer’s verification or check stubs, and other documentation necessary to track program outcomes and the demographics of households served. The owner of the rental unit shall pay the Office of Housing an annual fee of $150 per rental unit for the purposes of monitoring compliance with the requirements.
By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Managing Design Principal, and Michael Lama, Project Designer
Why Designing Senior Community Renovations is Challenging & Impactful
Designing renovations for senior communities is no easy feat. While this project type comes with a unique set of challenges; when done well, it has a big impact on the quality of residents’ lives. AM’s Senior Renovations Team—Monika Araujo, Chris Ebert, Beth Rear, Mark Miller and Cindy Shaumberg—know this well. In this Q&A they explain what makes these projects special and what inspires them to do this work.
Monika Araujo, Interior Designer / Project Manager
7 years of experience in senior housing
There are a diverse number of senior housing renovation project types, including residential, hospitality, and healthcare, each with its own set of challenges. I enjoy designing a wide range of project types for clients and unifying their senior housing campuses’ designs over many years—building relationships with all project team members.
Q: What inspires you and the work you do in this sector?
A: When I think of designing for seniors, I think about my own parents and grandparents and what they would enjoy in their home. The spaces themselves need to feel classic, timeless, and durable so they last until the next renovation and beyond. I envision the campus evolving its design over many years and I look to create cohesive, beautiful spaces that function well for residents, guests, and staff. I’m inspired by design that promotes wellness and sustainability.
Chris Ebert, Architecture Principal / Project Manager
18 years of experience in senior housing
I really enjoy working with communities to reimagine their spaces to include more health benefits and more beauty for the residents they serve.
Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing senior housing renovations?
A: Designing a senior community combines all the challenges of designing restaurants, apartment buildings, offices, healthcare, and more. Understanding how these diverse uses ultimately support the residents—and how to maintain that support during renovation projects—is critical to project success.
Beth Rear, Interior Designer / Project Manager
7 years of experience in senior housing
The before-and-after of a renovation is often very dramatic. I love taking a tired dated space and creating an entirely new experience and environment. And each renovation has its own unique challenges, so we are constantly problem solving and coming up with creative solutions.
Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing senior housing renovations?
A: Definitely working with the residents! This is already their home and they have strong opinions about any proposed changes. It is always a balancing act between responding to the feedback of current residents while designing spaces that will attract new users.
Mark Miller, Architecture Principal / Project Manager
15 years of experience in senior housing
When senior communities are first designed, it’s sometimes a “best guess” in terms of what the residents will want and so the operations need to adapt quickly, and often in a somewhat guerilla way, if resident needs aren’t being supported by the physical building. Renovating an existing community to help create the spaces that will allow residents to live how they want is extremely gratifying.
Q: What’s a memorable career moment?
A: Working on the Maryville Nursing Home renovation/addition project was challenging in that I came in during construction, which in any renovation job is really the point where you find out if all your assumptions during design were correct. They weren’t … There were lots of challenges related to working with a 50 year-old building that had been added onto/renovated 2-3 times. As unforeseen condition after unforeseen condition popped up, the budget dwindled and keeping the original vision of the client alive proved more challenging than expected. But thanks to a solid partnership with the contractor, and a good understanding of the client, we were able to pivot where we needed to and still produced a project that was impactful to the lives of the residents.
Cindy Schaumberg, Interior Design Principal / Senior Communities Sector Leader
10 years of experience in senior housing
The best part about renovations is the chance to re-create spaces that truly improve the lives of our seniors. Whether it is an accessibility issue, safety, or just enhancing the space to allow for the seniors’ overall well-being and happiness, it is nice to know we are providing a better living environment for them.
Q: What unique perspective do you bring to your work in this sector?
A: When I was in high school, and then for three years after I graduated, I worked in an assisted living facility as a CNA. I experienced first-hand the roles and responsibilities of the staff and have a great understanding of what care is needed for seniors. I believe this has enabled me to be empathetic to all those who live and work in these facilities and bring my knowledge of how things operate into my designs.
Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing senior housing renovations?
A: Seniors have diverse needs and preferences, and accommodating them all can be challenging. As designers, we need to take into account these varying needs and create spaces that are inclusive, adaptable and supportive for all residents.
Darla Esnard, Interior Design Principal / Senior Communities Sector Leader
25 years of experience in senior housing
Unlike ground-up or new work, when we renovate and reposition for existing senior communities, we really get a chance to dive deep into the workings of a particular space or community. Learn about what makes a particular community and its residents unique. We hear and see firsthand from the residents living in the community as well as the staff and visitors. We get to see behind the curtain in some ways, how the spaces are really being utilized—what’s working, what isn’t working, how the residents use the spaces and if the spaces are meeting the needs of all who live and work there. This kind of personal connection is what makes senior renovations so gratifying for me.
Q: What’s a memorable career moment?
A: Early in my career as I was finishing up a furniture installation for one of my first Senior living projects, a resident came up to me in the living room and shared with me how much she liked the renovations and how proud she would be to invite her friends and family to visit. She then grabbed my hand and led me to a lounge chair and explained to me her concerns about how the chair sat and that she wouldn’t be able to use the chair. She wanted to show me how the dimensions of the chair made it difficult for her to use it independently. Her kindness and her willingness to show me how I could make it better has stuck with me all of these years and inspires me today—it inspires me to create designs that are not only beautiful but promote wellness and independence at each stage of life.
Getting a Parent’s Perspective on Student Housing
2023 has been a big year for Matt Janssen. With his youngest leaving for college, it was the first year both of his kids were out of the house. What’s more, they both moved into student housing projects that Ankrom Moisan designed.
Matt, a Design Principal at AM, recently sat down and talked to us about what it was like to view these projects from a fresh, and intimate, perspective—as a parent of a resident.
Q: Over the summer you moved your son into Union on Broadway. What was that experience like?
A: Walking into an Ankrom Moisan project I’ve worked on is always special, but this visit was especially meaningful. As we entered Union on Broadway, I remember we gave each other anxious looks. Here he was, a University of Oregon freshman who had just been given a job on the Duck football team and was now moving out of the house to live alone for the first time in his life. He was nervous. I was even more nervous.
Union on Broadway
Q: What were you thinking then?
A: I recall thinking about all the aspects of the design that I hoped he would get to enjoy. As we walked through the amenity space on the twelfth floor, I wondered if he had brought a swimsuit to use the hot tub after his long days at Autzen Stadium. As I watched him get settled in his new studio apartment, I noticed his anxiety quickly being replaced by excitement, and I knew this was the perfect place for him to begin his next chapter.
Matt and his son at Union on Broadway
Q: And just a few months later your eldest moved into The Standard at Seattle. That was a significant project for you, wasn’t it?
A: Yes. I started designing The Standard at Seattle, the largest project of my architectural career, in the fall of 2018. A new client, Landmark Properties, had asked AM to design a comprehensive student housing community in Seattle’s U-District, next to the University of Washington. It was a really exciting opportunity.
Q: What was it like to not only see it completed but to also get to move one of your children into the community?
A: Almost exactly five years after starting the project, I got to walk through the heart of the project—an urban mid-block pedestrian corridor that weaves between the twin 25-story towers—with my eldest. That was a special moment. I had seen that view of the project so many times before, but only through virtual reality glasses in our office.
The Standard at Seattle
This is their last year at the University of Washington and their first time living off campus. A myriad of people helped us get everything up to the apartment and I remember after they left we all just looked at each other. “This place is incredible!” That made me smile and feel good that this was going to be the perfect ending to a wonderful University of Washington experience.
Matt and his family at The Standard at Seattle
By Matt Janssen, Design Principal
Creating Active Environments within Senior Living Communities
Creating senior living communities with more “active adult” opportunities for residents to engage in is a smart and viable option for many communities. This design concept helps motivate seniors to become more independent and active, encourages socialization among residents, and offers conveniences to staff members at facilities with ongoing staff shortages.
Interested in learning about our design solutions for active communities? Read the full article, written by Jason Erdahl, Principal and Director of Senior Communities at Ankrom Moisan, on Seniors Housing Business. Or continue reading here for a brief summary.
Connection through nature and socialization
The idea of incorporating active environments into assisted living properties is heavily inspired by lifestyle, learning and wellness amenities. When designing these spaces, it is important to offer a variety of choices and to incorporate areas that encourage socialization, connection and spaces that improve one’s well-being. Some of these areas include cafes, theaters and arts and crafts rooms, as well as health and wellness centers with exercise rooms, aerobics spaces and swimming pools. When creating these active environments for seniors, it is also important to incorporate elements of nature. For example, biophilic elements help support physical and mental wellness with access to the outdoors, natural light, fresh air and materials that are found locally with healthy qualities.
Strategically locate amenities
The location of these amenities also helps play a role in promoting an active lifestyle for seniors. A popular design choice many architects and designers integrate within senior living are hubs. These hubs create a centralized grouping of amenities to foster socialization and activity while creating convenience and easy access for residents. The hubs typically contain all the amenities within one area including food services, entertainment, and health and wellness programs.
Be adaptable and versatile
In low-acuity care settings, architects and designers must take into account that these spaces are designed for those who are aging. Therefore, creating spaces that are flexible, adaptable and allow for diversity in capability is paramount.
Specifically, when designing activity and amenity spaces, flexibility is key as many buildings do not have the space to accommodate all of the activities that might be beneficial for the residents. Providing common spaces for amenities that can change and adapt throughout the day allows staff and residents to have more fulfilling experiences. For example, a common room can host yoga classes in the morning and then bingo that afternoon.
Build tech-savvy spaces
Technology plays a huge role in senior living design and in encouraging residents to be more active. We are designing buildings with technology infrastructures, with both wired and wireless technologies, to accommodate the increase in device usage. Smart-home technologies and building automation for fixtures, appliances and systems allow residents to not only be more connected and engage in more fitness activities but feel safer with tech devices that monitor their health.
By Jason Erdahl, Principal and Director of Senior Communities
Get to Know the AM Student Housing Team
Two of our Student Housing sector leaders, Alissa Brandt and Matt Janssen, give us insight into the unique joys and challenges of designing student housing. They touch on Gen Z expectations, trend forecasting, sources of inspiration and what’s next for student housing.
Alissa Brandt, Interior Designer, VP of Interiors
Q: What do you like best about designing student housing?
A: This particular market is always evolving based on what is happening in the world and how these influences affect them personally. The research is fascinating; students’ wants and needs are highly reflective of the current economic trends, environmental challenges, and social justice structure of their communities. They are pushing back on the status quo and are committed to making a difference for themselves and for others. They demand sustainability, are financially savvy and want real authentic design, not products that mimic the real thing and they are so open–minded and fluid.
Q: What’s something that has you excited about future work in this sector? What trends are you seeing?
A: Design remains on the cusp of what is next. Gen Z doesn’t want what everyone else has, they want what comes next. They are clever and creative and so multi-experiential.Designing for Gen Z requires you to consider all of the possible ways different people may do the same thing and tailor a design to allow each person to embrace spaces as their own. It is about creating opportunities for connection, engaged active behavior, solo thoughtful work, and everything in between for EACH person. One size does not fit all, and their lifestyles require flexibility be built into their environment. Wellness is a major consideration in designing for Gen Z. This generation prioritizes the need to take care of themselves, they crave access to nature, and they think about their health holistically not just physical wellness, but emotional, spiritual, and psychological well-being are all equally important.
Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing student housing?
A: The obvious answer is timing. Everything revolves around the opening date. You simply don’t have any flexibly in delivering this product as students have signed contracts and school is starting, but that is more logistics and process.
The more interesting challenges are understanding what students wants are specific to the University location. What drew them to this particular college/university? You have to dig in, research, and understand the regional and local context in order to find ways to celebrate those, while also being mindful to not over commit to this as a concept as not everyone finds the same idea appealing.
The other fun challenge is staying relevant and up to date on trends, what does the demographic want and expect right now? And even more important, anticipating how these desires will morph over the next 2-3 years while the project is in design and construction. There is a delicate balance between being trendy and being relevant. That is the job of the designer to decipher and implement and anticipate the future needs and wants of the residents.
Union on Broadway
Q: What inspires you?
A: Creating spaces where students begin the next phase of their life. This is the first time many are away from home, family and friends and there is uncertainty but there is also tremendous excitement around what the future might bring and what opportunities they will find. Many will have experiences that they look back on for many years. This time in their lives shapes who they become. They develop lifelong friendships and find their own voice. It is really important to me that the design we provide elevates the experience these students have. Connection to the community, the university and to each other are so important to having a successful experience and we, as designers, have the opportunity to design these opportunities into these buildings. We research trends, demographics and psychographics so that we can provide spaces that are experiential, flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing needs of the residents. We get to consider all the types of people and personalities that will use the space and work to create design solutions that appeal to everyone. We always aim to create spaces that evoke emotion and feeling while also making them feel safe and secure.
Matt Janssen, Architect, Design Principal
Q: What do you like best about designing student housing?
A: Designing a building which becomes “home” for someone leaving their family for the first time, or living in their own apartment for the first time off campus, while they pursue an education which will change their life forever, is invigorating. It is exciting to imagine the effect a place or space you design will have on student success and on an overall campus community.
Q: What’s something that has you excited about future work in this sector? What trends are you seeing?
A: There are two areas which I am very excited about right now: the effect design can have on student wellness, both mental and physical, and the ability for design, and the design process, to open up and create an environment of community inclusion and a sense of belonging wherein all are heard, all are seen, and all are appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the table. The developments in green technologies, including mass timber systems and the inclusion of biophilia in student housing, is exciting especially when thinking about student wellness.
Q: What’s a memorable moment from your career?
A: When the Cadence first opened, seeing the two buildings greet us coming into downtown Tucson surrounded by the new streetcar, bikes, and pedestrian activity, it was exciting to see the realization of everyone’s hard work to bring this vibrant, mixed-use, urban experience to this gateway location. That being said, the opportunity for my daughter to move into The Standard at Seattle this upcoming fall is going to be quite memorable. Having her live in a building I designed is both exciting and nerve-wracking.
The Standard at Seattle
Q: What’s uniquely challenging about designing student housing?
A: Universities run on an annual schedule which does not change. As a result, projects must open on time and ready to go, typically by fall term. This creates an environment wherein decisions must be made quickly and efficiently. Being able to pivot, strategize, and problem solve when change happens is invigorating. Communicating with multiple stakeholders to understand everyone’s point of view, what their needs are, and how we can symbiotically mesh the various uses (residential, learning, offices, amenities, …) into a singular, holistic design which helps support student success is as rewarding as architecture gets for me.
Q: What interesting changes have you seen in this sector over the years?
A: It is exciting to see conversations of community and pedestrian activity be more of a topic of discussion rather than automobile parking. More and more, the design of alternative means of transportation in and around campuses, and how student housing ties into and supports those systems, will be critical now and in the coming years.
Vi Hilbert Hall at Seattle University
Want to get to know more of the Student Housing Team? Learn about Jason Jones and Cindy Schaumberg here.
Ankrom Moisan’s Healthcare SPAKL Team – Big Focus on Small Projects
The SPAKL team is Ankrom Moisan’s thorough and decisive resource for solving complex and challenging Healthcare project designs. Looking beyond initial or obvious facility concerns and truly partnering with clients for a better understanding of the maintenance and equipment upgrade projects are salient to their success.
Kimberleigh Grimm, Associate Principal, discusses the scope of projects that the SPAKL team undertakes and the challenges that these types of Healthcare projects often present. Kimberleigh’s excitement about and enjoyment of this topic is palpable. She is representative of the strengths and enthusiasm that the SPAKL team brings to the table.
Ankrom Moisan’s Healthcare SPAKL team designing together
Q: What is SPAKL?
A: SPAKL is a subset of the Ankrom Moisan Healthcare team that focuses on specialized, problem-focused healthcare projects. It stands for Special Project Alterations Knowledge League, and it is a team that is experienced in (and committed to) maintenance projects in healthcare systems. We don’t wear capes or fly faster than a speeding bullet – our super-power is the knowledge, enthusiasm, and fun that we bring to this type of project work.
Q: How long has SPAKL been an AM Healthcare team feature?
A: Maintenance projects have always been the core of our healthcare team’s work. SPAKL emerged from internal conversations about creating a focused team with a depth of knowledge in acute healthcare renovation work that is dedicated to increased efficiency, both for us, and our clients. Each project builds on knowledge gained in previous work to enable the next to be even more successful.
Q: How and why does AM Healthcare SPAKL approach differ from other firms’ approach to similar projects?
A: Most firms aren’t truly interested in maintenance or equipment replacement projects. They accept this work to leverage the client relationship for bigger, “better” projects. Because these projects aren’t really valued by most firms, they typically assign less-experienced staff that don’t understand the intricacies of the projects.
This is not AM’s approach. We like what we call the “dirty jobs”. We like them because we understand that they are just as important to a healthcare facility as a new build or a full clinic remodel. We developed the SPAKL team around these types of maintenance projects, and our team is highly experienced in healthcare renovations. We understand the sophistication of these projects in terms of improved patient and staff experiences, reducing construction disruptions and maintaining continuous operations, and understanding existing conditions. We also understand that these projects usually have tight fees (and tighter schedules) and leverage our knowledge and experience with each facility and jurisdiction to maximize efficiency.
Another way we differ from other firms is that we genuinely enjoy this type of work – we love the complexity and the fact that each project is a unique experience.
Q: What makes a SPAKL project unique to other Healthcare projects?
A: We like to say that SPAKL projects are problem-focused, not project-focused. There is a wide variety of projects ranging from equipment replacement projects to maintenance projects to make-ready projects, but the one thing they have in common is that they are intended to address a specific facility concern.
Unlike a typical project that is tasked with helping a facility re-imagine an aspect of their operations, we are problem solvers. Aging equipment? DOH citations? Safety or infection prevention concerns? We evaluate the existing conditions and work with the facility to come up with efficient solutions.
Washer/disinfector installation; Sterilizer replacement
Q: What is the biggest challenge when organizing around the client’s operations?
A: Every project is unique and has its own challenges. Sometimes the challenge revolves around how to minimize disruption during construction. This can range from minimizing infrastructure shutdowns to reducing construction impacts in terms of activity and noise. For example, one project might be concerned about noise impacts to adjacent NICU patient care, while another project’s main issue is minimizing the number of electrical shutdowns required over the project. The key to navigating this is to listen and ask essential questions to fully understand the facility concerns.
Q: What does it mean to “treat them with care”? How do you do that?
A: At AM, SPAKL projects are as significant to us as bigger, fancier projects. SPAKL projects may never generate pretty pictures or win design awards, but they are critical to the functioning of a facility. Replacing outdated equipment increases throughput, improves patient outcomes, and improves both the patient and staff experience. That is critical.
We treat each project with the same care that we bring to the larger projects that we work on. We believe user engagement is crucial, and we work from the beginning to bring the users into the design process so that we can understand both immediate and long-term objectives and concerns. Our style differs from other firms in that we don’t do presentations before the user groups, we host discussions – and we consider the Facility to be the experts in that discussion. It is an open dialog intended to lead us to the best solution. The Facility knows their patient populations, they know their current concerns and what things are working and what is not working. They know what they like and what they do not like. We listen and have an open dialogue, and that is how we get to the best solution for each project. What is right for one facility is not necessarily right for any other facility.
Meeting discussion documentation
Q: What are the methodologies that you’ve found most useful?
A: SPAKL projects often have tight budgets, and we use a lot of tools out of the LEAN toolkit. We feel that actively involving users in the design process leads to better engagement and better outcomes. For example, rather than providing design options and asking users to pick one, we like to have tabletop exercises where the user group can propose design options of their own and then discuss them. Which means, rather than us telling the users what we think the design solution is, the users are engaged in the design process to test their own ideas. In the end, the user group becomes the best advocate for the final design because they feel ownership of the project and feel heard throughout the process.
We also feel that an early and deep dive into existing conditions is key to a successful project. Existing drawing documentation is great, but it is only part of the story. We want to really understand the totality of existing conditions so that we can anticipate potential problems and address them early in design. You will never hear the words, “we can figure that out in CA” from a member of the SPAKL team. Never.
Full scale cardboard mockup; Tabletop exercise
Q: What are some memorable experiences you’ve had during a SPAKL project?
A: Some of our most memorable projects are also the ones the facility might prefer that we not discuss. And client confidentiality is vital. However, the best thing about SPAKL projects is the variety of work. Every project is unique and has its own set of challenges. It’s one of the things we like best about the work…every week is a new adventure.
One week you may be working on an infant security project and a PET/CT replacement project, the next week you might be working on a central sterile renovation and a sink replacement project. Every project we work on builds a bigger picture of the facility and helps the next project be more efficient.
The collaboration that the SPAKL team has with clients is unique and illustrative of the solution-focused approach they are becoming known for. Listening, cultivating deep understanding, and involving the client with the hands-on problem-solving all inform this team’s success, not only on these specialized projects, but with the growing number of clients that return to work with AM for further Healthcare facility updates. Observably, Kimberleigh brings energy and inspiration to the SPAKL team, and has forged a path of thorough discernment of what makes a Healthcare facility project complex and important for the community it serves.
Kimberleigh Grimm, Associate Principal
How Architects are using Artificial Intelligence in the Design Process
Revolutions in digital tools and technology are rapidly changing the landscape of many different industries across the globe. One of the latest innovations in digital technology is the widespread use of Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Two Ankrom Moisan architects, Michael Great and Ramin Rezvani – Director of Design Strategy and Senior Project Designer, respectively – have recently begun to incorporate AI software into their design process, receiving encouraging results.
Before the advent of Artificial Intelligence software, precedent images sourced from Pinterest or similar could be used to establish the initial aesthetic direction of a project. Because not every feature of an image would be relevant for a certain project, these images were often cropped and/or collaged together, leading to unnecessary confusion if clients became attached to specific features in precedent images that were never intended to be a part of the final design. AI-generated images have the potential to circumvent that issue, providing inspiration imagery that is specific to a particular place, project, client and design.
Example of an AI-generated precedent image.
Recently, Michael and Ramin have been using AI to create precedent imagery for their projects. In their experience, renderings created by AI software such as Midjourney assist in streamlining the design process and ensuring that clients are on the same page as designers when it comes to project design and direction.
For many, Artificial Intelligence still represents an enigmatic, complicated technology of the future, reserved for the plots of science fiction movies. However, recent developments in technology have made AI and its uses more widespread and accessible than ever. To explain how AI can be utilized to generate unique outcomes and facilitate a cohesive design language for a project, Michael and Ramin sat down to answer some questions about how Midjourney is integrated into the projects they work on and to dispel common misconceptions about the technology.
Michael and Ramin together in the Portland office.
Q: When did you begin incorporating AI into your approach to project design? Why was this something you decided to do?
Our adoption of AI software has aligned with the technology’s continual improvement. Initially when we started experimenting with architectural imagery, it was giving us broad stroke building concept imagery. These were by no means a “design” but it got Ramin and I thinking, ‘Oh, this technology might be evolving to a place where we could utilize it more in the design process, let’s trial this a bit and see what we can get out of it.’
Part of my interest there is that historically architects have used precedent imagery to describe things that don’t exist yet, or to get clients aligned to what the design intent might be? Language doesn’t often get us to a full understanding. So, I think architects have always used imagery, whether that’s precedent imagery or rough sketches to just get alignment about the direction of a project aesthetically. Both Ramin and I have always thought it was strange that in this process you are often using existing buildings to convey new ideas. I think the advantage of using Midjourney and AI is that we can accomplish the same general task of conceptual alignment but show clients unique imagery that is specific to their project, place and aesthetic.
We just started playing around with Midjourney when it came out. It was really exciting and interesting, and we had no idea what it was, or what it could do, or how powerful it was the first couple of times we were testing it out. Then we tried to make it do something specific, and that’s where it started getting fascinating, because it’s potentially a huge shortcut for certain things- especially with generating concept imagery.
We kind of hit a wall with a project where we wanted to be able to quickly visually convey something that didn’t exist. We had some loose ideas influenced by some projects that only exist at a completely different scale than what we were looking at. We thought ‘let’s see if we can figure out how to combine all of these ideas and generate imagery to illustrate to the client where we are going with this.’ Through that process, getting imagery close to what we were trying to do was mind-blowing.
Final project design renders created by Michael and Ramin that were influenced by AI imagery.
Q: Ramin, you’ve said that AI is “like a paintbrush or any creative tool, you just need to figure out how to use it,” and Michael, that “it’s a language. You have to learn it, just like any software.” How did you both go about learning to use these tools, and how long did it take you to learn the language, so-to-speak?
I don’t know how far we actually are on that journey, and I think we have a long way to go. There are a ton of resources out there, though, in terms of helping you learn the language through prompt editing. But this is moving so fast that there is now software that will do your prompts for you. You can just add in a few descriptive words, and it’ll fill in the rest, writing it in the way that the AI software wants to see it. Every time you use it, the more you use it, you learn something about what the output is. The more trial and error you go through, the faster you get at getting to an image you can use.
You have to think differently about the words you are using to get the imagery desired. It’s a shift in how you think since you have to use fewer words to get your idea across. You must be specific and pointed while still giving the software enough information. From that standpoint, I feel like the faster you can get your mind into that mode of thinking, the better off you will be as AI continues to develop, because the premise of utilizing language to direct output will only accelerate from here.
What we all have to adapt to and learn is how to use language to describe what we want machines to do. But even that is probably a couple years from being obsolete. There seems to be an updated version of Midjourney every month that’s substantially better than the last. Even since we last talked, they’ve come out with reverse-prompt capability. So instead of putting a text prompt and getting an image, you can do the opposite, dropping in an image and getting a prompt. By doing so you can start to understand the language in reverse because you’re dropping in an image and the AI is telling you what it sees in text.
I’ve been using it a lot, trying to figure out how to create very specific imagery. Like Michael said, it’s a lot of trial and error. To be able to get usable images, it has definitely required a shift in the way that I think due to the way that the prompts work. I’ve been approaching it almost like a science experiment, changing the prompts slightly with each iteration to see what I get back visually with each update. But also, it’s not like you can master it because it’s changing so rapidly. The next versions will likely have a completely different interface, so the way that you write prompts will likely change too.
Q: Can you walk me through the typical steps of using Midjourney to create precedent imagery?
The process right now that we’ve been utilizing is that we’re trying to plug it in to an existing process. On a lot of our projects, we start by charette-ing and brainstorming, trying to develop a cohesive concept. AI software like Midjourney increases the speed at which we can reach solutions, because we’re not all going in different design directions.
What we’ve tried to do initially is take the guiding design principles for a project and feed those words into the AI to see what kind of visual representation it would create with our initial thoughts. So again, trying to accelerate the process a bit and get to visuals through words that we’ve already talked about or discussed to create alignment on design direction. As the technology evolves, there will be other ways for us to utilize it, maybe in final renderings, for instance. But right now, I think coming up with precedent imagery is the best use of it.
Visual breakdown of how guiding design principles and text prompts are used to generate new precedent imagery renderings with AI software.
Q: [You’ve] said that clients often don’t know what to make of design renderings when they learn that they were created by AI. What are some common misconceptions or misunderstandings about Artificial Intelligence that you’ve encountered since you began using it?
The most common misconception that Ramin and I have run into is that the AI-created images are just precedent imagery pulled from the internet. You have to explain that it’s not a search engine, it’s not finding an existing image on the web. Often, I have to describe what it does in shorthand for people to understand it.
One of the things I noticed right away was people asking ‘doesn’t this take the creative process out of architecture now that you have this image designed by AI?’ At least for the time being, I don’t feel that way. As a design team, you still have to generate the foundational ideas and coax the AI to output something that aligns with your goals and vision. It’s a quick way to get the team on the same page and discover interesting emergent qualities from concept intersections that you may not have discovered on your own. In our current workflow AI produced visuals are intended to draw from and quickly study a whole bunch of different ideas to curate the most interesting aspects of each, based on what we asked the software to do.
Q: Do you have any fears surrounding the use of AI or the rate at which it is evolving, a la Terminator’s Skynet?
Like any new technology, it absolutely has the ability to be used in various ways. I mean, there’s no way around that. I think there’s many applications of AI that could be negative, primarily in terms of its ability to manipulate people. But in terms of what we do, there’s not much risk if you understand it’s just one tool out of many that we can use. It’s not like Midjourney will actually produce architecture. It produces ideas that a designer still has to understand, edit, and synthesize into a project’s end design.
It’s hard to tell right now what is going to change and how much it will change. I’m definitely concerned about it, not just for the field of architecture, but for humans. In general, I feel like no technology has advanced this quickly before and it will continue to accelerate. There are just so many unknowns but I’m sure we will quickly see AI implementation in daily life. I think that we’ll know a lot more in the next five years or so.
AI process design results, highlighting the Midjourney-generated concept renderings that Michael and Ramin synthesized and incorporated into the initial massing render for a project.
Q: With the rapid speed at which AI changes and evolves, how do you envision the future of AI as it relates to architecture? What about the future of architecture as it relates to AI?
I think that AI continues a theme that has remained consistent throughout the last 100 years in terms of how architecture utilizes technology. Usually, it’s used to speed up the design process. One thing about architecture that’s so different from a lot of other professions is that it still relies on artistry, but there’s always a ‘hurry-up’ type of attitude, we are often pushed to develop designs and drawings faster and faster because of project economics. So, we’re always looking for tools to speed up the process. In addition, architecture is a broad profession. There are people doing wildly different things in the profession their whole career, and I think that could get streamlined.
Outside of Midjourney, there’s a whole slew of AI implementations using other design and construction software that’s meant to speed up how fast we can produce a construction set with fewer people. I think inevitably, that’s where architecture has always gone. 100 years ago, it took 40 people in a room, drawing a set for a high-rise tower by hand. I think in the future, a 40-story tower can probably be designed and drawn by two people. Eventually, the industry will get to a point where one or two people can accomplish that same task in half the time it takes now.
I would say that right now, as designers, we are not spending enough time understanding the place, the people using the building, and the environment surrounding a project. We’re rushing through a lot of those elements to get projects built, so I think where you end up by incorporating AI into that process is more thoughtful buildings, because we don’t have to spend as much time crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. We can actually think about the project and the building rather than drawing it, and to me, that’s pretty exciting. Architecture can’t do anything but get better through this process. I don’t think anything gets worse. It just gets better.
In my mind, there’s no doubt that any areas of inefficiency in the architectural process right now, some of which will be resolved using AI. It’s going to accelerate and amplify the amount that an individual can do by themselves, so I think it’ll take fewer people to do the same amount of work.
I think it will allow us to study way more aspects of a project quickly and, like Michael said, make projects significantly better by understanding more of the site’s parameters. It feels like an amplification to me now, but who knows what will happen in six months?
AI-rendered precedent imagery from other projects.
Compared to other Pacific Northwest architecture firms, Ankrom Moisan is a pacesetter in terms of integrating Artificial Intelligence and other digital tools. Few competitors use AI, if at all. International firms, though, tend to use AI software for design-based research. However you cut it, the digital tools of imagined sci-fi futures are closer than it seems, and may, in fact, already be here. It’s a massive paradigm shift that will take some time to get used to, but the good news is that when the AI overlords take over, we will already know how to deal with them.
By Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator
High-Rise Living for a Diverse and Evolving Neighborhood
The SoMa district, home to the Ankrom Moisan San Francisco office, is a neighborhood perhaps best defined by transformation. Once an industrial district full of warehouses, a large influx of Filipino immigrants in the early to mid-century brought vibrant Filipino character to the area. This cultural heritage is visible throughout the neighborhood—street names such as Bonifacio, Rizal and Mabini honor Filipino national heroes. Filipino street art adorns the streets, from colorful murals to utility boxes decorated with the letters of the Filipino alphabet.
During the late-90s dot com boom, the ubiquitous warehouses of SoMa became desirable office spaces and it wasn’t long before the neighborhood was also filled with tech companies. Now, the vibrant Filipino cultural district shares space with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Salesforce. At the same time, a vast arts district featuring an array of museums and theatres has begun seeping into the neighborhood from the adjacent Theatre District. The result is a highly diverse neighborhood dense with offices, homes, businesses, and community.
Within this eclectic slice of the city, on 5th and Mission—just a block from our office—one of San Francisco’s largest new developments has just opened. Designed to become a cultural destination, the 5M development intends to serve as a sort of living room for the neighborhood. Covering 4-acres, the complex includes an office tower, a residential building, a cultural center and three small public parks.
The 5M development, and each building within it, posed a formidable design challenge. Serving as architect for The George, 5M’s residential tower, our team was tasked with designing a high-rise that would blend into a hard-to-define, ever-fluctuating neighborhood. As residents of the neighborhood ourselves, our design was guided by our familiarity with and appreciation for the surrounding community.
The George’s design responds to the evolving, eclectic nature of the neighborhood by embracing imperfection and celebrating the cycles of time and growth. The tower’s shifting façade, inspired by the colors of aging copper, acknowledges the beauty in the marks left by time, weather, and use. At the street level, heavily textured metal accentuates strategic areas of the base, transitioning from a warm orange to a muted green—reminiscent of ocean water and rust. At the upper floors, variegated colored panels add interest to the simple massing and draw visitors’ eyes slowly upward along the height of the 20-story building.
The design evolution of the George, from sketch to rendering to final product
Our design evokes authenticity and a sense of place, using site-specific materials like brick and weathered metal panels that also raise the neighborhood’s design bar. “We are deeply honored to contribute to the vitality and culture of the neighborhood we call home” says Travis Throckmorton, AM Managing Principal and Principal-in-Charge of the project.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
The Principles of Cost Cutting
Q. What’s your top piece of advice for clients and the entire project team regarding cost efficient design?
A. The most important thing when you’re taking a hard look at cost-efficient design is building a strong, committed team. The owner can really help drive the ship by building a team that will support the goals that they’re advocating for. So, when they bring on a design team or a general contractor, it should be with a clear instruction that this project is prioritizing cost containment and you’ve been selected to help lead us in that direction.
Q. What impact does site selection have on project costs?
A. It can be huge. Some sites are quite simple. They’re flat, they’re unencumbered, they don’t have any nasty soil conditions, they don’t have any onerous zoning requirements. They don’t have a complicated design overlay. And then there are sites that are just the opposite. Maybe they have a lot of topography and require a subgrade system to get a buildable foundation for the building.
They might have really contaminated soil that requires a lot of upfront costs. If it’s in a historic district, there’s historic design overlays. Other design overlay districts require extra jurisdictional review. Anything that takes extra time, extra effort, extra coordination just creates extra work and stretches out the design schedule, which is going to cost the project more money at no significant benefit to the end-user or the developer.
Q. Is it possible to have elevated design while also reducing costs?
A. I know it sounds like it could be an oxymoron, but YES! We know we need to approach the project from a cost containment standpoint, and we want to have design at the forefront of every decision we make. It’s not cost containment first, design second; they should be parallel goals. We can still do excellent design and use those constraints around cost containment as a driving force for our creativity. How we can be creative within the constraints of cost containment – and letting that be our design challenge.
Q. What have you learned about designing efficient units in a way that prioritizes cost containment?
A. One of the biggest things is to design the units with as few variations as possible. We would minimize the number of unit types and then design each of those unit types as efficiently as possible. We also start by asking the question, How small can we make the unit and still make it livable and dignified and usable? The simple truth is square-footage costs money.
On Wy’East Plaza, we built a full-size one-bedroom mockup and loaded it with furniture and people and cabinets and asked, Is this too small? Okay, let’s move the wall out by 12” or 24”. How about now?
Once we felt like we’d found the lowest comfortable size by reducing the square footage we worked to put the whole building on a 24-inch module. This works really well with the scale of building materials. Then we worked to minimize inside and outside corners within the unit, each little moved saved. We tried to minimize the number of doors to reduce purchase and install time. so that there’s a door into the bedroom, a door to the bathroom and that’s it.
Q. How do materials and components factor in to cost cutting?
A. It’s important to work around standard material sizing from the industry so there’s not a lot of material waste and not a lot of cutting and fitting for the folks forming the concrete, the framing contractor, the drywall contractor, etc.
If everything’s designed around those material modules there’s less waste so they’re not having to buy as much overage. Then, you can take it more to the procurement level like, Are we buying materials that are locally sourced? Is the brick coming from Oregon versus Ohio? We look for those kinds of efficiencies wherever we can get them.
Q. Can you talk about leveraging the expertise of subcontractors. And how can their knowledge and experience help ensure design efficiency?
A. This is hugely impactful. How to do that is a trick that falls on a quality established general contractor, who has a lot of existing relationships with quality subcontractors. Those relationships can be leveraged to get subs to participate in the early design work not yet knowing whether they’ve won the bid.
Once you get the subcontractors engaged in the design process, then you start asking them, What would a building look like that has the most efficient plumbing system? What would a building look like that has the most efficient HVAC distribution system? If you could put your electrical room anywhere in the building to be the most efficient to install, and purchase equipment for, where would that be? If we do the roof this way is it more complicated than if we do it this way? What if you were king or queen for the day? And then you just listen. Really, nobody knows more about how buildings go together than the people who are on the job site doing the work, so it’s great if you can harness all that practical experience.
Q. What have you learned about setting a project up for successful approval during the design review process?
A. Well, one way to look at it is that we have to be humble designers. What I mean by that is if we design something and hope to get approval for it because it doesn’t exactly match the zoning or the design overlay requirements, and we’re going to have to ask for special compensation for a design move that we think is important but doesn’t match what’s allowed, then we’ve put another encumbrance on the project that’s going to cost time and money to resolve. So, we try to leverage our creative design abilities to do the best building we can within the existing set of approved design criteria. If we’re in a zone that has a particular set of design overlays, then we need to just work within those constraints and not try to use this project to flex our most impressive design edginess.
Click to read and download the Seven Principles of Cost Efficient Design, assembled in partnership with Walsh Construction and Reach Community Development.
Michael Bonn, Principal
Bringing Bigger Buildings to Smaller Jurisdictions
Over the last several years, more demand in smaller markets has resulted in increased proposals for larger scale developments. These jurisdictions have not previously had to review projects that utilize code criteria that are unique to larger building types.
From the construction permitting point of view, bigger buildings have different codes, and those codes have different interpretations from city to city, and sometimes reviewer to reviewer.
Jurisdictions are experts at the familiar but can often be resistant to the new. Given the role that building officials play in safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of their community, a conservative approach to new code criteria is a reasonably common practice.
Our experience in jurisdictions with more complex code usage can help clients understand the way others have successfully worked with designers to implement unfamiliar strategies in code compliance.
Our expertise in larger buildings in bigger markets can be valuable with code analysis and interpretation in smaller markets, both from the designer and reviewers’ points of view.
We have consistently seen that building official/fire marshal engagement prior to submittal is key. Meeting early and often minimizes unforeseen issues arising during plan check review. Our history of discussions/solutions from multiple jurisdictions allows for specific issues to be flagged and addressed with real-world applications that have been proven to be successful.
We have found that when discussing podium construction there are several key elements to consider within the wood-framed components that differ from applications that do not include a concrete podium. Here are a few key items to consider:
- Type III: A wood construction with two-hour rated exterior walls, from the inside and out.
When building height exceeds 70 ft., this construction type allows for building heights up to 85 ft., and requires non-combustible exterior wall construction, commonly achieved through the use of fire-retardant treated lumber. Cladding and its support elements must also be non-combustible above 40 ft. Critical considerations include close study of the highest occupiable floor level based on fire access set-up point. If the lowest point of fire access results in a dimension to the highest occupiable floor level that exceeds 75 ft., then high-rise criteria become applicable. Cost typically limits high-rise construction to projects which far exceed 75 ft. height. Designers must consider this cost impact, especially when contemplating occupied roof decks, which some jurisdictions will allow to exceed the 75 ft. height, while others will not.
Project Example – Hudson on Farmer (Farmer Arts), Tempe, AZ (Framing construction, completed building)
- Type V: A wood construction with one-hour rated exterior walls from the outside.
When construction does not exceed 70 ft. this construction type allows for reduced costs and more easily managed fire resistivity criteria. Building area is limited, and in many cases fire walls within the building are required to compartmentalize the structure. For multifamily buildings, corridors penetrate these walls requiring rated opening protection. Although these walls add cost, they provide an opportunity to reduce the number of stairwells when used as horizontal exits between building compartments. Designers must consider how, and when, to use the horizontal exit tool, ensuring that no more than half of the required exits from a floor level are provided by horizontal exits. Additionally, these opening assemblies can be provided via several options, including manufactured assemblies, and custom specified components. Designers must consider the comparative costs of the different approaches and the capacity of the project’s general contractor to manage the installation of the selected approach.
Project Example – Modera Northgate, Seattle, WA. (Final rendering, floor plan compartment diagram)
- Type I: Podium/basement non-combustible construction of one, two, or three levels can be provided as a podium for multiple stories of wood construction above.
The ability to allow for the wood frame construction type of the building above to penetrate the podium reduces costs when stairs are able to be built of wood. Exterior wall framing must be built of non-combustible framing, however, when using metal studs, exterior insulation is often required to meet energy code insulation values. Using fire-retardant treated lumber can be an effective tool in allowing for exterior sheathing and cladding planes to align across the podium level.
Project Example – Canopy (Shea Aurora) Phase II, Shoreline, WA (podium construction photo, final rendering)
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, being able to work from multiple points of view allows for specific concerns to be addressed, while looking to past successes for location-specific solutions.
by Don Sowieja, Principal AIA, NCARB
An Integrated Approach to Revolutionary Healthcare Design
Population health relies on more than simply treating sickness. Leading a healthcare shift to a value-based model whose viability depends on people maintaining their health, from a fee-for-service financial model, our client’s strategy embodies this pivot with a new healthcare center that integrates traditional clinical services with wellness facilities. The Providence Reed’s Crossing Wellness Center is a dynamic new healthcare facility that communicates warmth, healing, approachability — holistic architecture that sees people as more than patients. Community-oriented general fitness and wellness spaces act as bridges to more specialized functions like integrative health, dermatology, retail, physical therapy, imaging, women’s care, pediatrics, and more. Our design connects services with open, blended thoughtful architecture and interior design in an active urban environment.
Our hope: To help people get and stay healthy.
This radical new facility feels like it’s part of Main Street while feeling unlike anything else out there. To successfully integrate wellness with clinical services, we start by focusing on how to maximize operational benefits. Our design must communicate warmth and professionalism, relaxation with dynamic activity, aspiration, and inclusion. It’s not enough to simply combine traditional healthcare design with wellness. Our design concept must holistically communicate both. Because our client’s vision treats patients as complete people whose individual health is affected by diet, behavior, mental and emotional states, as well as physical abilities, our core interior design concept likewise promotes overall healthy living and wellbeing. Biophilic elements like natural light and exposed wood elements soothe visitors and decreases stress while they’re working out, learning about nutrition, or waiting to see their physician. Beautiful, integrated color palettes that fit each program will guide and orient people within the facility. Indoor/outdoor spaces further connect our design to its community and bioregion.
Our hope: A design that feels kinetic yet relaxing, empowering and healing, and completely revolutionary.
Mass Timber: Harder Mechanical
A fifth-generation Portland family business, Harder Mechanical needed a new, modern headquarters to last them for another 80 years. Because reinvention tends to be part of their business—they gain expertise in the newest processes, be it mill work or high-tech manufacturing, and periodically transform themselves along the way—they were looking explicitly for an innovative showcase office.
Harder Mechanical building needed to stay rooted in the past while being built for the future. Because the owner is a mechanical and plumbing subcontractor and will self-perform their own scope, the Harder team became an integral part of the design process.
After learning who they are, how they view their work, and what they needed in a collaborative working session, our design encompasses a beautiful, durable brick building using renewable cross-laminated timber (CLT).
Their desire for an innovative approach—to not only the design but also the design process—led to an adapted integrated project delivery method. This allowed for close collaboration with Harder, the General Contractor, Swinerton, and their trade partners to achieve efficiencies and innovative construction methods that meet both design and construction goals.
The wish to showcase Harder’s own work and innovation led to exposed ceilings and exposed structure and mechanical systems. It is here where the Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) structural system became a central design element. Utilizing Swinerton’s expertise in this area, the CLT simultaneously provides environmental benefits both to the occupants and in broader terms, along with time and cost saving installation.
Externally, the company’s rich history combined with the historic neighborhood led to the selection of both a durable and beautiful dark brick facade reminiscent of the surrounding context. This traditional material paired with a contemporary aesthetic allows the building to become part of MLK’s future whilst respecting its past. The building will last for decades, aligning with and improving the Elliott neighborhood in a way that’s both timeless and exceedingly modern.
Wynne Watts Commons
It is undeniable that housing insecurity affects millions across the United States. Rents are up and homelessness is on the rise. There are many factors that lead to these crises, including high housing costs relative to income, poor housing quality, unstable neighborhoods, or even health concerns and peripheral medical challenges and costs. Add to that the encompassing environmental impacts of climate change and a driving need to design and build more sustainably; we are faced with the need to take a more holistic approach to housing and accessibility to address our growing concern for the wellbeing of our communities.
We partnered with Albertina Kerr, an organization dedicated to supporting people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), mental health challenges, and other social barriers, to design the largest affordable and accessible housing project in the PNW. This joint project became one of the largest Zero Energy affordable housing projects in the U.S.
This four-story, 150-unit complex features 30 accessible units designed to provide adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, earning 30% or less than the average median income, a place to live independently. Three units are available to families needing temporary housing and the remaining units are reserved for low wage direct service providers. This project showcases innovative technologies and design features readily available today to achieve better health outcomes for residents, minimal overall carbon emissions, and significant savings on energy bills. Energy-efficient features include a 660 KWh PV Array that will produce 727 MW-hours of electricity annually, enough renewable energy to fully operate the building with no utility cost to residents.
Albertina Kerr’s in-house staff were consulted to help inform the direction of features that are most useful to the residents. Smart-home integrations enhance safety and useability, and pull-out cook tops and mechanized upper cabinets help residents manage daily tasks. Thoughtfully integrated accessibility features include room darkening shades, RGB controllable lighting for chromatherapy mood management, and acoustically enhanced wall, floor, and ceiling construction that gives residents control of their space to prevent overstimulation.
Wynne Watts Commons is a huge step forward for sustainable and inclusive quality housing for some of the most vulnerable in our community.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Employee Spotlight: Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin
Empathetic, balanced, and calm—three words you’ll hear from Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin’s team if you ask them to describe her leadership style.
This month we’re excited to be spotlighting Jen, an architect and Managing Design Principal in our Seattle office. In her eleven years with AM, Jen has come to stand out as a female role model in architecture due to her unwavering advocacy for her teams, and for women in particular.
Jen approaches her leadership position with the intention to empower others. She creates an environment conducive to growth by “letting others get creative and do their best work,” as one of her colleagues has noted, “while at the same time staying engaged and providing feedback that guides the project in the right direction and helps you grow as a designer.”
We asked Jen to share her advice for emerging professionals in the industry. Here’s what she told us:
1. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and ask for opportunities.
2. Find your mentor—someone who will offer guidance and stand up for you when you need it. Check in with them regularly.
3. Don’t change yourself to fit into a higher-level role. There is room for you to become a leader while doing what you love and are good at. A great leadership role will be flexible enough to match your skills and passions.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Employee Spotlight: Ryan Miyahira
Ankrom Moisan Managing Principal Ryan Miyahira recently hosted AM’s second annual Pickathon, a video showcase of the firm’s many talented musicians.
We chatted with Ryan, who is a talented musician himself, to hear more about the inspiration behind AM Pickathon, an event he not only hosts but also created and produces.
Q. What’s your musical background and how did Pickathon come about?
A. I’ve been playing music since I was a kid. I had a band in high school and another in college, playing mostly 80s indie music. After college, my wife, Lara, and I started a band called the Hip Replacements. We cover old r&b and soul music. We’ve performed at several Ankrom Moisan Christmas parties and still play the occasional bar gig.
One of my favorite things to do is to go see live music. During the pandemic, we watched a lot of streaming concerts and I thought it would be fun to do an Ankrom version. I’ve had the chance to play music with other AM employees so I knew that we had a lot of musical talent in the firm. I wanted to show off those hidden talents in a fun way.
Q. How long have you been with AM and what has motivated you to stay?
A. I’ve been with AM for 22 years. Back in 2000 when I was looking for a job, the most important thing to me was to find the coolest group of people. I was looking for creative, hardworking, and fun people that wanted to do their best, but were also easygoing enough to have a good time while doing it. That’s how I landed at AM. I’ve noticed that it seems to perpetuate itself—a group of good people is like a magnet that attracts more good people. That’s what has motivated me to stay for so long.
I also appreciate that it’s been a very supportive and fun environment where you can make your own way. There’s so much room for passion and exploration at AM. If you have an idea, like hosting a Pickathon, and the drive to do it then the firm will support it.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Our incredible in-house visualization team is testing out some VR upgrades! Virtual reality has proven to be a valuable design tool for our teams so we’re expanding our capabilities with new equipment. Soon, we’ll have upgraded VR stations in each of our three offices.
So, how do we use VR?
VR allows our designers to get a true sense for the scale and feel of a space as they are designing it—adding efficiency and improving end results. For instance, virtually walking through a unit during the programming stage helps inform early layout and square footage decisions so that costly last-minute changes can be avoided and the resulting unit design will better meet pricing expectations.
It also helps our interior designers to visualize details previously left to the imagination such as how flooring patterns would look repeated on large scales or how the placement of a lighting fixture might affect the overall feel of a space. Getting these small details right leads to a more cohesive and intentional end-product.
By providing our clients the opportunity to experience different design variations within their projects, we can aid their decision-making processes. While designing Olympic Tower, a luxury senior-living high-rise in Seattle, we gave our client, Transforming Age, the opportunity to tour the building two years before the project even broke ground. After using VR to experience the tower’s premier amenity, a performance hall, the client realized the scale was not what they had imagined. As a result, we increased the ceiling height, changed the dimensions of the stage and adjusted the lighting. VR helped convey the nuances of the design so the client could make informed decisions on where to allocate resources, and they didn’t have to experience any surprises during construction.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Mass Timber: Skylight
Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District is poised to transform its character and vibrancy. Designed to capture and elevate the essence of this historic industrial area, the 115,000 sq. ft. Skylight is our refined rendition of the modern office for creative technology and design professions. The structure is a mix of concrete, hybrid wood trusses, and steel, but the Nail-Laminated Timber (NLT) floor panels are the material binding the whole building together – offering both style and function.
We designed Skylight as two offices bridged by core and amenity spaces, like the wings and body of a butterfly. Our team used structural materials that unite the separate spaces with a raw, edgy, but down-to-earth aesthetic that appeals to creative office users. Exposed mass timber and hybrid wood trusses support a bright, open, and warm office environment. These natural elements contrast with cool concrete, steel framing, and visible architectural joints, adding visual activity and energy to the interior. An array of skylights at the heart of the building brings natural light to otherwise unaccessible spaces.
Use of NLT at Skylight also serves functional goals of our creative office design. The texture of this material has acoustic benefits for the space and exposing the natural finishes removed the added cost of applied interior finishes. We also coordinated with the MEP engineers and subcontractors to hide unattractive parts of typical office systems neatly beneath a raised floor, maximizing exposure to the beautiful natural wood and open space. Supporting mass timber with innovative, long-spanning hybrid trusses also allowed us to create a more flexible and unobstructed layout for existing and future tenants of the office building. Skylight used this method to reduce layout obstructions while maximizing versatility through 35’-40′ spans and only a single row of columns breaking up a 70’-80′ floor plates. To achieve this literal stretch from traditional 20’-25′ mass timber grids, our team designed an innovative, double glulam truss.
This project fired us up about new mass timber applications. While NLT is not as cutting edge as Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) panels – a mass timber technology exciting the industry today – Skylight helped us explore and apply the full potential of NLT to establish a new standard for this evolving neighborhood. Its success relied on strong collaboration between the design, development, construction, and engineering team members, who include Turner Construction, DCI Engineers, Glumac, Shapiro Didway, Mackenzie, and Potestio Studio.
Employee Spotlight: Lori Kellow
Lori Kellow, Ankrom Moisan’s longest standing employee, has been with the firm since 1985. After a nearly 37-year tenure, Lori has a uniquely broad perspective on the architecture industry and Ankrom Moisan’s place within it. We recently sat down with Lori to hear her insights. Lori touches on what the industry was like for women in the ’80s and how technology has changed the design process.
Q. What is the biggest industry change you’ve seen since you started working at AM?
A. Technology, absolutely. In just the past few decades the standard design process has shifted from primarily utilizing manual tools, such as hand-drafting equipment, to being almost entirely computer-based. To research and draw using technology is so powerful. I remember when we had to visit the library and flip through physical binders, the Sweet catalogues, to find products to specify. Now all this information is right at our fingertips and efficiency has just soared because of it.
Q. What has motivated you to work at AM for 37 years?
A. In the mid-80s it was still very difficult for women, especially in architecture, to get a seat at the table. At Ankrom Moisan it was different, leadership showed me from day one that my opinions and ideas were valued. I’ve always been treated with respect and paid commensurate to my skills.
It was within 3 years at the firm, in 1988, that I was promoted to Principal, becoming the first woman in a leadership role. In the many years since, I have not lost that feeling of being valued and the sense of opportunity. I believe that if you have passion and drive, there are not many roadblocks to growth and success at Ankrom Moisan.
Q. What is your advice for professionals beginning their careers in the architecture and design industry?
A. Explore. I am a firm believer that you must try as much as you possibly can in order to find your passion. I spent years working on diverse project types and taking on varying roles. Eventually I discovered my passion for social service healthcare projects. I find a great deal of fulfillment in creating places that help people heal. Through exploration, I’ve also realized I am especially adept at big-picture thinking and I prefer to do schematic design work. I’m fortunate enough to work with a firm that has allowed me the freedom to explore and provided the opportunity to tailor my role to match my strengths and passions.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
In pursuit of the best solutions, we create opportunities for collaboration.
After all this time meeting and sharing ideas through screens, we are thrilled to be able to collaborate in-person again.
Designers from our Portland office got together recently for a charrette at the pin-up wall—sharing design concept ideas for our on boards project, Fairfield Burnside. Through discussion of neighborhood context and influences, the team began generating a diverse scheme of building concepts for this upcoming 8-story mixed-use development.
by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
Mass Timber: The Standard at Seattle
With study spaces for every occasion, social areas, luxurious amenities, and ground floor retail just blocks from campus, The Standard at Seattle’s two high-rise and one mid-rise buildings will welcome students and locals. We took guidance from our client, Landmark Properties, one of the nation’s largest student housing developers, and inspiration from the neighborhood’s eclectic character to design student housing that fosters a community away from home.
In the mid-rise, Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) construction will allow us to achieve higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible, with greater efficiency, durability, and beauty – three key reasons why we champion mass timber. Using mass timber from the Pacific Northwest also reduces the building’s carbon footprint. Wood on the exterior around the entry draws on the beautiful CLT inside and serves as a beacon for people arriving from the nearby train station. Since exposed mass timber is uncommon in Seattle student housing, we were excited to have the perfect opportunity to use this functional and stylish material at The Standard.
Standing at 26 stories, the two high-rise buildings will be amongst the tallest in the University District upon completion in 2023. Our design team used colors and materials to create a conversation between The Standard’s trio of buildings and its eclectic neighborhood. They conceptualized the high-rises as one form, pulled apart to reveal dark blue interior panels that shift in color as the sun hits the surfaces at different angles. The throughway with ground floor retail and afternoon sunlight will be a relaxing destination for the community. With gold details, the throughway is like a yellow brick road to the mid-rise building.
Amenities housed in the high-rise, but accessible to all residents, include a swimming pool, sauna/steam room, and rock climbing wall. All of these options will be easily accessible via a skybridge between the high-rises. The offerings caters towards providing residents as much choice as possible without having to travel far, a feature that our student housing experts know today’s young people desire. The interior design mixes natural elements with refined playfulness and warmth to keep the design appropriate for the city’s urban, tech-forward, and multi-cultural university students.
Mass Timber: 38 Davis
At 38 Davis, work and home is integrated through mass timber. Located in the heart of Portland’s Old Town Chinatown District, this building was the first ground-up construction to occur in the district in over a decade. One of the world’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 certified developments, the building was designed with software guided fans and operable windows rather then relying solely on an HVAC supported air conditioning and heat recovery system. A testament to our commitment to sustainability, the 124,000 sq. ft. headquarters also features a greywater reclamation system and green roof that treats water and removes contaminants on site.
The six-story, mixed-use timber-framed building, which is home to our Portland headquarters, combines office, residential, and retail spaces. Expressing raw craft with care, the mass timber used in 38 Davis is more than warm and honest-it’s structurally sound and sustainable, lowering the building’s overall carbon footprint.
Utilizing a historic method of a traditional 3×4 tongue-in-groove floor panel system, the building features locally sourced Douglas fir timber beams and exposed columns, which can be seen from the inside as the beams come together in an energetic display of raw materials and craftsmanship that mirrors the work we do. This post-and-beam system allowed our team to create larger interior spaces, high ceilings, and large window openings, achieving our vision of a background “warehouse” space overlaid with a tech-forward workplace that is all parts beautiful and utilitarian, yet historic and comfortable.
As you enter the building, you flow through the ground floor communal thru lobby connecting entries along SW Davis and the semi-private mid-block courtyard with a custom backlit metal art was designed to represent the flow of the Willamette River as it moves through downtown Portland. In the lobby, reclaimed wood wraps the threshold to shared elevators guiding visitors from retail on the ground floor to office space on the second through fourth floors, and workforce housing on floors five and six.
We believe that diversity and sustainability are of paramount importance to the vitality of our lives, neighborhoods, and cities. Designing from an owner’s position, we seized the opportunity to create a vibrant, mixed-use development where we can live, work, and learn alongside local community members. The communal lobby, elevator, rooftop, bike storage, locker room and gym area create dynamic interactions between our staff, building residents, and University of Oregon students. A unique, inter-use greywater reclamation system filters runoff shower water from the upper residential floors and uses it to flush the toilet’s of the offices below, saving an estimated 202,800 gallons of water annually.
Employee Spotlight: Keith Larson
Did you know Ankrom Moisan has an in-house model maker?
Meet Keith Larson. While he’s been working as a professional modeler since the 1990s, his craft started as a kid playing with LEGO sets. To say he is detail-oriented is an understatement.
From making props on movie sets to creating 1/32” scale replicas of commercial airliners, Keith has an incredible portfolio from which he draws inspiration. Although his career has taken him through a broad spectrum of industries, his love for architecture and design has continued to bring him back to this world.
Since starting with Ankrom Moisan in 2016, Keith has collaborated with our project teams on models small and large, simple and complex. With such a diversity in markets and locations, every project brings something unique to the workbench.
When we asked our in-house model maker Keith Larson to share his current projects, Sandy Health Center was top of mind. The 1/16” scale finished type model includes scale people—a first for Keith’s work at the firm. Filled with details, the steep pitched roof was a particular challenge. Cutting the individual angles by hand and seamlessly assembling each piece was a personal triumph.
Keith worked very closely with the architecture team to ensure each detail was correct. The finished model represents a 9,500 sq. ft. facility that consolidates primary care, behavioral health, and dental services into one location. Following the Sandy Design Guidelines, the final architecture is a modern take on a rustic aesthetic.
🎬: Ankrom Moisan
Insights from the Advancing Mass Timber Construction Conference
Mass timber technology continues to develop rapidly as more and more projects seek to implement this beautiful, sustainable, and durable material. Our firm’s subject matter expert in this field, architecture senior associate Benjamin Stinson, attended the Advancing Mass Timber Construction Conference earlier this month. After participating in workshops, lectures, case studies, and more, Benjamin shared some of his key learnings and how they will influencer our projects.
Q: Why did you choose to attend this conference?
A: Mass Timber is an expanding construction technology solution in our industry and we need to stay ahead of the progress in both code and implementation strategies so we can best serve our clients that are interested in pursuing this great option. Mass Timber is also a construction strategy capable of providing the most substantive environmental impact that our industry has seen possibly ever. The use of Mass Timber at scale could take a huge bite out of the carbon debt we have built up and need to rectify in the coming years, so it is our responsibility to make it as easy a choice for our clients as possible by knowing as much as we can.
Q: Which conference session had the biggest impact on you?
A: Eric Corey Freed of CannonDesign gave an inspiring presentation about sustainability in design that moved me to want to do more to pursue sustainability with our clients, even when it may not be their first project priority. There is a social responsibility we face to make changes in our industry, and I think we need to do our best to make saying no to those changes in a project as difficult as we can.
I also saw a few great presentations about the Ascent Project, which is a 25 story residential project in Milwaukee, WI that includes 19 stories of mass timber. This project started before developments in the 2021 IBC new Type IV construction types that allow taller mass timber buildings and had to work through a lot of challenges to bring it to market. Even with those challenges, the developers were able to make it a beautiful, viable project. With our strong background in housing, there should be nothing stopping Ankrom Moisan from working with our clients to make mass timber housing projects a reality.
Q: What was something unexpected that you learned at the conference?
A: I had previously heard hints, but I learned that there is a proposal (G147) coming up for a vote that would open projects in the IV-B construction type up to 12 stories to allow 100% exposure in ceilings for the next code update. Exposure of the wood is often critical to bringing mass timber to projects, so opening this up for taller buildings will help our ability to present this as an option to clients. Fingers crossed that the vote goes through, and we can use this as a basis to get more exposed timber in our buildings.
Q: How will your learnings apply to your current projects (if at all)?
A: As Ankrom Moisan’s Mass Timber research lead, I am involved in mass timber discussions for multiple projects. What I learned at this conference will come to bear for a lot of our work currently considering mass timber for their schematic design. We are particularly focused on how this can become part of our broad scope of residential projects and how to bring more exposed timber to the living environment.
Q: So, what’s next for mass timber?
A: A key set of innovations that goes hand in hand with mass timber is prefabrication. Mass timber is systemically a prefabricated set of components and integrating prefabrication concepts into the construction process seems like a critical milestone in moving this construction strategy to scale. Constructing a building with prefabricated components can pose a significantly different process for contractors and partners, and streamlining is critical to making mass timber a viable solution. Change can be hard (and potentially expensive), but the more we know about the mass timber process, the more we can help our partners learn this great, new innovative structural solution and bring more buildings to market that make you feel as good being inside as you do being outside, standing among the trees.
Designing for Comfort
Our homes should be comfortable, should rejuvenate us, and they can make or break our capacity for resiliency. Designing for comfort goes far beyond material or FF&E decisions to include communal space, biophilic design, sensitivity to place and culture and history, even flexible spaces that adapt to fit each residents’ individual conceptions of home and relaxation.
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Fitness is Integral to Wellness
The connections between exercise and overall wellness are well established—but how can we, as designers, create senior communities that encourage healthy movement for people of all physical abilities? How can we design fitness into residents’ everyday lives? These design insights reflect our solutions over decades’ worth of projects.
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Balancing Elements of Design with Light in Mind
With access to natural daylight, we’re sharper and happier during the day, we sleep better at night, and we recovery faster when we’re sick. To properly daylight indoor spaces, designers must balance glazing, climate, solar and thermal gain, external views, nighttime darkness, and many more interdependent factors—far more than simply adding extra windows.
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Vitality in the Village
Understanding the connection between a well-designed community and people’s overall resilience and health, our campus master plan for Mary’s Woods encourages residents to socialize with each other in a large-scale, pedestrian-centered village environment.
Download example here.
Approaching Air Quality Holistically
Fresh air and wellness are intrinsically connected. With ready access to fresh air, people are more alert, physically healthier, able to heal quicker, happier, and more relaxed. And indoors, constantly refreshed air is far safer than stale or poorly filtered air. Our insights explore how designing for fresh air is part of designing for resiliency in senior communities.
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We conduct site feasibility studies for our clients, which are divided into three tiers. From Tier 1 to Tier 3, each tier deals with increasing amounts of information and concurrent time to prepare. Ask us how we can conduct a site feasibility study customized for you.
Download our Tier 2 Example to see what types of information are included in a Tier 2 package.
Accommodation Around Dining
Sharing meals is essential to people’s social and emotional wellness. Our insights support safer communal meals in senior living campuses that can adapt to social distancing requirements. Spatial redundancies—multiple dining venues, for example—and operational flexibilities—like easily rearranged seating—enable safer, more diverse, and more resilient food services.
Download Nourishment now.
Apartment Innovation Insights
After interviewing hundreds of apartment residents, we distilled their responses and refined our observations into practical design insights.
Here are opportunities to evolve apartment design in a way that meets people’s changing needs: by focusing on many sought-after features that designers often remove when pursuing value engineering.
Download the Apartment Innovation Survey Insights now.
Download our latest lookbook on urban high-rise design.
Design for Living: Mid-Rise
Download our inspiring 2020 lookbook on mid-rise living.
Apartment Innovation Survey
Our survey, conducted from May 28 through June 17, 2020, yielded over 400 responses and 1,635 written comments about apartment living today.
We’ve compiled our raw data into this research brief, a useful reference that supports our more refined design insights.