The Ins and Outs of Adaptive Reuse

February 20, 2024
Turning Underutilized Assets into Housing

What is Adaptive Reuse?

 

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

 

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

 

Chown Pella

 

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

 

However, updating old buildings comes with layers of complexity.

 

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

 

Why Conversions?

 

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

 

Rental Housing Demands

 

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

 

Desirable Neighborhoods

 

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

 

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

 

Reduced Waste

 

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

 

New Marketing Opportunities

 

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

 

Construction Efficiencies

 

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

 

 

One-of-a-Kind Design

 

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

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

 

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

 

Chown Pella

 

Chown Pella Lofts.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Residential Conversion Case Study

February 15, 2024
A Retro Renovation in Sacramento, CA

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

 

The Challenge

 

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

 

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

 

728 16th St. as a Holiday Inn

 

Before: 728 16th St. as a Holiday Inn

 

The Solution

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rendering of 728 16th St.'s Renovated Design

 

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

 

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

 

The Impact

 

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

 

728 16th St. following its renovation

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile

 

By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director.

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

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Should Your Building Become Housing? Critical Considerations for Adaptive Reuse

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Rule of Six

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Six Key Characteristics for a Successful Conversion

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Reach out to get started on your feasibility study today.

 

The Six Challenges to be Prepared For

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile

 

By Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Housing Studio Design Director.

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

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What You Need to Know About Biophilic Design

January 31, 2024
The Basics of Biophilia

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

 

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

 

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

 

How Biophilia is Integrated into Projects

 

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

 

1. Nature in the Space

 

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

 

2. Natural Analogues

 

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

 

3. Nature of the Space

 

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

 

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

 

 

A list of biophilic design elements and attributes. 

 

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

 

The Power of Biophilia

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Conversations with Bethanne Mikkelsen

December 14, 2023
Featured Articles about the Future of Workplace

Workplace Team’s Managing Principal, Bethanne Mikkelsen, notices the flows of workplaces and simultaneously motivates clients to stay current and inventive. She extends this expertise to our team, but promotes her knowledge beyond our firm to encourage diversity in the industry, as well as maintaining flexible working strategies that foster a culture of inclusivity. To discover more about her perspective, she has been featured in these articles:

 

How corporate office lighting is getting a makeover to boost productivity

Commercial Office Space Must Evolve to Put People First

Own Who You Are and What You Deserve — Women Leaders in Design Weigh in On Rising to the Top and Empowering Others to Do the Same

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Making the Future Feasible

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

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

 

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

 

Feasibility Yield Studies Graphics

 

Examples of a feasibility yield study.

 

 

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

 

Feasibility Tier 2 Study

 

Example of a Tier 2 Feasibility Study Perspective View.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

Feasibility 3D View Graphic

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 
 

 

 

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

 

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

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New Code Increases Accessibility

December 1, 2023
with Minimal Impacts to Buildings

Background

 

At Ankrom Moisan, we work hard to ensure an equal experience for all users of the spaces we design. We explore how to push beyond the expected with accessibility features on projects like Wynne Watts Commons, and we welcome updated codes and standards to address the needs of our community. As the 2021 Building Code takes effect in each jurisdiction, the embedded 2017 A117.1 Standard for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities also takes effect.  The new 2017 A117.1 provides significant updates to accessibility clearances based on a study of wheelchair users.  The A117.1 is developed by the International Code Council (same authors as the International Building Code). Their challenge is to find the best design criteria for a wide range of abilities, from wheelchair users to standing persons with back problems to persons with low vision or hearing challenges.  Ankrom Moisan has participated in their process as an “interested party” in one issue, kitchen outlets, and can attest to the countless hours that go into just one requirement.

 

At the Ronald McDonald House expansion we wanted to make all families staying for short or long stays be able to use all the amenities, including the common kitchens.

 

Changes

 

Overall impacts to projects by this change are modest, resulting in a few rooms being enlarged by a few inches. While the changes are minimal to buildings, they provide much higher levels of accessibility for impacted users.  The most impactful updates are changes to the following requirements:

 

  • In most cases, clear floor spaces grow from 30-inch by 48-inch to 30-inch by 52-inch.
  • The turning circle that was a 60-inch “wedding cake” with knee and toe clearance all around is now a 67-inch cylinder with minimal knee and toe clearance.

 

When looking at a typical privately funded apartment building, the changes are minimal as long as they are understood at the start of the project.  There are no changes to Type B units (except new exceptions for kitchens outlets were added), and for the Type A units, the kitchen, bathroom, and walk-in closet may grow a few inches. The trash chute access room will see the biggest change, growing up to 7” in both directions. All these changes are minor when incorporated into the initial design of the building but could be very tricky late in the design process.

 

There are still some unknowns; If there are Accessible units in a project, they will now require windows to be fully accessible. While the height and clear floor space requirements are easy to meet, we are still searching for a window style and manufacturer that can meet the requirements that windows are operable without tight grasping and less than 5 pounds of pressure to open and lock/unlock.

 

Our work isn’t done; kitchen outlets were simplified in the corners where a range and refrigerator protrude past the counter with this code cycle, but we must wait for the next A117.1 cycle for kitchen outlets to no longer dictate kitchen design. Ankrom Moisan submitted code changes that are now in effect in the 2022 Oregon Structural Specialty Code and submitted a proposal for the next version of A117.1 and can report that kitchen outlets will no longer drive design or require any special design or construction features in the next code cycle.

 

At the Wynne Watts Commons the team provided universal design residential units that included cooktops that pull out and upper cabinets lower with the controls shown in the cabinet front.

 

Added complexity with new code change

 

From a designer’s perspective, the requirements of accessibility have grown exceptionally complex.  For example, under the new A117.1, there are now different size clearances for new and existing as well as Type A and Type B units, and the definition of “existing” in the A117.1 does not match the definition in the building code.  This adds to the already confusing accessibility requirements that require us to reference multiple documents for any given item (building code with unique amendments by jurisdiction, Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, etc.). Coupled with different interpretations from different experts and code officials it is no wonder why accessibility requirements feel a bit daunting to us and our clients.  As an example, California does not adopt the A117.1 but rather chooses to write its own Chapter 11 of the building code with its own unique scoping and technical criteria. And that is just accessibility, our Architects are juggling fire life safety, energy code, constructability, and our client’s budget all while creating great places where communities thrive.

 

As a firm, we had a challenge to overcome; the new accessibility requirements do not apply to all our projects at the same time. Depending on where they are in the permitting process and the jurisdiction they are in, every project must determine when, and if, they are required to flip to the new code. While most of our projects will be using the new code by early 2024, many will still be under the old code for years to come. We had to develop Revit resources for our project teams that could work for both codes at the same time. Our Accessibility experts partnered with our BIM team to develop a system meeting these goals and requirements:

 

  • It had to be as simple and easy to use as possible for our project teams.
  • It had to be blatantly obvious, by a quick glance within Revit, what codes were being shown on any given project.
  • It had to provide all the options now allowed by the standards and guide teams to pick the applicable option.

 

Our solution to this challenge was rolled out to our project teams in September 2022 and provided over 500 updated Revit families.

 

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

 

 

 

 

We have found so many nuances in the accessibility codes that it can be hard to make generic statements.  We would love to talk to you about your specific project or topic.  Please reach out to Cara Godwin at carag@ankrommoisan.com to learn about accessibility for your project.

 

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

 

 

 

by Cara Godwin, Senior Associate

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Summer Travel

November 20, 2023
A Q&A with the Workplace and Healthcare Teams

The summer has wrapped, and wintery weather has found us once again. Our Workplace team had some interesting travels this summer, and they’ve recalled some of their favorite summer travel design inspiration.

 

 

 

Clare Goddard, Senior Associate

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: The beauty of what nature has designed. From Gifford Pinchot to Sisters, OR to Rocky Mountain National Park, from lakes to mountains to tundra and trees, our natural world is so filled with beauty. Beauty that is not perfect or repetitive, that takes you out of the mundane of the day-to-day to appreciate the here and now.

 

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: That not everything has to be perfect and that those elements of surprise are what set a design apart from the boring.

 

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)? 

 

A: I worked from the kitchen table in Sisters, OR and from my in-laws home office in Colorado. No views, but really nice to be able to wrap up work for the day and go on a hike or to take Millie on a different evening walk 😊.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Bates, Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: I went to Charlotte, NC for a friend’s wedding. One of the days, my friends and I visited Camp North End. This space has deep history. In 1924, its first intention was for a Ford Motor Company factory. During World War II, the site added 5 massive warehouses to store supplies for soldiers at basic training camps throughout all the southeast. When the Cold War hit, the site’s primary production moved to missile development. Once national threats neutralized, the complex was then sold to a pharmaceutical company. Then in 2017, the 76-acre lot was purchased and opened to the public where 500+ artists, startups, chefs, retail, and cultural festivities now home in this community to express their creativity and collaboration.

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: One of the main reasons why I love this industry is because you can truly bring a community together through design. It was a huge inspiration to me to see such a wide range of demographics in one space. There was something for everyone to enjoy. There was a sense of community. Elements from here I can translate into design work would be creating a safe space where communities help each other out instead of a “every-man-for-themselves” mentality. I also admire how they kept many features of the original history while modernizing it for today’s audience.

 

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: I stopped in Atlanta before going to Charlotte and did work from home. I stayed at my parents’ place, and they set me up in my childhood bedroom, which was strange to be back in. We did not have a second monitor, so my mom brought a huge 50” TV I then connected my laptop to. It was super sweet and throughout my workday she would pop her head in and bring me food. Nothing beats a mother’s love. 😊

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaren DeHaas, Associate Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: The most captivating design elements I saw while in Italy were the seamless balance of new and old elements and the intricate details that were used to create such giant marvels. With such a long and rich history there are so many layers to every aspect of the country, everything from its architecture to the customs are influenced by generation after generation of change and growth.

 

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: One thing this trip reminded me of is how important the details truly are in design. The design as a whole will catch people’s eyes and cause intrigue, but it’s the details that are created up close that hold the attention and make things much more exciting and unique. It’s also important to remember to work with what you have. New, cutting-edge design can be exciting but there are so many stunning creations and forms that have been around for centuries, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. A place’s history is something to be cherished and celebrated, bringing in elements that speak to the history of your project will only make it that much more special in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jessica Kirshner, Associate Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: Chicago is such a fun city to live in, especially as an interior designer. I always stop myself or my friends from admiring the greystones, retro style, gothic revival, etc. To be able to surround yourself with design inspiration every day is a game changer.

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: Overall, the architecture in Chicago sets a very different tone than what I’m previously used to in Portland. On any given day you can explore multiple different neighborhoods and see completely different styles. This wide range of architectural styles has begun to heavily influence my personal design style. I can appreciate the historical aspects of building and want to pull those elements into a project while creating a more modern and suitable design that will fit our client’s needs.

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: I am now fully remote working out of my apartment, with AM allowing us to explore a more hybrid approach to our working style this created an easy transition. It doesn’t hurt that I have a gorgeous view of the city from my apartment as well!!

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Feicht, Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: I was really intrigued by the varieties of scale that I saw in Nashville, the lighting design and signage on the main road was incredibly unique, and how the city integrates the new and the old so seamlessly. Also, there is a “stage” everywhere, even at the airport and the botanical gardens, the vignettes of performance space were remarkably interesting.

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: Nashville is such a fun and lively place, it is encouraging to see designs that could be considered too kitschy, but this city reminds you if it is bright and entertaining, even over-the-top it has personality. I would like to nickname this the “Dolly Parton approach.” Especially because I went twice to the Dolly Parton-themed bar, and that had personality down to the drink garnishes and the beer taps.

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: Many people outside of the interior design industry are unfamiliar with the opportunity that we get to go on factory tours to tile, furniture, flooring, lighting, etc. manufacturers to learn more about their products. The second part of my trip was focused on Crossville Tile, in Crossville, TN where we learned about their tile manufacturing process and sustainability initiatives. So, while I was not on my laptop, I was out in the field spending time with other designers for continuing education and in an educational environment. These trips are a great way to make connections with designers both in Portland and around the US.

 

 

 

 

 

Beth Mahan, Interior Designer

 

Q: What was the most compelling design you saw?

 

A: Design?! It was all about the food!! We were staying in Geneva, Switzerland, for the summer, and did a day trip with friends to the north end of the lake where we visited Le Corbusier’s Villa “Le Lac.” It was the summer home he built for his parents, right at the water’s edge; narrow and streamlined with an open floor plan, one of the first examples of ribbon windows, and beautifully framed views. It was extremely innovative and has stood the test of time.

 

Additionally, we visited the EPFL University campus, a prestigious university in Switzerland, with a campus full of famous architecture. My favorite was the Rolex Learning Center with its cascading design, sweeping over and around the user, through its organic forms and sloped interiors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q: How did elements from these new locations translate into your design work?

 

A: Working in healthcare we don’t have a lot of opportunities to take creative risks, however it’s always important to remember that we can include moments of intrigue and interest. While there isn’t a direct correlation between what we visited and my current design work, the inspiration is always welcome.

 

 

 

 

Q: If you worked remotely while on your trip how & where did you work (desk, cafe, balcony with an ocean view, etc.)?

 

A: I worked remotely while we were abroad, based out of my husband’s apartment in Geneva. Luckily, it meant I could set up my workstation and leave it intact, whereas when we travel and work out of hotels it can be laborious to get yourself set up each day and find a good workspace that is not going to leave you with shoulder pain. My recommendation is finding the pillows you need to get yourself at the correct seated height, and I always travel with an external monitor so I can have two screens. Two screens are a must! And there are lots of options for lightweight travel monitors. Otherwise, of course a nice view and a pleasant breeze are a bonus! The other tricky part when you are working and traveling is getting food for the day, so if you can find a hotel with a mini fridge that helps. And then of course identify your favorite croissant and espresso spot.

 

 

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New Seattle Development Design Review Exemptions

October 18, 2023
A Performance Option Synopsis

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

 

Expediated Timelines:

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Performance Amount for Commercial Development:

 

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

 

Performance Amount for Residential Development:

 

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

 

 

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

 

Performance Standards for Qualifying Affordable Units:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Jennifer Sanin Headshot Smile    Michael Lama Headshot

 

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

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The Art of Efficiency

September 18, 2023
Six Design Dos and Don'ts for Authentic, Low-Density Apartment Communities

Popularized because of their connection to nature and relative abundance of space, garden-style apartments are lower density, low-rise housing complexes that are typified by their green, garden-like surroundings. Through Ankrom Moisan’s experience designing high-quality low-density communities, we’ve found that successful garden-style design is all about striking a balance. There’s an art to creating a community that is highly livable and authentic, yet also efficient and economical. Based upon our expertise with this style of housing, here are our dos and don’ts for creating successful low-density garden-style communities.

 

 

Do capitalize on site assets.

 

Site plans are everything when it comes to designing unique low-density housing. Before any buildings are designed, take note of site features such as topography, open space, noteworthy views, and existing natural resources such as bodies of water or mature trees. Designing a site plan around these features elevates the design of a garden-style apartment community to be authentic to its location, setting the place apart as a destination with its own identity. For example, at Deveraux Glen the site plan intentionally takes advantage of the surrounding green space by orienting the buildings to maximize views. This is apparent in the irregular perimeter, shown below.

 

 

Capitalize on site assets

 

Deveraux Glen site plan | Aerial of a neighborhood by Erik Maclean

 

 

Do balance the parking. 

 

While parking yield is important, preserving the character of the place is also essential for success. This requires finding a careful balance. Because available parking ratio ultimately determines home yield, and not allowable density, parking drives (pun intended) everything. Efficient footprints like parking must be designed first, with buildings fitting into the site afterwards and conforming to the lot’s parameters based on the home plan. However, that does not mean the parking lot has to be the focal point for a site’s layout. Remember: nobody wants to live in a parking lot. A certain degree of intentionality is required to design a desirable community that has a sense of place and doesn’t just feel like an asphalt lot.

 

Balance the parking

 

North Ogden masterplan | Garden-style development photo by Maahid

 

 

Don’t neglect landscaping.   

 

Use greenery to break up the humdrum of asphalt. Whenever possible, a space of 15 feet between parking and ground-level homes is ideal for garden-style, as it budgets 5 feet for the pedestrian sidewalk and 10 full feet for landscaping. There should also be landscaping between head-in parking stalls. 5 feet is the minimum amount of space recommended, but again, having more room for trees to be planted both screens the car park from above, and improves the quality of the space at ground level. Utilizing landscaping in this way improves the apartment’s sightlines and views for both the ground-floor homes that look towards the parking lot and the upper-story homes looking down on it. While covered parking may improve the visual landscape of a community, taking it a step further with green roofs or alternated landscaping does much more for both the environment and residents. The ultimate goal in garden-style design is to create a place that is as livable as possible to drive absorption, retention, and rent rates.

 

 

Don't neglect landscaping

 

Club at the Park | Parking lot at The 206

 

 

Do consider walkability. 

 

Since garden-style home doors are exterior-facing, the outdoor experience must be carefully considered. Distances between frequently visited areas need to take walkability into account. Remote parking may allow for an increase in home yield but result in a reduction in rent rate. Designers should be very intentional with how far residents will have to walk to get from their cars to their front door, and vice versa. Parking allocation studies need to be done to assign parking stalls to certain buildings and determine whether or not distances and available parking options realistically work. Trash enclosures, too, need to be within a reasonable distance from residential homes and located along a route accessible to trash collection vehicles for removal. By putting forethought into residents’ travel patterns, designers can create a highly livable place.

 

Garden Design Walkability 2.0

 

Meridian Gardens rendering | Kitts Corner rendering

 

 

Do enhance ground-level homes.   

 

Ground level living is perhaps the most important design consideration for low density garden-style apartments. There are a handful of ways to enhance first-floor ground-level homes, the most effective being the inclusion of a stoop at the entrance. Stoops help create a sense of defensible space, and resident identity. Ground level homes also benefit from street elements. Streets are characterized by parallel parking and sidewalks, whereas parking lots are based on 90-degree parking, which means that light from cars in parking lots are angled directly into ground-level windows and the amount of land dedicated to the car is the greatest. Ground-level homes often receive the short end of the stick, so giving those homes extra thought can go a long way for improving the resident experience. 

 

Enhance ground-level homes

 

Stoops at The Villas at Amberglen West | Ground-level porches at The Arbory

 

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of identity.   

 

Develop an encompassing identity for the entire community through a central amenity. As the heart of the place, the amenity building reinforces the character of the site. Surrounding spaces should support that identity through the quality and character of their architecture and interior design. Don’t shortchange design fees here; It’s better to spend up on the club house and economize elsewhere than to forgo the identity established by a central amenity. 

 

Identity amenities

 

Clubhouse at Seasons Apartments and Farmington Reserve | Clubhouse at The 206

 

These guidelines are only a brief overview of some of the key principles to creating successful garden-style communities. There is a tremendous level of consideration of the specifics of a site when translating these principles into a successful design. What it all essentially comes down to is hiring an architect who understands these design principles and how to apply them to create efficient, high-quality communities. And of course, having beautifully maintained greenery doesn’t hurt, either.

 

 

 

By Don Sowieja, Principal-in-Charge

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Defining Our Vision and Values: Part 2

September 15, 2023
Setting Our Sights Toward Our Hows

This is part of a series of the origin of Ankrom Moisan’s mission, vision and values. Read Part 1 here.

 

During the Great Recession we began a decade-long deep dive to define and refine AM’s mission, vision, and values. A diverse mix of leadership and all offices and departments embarked upon the pivotal retreat in 2018. From there, smaller groups met to filter through the stories and uncover our shared values or “Hows”. Along the way, small groups engaged in the Why and How sessions telling stories to show how they were individually connected to the firm’s greater purpose.

 

According to Simon Sinek’s process of finding your Why, Hows aren’t aspirational. Rather, they are how you behave on your best day, and what you wish to do more of in pursuit of your Why / greater purpose. These action words needed to be grounded in the behaviors that make us great and occur often.

 

Throughout 2018 a representative group of twelve from the initial retreat kept meeting over and over to sift through all the stories and values both old and new to determine what really represented Ankrom Moisan at our best and the behaviors we most wanted to replicate each day. Each meeting involved telling each other stories that represented the words that were emerging as our How’s. If there weren’t enough stories then the word or value was left behind or merged with another idea that was supported by past examples.  There were too many words at first, and our intention was to fine-tune the list until just five values remained. Over time it became evident that in the shared stories were core themes, and these themes became the criteria for defining our values: they ought to represent how to behave, and they must be actionable. We were able to narrow our shared values down to six.

 

 

Lead with our heart. Share openly. Embrace change. Have fun with it. Be yourself. Trust.

 

 

Jason Roberts, a Managing Design Principal that participated in the How sessions, shares his recollection, “The group word-play exercises and stories were so much fun, there was tons of whiteboard writing, scratching off, editing down, and we’d come back and realize we missed something, and continue to fine-tune it all. And despite the number of people involved, the challenge of defining words and phrases that includes everyone was successful. The results really do speak to how we do our work together.”

 

 

The next step was to engage everyone at the firm – how to do that? We came up with multiple ways, from all office meetings to small group discussions. In every meeting the participants would tell two-minute stories to each other, to make connections to our Hows and our Why:

 

Inspire and empower people to explore beyond the expected.  

 

The meetings included a five-hour deep dive where groups were led through a mini Why retreat, to 1-hour lunchtime activities, to Management Team listening sessions, to fun games like building gingerbread houses that represented one of our Hows. During most of these gatherings people got into groups of six, with President Dave Heater who asked the participants to, “Tell a story about a time you felt inspired to explore beyond the expected.” Then an elected spokesperson would relay their Why or how story back in the larger assembly. The raw reactions of leadership hearing these poignant details was powerful. These shared vignettes solidified our commonalities, broke our hearts open and emphasized how we were a community, and how we inspired one another.

 

According to Jenna Mogstad, Associate Interior Designer, who participated in a few of the early sessions, the group would go around the room and each person would share an anecdote of how the values applied to their own lives; how AM is living up to the stated mission, purpose, and values. During one round, participants gave examples of how leadership supported them personally, which speaks directly to lead with our heart. Jenna shared that over the course of the time she had been at AM, leadership had supported her through multiple family emergencies. She could tell leadership about these challenges and was always met with compassion, and told to ‘go home, be well, we got this, don’t worry about work’. Her supervisors have been incredibly supportive during these personal challenges. As Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Managing Design Principal, affirms, “We care about each other that much.” These powerful stories resonated. We were creating shared connections and experiences that deepened our understanding of AM’s place in the world.

 

Approaching embrace change, as Jennifer puts it, “We are about listening and solving in a unique way, and we don’t treat the design like a precious thing. When we embrace change, one can solve in different ways, and offer creative alternatives.” On top of that, Jennifer continues, at AM “we’re all a little quirky, and accepting of people’s eccentricities and what makes them awesome.”

 

Be yourself is a tenet that we encourage because those eccentricities are often what make our designs and work stand out. Jason shares a situation where be yourself shined through in a real way. He once came away from a client meeting bothered by something that the client wanted, thinking, “this is the worst!” It was the sort of thing he couldn’t work with, and with Stewart Ankrom’s blessing he was able to back out of a project that he didn’t believe in. At AM we encourage people to stay true to themselves, and we support one another, especially when it matters the most.

 

 

Identifying with share openly, Jason does so in his role as Managing Design Principal, “to not only do design work, but to talk about it and to share with coworkers – the more we share, the better it gets. Isolation can be inefficient, and I think work is best when more people are involved. Have fun with it goes right into that; fun is important to creative work.” Furthermore, “Trust is always important, the need for it goes through all channels, and AM trusts me, so I try to do my best. As a team leader I need to make sure I’m trustworthy – there are always going to be issues, and trust wins the day. The Hows wrap together, they are interdependent, and we must always work at it.” That our Hows have this quality of interdependence speaks to how interconnected we are; our values surfaced through the narratives that we all could relate to. We are all works in progress, and we apply our Hows to continue to improve and grow.

 

 

Jenna shares that, “it’s cool to see the people of AM make up our Why and Hows; we are the embodiment of each of these values, each person has an example of an experience that backs that up.” Over time we observed that we tend to go the extra length to hire the people who personify our Why and Hows, that our people match the culture that we have created.

 

 

 

by Kerstyn Smith Olson, Content Coordinator

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Ankrom Moisan’s Mission and the Emergence of Our Why: Part 1

September 15, 2023
Inspire and Empower People to Explore Beyond the Expected

This is part of a series on the origin of Ankrom Moisan’s mission and vision, our purpose for doing what we do, and the values by which we work. Read Part 2 here.

 

During the Great Recession work was very slow, and our founder Stewart Ankrom retired. With time and transitional change, we found ourselves looking inward, contemplating our purpose and what makes us unique. Tom Moisan, a founder and the president, held a fall retreat to better determine what we stand for, and where we wanted to go.

 

This retreat was the beginning of a more than decade-long journey to capture the collective values that make our firm a great place to work. Tom and seven managing principals met over and over to put words on the wall, defining and refining their deeper meanings, especially: “listening”, “learning, and “empowerment’. From these early sessions, a working list of seven values and our mission (our What) emerged:

 

We design places where people and communities thrive.

 

 

Between 2014 – 2017 we saw high growth, and we were using our values and our mission as a touchstone to orient new employees and attract new clientele. During that time Tom Moisan, our second founder retired, and Dave Heater, Managing Principal of the Seattle office, stepped into the role of President. With the fast and furious growth came the realization that Ankrom Moisan needed to relook at the mission and values and see if they truly communicated the vision and direction of the firm.

 

Around this time President Dave Heater read the book Find Your Why by Simon Sinek; “As I started reading the book, I got so excited because I realized that it was a process that was based on storytelling. And I thought, ‘This is the perfect process for Ankrom Moisan to uncover what is at our core, what is our driving purpose, and what makes us unique in the world.’”

 

 

 

 

We began the Why process in 2018, with thirty of us participating in a two-day retreat. We were a mix of leaders, designers, marketing, and accounting staff: a large cross section of the firm. The process began with an emphasis on storytelling and each person defining their own personal WHY for their life. Stories illuminated motivation, inspiration, and perseverance. The Why statement is meant to bring awareness to “why we get out of bed to come to Ankrom Moisan each day”. Rich, meaningful, personal stories were revealed throughout the retreat, and everyone left feeling energized and uplifted.

 

As one of the leaders participating in the retreat, Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Managing Design Principal, marvels that, “it’s incredible that a large group of people sharing stories of experiences at the firm were finding commonalities while crafting the Why. Usually, it takes two years to do anything, and this was successful in two days.”  The Why we came away with during that retreat was unanimously agreed upon:

 

Inspire and empower people to explore beyond the expected.

 

 

Nandita Kamath, Associate Architect, has been with us for over a decade, and she participated in the larger listening sessions as well as some of the smaller workshops over the years. She adds another benefit of the sharing and storytelling, “It was great to hear others’ experiences about starting at AM, and what was great about coming into the firm. It gave us a chance to reflect on why we are here, doing what we’re doing. It has been an inclusive experience.”

 

 

Among the stories told were general themes of coworkers having each other’s backs, shared memes and uplifting messages while facing stressful deadlines. Having a good time, encouraging each other when needed, and being respectful of each other’s lives show that mutual support and camaraderie really stand out as reliable methods of empowering and inspiring each other. Nandita shares that the Why comes up regularly in her day-to-day work, and though it can be tough to put into practice, mentorship is a great example of putting the Why into play, as the benefits of mentorship, ideally, can go both ways. It is an ongoing opportunity to have an introspective look at how we operate.

 

 

Jennifer says that to inspire and empower as a leader is more top-of-mind, and that it’s about making sure you play to people’s strengths, ensuring that they are in a place to succeed, and finding ways to remove obstacles for more confidence and autonomy as needed. And on the client-facing side of things, “it’s often about encouraging your clients to not ‘rinse and repeat’. Let’s try something new, a little different, out of the box.”

 

Our Why continues to resonate, and is present in our everyday work, while interacting with our clients and our coworkers. We are pushed to go further and be better by living by the mission and the Why we have defined for ourselves.

 

 

 

by Kerstyn Smith Olson, Content Coordinator

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An Interview with the Oregon Chapter’s 2022-2023 IIDA President, Clare Goddard

August 31, 2023

I sat down with Clare Goddard, now Past President of the IIDA Oregon Chapter to hear about her reflections on the 2022-2023 Board year.

 

 

Q: What has been the most rewarding part about being IIDA President?

 

A: I am going to miss the chapter leader conferences. There’s something so powerful about connecting with other IIDA leaders across the region and the US and being able to commiserate or learn from them (or just make new friends). Even though you don’t get a weekend, I always come back feeling excited to tackle a new challenge.

 

For my term as President, I think the most rewarding part was being a catalyst for change in how the board operates. Having the board willing to not continue with the status quo and embrace change was exciting; not only because it lifted a huge weight off my shoulders, but I feel I was able to make my mark on the IIDA Oregon chapter.

 

I also credit IIDA with keeping me sane and connected when we were all remote – especially during lockdown. Being a part of IIDA and having an outlet outside of work helped to fill my cup and to build my network. I am truly so grateful to be part of this design community.

 

 

Q: What would be your best tip for balancing or prioritizing IIDA and work, life, etc.?

 

 

A: I’ve always had a very clear division between my work and my home life, and those boundaries really helped me in my presidency as well. I had to be aware of my To Do List- I had to get detailed and ask myself what I can accomplish today. What can I realistically accomplish this week? And how am I going to divide that up?

 

I also set strict hours for myself – capping Ankrom work at 40 (no overtime) and trying to do IIDA work after dinner or on the weekends. I really had to focus on prioritizing and stick to those priorities.

 

I think there were sometimes when there was not always the balance that I would have liked between work, IIDA and personal life. In the end though, I was able to find that harmony – and harmony to me is such a better word than balance because balance to me is like one side is always winning and there is more effort in just making them equal. Harmony means that you’ve found some way to make both your personal and your professional life work together and neither one is weighted.

 

I was also incredibly lucky in my presidency to be able to work 100% remotely from home. That has also allowed me to be more flexible and to be better able to create that harmony. Flexibility is key- being able to make my schedule work for myself.

 

 

Q: What has been the most challenging experience during your presidency?

 

A: It was the first six months of my presidency before I took a step back and asked the question “why”. Why did we operate the way we operated?

 

At that time, I was so overwhelmed and felt like I was letting everyone in my life down because I was stretched so thin and felt like I was not making a difference – that I was just trying to keep my head above water. I was just going from event to event, from meeting to meeting and not really accomplishing anything. And then I just had this moment where I realized, I was the president and could make a change to improve how we operated and the president’s role in general. That I could change it, and that I needed to change it. I immediately felt a sense of calm and empowerment. How can we make the Presidency better, how can we make the Directors’ positions better? Giving everyone – including me – a sense of agency to give back to our design community in a more thoughtful way.

 

 

Q: What have you learned while being the IIDA President, skills or experiences, that transfer to your work or have helped you grow in your role here at Ankrom and then specifically on our Workplace team?

 

 

A: The biggest thing being IIDA President has helped me with is delegation. I realized that I could lean more on my team and that I do not have to do it all. I also got to use my business degree – so reusing a skill that had been gathering dust – since running an IIDA chapter is like running a small business. In running that small business and planning multiple events, I was also able to practice my project management skills.

 

The other skill I got to work on was networking and relationship management. As IIDA President – attending both local and national events – I am the face of interior design for the state of Oregon (as our mission statement says). Therefore, when I am at these events, I need to network and act accordingly to make sure that I’m supporting sponsor relations, board member relations, and in general making sure I am representing the organization to the best of my abilities. And I think that’s directly applicable to my role at Ankrom, that when I am at work events or gatherings, I am a representative for Ankrom.

 

 

Q: How are you, your partner, and your dog going to unwind after finishing this year?

 

 

A: We have already taken and planned a few trips to get more quality time together! We took our girl Millie (dog daughter) on her first camping trip a few weeks ago – Millie even SUP’d for the first time. And then in October after the Design Excellence Awards are done, Jacob (partner) and I booked a week trip to Sedona, AZ. We haven’t been on a long trip since I became President, so we’re going to take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, go hiking, mountain biking, go to a spa, enjoy some wineries, and eat some yummy food.

 

Also, since I will now have free time, Jacob bought me ceramics lessons at a local pottery studio. I am excited to pretend I am on The Great Pottery Throw Down!

 

 

Thank you, Clare, for an amazing year- I’ve loved watching you be the President with such grace and honesty, both as a colleague and as an IIDA board member!

 

Clare Goddard, Senior Associate Interior Designer

 

Emily Feicht, Interior Designer

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Discussing Pride with Dave Heater

August 1, 2023

AM President Dave Heater talks to Dani Murphy about Pride.

 

 

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An Interactive Timeline of Ankrom Moisan’s History

July 24, 2023
Celebrating 40 Years of Exploring Beyond

 

In celebration of Ankrom Moisan’s 40th anniversary this year, we look back and reflect upon the firm’s explosive growth, gathering the most significant and noteworthy projects and moments from AM’s history and culture. The result of all our hard work of digging, interviewing, and assembling information is an immersive, interactive timeline of milestones.  

 

 

Take a walk down memory lane, reminisce, and celebrate 40 incredible years of Ankrom Moisan exploring beyond the expected. For the best experience, use Google Chrome on a desktop computer to view the timeline. If trouble scrolling is experienced, use arrow keys to navigate the milestones.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Graphic Design by Filo Canseco.

Research and Copy by Jack Cochran and Mackenzie Gilstrap.

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Conversations with Michael Stueve

June 30, 2023
Featured Articles about the Future of Workplace

Our very own Michael Stueve, Workplace Principal and UI/UX Strategist, is always thinking innovatively about the future of workplace and is also eager to share his values that shape his experienced perspective behind workplace design. Not only has he recently developed “The Office as an Ecosystem” strategies, but he has been featured in these articles:

 

Senior professionals discuss current and future potential for AI in architecture

Tips For Designing a People-First Workplace

Seattle Magazine: Inventing the Future (available in print only)

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Ankrom Moisan’s Healthcare SPAKL Team – Big Focus on Small Projects

June 6, 2023
A Conversation with Kimberleigh Grimm, Associate Principal

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. 

 

 

PET/CT room

 

 

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 

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Indoor / Outdoor Air Quality

May 5, 2023
Research to Help You Breathe Easy

The Do GOOD / Be WELL scholarship encourages Ankrom Moisan employees to research an open-ended topic of their choosing and share the practical results of their findings with the firm, industry, and community at large. The scholarship, started in 2017, is sponsored in memory of former AM employee Carolyn Forsyth, an inspirational leader and unyielding force for change. Intended to honor her legacy of sustainability, equity, innovation, advocacy, education, and leadership, the DGBW scholarship elevates and empowers new and inspiring ideas within Ankrom Moisan and the broader field of architecture, pushing us all, as the name implies, to do good and be well. 

 

As the recipient of the 2022 Do GOOD / Be WELL scholarship, Cara Godwin encouraged Ankrom Moisan employees to not only learn about air quality but to measure their own. Cara implemented a program that provided home air kits, consisting of a HEPA filter and an air sensor, to be checked out and taken home.  

 

By using air sensors that provided a real-time air quality score, participants were able to better understand how opening windows, cooking, and running exhaust fans impact indoor air quality. The program also encouraged people to be Citizen Scientists by gathering data in their own respective environments and automatically sharing it to the Purple Air network map in real time, increasing the pool of scientific knowledge that design decisions can be made from. 

 

Kaiterra Egg air quality sensor.

 

Kaiterra Egg air sensor utilized in Cara’s research study. 

 

 

The (Overlooked) Importance of Air Quality 

 

Designers of the built environment are deeply familiar with energy scores and water scores, but air quality has been less defined and is often left unconsidered—Cara hopes to change that.  

 

Cara has lived in the Methow Valley for twelve years now, an area which often deals with wildfire smoke. Cara and her husband had indoor air quality at the front of their minds when they built their home in 2011. Their son has had respiratory issues since birth and asthma since just before his second birthday, which led the pair to learn more about indoor and outdoor air quality. “We are a ‘Clean Air Methow Ambassador,’ we have been interviewed on a podcast, interviewed by a health reporter, and often my son’s photo and story are used in discussions about air quality,” Cara stated. “This scholarship seemed like a natural way to share this information with coworkers and hopefully have a positive impact on future building designs.”   

 

 Cara Godwin pictured with her husband and son.

 

The Godwins: Cara, her husband, and her son. 

 

 

Even if you have not personally noticed issues with air quality, you are likely being affected by air pollutants. More and more research talks about PM2.5 – fine inhalable particles with diameters that are 2.5 micrometers or smaller – and their long-term effect on our lungs. PM2.5 sources include chemical exhaust from industries and automobiles, wildfire smoke, pollen, dust, and hundreds of other chemicals. EPA and other clean air groups are focusing on education for people to understand air scores and sources. This study helps expand those efforts. 

 

 

The Findings from the Air Sensors 

 

The most common response from kit recipients was about cooking. It is uncommon for range hoods to be used every time a cooktop is utilized, though that is the recommendation. After receiving their results, many participants noted they will use the hood more often. One participant noted that their charcoal recirculating exhaust fan was not adequate on its own and required a window to be open for proper ventilation.  

 

Another finding was that pets do not seem to have a negative impact on air quality. Running the HEPA filter had noticeable positive impacts for participants with seasonal allergies and asthma. 

 

In a survey filled out after using test kits at home for a few weeks, participants were asked what they might do differently in future designs after receiving their own personal air quality scores. Several responded by advocating for electric cooking over gas. A few mentioned advocating for operable windows and making operable windows open further. There is a desire to avoid using charcoal recirculating fans for kitchen exhaust. Others mentioned trying to design for air changes above code minimum and running the whole house exhaust longer. 

 

 Awair air monitor in use.

 

Awair air monitor in use. 

 

 

Swapping Cooktops to Improve Air Quality 

 

During this time, Cara was looking into replacing her propane cooktop with an electric induction range and took the opportunity to tie her search in with her research proposal, using the information gathered from the use of the HEPA filter and air sensor to guide her purchase decision, and sharing the results with the firm. This choice was supported by Cara’s experiences with indoor air quality monitors, as they have demonstrated that cooking has the greatest impact on air quality in a home. Cara swapped out her propane cooktop for a gas one, as well as her exhaust hood in hopes that a quieter exhaust hood would be used more. Finding the right induction range was the tricky part. The options seem limited, and costs vary greatly.  

 

Her research found that the difference in cost is dependent on the size of the magnet, and that the size of the magnet, or burner, should match the size of the pan being used. This is because a pan too large for a burner will not heat up efficiently, and food will not be evenly cooked. The main obstacle in sourcing a new cooktop was related to finding black appliances, which have even fewer options. In the end, Cara switched to black stainless steel. For the exhaust hood, quieter options require an 8” exhaust duct. Cara’s pre-existing duct was only 6”, meaning it was not feasible to replace the exhaust duct in the roof assembly, so the new hood is only slightly better in terms of noise level. 

 

For the actual experience with induction cooking, Cara states that “it has been a real pleasure to cook with. The cooking is more even, and water does boil as fast as everyone says. There is also peace of mind with all the recent news of harmful chemicals coming from gas cooktops.”  The original concern with the propane cooktop had to do with CO2 levels rising during seasonal times of wildfire smoke when fresh air is closed off, but the benefits of an induction range have expanded to all year round. Cara recommends induction over gas to anyone building new construction, and in her case, with someone with respiratory issues in the house, switching is a great option.  

 

 Cara's new black stainless steel induction range with ventilation hood.

 

Cara’s new black stainless steel induction range with hood. 

 

 

Applying the Research to our Designs 

 

If you have not experienced it yourself, you probably know someone who has had to alter their plans or take medication due to allergies to pets, perfume, or wildfire smoke. At Ankrom Moisan, we talk about designing for all users and that should include designing for respiratory sensitivities.  

 

This study will hopefully help influence future building designs to take user sensitivities into account, and therefore create buildings that are a haven from pollutants and irritants during times of poor outdoor air quality. And in times of good outdoor air quality, our spaces should reduce known contributors to poor indoor air quality.  

 

One example of how we can design more inclusively is to consider air quality and pet allergies. Many residential communities today allow dogs but that can exclude people with allergies from living there—unless the air quality improves and the building, as well as furnishing, is designed to minimize pet dander. Our designers, armed with the findings from Cara’s research, can also advocate for features that will benefit everyone such as electric induction ranges, quieter exhaust hoods and operable kitchen windows 

 

Though indoor and outdoor air quality is a consideration that is often forgotten, Cara’s DGBW research program illustrates the importance of bringing all aspects of wellness into a building’s design, and redefines how we explore beyond, changing what designing for inclusiveness can mean. 

 

 

Cara Godwin headshot.

 

By Cara Godwin, Practice Manager

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Creating Environments to Suit Your Energy

May 5, 2023
Fitness Amenity Spaces for the Workplace

Happy National Fitness Day! Kim Bielak is credited for starting the day in 2017 which is “designated for the first Saturday of May to be a celebration of strength and empowerment for fitness” (Source). Here at Ankrom we design our fitness centers and bike rooms for the end user to feel that same strength and empowerment for fitness. In celebration of National Fitness Day, we want to share Ankrom’s past designed workplace fitness and bike amenity spaces.

 

A collage of fitness amenities from AM projects

 

 

A word from one of our Fitness Resident designers, Clare Goddard.

 

Q. What is unique about Ankrom’s approach to fitness and bike spaces?

 

A. How we approach fitness differently is focusing on making it an experience and a destination. Whether that includes coordination of equipment, wall graphics, lighting, we focus on it being an experience of what clients are wanting to have, not just utilitarian, and not a place of dread for the end users.

 

Bike spaces used to be treated as more of a back of house space with little design to them. Instead, we have been looking at them as a space where we can have fun and even make a bold statement. Having fun with bikes taps into Portland bike culture, why not elevate the space more?

 

 

Q. How do you design a space that is inclusive for all abilities and fitness levels?

 

A. The first thing that it comes down to is universal design: doorknobs, benches, ADA lockers and ADA compliance, etc. Equally, providing a variety of fitness equipment, yoga rooms, treadmills, interactive mirrors, stretching or weight training areas – let the user choose their workout type for a variety of abilities. Variety is key.

 

A well-designed fitness center should feel welcoming and inviting because so often fitness centers do not feel inclusive, or they are uncomfortable. Everyone should be able to move their body with joy within the space.

 

For example, in a project I was a part of we took an existing basement space, added brand new lighting, bright colors, added various benches, hooks, upscale lockers and even additional parking for e-bikes and recumbent bikes.

 

 

Q. How do you balance aesthetic between open gym v. class environment?

 

A. Using materials that feel like they go together or are complimentary between spaces. Using lighting that is around the perimeter of mirrors and highlighting what is more important in each space. For example, flooring changes could be LVT in the classroom and anti-microbial carpet tile, rubber or cork flooring in the gym area.

 

 

Q. What is your favorite part about designing fitness spaces?

 

A. My favorite part is that I’m an athletic person, and I enjoy working out. I get to put myself in that mode to imagine how myself or others would use the space. “Getting into the concept” and making it unique from other fitness centers.

 

 

Q. Where do you start with fitness planning and programming?

 

A. The best way to start with a fitness center is to get surveys from building tenants to hear what they want, so that you have information on what the tenants want to use. Understanding the competition and comparing what other buildings are offering also helps to make a fitness center stand out in the crowd. Compare what other buildings in the area are offering.

 

 

 

Contributor: Clare Goddard, Senior Associate Interior Designer

 

Emily Feicht, Interior Designer

 

Rebecca Brock, Associate Interior Designer

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Employee Spotlight: May Au

May 1, 2023
Illustrating Inspiration

It seems that May Au was destined to be an artist. Her sketches appear in the firm’s “AM is Sketchy” Teams channel to the delight of many, inspiring her coworkers to embrace their creative side and see things from a new perspective. 

 

 

Architect and artist May Au poses atop the Ankrom Moisan Portland office.

 

Architect and artist May Au poses atop Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

 

This began as a result of the recurring Thursday drawing classes, the products of which are shared on the AM is Sketchy channel. May received enthusiastic feedback from her colleagues, who wanted to know more about her process. “A couple of people were interested in learning how I draw,” May said. Roberta Pennington asked May if she would share her process with the firm, and although May was hesitant at first, she eventually agreed, but not before deciding to spruce up her presentation. “I thought it would be kind of boring if I just drew on live,” May explained. “I thought that during this precious lunch hour, people would probably want to draw more than watching me, so I thought ‘I should speed that up in Procreate and record the process.’” Even her management team took notice of May’s art; Ryan Miyahira asked May to share her sketching process at a team meeting. Luckily, she already had recordings of her sketching process from a trip she took to Nice, France. May paired her time lapse videos with narration and music recorded by her husband and Emily Bear, respectively. The videos were shared on the company’s Teams channels, catching the attention of many, and causing May to be nominated for an employee spotlight feature. 

 

 

 

 

May was drawn (pardon the pun) to painting in kindergarten, when she took note of artwork hanging on the walls of her classroom and aspired to learn how to draw and paint when she grew up. Her older sister encouraged this newfound passion, singing May original songs such as “I’m a Little Painter,” which she particularly loved. 

 

 

In college and at the beginning of her career as an architect, May attended live drawing sessions to draw models, and would often check out books on the sketches of her favorite artists – Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, and Rembrandt – from the school library when she was supposed to be studying. These habits strengthened her eye for detail, a trait which she would rely on in her work as an architect. She explained the connection between her sketches and architectural work, saying “in general, architects must detail projects out quite a bit. We need to be efficient, and we don’t want to do the work incorrectly, so you always have to check yourself and ask, ‘am I doing it in the right way?’.” 

 

 

May Au's sketches of various buildings in France and Japan.

 

May’s sketches of various buildings in France, Japan, and Hong Kong.

 

 

 

 

This work ethic overlaps with May’s artistic process in the sense that her sketches begin with ‘bigger picture’ concepts, like lines and shapes, and gradually moves towards finer details, though she often takes a step back to ensure that both the bigger picture and smaller intricacies are balanced and in harmony. She applies this process to all projects she undertakes, explaining, “If somebody gives you a task or big issue, it’s helpful to break them down into steps to tackle them one by one, rather than being overwhelmed by it. After you finish, always stand back and question the work, then you’ll find your own mistakes without other people telling you.”  

 

 

May's sketch of Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Hong Kong.

 

May’s sketch of Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Hong Kong.

 

 

Illustration is not the only artistic talent that May holds. Before becoming an architect, she made and sold pottery. May disclosed, “I couldn’t make a living out of pottery, so my sister suggested that I look into architecture. I thought ‘ohh, that’s so different because clay is so soft and so flexible, and architecture is not.” Though she no longer makes pottery, her love for the craft remains. May views herself as more of a potter than an architect. “I don’t [do pottery] anymore, I get addicted to it,” she jokes. “I cannot stop. A few days ago, I found a pottery studio in my neighborhood. I was too excited; I couldn’t fall asleep.” In addition to her past as a potter, May has taken classes on Chinese calligraphy and oil pastel painting throughout her architecture career, and illustrates cartoons for her church’s newsletter. 

 

 

 

 

One of her dreams was to become a rendering artist, however, since rendering is no longer done by hand, May pivoted to learn more about detailing, a decision which brought her – at the suggestion of a friend – here, to Ankrom Moisan. May saw this opportunity as a way to build a solid foundation in the field of architecture, as well as a chance to be exposed to a more diverse range of projects than previous positions she had held. 

 

 

May says that she has learned to be more efficient, as well as the art of detailing, since starting at Ankrom. “I’m very thankful to mentors like Sean Scott, James Lucking, and David Dahl that really helped with my detailing,” May said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do much, or wouldn’t be able to [detail] correctly.” She believes that her attitude has changed too. “I’ve learned to be more patient. Patient of my own growth,” she reflected. 

 

 

May Au's watercolor of an alley in Nice, France.

 

A watercolor painting of an alleyway in Nice, France, completed by May in 2022.

 

 

Though she primarily works on residential projects, May’s favorite type of work are cultural buildings “that are for public use,” she says. “Residential buildings are what we do, and they’re my second favorite type of architecture since we eat and live in those buildings every day.” 

 

 

As an architect, May is inspired by the ability to “explore the possibilities in a space and to be creative and not necessarily stuck with what we see, but to come up with many different ideas.” As for her art, she finds that her creative impulse is sparked by the mood and the lighting in the composition of an image. While there is not a single subject May does not enjoy drawing, she wants to improve her portraits, since they can be so challenging. “It takes a lot of work. If I can draw people’s emotions, and capture that [essence] where it’s like ‘that person looks like that person,’ I’d be happy,” she explains.  

 

 

 

 

May has plenty of sage advice for young professionals who are just starting out in the field of architecture and interior design. She stresses patience with oneself and self-confidence. “People blossom at different stages, so don’t be too impatient with yourself,” she says. “Learn to be humble, but at the same time, learn to be a leader. Know your own strengths. Know what kind of path you want to go down, and fight for it. Don’t let other people decide what you can do.” May also acknowledges the virtue of tenacity, stating “we have to fail before we succeed.” As a final piece of wisdom, May offers, “be able to learn to embrace the details, not just ideas,” a philosophy that she clearly lives by, evidenced by her beautifully detailed illustrations. 

 

 

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

 

By Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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Compelling Sustainable Materials and Resources for 2023

April 21, 2023
An Earth Day Conversation with Liza Meek, Materials Library Coordinator

Q: What environmental innovations are you seeing trending in new products for 2023?

 

A: Including recycled content has been a trend for a while, but now I’m hearing more about products that are degradable or contain biodegradable elements. These are products that you wouldn’t traditionally think of such as textiles and carpets.

 

Example from Maharam: “Rapidly degradable polyester has a biopolymer catalyst added to the molecular makeup of the yarn that accelerates degradation.  A biopolymer is a polymer product by or derived from living organisms. Textiles using rapidly degradable polyester are engineered for performance environments and carry the same warranty as standard Maharam textiles. The textile’s degradation will only initiate when placed in an anaerobic environment. Rapidly degradable polyester is no more susceptible to sunlight, chemical cleaners, staining, or dyes than a standard recycled polyester.”

 

Other examples of biodegradable products are from Patcraft. Patcraft has an innovative product called ReWorx that is designed for circularity. It’s made of recycled plastic bottles and can also be recycled at the end of its life.

 

 

Q: Are there any sustainable practices that designers aren’t talking enough about or forgetting to check?

 

A: There are almost too many resources available as far as material transparency goes.  Find one or two reliable resources like the mindful MATERIALS portal or utilize our firm’s customized sustainability filters on the Material Bank website.

 

Designing for a circular economy is a great consideration, particularly around materials. Consider how the product was extracted and processed. Does it contain recycled materials or biodegradable materials?  Can the material be reused or repurposed and broken down to create new products?

 

If budget or scope doesn’t allow for that type of undertaking, focus on avoiding elements that affect human health, such as the Six Classes of Harmful Chemicals put out by the Green Science Policy Institute.

 

If there is a certain sustainability goal for the project, reach out to the manufacturer reps for the companies you love and use them as a resource. Ask them which products they have that meet your project’s sustainability goals.

 

 

woman stands in materials library smiling at camera

 

 

Q: With new products coming out for Spring, what would you consider to be the top 3 products or brands that are embracing environmental innovation/sustainability? What are the innovations these products/companies are focusing on?

 

A: The flooring companies, textile companies and acoustic manufacturers are where I see the most push towards sustainable product innovation. Many of them are developing products that are degradable, use recycled materials (up-cycled clothing, recycled PET or polyester), PVC-free, or using ECONYL (yarn that is 100% regenerated from fishing lines). Some recent examples are:

 

 

Q: Have you noticed any steps/long-term policies or goals announced by these companies to help promote environmental well-being for the future?

 

A: I’m hearing from several textile reps that their companies are making the move to go PFA free. PFAS are forever chemicals that build up in your body over time and have been linked to many health issues.

 

Maharam: “As of Jan 2023, Maharam was 78% PFAS free, including all new intros from July 2022- forward. We’re in the midst of transitioning all of our textiles and will be 95% PFAS free by the end of this year.”

 

I’m also hearing more manufacturers are pushing beyond carbon neutral and into carbon negative. Interface is a great example.

 

 

Q: Why should workplace designers and clients care about sustainability even when under quick deadlines and tight budgets?

 

A: With the amount of information available to consumers, they are becoming savvier about what’s in their environments and the expectations are rising.  Consumer demand is driving that, and more and more manufacturers are making products that align with those values.

 

Gen Z’ers are also pushing the sustainability movement. According to Trend Hunter, 75% of Gen Z is willing to pay more for sustainable products and they are influencing the older generations.

 

Two years ago, only 30 of Gen X parents were willing to spend 10% more on sustainable products.  90% are more willing today.”

 

Workplace designers should care about sustainability because their clients do. Healthy buildings are higher quality buildings, and they offer a better return on their investment. Many large and small companies have ESG goals and initiatives. Buildings designed with healthy and sustainable materials and systems can go a long way toward helping businesses meet their ESG commitments.

 

 

Liza Meek

Liza Meek, Materials Library Coordinator

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Repositioning | Renovating Communities

April 5, 2023
Living Your Potential

Re-imagine your community expanding services and amenities for the current and next generation.  For the active adult, those needing personal care services, and those that need specialized care, we design to Empower, Enrich, and Care.

 

Read about Repositioning | Renovating Communities.

 

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Where are the Women?: Closing the Gap

March 8, 2023
Six obstacles for women in architecture (and how we can overcome them).

Backed by Ankrom Moisan’s Do GOOD / Be WELL research scholarship and galvanized by a noticeable lack of women in architecture, Amanda Lunger, Elisa Zenk, and Stephanie Hollar set out to determine why women are not at the forefront of the field, and what can be done to get them there.

 

 

Elisa Zenk, Stephanie Hollar, and Amanda Lunger in the Portland office's design library.

 

Elisa Zenk, Stephanie Holler, and Amanda Lunger in AM’s Portland office.

 

The Research

 

Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie did this by administering all-office surveys, holding conversations with women in the field of architecture, evaluating their own individual experiences at Ankrom Moisan, and conducting case-studies that observed the structure and operation style of women-led architecture firms. The all-office survey contained twenty-two questions and was answered by 158 participants, both male and female. As for the conversations with women in architecture, fourteen of those women were current AM employees, and ten of them former AM employees.

 

What these conversations, surveys, and case studies revealed was eye-opening, but not out of left field. A substantial disparity exists between men and women’s experiences in the architecture industry. This article will highlight the primary problems afflicting women in architecture and provide methods for both firms and individuals to combat and overcome them.

 

Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie identified 6 key issues:

  1. An Unclear Path to Leadership
  2. Burnout
  3. Pay Disparity
  4. Balancing Motherhood and a Career
  5. The Road to Licensure
  6. Feeling Out of Place

 

While these findings may paint architecture as a lopsided and unfair industry, the good news is that there are many ideas and suggestions for how to boost equity and support women in architecture. Some of the ideas, presented at the 2022 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit in San Jose, California, which Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie attended, range from celebrating the successes of other women, reminding individuals to ask for help when needed and remembering that it’s okay to say no, to making time to mentor younger women, and delegating and sharing opportunities with other colleagues. Some suggestions are as simple as taking ten minutes at the beginning of every meeting to create a psychological safety zone, so that everyone feels like they belong at the table and can express themselves without fear of rejection.

 

 

Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Elisa Zenk, Stephanie Hollar, Mariah Kiersey, and Amanda Lunger at the 2022 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit.

 

Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, Elisa Zenk, Stephanie Hollar, Mariah Kiersey, and Amanda Lunger at the 2022 AIA Women’s Leadership Summit.

 

Additionally, Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie have provided their own insights for how Ankrom Moisan, and other architecture firms, can remedy the gap between men and women in the field. Other potential solutions suggested by a variety of sources—from interviews with women in the field and from solutions other firms have implemented—synthesized through Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie’s research will be interwoven with the six key issues they identified.

 

 

An Unclear Path to Leadership

 

Leadership is a common goal for both men and women in architecture. 70% of the people surveyed by Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie stated that they would like to be in a leadership position. Unfortunately, women seemed to feel that goal was out of reach. One employee surveyed responded that they “truly wish to hold a leadership position someday but have zero expectations that they would ever make it into [one].” Another answered that a leadership role was desirable but seemed like “you are inundated with paperwork and peopling and are no longer a part of the design of architecture.” The desire to still be a part of hands-on design processes may be a factor in forgoing the pursuit of leadership roles, but it is not the sole reason leadership can feel out of reach to female architects.

 

This dashing of expectations may be attributed to the observation that the path to leadership roles is less than clear for women in architecture. 35% of women felt that they didn’t understand the path to leadership at Ankrom Moisan, whereas only 20% of men felt that the road to leadership was beyond their grasp. There were some other survey respondents, however, who saw this lack of clarity regarding career advancement as a challenge, stating “I have no one to look up to that looks like me. So, I’ve decided to become that person – a leader.”

Survey results highlighting an unclear path to leadership.

 

Survey results highlighting an unclear path to leadership positions.

 

One reason the ladder to success might appear so esoteric is that a lack of evaluations and constructive feedback can work as a barrier against career growth and advancement. Luckily, through their research, Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie were able to gather ideas for how to break down this barrier and make the path to leadership clearer. These suggestions range from designing strategic plans like PEP employee evaluations and check-ins for developing staff into leadership roles and standardizing them across teams, to adding peer reviews to the evaluation process for a broader spectrum of feedback.

 

Taking these suggestions to heart, Ankrom Moisan’s Career Pathways Program establishes resources for employees to understand the path to leadership, making it the most significant action item to come from Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie’s research. Another key solution that emerged from this project was the hiring younger staff for employees to mentor and lead, thus creating ‘inward facing’ roles for many of the architects that desire to hold a leadership position and providing younger hires with mentors that they can look up to and learn from.

 

 

Burnout

 

When employees take on additional work and responsibilities beyond their regular role, they become overworked and have little energy left for their regular duties. Adding newer, younger staff to architecture teams would also help solve the burnout problem, which is primarily caused by a staff shortage. Unfortunately, it seems that burnout happens to women at a disproportionate rate. 46% of women have felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities at work, which is drastically more than the 29% of men who feel that way.

Graphic revealing survey results about staffing and burnout.

 

Survey results related to staffing, workload, and burnout.

 

The feeling of being overcome by professional obligations often prevents employees from wanting to advance in their career, as well, as that advancement presumably comes with even more responsibility. One survey response elucidated, “I enjoy working with the people and the clients we have, but not always having the resources to staff a project can lead to burn out, make it hard to want to be involved in any initiatives, and really leads to questioning what it means to [want] to advance.” Some of the solutions suggested by Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie to combat this are to focus on hiring and retaining emerging professionals, ensuring that employees who feel overwhelmed have the opportunity to move to less demanding projects with lighter workloads, and designing strategies to ensure that staff are not spread too thin, or constantly in ‘survival mode.’

 

 

Pay Disparity

 

It’s common for employees who take on extra work to receive a pay raise with their new responsibilities. This is not always the case, though, and sometimes individuals must negotiate to secure an increase in their salary. Yet again, this is an area that is not entirely equitable. In fact, negotiations have the largest discrepancy in attitude between men and women in architecture. 46% of women surveyed admitted that they do not feel comfortable asking for a raise or a promotion, which compared to male respondents’ 11%, is eyebrow-raising. One discerning observation that reveals why this is the case indicated that “women typically ask for a raise after they’ve [proven] that they’ve done something, but men ask for a raise in anticipation that they’re being asked to do something.” Ultimately, this means that women may be doing more work for less reward than their male counterparts, as they feel they must go above and beyond before they are entitled to additional compensation.

Survey results related to negotiations.

 

Survey results related to negotiations.

 

Another component to this issue is pay transparency. Not knowing the pay range for a position when entering negotiation can set a person up to settle for less than they deserve. Additionally, a lack of transparency can prevent people from wanting to negotiate in the first place. As one survey respondent put it, “I haven’t been super confident, and I didn’t want to come across as pushy. I also didn’t do it because I wasn’t aware what other firms offer.” A potential solution for this, it seems, is offering confidence and negotiation workshops for women while proactively checking in on pay and role satisfaction, ensuring that companies are candid about the salary ranges for all their positions prior to negotiations. A case study observing Jeanne Gang’s Studio Gang found that knowing the baseline salary for any given position is key for enacting change, for yourself and others.

 

Because pay has been ranked as the second most important aspect of an individual’s career in an AMA office-wide survey, just after work-life balance, being transparent about salary ranges is crucial for both recruiting and retaining employees. It’s known that staff who feel that they’re being paid below the market value are 49.7% more likely to search for a new job within the next six months in comparison to employees who feel they are compensated at or above the market rate (Payscale). While about a quarter of both men and women were unsatisfied with their earnings, there were 27% more women than men who felt that the pay range for their role was not clear enough. Proposed solutions for ensuring pay ranges are as transparent as possible include conducting regular pay audits to identify and correct inequities, publishing pay ranges for each role, and communicating with staff about how those ranges are determined.

 

Outreach is another method to secure the place of women in architecture that great strides can be made in. By talking with female architecture students, conversations can be started around fair wages and negotiation, so that the next generation of women architects are already equipped to face the challenges of the industry. Additionally, encouraging employees to take part in programs such as Architects in Schools, ACE Mentorship, and the Boys and Girls club can expose more youth to the field of architecture, ensuring that its future is bright, and that burnout no longer holds back staff from doing their best work.

 

 

Balancing Motherhood and a Career

 

One area that undoubtedly impacts women and their careers more than their male counterparts is having children. Of the surveyed employees, half of the men who responded did not believe that having kids impacted their careers, while only 30% of women could say the same.

 

Effects of childbirth on career advancement.

 

Graphic representations of the impact childbirth has on the careers of women.

 

Often, female architects start families at crucial career pinch points. If they choose to have children, it is not uncommon to return from maternity leave and be denied the same level of responsibility that they had previously held for years. The professional uncertainty tied to having children can mean that working women have to choose between one or the other. Some women try to juggle both motherhood and advancing a professional career but find that “being a mom and an architect, [it can feel] like both suffered.” Others draw a line, declaring that they are “not willing to sacrifice [their] personal or family time in order to advance [their] career.” Still, it’s hard not to feel like they are missing opportunities male counterparts don’t have to give up.

 

Illustration of how childbirth impacts the careers of women.

 

 

Illustration of how children come at a pinch point for many women’s careers.

 

There are ways to counter this feeling, though. Firms can provide better parental relief, for both men and women, normalizing child-rearing as the responsibility of both parents, rather than the sole responsibility of a mother. Promoting flexible work schedules can also help parents look after their children without sacrificing their career. Finally, firms can subsidize childcare, reducing the need for mothers to have to choose between their kids and their careers. At MOYA Design Partners, a childcare stipend is included as part of the work benefits project. Another case study found that Architects FORA, a 100% women-owned firm, is staffed completely remotely to provide as much flexibility as possible for employees with families. Whether children are young or old, this surely makes a difference in balancing professional obligations and a healthy home life.

 

 

The Road to Licensure

 

Motherhood is not the only thing that can set back a woman’s career. Licensure also serves as a roadblock on the path to leadership, especially for women. Although 61% of male architects are licensed, only 40% of women are. Employees that spoke to Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie stated that “becoming licensed has been a daunting task.” Though supervisors can be supportive, encouraging employees to take the Architecture Registration Examination, “trying to excel with work responsibilities, office initiatives, and activities leaves little time for work-life balance, finding time to study for the ARE’s, and general decompression from it all.”

 

A healthy work-life balance is integral to both quality of work and quality of life. It’s necessary to protect this balance without penalizing employees who forgo studies and examinations that occur outside of working hours. Suggested solutions include incorporating ARE study and testing hours into staffing plans, reexamining the requirements to become a principal, and offering greater incentives for passing the Architecture Registration Examination and completing the process licensure. If these steps are undertaken, it’s possible that firms will see more licensed female architects, and women architects in leadership roles.

 

 

Feeling Out of Place

 

Outside of architecture firms, women face even greater challenges. “It’s difficult to be taken seriously as a woman in architecture, especially as a young woman,” one survey response said. “Not so much amongst other architects, but to GCs and consultants I feel like we have to prove our knowledge and worth 100 times over.” Another respondent noted that “it’s really hard when you’re asking someone like me, [a] thirty-something-year-old woman to bring in business. I have nothing to relate to 65-year-old men. How am I supposed to cultivate those relationships and bring in business?”

 

These challenges often originate from sexist stereotypes and beliefs regarding the kind of work women can do. The best way to put an end to beliefs like this is to train staff, especially men, to be allies to women in their field. It is imperative that men are aware of the challenges that women face in architecture, that way they can advocate for their co-workers in beneficial, productive ways. Firms can also accelerate the implementation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategies, and work with (or continue to work with) women-owned consultant firms to ensure that women in architecture are supported and celebrated.

 

Of course, it must be acknowledged that none of these issues stand alone. Many of them intersect in complex ways, preventing women from making the most of their experiences in architecture. For example, having children can prevent female employees from taking the time to complete licensure, which may bar her from working on more projects that could potentially advance her career to the level of leadership. Alternatively, having too much work and being spread too thin can stop her from mentoring younger staff, taking the ARE, or even deciding to have kids. These are tough choices that nobody should have to make; a career and a family should not be mutually exclusive.

 

 

Making Progress

 

What is worth celebrating most, though, is the fact that Ankrom Moisan is already executing many of the ideas recommended by the DEIB Council to fight these issues. Benefits like Flex holidays and remote and hybrid work options allow women with families to devote time to both their career and their children, on their own schedule. Programs such as AM Learn encourage employees to continue their professional growth through educational opportunities like the office’s regular Lunch & Learn sessions. Annual DEI surveys and listening sessions from The Diversity Movement promote conversations around these topics, certifying that everybody’s voice is heard. Do GOOD/Be WELL research projects provide an outlet for investigating critical issues to improve overall company culture.

 

Furthermore, Ankrom Moisan is committed to establishing clear career pathways, explicit evaluation criteria, and equitable pay transparency for all positions. This initiative led to the creation of the Career Pathways Program, a practical resource which summarizes the relationship between roles and titles in architecture, interior design, and practice services, with the hope of clarifying the pathways for professional development and growth available to Ankrom Moisan employees. Informative charts and diagrams illustrate our disciplines’ roles, role summaries, and evaluation criteria at all levels. All of this goes to ensure that our HOWs are fully embodied, every day.

 

There may be a lot of challenges when it comes to safeguarding gender parity in architecture, however, what Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie have done with their Do GOOD/Be WELL research project is confirm that there are plenty of actionable solutions that guarantee the future of architecture is indeed female.

 

Amanda Lunger, Stephanie Hollar, and Elisa Zenk in the Portland office.

 

Amanda Lunger, Stephanie Hollar, and Elisa Zenk in the Portland office.

 

 

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

 

By Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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Where are the Women?: The Research

March 8, 2023
The consequences of gender disparity in architecture.

The Do GOOD / Be WELL scholarship encourages Ankrom Moisan employees to research an open-ended topic of their choosing to discover and share the practical results of their findings with the firm, industry, and community at large. The scholarship, started in 2017, is sponsored in memory of former AM employee Carolyn Forsyth, an inspirational leader and unyielding force for change. Intended to honor her legacy of sustainability, equity, innovation, advocacy, education, and leadership, the DGBW scholarship elevates and empowers new and inspiring ideas within Ankrom Moisan and the broader field of architecture, pushing us all, as the name implies, to do good and be well.

 

For their research scholarship, Amanda Lunger, Elisa Zenk, and Stephanie Hollar ventured to ask: Where are the Women?

 

 

Amanda Lunger, Elisa Zenk, and Stephanie Hollar atop Ankrom Moisan's Portland office.

 

Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie atop Ankrom Moisan’s Portland office.

 

 

The idea came to them naturally. During the firm’s 2020 Women’s Day celebration, Elisa noticed that some of the AM statistics shared didn’t seem to tell the whole story. “The women in architecture numbers were getting buried in the celebration of the fact that our office had this large percentage of women,” Elisa explained, “but when we looked into it, most of that percentage was made up of women in the interiors department and various overhead positions.” The real number of women in architecture was not as equitable as it could be. “I think I already knew this intuitively, that women are underrepresented in design roles,” Amanda disclosed, but “once we actually looked at those numbers, that was kind of shocking to me.” Stepping back to all architecture roles, not just design, women only make up 37% of architecture staff nationwide, according to AIA industry data collected in 2019. Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie all knew that there should be more women in the industry and began to question why that was not the case. They were also interested in solving that problem at our firm, pushing AMA beyond industry trends.

 

After Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie discussed this observation, they agreed that they had seen too many brilliant women, presumably on track for leadership, leave the field. “We were talking about these women who were really rockstars in the architecture department who were leaving,” recalled Amanda. “We were speculating as to why the industry seemed to have that problem.” Whatever the cause, it was clear that some women were dissatisfied with their experiences in architecture.

 

Stephanie recognized that the issue of women in architecture leaving Ankrom Moisan for other opportunities was one that needed a deeper investigation. It was also a problem that affected her directly. “The women who we saw leaving at that time were older than me and in architecture, but then they left. I saw them as people that I was looking up to [that] were mentors and having them leave really created a gap of future women architecture leaders,” she remarked. “It makes you kind of question your own career sometimes. Like if all these other women are leaving, it’s like, OK, what am I doing here? Like what are they finding elsewhere?”

 

In fields traditionally dominated by men, like architecture, same-sex mentors are paramount to the success of early career women. Female designers are more likely to aspire to career advancement if they see someone like them at the top. This role-modeling is critical for the retention and professional growth of our talented female architects.

 

The consequences of the lack of female representation in architecture was further emphasized by Amanda, “Being a woman in architecture, I’ve run into a lot of experiences in dealing with colleagues where I felt very misunderstood and kind of lonely as being a gender minority or marginalized gender in this industry. I’ve had personal experiences sitting in a meeting with consultants and some of my project team members, who are all men. At the beginning of the meeting, they’re all talking about working on their cars, or fishing, like these shared hobbies that they have. I had a hard time finding common ground. It was hard to know where to start [building rapport] in some of those cases. I felt like I got overlooked a lot of the time.” Elisa felt similarly, noting how being the only woman in the room “makes it hard to have a voice or feel comfortable having a voice. There’s not always room at the table, even if you’re sitting there.” Elaborating on this idea, Amanda reflected, “I feel like I was always looking for a woman who had been in that position before and could give me advice like how to cope and how to get through it. But those mentors just weren’t there.”

 

The exodus of women from established architecture firms becomes even more lamentable once one recognizes that the leadership positions and characteristics women tend to embrace are critical for the future success of the firm; roles and traits such as “inspiration, participative decision-making, setting expectations and rewards, people development, and role modeling” (McKinsey, 2018). Simply put, a workplace with more women is a workplace with more creativity, productivity, and profitability (MIT News, 2014). The lack of women in architecture is intrinsically detrimental to everyone in the industry.

 

 

Stephanie, Amanda, and Elisa working together on their DGBW Project.

 

The healthcare team working together in the Seattle office.

 

 

Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie’s interest in what happened to these women came at the right time. It was about a week before applications for the Do GOOD / Be WELL scholarships were due, and after their initial conversation, Amanda thought, “maybe we should turn this into a research project, that way we have time set aside to really look at it. I mean, nobody else was doing this research, so it kind of felt like, well, if we don’t do it, who’s going to?” The group quickly put together an application and submitted it before the April 2nd deadline, a date shared with Carolyn Forsyth’s birthday.

 

Many of the data points collected during the project’s research were gathered from conversations with women architects about their professional experiences, career goals, the tools that helped them succeed, and what they thought firms could do better to support their growth. Additional observations came from personal experience, while other statistics were sourced from the AIA. The bulk of Amanda, Elisa, and Stephanie’s AMA-specific statistics originated from a firm-wide survey they conducted, which gathered responses from 158 participants, both male and female.

 

 

Graph illustrating the project's interview process.

Graph illustrating the research project's survey process.

 

Graphs illustrating the research project’s interview and survey process.

 

 

Stephanie disclosed that the study they conducted was designed to provide “specific points that we could apply here at Ankrom to help [combat the disappearance of women from architecture].” The idea was that by identifying the roadblocks that women face when advancing in their careers, they will be able to more confidently advocate for themselves and the resources they need to grow as professionals. The research is an important first step in Ankrom Moisan’s journey to bringing gender parity to the architecture department and increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the firm overall.

 

 

Read part two, here, to learn more about what the research uncovered.

 

 

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By Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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Interiors Innovator Karen Bowery Retires After 40 Years with Firm

February 28, 2023
Celebrating Her Industry-Defining Career

After 40 years of setting the standard for how architecture and interior design intersect, Karen Bowery, Executive Vice President and Director of Interiors of Ankrom Moisan, is retiring from the firm and her role in The Society on February 28, 2023. Her decision is based on the feeling that it’s time to turn over the reins to a new generation so she can enjoy the next chapter of her life. 

 

 

Karen Bowery photographed on the rooftop of Ankrom Moisan's Portland office.

 

Karen Bowery atop the Portland office.

 

 

Karen is a real Portland trailblazer. She’s been an integral part of Ankrom Moisan since its founding and a visionary in interior design throughout her career, launching the interiors group when the firm first started in 1983. She’s been at the table since the beginning, creating space for women in architecture and interior design. In the early 1990s when Ankrom Moisan established a Board of Directors, Karen was one of the original four members. 

 

 

In 2016, Karen launched The Society to focus exclusively on interior design for the hospitality industry. In six short years, The Society has secured a coveted spot on the “shortlist” for the most prestigious hotel brands in the world – Hyatt, Hilton, Mariott, and the International Hospitality Group (IHG) – and is a three-time international award nominee. 

 

 

At the forefront of interior design for her entire career, Karen was one of just ten students to have graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Interior Design Program in 1978, when interior design as a field was in its infancy. She has been a true leader for interior design, forging her own path without a roadmap and going on to influence the practice on a monumental scale.  

 

 

 

Karen, circa 1980

 

Karen, circa 1980.

 

 

Building Ankrom Moisan’s Interiors division from the ground up, she pioneered the field’s best practices and laid the foundation for today’s designers and interiors teams to flourish. Her unwavering attention to the lifestyle and behavior patterns of the end user, combined with her keen understanding of consumer trends and future-focused insights, has cultivated a reputation for the firm as having one of the best Interiors groups in the country. 

 

 

“We design experiences, we design spaces, and we design points of view,” says Michael Stueve, Ankrom Moisan principal. “Karen’s greatest design has been Ankrom Moisan’s Interiors department. She designed it, envisioned and made a plan for it, and then she became the ‘general contractor’ and built it. Many in the industry look at the Interiors division model Karen created here and how it operates. From my perspective, the biggest impact she’s had is in innovating a new sort of Interiors team model.” 

 

 

Karen has also been a leader in understanding how data helps inform design. She established the firm’s research department, which feeds into the firm’s emphasis on user experience. She has always been driven by the idea of intent: when guests walk into a space, she believes they should feel like they are meant to be there, that it is a place that defines them, supports their unique perspective, and honors their lived experience. This speaks to Karen’s expertise as a leader, as well. She has always been there for her team, ensuring that everyone feels supported, heard, and like they belong.  

 

 

Dave Heater, Karen, and Tom Moisan in 2016

 

Dave Heater, Karen, and Tom Moisan in 2016.

 

 

“What Karen created with her dedication and hard work in unparalleled,” adds Dave Heater, Ankrom Moisan president. “This includes what she’s built and how deeply she cares about the company and the people she has hired and helped nurture in their careers.” 

 

 

Under her leadership at both Ankrom Moisan and The Society, Karen and her teams have received numerous awards from the American Institute of Architecture, and the International Interior Design Association Oregon and Pacific Northwest chapters, along with Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design, TopID Awards from The Hospitality Industry Network, Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards, DJC Oregon Top Projects Awards, and Environments for Aging Design Showcase Awards, among others. Additionally, The Society has ranked on Interior Design Magazine’s Top 100 Rising Giants list for the past two years. 

 

 

Karen’s vision for the Interiors team has always been to “be the best.” She’s fostered an entrepreneurial drive which allowed her team to seek and take new directions, and under her direction many employees have become the “firsts” in their role. Karen’s involvement with the interiors team extends beyond her role as founder and executive vice president. Karen is a mentor and a friend to all who have worked with her. Her leadership, courage, work ethic, vision, and laughter have been a guiding light to many of her teammates and will be dearly missed once she is gone. 

 

 

Karen at an Ankrom Moisan Happy Hour in 2022

 

Karen at an Ankrom Moisan Happy Hour in 2022.

 

 

Leah Wheary Brown, Vice President of Interior Design Strategy, stresses Karen’s impact, stating “One of Karen’s lasting influences that she fought for from day one is how she helped move our profession from being viewed merely as decorators, into having a seat at the table as an integral part of the overall project design process.”  

 

 

Though she has had many highs throughout her career, some of Karen’s legacy-defining milestones – aside from her work founding the Interiors department and The Society, her advocacy for environmental sustainability, and her achievements representing women in architecture and interior design – include spearheading the interior design for the projects located on Macadam Avenue. Originally designed for renowned developer John Gray, Ankrom Moisan made this property its first long-term headquarters in 1985. Over the following decade, Karen and the firm worked with Gray on several projects that came to characterize the Macadam area of Portland, including the celebrated Water Tower at Johns Landing. 

 

 

Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, also holds a special place for both Karen and Ankrom Moisan. From the groundbreaking, through renovations, updates, and new additions, Karen and the firm played a key role in helping to shape this iconic Pacific Northwest resort and surrounding property. As Ankrom Moisan’s first hotel project, it was also the launching pad for Karen’s focus on the hospitality industry. 

 

 

Additionally, working with developers like John Carroll and Homer Williams, Karen was instrumental in the transition of Portland’s Pearl District from abandoned railyards and warehouses to vibrant neighborhoods. Karen created a unit customization program and pushed for staffing the sales offices of Pearl District projects with Ankrom Moisan designers to help buyers customize their units, a practice that was previously unused, but which has now become the norm. Following the success of Portland’s Pearl District, Karen helped broaden the firm’s focus toward other forms of housing, in particular for the growing market of senior housing. 

 

 

When Ankrom Moisan relocated its founding office in 2016 to 38 Davis in the Old Town area of downtown Portland, Karen led the project team in designing this new space to directly reflect the firm’s mission, values, culture, and identity. 

 

 

Suffice to say, Karen’s impact on Ankrom Moisan is felt not only through the spaces we inhabit that she designed and the practices we follow that she created, but also through the connections she’s made and the lessons she has taught us, whether those are lessons in overcoming obstacles or in remembering to have fun with the process. According to Interior Designer Katie Lyslo, Karen “has taught [her] to take design seriously, but [to] still have fun doing so.” Looking back at her portfolio, it’s evident that Karen has had a lot of fun over the course of her career. 

 

 

Karen at an Ankrom Moisan Holiday Party in 2014

 

Karen at an Ankrom Moisan Holiday Party in 2014.

 

 

Karen will turn over leadership of Ankrom Moisan’s Interiors group to Alissa Brandt and Leah Wheary Brown, who have worked alongside her for 22 and 19 years, respectively. Brant and Wheary Brown will build upon Karen’s lasting imprint while cultivating their own vision for the firm. 

 

 

Alissa Brandt, Karen, and Leah Wheary Brown

 

Alissa Brandt, Karen, and Leah Wheary Brown.

 

 

Casey Scalf, a Design Principal and founding member, will become the Director of The Society when Karen retires.  

 

 

“I’m extremely excited to further the legacy that Karen created,” says Alissa Brandt, Vice President of Interiors. “This is a time of constant change and staying stagnant is not an option. That’s what is most exciting about interior design – it’s never going to be the same, even when you’re working with the same client. There’s always an evolution, and Karen has consistently kept Ankrom Moisan at the forefront.” 

 

 

“A big part of Karen’s success and legacy is what she’s leaving behind,” Leah reflects. “She has been integral in shaping the interior design industry. Karen helped me learn to think strategically, but to also understand where we need to go in the future to be relevant, to move with evolving changes in the industry, with development, with clients, and with our own practice.” 

 

 

Karen and Leah in 2011

 

Karen and Leah in 2011.

 

 

“Karen has designed a self-sustaining model and has been the gasoline in the tank for our Interiors team,” says Michael. “When she transitions to the next chapter we’re not going to run out of gas. The energy she has put in is a renewable resource for the department. I’ve heard her say, ‘My greatest purpose is to give people wings to soar.’ I’m going to miss her a ton, she brings so much here, and she has empowered us for the future.” 

 

 

As Karen begins a new chapter in her life, we would like to wish her well and thank her for all she has accomplished for the firm over the past four decades. The impact she has had on the field of interior design will be lauded for decades to come, and her absence will be painfully noticed. 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

by Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

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Living Our Hows (6 of 6): Lead with Heart

February 23, 2023
A Conversation with Aaren DeHaas, Associate Interior Designer

Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Lead with Heart and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows. 

 

At Ankrom Moisan, our mission is to create places where people and communities thrive. Our goal is to provide a place of safety and comfort that is purposeful and sensitive, both to our client’s visions and to users’ needs. Through our integrated design approach, our team works to identify project challenges and propose solutions. Although these conversations can be hard, our clients appreciate this transparent and collaborative method of problem solving. We work closely as a team on every project with our clients to design spaces that address their concerns and closely align with their goals and company culture.

 

This is our work: Purposeful and sensitive, both to our clients’ visions and to users’ needs.

 

📸: by Andrew Nam

 

Q. What drives the planning and design for mission-driven work?

 

A. The driving factors for mission-driven work are similar to other projects in that we consider the specific type of work each of our clients do, their culture and what their company represents. The difference with mission-driven work is that much of what they do directly touches and impacts individuals in the community they serve. Many of these organizations are working to better lives within the community around them and a lot of this work involves helping people through tough times. The nature of their work and the topics discussed can bring up a lot of sensitive issues. Our goal is to find a way to design a space that addresses their clientele’s insecurities, privacy concerns and sensitivities. Keeping these items front of mind is key to a successful project.

 

Q. What makes mission-driven work unique to other projects? Are there any unique planning needs or sensitivities that need to be considered?

 

A. Several of the organizations we’ve worked with are in place to help people through challenging moments in their lives, from counseling and support services, to prevention, each come with unique needs. It’s essential to meet the psychological needs of both the employees working in the space, and those of the visitors. Ensuring basic safety is an important first step. We aim to bolster feelings of security and support, for example for some organizations it’s important that visitors have their own waiting areas, ensuring private, judgement-free zones. Beyond psychological needs there are physical safety requirements for both employees and visitors that need to be addressed and this can be a delicate balance between providing a space that’s inviting, but also ensuring physical safety.

 

📸: by Andrew Nam

 

Q. How do you meet the organization’s needs and provide a carefully considered design within budget?

 

A. It’s important to understand the organization’s goals and any difficulties they face. We always do an extensive programming phase with clients, a deep dive into not only their space needs but a close examination of their function, culture, and how they want to be perceived by their community. Having these conversations up front, along with the conversations around psychological and physical safety, help us to create a well-balanced space. These can be tough conversations to navigate but they’re particularly important to create a successful design in the end.

 

Regarding budget, having this conversation up front helps to inform the options we put forward. It’s important to specify appropriate finishes that reflect each organization and represent their outward public appearance. We are also mindful of how long it is until the organization’s next anticipated relocation or renovation. Some organizations won’t have the opportunity to create a new office for themselves for another 30-50 years, therefore specifying durable, timeless selections is crucial to design fresh, welcoming spaces that stand the test of time. In the end, it’s these organizations that are truly leading with their hearts, and we are here to support and uplift them in the best ways that we are able!

 

 

Aaren DeHaas, Associate Interior Designer 

 

 

Rebecca Brock, Associate Interior Designer

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Spotlight: New Hire Emily Feicht

February 9, 2023
An Interview with Emily Feicht, New Workplace Interiors Team Member

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

I grew up here in Oregon and have always had a real passion for the northwest. I love the rain, trees, coffee and all the culture that comes with it. I went to college at University of Oregon and graduated with the first COVID class in 2020, and knew I wanted to stay here and design beautiful spaces in the area. I began my career navigating the world of interior design at a small architecture firm in Salem for close to two years. Now, I am a fully remote part of the workplace team at Ankrom Moisan, I live in Corvallis with my kitty Maddy, and come up to Portland once to twice a month to work in the office.

 

 

Q. What has your experience been like at Ankrom Moisan these first few months?

 

I’ve had the best time! I love the incredibly supportive environment between peers, coworkers and supervisors. I’ve never worked with so many other interior designers at one time and feel fortunate to be encouraged to do the work that makes the project successful and the work we are good at! Especially concept design. I also love the reassurance from my team to be involved in IIDA and be integrated with Oregon’s interior design community.

 

 

Q. Favorite moment at Ankrom so far?

 

I am a thrilled for the holidays and all the festivities, so I loved getting dressed up and going to the holiday party! It was so fun to see everyone with the black and white theme and having seasonal cocktails and food!

 

Two women in black fancy clothes, one with drink in hand, smiling at camera
At the 2022 Holiday Party

 

Q. As one of Ankrom’s first few fully remote Workplace Interiors Team members, how has it been?

 

I have felt set up for success since day one – I’ve been impressed from the beginning with how equipped AM is to support their employees in any environment!

 

I also felt like the process of integrating myself with my team was seamless (both workplace and the larger AM team). When I get to come visit and work in the office, I may not know everyone, but I’ve found it comforting that people are so warm and willing to introduce themselves. Say hi, even if we’ve met before, I love it!

 

 

Welcome to the team, Emily, we are lucky to have you!

 

Black and White Headshot Portrait

Emily Feicht, Interior Designer

 

 

📸: Oregon Coast by Eric Muhr

📸: Holiday portrait by Evrim Icoz

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Promotions Announcement 2023

January 23, 2023
Recognizing and Rewarding Hard Work

Over the past year, we’ve accomplished a lot. From designing seven award-winning interior design & architecture works and completing one of the largest zero-energy affordable housing projects in the Pacific Northwest, to raising over $167,000 for Food Lifeline during the annual A.M. Trivia Night, Ankrom Moisan’s employees have been responsible for a year of immense growth and success.

 

For Exploring Beyond the Expected, 35 employees throughout our Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle offices received promotions in the last year. These outstanding employees include:

 

Compilation of headshots from Ankrom Moisan's V.P., Director, and Principal promotions

 

Executive Leadership

  • Alissa Brandt, Vice President of Interiors – Portland
  • Leah Wheary Brown, Vice President of Interior Design Strategy – Portland
  • Emily Lamunyan, Director of Marketing – Portland

Principal & Director

  • Casey Scalf, Director of The Society – Seattle
  • Matt Janssen, Architecture – Portland
  • Laurie Linville-Gregston, Architecture – Portland

 

Compilation of all Senior Associate employees promoted in 2023.

 

Senior Associates

  • Michael DiBiase, Architecture – Portland
  • Clare Goddard, Interiors – Portland
  • Stephanie Hollar, Architecture – Portland
  • Nandita Kamath, Architecture – Seattle
  • Megan Kim, Architecture – Seattle
  • Amanda Lunger, Architecture and Practice – Portland

 

Compilation of all Associate Principal employees promoted in 2023.

 

Associate Principals

  • Jenny Chapman, Architecture – Seattle
  • Scott Crosby, Architecture – Seattle
  • Francis Dardis, Architecture – Portland
  • John Eidman, Architecture – Portland
  • Tania Feliciano, Architecture – Portland
  • Cara Godwin, Architecture – Seattle
  • Bronson Graff, Architecture – Portland
  • Kimberleigh Grimm, Architecture – Seattle
  • Rick Heiserman, Architecture and Practice – Portland
  • Scott Hopkins, Architecture – San Francisco
  • Jason Jones, Architecture – Portland
  • John Schupp, Architecture – Portland
  • Sean Scott, Architecture – Portland

 

Compilation of all Associate employees promoted in 2023.

 

Associates

  • Hans Fagerlund, Architecture – Seattle
  • Doug Grove, Architecture – Seattle
  • Jessica Kirshner, Interiors – Portland
  • Michael Lama, Architecture – Seattle
  • Keith Larson, Practice – Portland
  • Sakura Moriya, Interiors – Portland
  • Annabelle Nikolov, Architecture – Seattle
  • Melanie Pakingan, Architecture – Seattle
  • Christie Thorpe, Interiors – Portland

 

Business Services

  • Minh-Toan Vu, Junior Systems Administrator – Seattle

 

For all your hard work, it is our pleasure to say, congratulations. Thank you for being what makes Ankrom Moisan a top design firm and best place to work, not to mention a source of inspiration and community to many. We look forward to witnessing the heights you will reach in 2023.

 

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

 

by Jack Cochran, Marketing Coordinator

 

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Living Our Hows (5 of 6): Share Openly

December 21, 2022
Tips for Successful Mentorships

Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Share Openly and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows. 

 

At Ankrom Moisan we highly value and prioritize mentoring relationships to share skills, create career growth and nurture our culture. Over the course of testing and establishing a mentorship program the past two-years, the most successful and beneficial mentorships embody leading and learning between both individuals. When a mentorship relationship is established without dedicated “mentor/mentee” roles, both individuals can remain receptive, which allows for open communication and knowledge sharing resulting in everyone’s growth. 

 

Roberta Pennington, Senior Associate Interior Designer at Ankrom Moisan, has this to say about her experience with mentorship: 

 

“My mentorship team consists of two people who are not related to my area of practice. With their neutral view, I was able to see my contributions to the team and the firm out of context. Our conversations helped me to better understand what role I want to pursue and, even better, redefine the roles that were available.

 

Apart from the professional advice, it’s reassuring to see my colleagues are human and have similar stressors related to family and health. My mentors/mentees helped me to manage expectations around being healthy and successfully performing my job.

 

We still meet quarterly despite each of our respective busy schedules. I love this commitment we made. It’s attainable and shows we care about the other’s well-being.” 

 

two women sitting together, smiling over paperwork

 

The following tips support this method of mentorship: 

 

Be Open to Vulnerability:

When genuinely connecting with one another, it can feel truly vulnerable to share openly about the successes and ever so humbling lessons being learned at any given time. We’re putting ourselves out there when we invite another to problem solve with us, while knowing that we each bring something to the solution, and that neither person needs to have all the answers to every question. When we meet with a professional outside of our department, or when we invite guest speakers to address goals beyond our scope or abilities, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, which opens us up to further mutual growth and connection. 

 

Value the Mutual Commitment:

Showing up is a first step, but a commitment to the mentorship also means being prepared to answer questions and share experiences mutually. Respecting one another’s time is also integral to the mentorship. To do so create recurring meetings in advance, honor this reserved time, and communicate clearly when you need to reschedule.  

 

Establish Goals:

Determine where the mentorship will take place, and for how long. Within the mutually agreed-upon boundaries, share your interests, strengths, and weaknesses with each other. Conversations that encompass these vulnerable topics can foster an environment in which you can better establish goals and review them together. Thereby offering opportunities to both shore each other up and hold one another accountable. Create a road map of topics you will discuss, along with activities to share as learning experiences.  

 

Good Questions:

Sharing openly leaves room to take initiative to lead the conversation and actively listen. Have meaningful questions prepared so you can uncover the insight you are looking to gather. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and listen with intent! Unexpected jewels can be uncovered when the right questions are asked.  

 

Express Gratitude:

Take the time to discuss what you have learned from each other, and express gratitude for the time invested in you. When the opportunity arises, speak positively of each other to others. When gratitude is expressed the positive effects ripple outward. And don’t forget to celebrate achievements together!  

 

Using this method of mentorship at Ankrom Moisan has made the workplace a welcoming environment. Every member of the team has talents and skills to be shared and can create a stronger connection. Growth is achieved at a rapid rate with mutual respect and understanding! 

 

 

by Kaci Mespelt, Interior Designer, and 

 

Roberta Pennington, Senior Associate Interior Designer

 

📸: Cheryl Mcintosh, featured image

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Living Our Hows (4 of 6): Client Trust

December 14, 2022
Expertise and Reliability Strengthen Client Relationships

Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Trust and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows.

 

Mint-green Victorian-style birdhouse with heart-shaped hole in gable.

 

At AM, we are proud that most of our clients are return customers. Or, they have been referred to us by a happy customer. Clients come to us after the market has changed or their businesses have evolved – and, right now, whose hasn’t? It’s humbling when someone reaches out to us for help – and, to honor this, we ground our relationships in TRUST.

 

Client relationships based in trust allow both parties to be a bit vulnerable. They allow us to dig deeper when strategizing to get to the heart of the matter. These in-depth and intimate conversations uncover the key drivers of a project and are used to craft spaces that truly resonate. Client trust gives us the freedom to go beyond our “first good idea” and offer more avenues to consider.

 

Clients who believe they are being led by a dependable team, feel at ease with the process of a project. At AM, it is our teams’ responsibility to create this sense of ease by sharing our experience, mentoring each other, and staying curious by researching contemporary trends within our industries. Our expertise resides in several market sectors – from workplace to housing to hospitality – and this cross-discipline perspective allows us to see synergies between markets.  Design strategies for one project type are informed by the insights of another – creating the multi-dimensional experience that so many are seeking in today’s market.

 

Central to creating trust with anyone is consistency. At AM, we strive to create a customer experience that is enjoyable for everyone; we do our best to be approachable and available to our clients, to be enthusiastic and reliable, honest, and genuine. It is a part of our DNA to work from this perspective and it allows clients to create their own journeys – trusting that we are here as guides during the process.

 

by Laura Serecin

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Exploring our Design Passions

November 24, 2022
The AM Travel Scholarship

“It was one of the highlights of my entire working career.” 

 

At Ankrom Moisan, we believe that continued education is a key facet of success and fulfilment. When we make room for the betterment of ourselves, when we feel supported to follow our passions and to live authentically, we all thrive. 

 

In addition to programs such as Lunch and Learns, conferences, and paid educational hours, AM offers two annual in-house scholarships; the Do Good Be Well Scholarship and the Travel Scholarship. Both are open to all staff across all offices.  

 

The annual travel scholarship is an opportunity for our employees to travel while exploring a design topic they are passionate about. They receive 10 days of paid time off for their trip and a stipend to cover their travel expenses. When they come back, they receive additional time to prepare a design presentation and share their findings with the rest of the firm.  

 

Jenny Chapman and Sadaf Quddusi, two previous AM Travel Scholarship winners, tell us about their travel experiences. 

 

In 2021, Jenny visited Italy to attend the Venice Biennale and explore the global design conversation surrounding communal living and how we will live together in the future.  

 

“I think it’s really important that we take time away from our day-to-day work to lift our eyes to the horizon and consider what’s coming next in our industry. The AM Travel Scholarship is a great opportunity to do that, it offers space to think deeply about design.  

 

My experience travelling to the Biennale and exploring different architectural approaches really helped me to refresh my perspective. It was incredibly valuable to see some of the same problems we often face in this region, being solved in entirely different ways in other parts of the world.”  

 

Exhibits from the 2021 Venice Biennale 

 

Sadaf—who visited the UK in 2019 to study mass timber—agrees, adding that “research is so important to what we do. My research in the UK allowed me to be on the leading edge of the mass timber transition in the US. It was something I was really glad to study and share with the firm.” 

 

The Travel Scholarship is an investment in the design culture and community of our firm and industry. It is an opportunity to explore how design betters our environments and our lives. 

 

Our 2023 scholarship is now open for submissions. In January we’ll be sharing the next winning design topic, stay tuned! 

 

 

by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator

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Living Our Hows (3 of 6): Be Yourself

November 17, 2022
This Girl is on Fire

Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Be Yourself and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows.

 

Celebrating Roberta Pennington and her Influences on Interior Design

 

Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Be Yourself and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows.

 

In the Fall of 2021, we proudly announced on social media that Roberta Pennington, NCIDQ was awarded the Legacy Award for the 2021 IIDA Oregon Design Excellence Awards.

 

 

Since arriving in Portland over 20 years ago, Roberta has been a leading advocate for the interior design profession, having served many terms on both IDC Oregon and IIDA Oregon Chapter Boards as a voice for interior design advocacy all over the United States. Her colleagues credit her with possessing vast knowledge and contagious enthusiasm, bringing excitement, and understanding to legislative efforts. Roberta puts a fun spin on everyday advocacy, hosting a podcast that dissects movies and TV shows featuring interior designers, and discussing how they do or do not represent the reality of the profession.

 

Over the years, Roberta has touched many lives through mentorship and community involvement. She helped develop a mentorship program within Ankrom Moisan, which was successfully adopted across all three offices. She is credited with having a management style that fosters immense and rapid growth in junior designers and making everyone she works with feel valued. She openly shares her personal and professional experiences with others, helping our design community to know we’re in this together. Her personal stories bring levity to a seemingly serious, deadline and deals driven industry.

 

The testimony of those who nominated Roberta for this award in excellence is compelling. From many sources it has been made clear that Roberta is constantly stepping up and helping when needed. That she is dependable and responsible, and always stays true to herself, maintaining a rare authenticity. She embodies everything a leader should be.

 

With a theatrical background, Roberta brings big ideas to the table and loves to dream of the impossible and work to make it a reality. She also wants everyone to be heard and never shuts anyone down. No idea is a bad idea to her; she welcomes all with enthusiasm and helps to understand why it would or wouldn’t work for a project. Her experience in set design and theatre, her sharp wit and legendary sense of humor, and her myriad of extracurricular interests keep her busy. These inform her design directions, and she brings a truly unique perspective to every project she works on. Roberta is an active advocate for interior design. She can whip out her elevator speech to explain to anyone what commercial interior designers do day-to-day and overall. She’s a great role model for how to communicate the importance of the role in the industry.

 

Roberta hails from Youngstown, OH and is proud of her upbringing. When a childhood friend announced that he was hoping to open a community theatre in her hometown, she dove into action. She assisted him with selecting a site and campaigned to the Executive Leadership Committee at Ankrom for use of our VIZ Team Services so that this project could have top tier 3D renderings for their community outreach and funding programs. This project is currently underway.

 

Roberta is the Geek in the details of interior design. She loves BOMA, egress calculations, technical details, and code compliance. She is exceptionally educated and experienced in these areas. These interior design skillsets provide great contrast to the universal myth that interior designers’ only skill is to “pick out” finishes. Roberta takes every chance she can to challenge the many misconceptions of the interior design industry, through conversation, podcasts, educational campaigns, advocacy and leadership. She slays misconceptions with her quit wit, expertise and signature charm. Through seeing commercial interior design as having an impact on the humans that interact with the spaces that we create, she is forever a spokesperson for design, its importance and the impact it has on our community.

 

Roberta has clearly impacted the industry by inspiring those around her and has already made an indelible difference to the profession of Interior Design, as well as to the people she encounters in her advocacy and playful approach to life.

 

View her IIDA Oregon Chapter video feature and be sure to check out her podcast @starchitectspodcast.

 

 

content provided by IIDA Oregon Chapter

 

edited by Kerstyn Smith Olson, Content Coordinator

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Trivia Night 2022

October 25, 2022
A Food Lifeline Fundraiser

We’re proud to share that we raised over $167,000 for Food Lifeline during our 12th annual AM Trivia Night last week!

 

Food Lifeline is a non-profit organization on a mission to feed people facing hunger today while working to end hunger for tomorrow. Food Lifeline’s mission goes hand and hand with our values at Ankrom Moisan. We are passionate about designing affordable housing because we strive to provide stability and security to those suffering in the US housing crisis and many of the people we hope to impact through our housing projects are also facing food insecurity.

 

The money we’ve raised will make a very real impact in the lives of those experiencing hunger in Western Washington and it was only possible thanks to our generous donors, participants, and volunteers.

 

 

 

Not only did we raise an incredible sum for Food Lifeline, we also had a lot of fun. This year’s theme was “camp chic” and, besides trivia, the evening was filled with good company, incredible costumes, hilarious competitions, and—of course—a dance-off.

 

If you want to know more about how AM’s Food Lifeline fundraiser evolved into annual trivia with a side of dancing and costumes—we have the full story here.

 

 

The music video we filmed to thank our event sponsors.

 

 

 

Center: The 2022 Trivia Champions, Morrison Herschfield!

 

 

 

THANK YOU TO OUR 2022 SPONSORS:

 

AvalonBay Communities with Brian and Holly Fritz

Aegis Living

Bill Soderberg with Max Wurzburg/Windermere & Red Propeller

Cross 2 Design Group

Legacy Group

Navix Engineering

RDH Building Science, Inc.

The Walsh Group

Willamette Management Associates

A3 Acoustics LLP

Brumbaugh & Associates

Clark Construction

Glumac

GLY Construction

Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company

objekts

PCL Construction Services, Inc.

PCS Structural Solutions

Rushing Co.

Shaw Contract

Stone Source

Swinerton

Vulcan Real Estate

 

 

 

by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator

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The Principles of Cost Cutting

October 21, 2022
A Conversation with Michael Bonn, Principal

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

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Employee Spotlight: Roberta Pennington

October 19, 2022
Mentorship through Theatre

Roberta Pennington doesn’t just offer advice to her colleagues; she puts on a pair of mustache glasses and coaches them through challenging scenarios with skits.

 

For designers, a particularly formidable stage of the design process is construction administration (CA). Roberta equates it to herding cats.

 

During CA, designers’ people management skills are put to the ultimate test as all the project stakeholders converge. Designers are often faced with managing a wide array of disciplines—resolving miscommunication, realigning over-stepped roles, and negotiating endless spreadsheets.

 

But Roberta doesn’t want CA to feel scary, so she offers guidance on how to handle the most common and frustrating scenarios, while also making you laugh, in what she calls “CA Theatre”—a new regular segment of the monthly interiors team meeting.

 

With an artful blend of empathy and humor, she’ll perform a dramatic reenactment of the most dreaded situations. In her groucho-esque mustache glasses, she pretends to be “Bob Boberson,” an amalgamation of the all the challenging experiences and people that designers often face. Bob serves as a caricature villain, the bane of interior designers everywhere. Managing Principal Alissa Brandt models how to respond to Bob’s micro-aggressions and unchecked behavior with professionalism and composure.

 

Roberta playing “Lady Carol Brittingham” during CA Theatre

 

Most recently she played a Cruella de Vil inspired character, “Lady Carol Brittingham”—another dramatized version of the difficult scenarios that can be encountered during CA.

 

During CA Theatre, something incredible happens, everyone comes alive, laughing, nodding and commiserating. But it goes beyond entertainment, the skit spurs problem-solving and engaged discussion about how to handle challenging situations. It offers mentorship and project management training in a fun and approachable way. Roberta’s goal is to ensure the entire team feels equipped to take on the responsibility of construction administration.

 

Having been with the firm for more than 10 years, Roberta says that one of the many reasons she’s stayed is because at AM she has the space and support to bring unconventional ideas to the table. While previous employers may have put up with her “shenanigans”—as she calls them—AM encourages them. She doesn’t feel censored or silenced.

 

And it’s a good thing, because Roberta being anything other than herself would be a loss for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator

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Not Your Average Fundraiser

October 13, 2022
The Rise of AM Trivia Night

We’ve been told that AM Trivia Night is THE industry event of the year. And we can’t help but agree—between the killer pub trivia, dance offs, costume contests, and goofy videos—it’s a night you don’t want to miss. Mostly because it feels more like a lively night out with good friends than a fundraiser.

 

But it is, in fact, a fundraiser. Over the past 12 years, the occasion has evolved from a small donation event to support a summer food drive to an eminent annual fundraiser with more than 600 people in attendance and over $240,000 raised (in one year!) for Food Lifeline, a non-profit working to end hunger in Western Washington.

 

The success of AM Trivia Night is the result of an enduring partnership between Ankrom Moisan and Food Lifeline. A partnership made possible by the countless Ankrom Moisan employees who are dedicated to positively impacting their communities, and a company culture that brings fun and creativity to all that we do.

 

 

 

The journey from food drive to trivia (with a side of dancing and costumes).

 

A few decades ago, Food Lifeline started a donation competition, called Food Frenzy, amongst businesses to help raise money to provide kids with free lunches throughout the summertime—kids who usually relied on subsidized school lunches each day.

 

Someone who had previously participated in Food Frenzy was now working at Ankrom Moisan and suggested that the firm get involved. AM President Dave Heater agreed, stipulating that the AM event should be fun and different, not your average fundraiser.

 

About 30 or so people joined us in that first year for pub trivia in our office—punctuated by beer, food and laughter. In the first round of questions, several teams tied and all the tie breaker questions were used. The game continued smoothly until the final round ended with another tie. Completely out of trivia questions and with no clear winner, there were only a few moments of uncertainty before someone in the group shouted, “dance off!” and a tradition was born.

 

That was in 2009. To this day, AM Trivia Nights still feature dance offs where a winner is chosen by audience applause.

 

As the event grew, we added more and more unconventional elements; fun themes, costume contests and silly “music videos” to thank our sponsors. Trivia Night quickly became a hit. By 2019, we were filling up the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Seattle and we raised the equivalent of one million meals in just that single event. A proud moment for Ankrom Moisan.

 

 

 

 

The reason behind the Ankrom Moisan x Food Lifeline partnership.

 

Ankrom Moisan employees are, and always have been, enthusiastic participants in Trivia Night, as attendees, event volunteers, and donors. We, as a company, are united in our support for Food Lifeline.

 

Food Lifeline’s mission goes hand and hand with our own values. We design affordable housing of many types—from workforce housing to transitional housing—because we strive to provide stability and security to those suffering in the US housing crisis. Many of the people we are hoping to impact through our housing projects are also facing food insecurity.

 

And for some of us, food insecurity is an issue that hits close to home.

 

In 2010, Dave Heater and his husband welcomed their son into their family through open adoption, choosing to cultivate a lifelong relationship with their son’s birth mother, Amber. Dave describes the process of open adoption like grafting a new branch onto your family tree.

 

At the time of his son’s birth, Amber was in rehab and was trying to piece her life together. She was in her early 20s and had been struggling with addiction since she was a kid. Amber already had a 3-year-old son that she was working to parent, and she recognized that she was not in the position to care for another child.

 

Since that time, Amber has gotten her life on a stable track—despite the odds stacked against her. She’s put herself through beauty school and is now a successful hairdresser and parent to two children. Dave’s son still sees her regularly and Dave thinks of her as a sister.

 

Dave knows what the food bank and the summer lunch programs meant to Amber, throughout her life. She and her family relied on these meals for survival. It is non-profits like Food Lifeline and the generosity of donors like you, that made the difference in not going hungry while balancing all the other challenges of Amber’s life as a single mom.

 

This year we aim to raise over $200,000 for Food Lifeline to feed children and families facing hunger today, and to solve hunger for tomorrow.

 

Join us at Trivia Night 2022 and be a part of the fight to end hunger in Western Washington.

 

 

 

Thank you to our 2022 sponsors:

 

AvalonBay Communities with Brian and Holly Fritz

Aegis Living

Bill Soderberg with Max Wurzburg/Windermere & Red Propeller

Cross 2 Design Group

Legacy Group

Navix Engineering

RDH Building Science, Inc.

The Walsh Group

Willamette Management Associates

Campfire Sing-a-long:

A3 Acoustics LLP

Brumbaugh & Associates

Clark Construction

Glumac

GLY Construction

Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company

objekts

PCL Construction Services, Inc.

PCS Structural Solutions

Rushing Co.

Shaw Contract

Stone Source

Swinerton

Vulcan Real Estate

 

 

 

by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator

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Living Our Hows (2 of 6): Have Fun with It

October 12, 2022
Working Playfully

Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Have Fun with It and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows.

 

Roberta Pennington, Senior Associate Interior Designer at Ankrom Moisan, also currently holds the title of Vice President of Advocacy of the IIDA Oregon Chapter, as well as the illustrious honor of Judges Choice at Rose City Comic Con Cosplay Contest. Roberta has been involved in IIDA for quite a while; a dozen years ago she was President of the Oregon Chapter, and in the intervening years she has forged many connections and continues to advocate for better legislation for the Interior Designer profession. She is passionate about the spirit of collaboration, solving problems, and doing it with flair.

 

Roberta Pennington, NCIDQ, Senior Associate

Roberta Pennington, NCIDQ, Senior Associate

 

Roberta used to do theatre set design where she earned a scrappy, can-do, go-get-em attitude that has translated quite well to her career with interior design. She prides herself on her spry professional reflexes, and ability to maintain a friendly, approachable, and collaborative attitude, especially when drumming up interest and activism for her chosen vocation. While the ofttimes heavy subjects of laws, law-making and legislation can be overwhelming and at times dry, Roberta has found that the advocacy that she’s so passionate about brings folks together, and that the Oregon Chapter is a unique bunch. Sandwiched between two large chapters of WA/ID/MO/AK/BC and Northern and Southern CA, the Oregon Chapter is unapologetically themselves, different from the rest. Similar to AM the Oregon Chapter promotes fun and people connection in their pursuits.

 

Roberta Pennington in her skogsra costume

 

Case in point, recently Roberta was at the helm of the IIDA advocacy fundraiser, Once Upon a Time… We Bowled! at a local bowling alley in Southeast Portland. IIDA members got together to raise funds for the advocacy of interior design regulation and legislation. Members donned their favorite fairytale and fantasy-themed costumes (think Ren Faire, and Comic Con), enjoyed good food, great company and bowled frames together. There was a large raffle, community, and much camaraderie with colleagues. Roberta enjoyed the connections she was making and renewing and mingling while dressed in her skogsra costume. There was a large picture frame photo op, where participants showed off their best costumes and their advocacy support with signs with slogans like “We Support Interior Design Advocacy Because…” with an invitation to fill in the blank. There was a legislator lookup station where stamped postcards to state representatives were provided, since local politics are of the upmost importance when trying to affect change. This event proved to be a quirky blast; hugely successful in community outreach and advocacy, fun had by all.

 

A designer sporting elf ears

 

Interior design advocates unite!

 

All this to say, Roberta embodies the value of Have Fun with It in many facets of her life. You too may create opportunities to dress as a fairytale creature in your professional life.

 

 

by Kerstyn Smith Olson, Content Coordinator

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Living Our Hows (1 of 6): Embracing Change

October 5, 2022
Hybrid Meeting Spaces

Ankrom Moisan takes our Hows very seriously. Our Hows are the values by which we work and play. This post explores Embracing Change and is one of a six-part series that touches on our Hows and the way they come to life at AM. Stay tuned for future blog posts revealing more about AM’s Hows.

 

With hybrid workplaces becoming a universal work experience, the technology and resources available to support this new way of working have been catching up. Manufacturers are increasingly offering furniture and technology solutions designed to support inclusivity, equity, and enhanced acoustics in a hybrid work environment.

 

Through user-centered design solutions and seamless integration, hybrid meetings can be inclusive, equitable, and productive. Meetings, events, and brainstorming sessions allow both remote and in-person participants to feel like they are in the same room and equally a part of the conversation. With more and more meetings taking place virtually, the need for a quiet space is crucial. Furniture pieces with total acoustic separation from the rest of the office provide a separate and quiet space.

 

Ankrom has begun to update our office space to better suit hybrid working. We wanted to make updates within our office that combined the furniture and resources we already had with new technology and furniture pieces that we are now seeing in the market. As we began our research prior to making changes, we asked ourselves some of these questions:

 

  1. How can we upgrade the acoustics to improve sound quality?
  2. How can we create a space that evenly distributes light to the user?
  3. Is there a way to add an element of privacy to an already existing room?

 

With these questions in mind, we began to develop ideas for three new space typologies: hybrid meeting spaces, individual Zoom rooms and Zoom pods.

 

Access to hybrid meeting spaces equipped for virtual meetings is essential. Working closely with our IT team, we created conference rooms that can easily accommodate virtual meetings with new technology such as newly installed smart cameras and larger monitors that are compatible with iPads and laptops to easily control these meetings.

 

Next, we honed in on individual Zoom rooms, which originated as our “phone rooms” with nothing more than bench seating and a side table. We modified these spaces to include a desk and monitor to provide access to virtual meetings along with upgraded acoustic properties.

 

Lastly, we have begun to place small “pods” throughout the office to create a space for an employee to sit down and take a quick call.

 

Through trial and error, we have created a great system for each room that is used for virtual meetings including external mics, higher quality cameras, ring lights, and new acoustic panels on the walls, all with comfort and accessibility as our top priority. Today, we must adapt to hybrid workplaces and embrace change.

 

 

 

by Jessica Kirshner, Interior Designer

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Better Together

September 20, 2022
A Firm-Wide Celebration of Design

Every year, around this time, we gather as a firm and celebrate design. It’s like an Ankrom Moisan holiday. A week-long tradition we’ve all come to know and love—AM Design Week.

 

This year’s theme was aptly labeled “Better Together.” And the mission was simple: share, have fun, be yourself, and embrace change.

 

Opportunities to join in workshops, collaborative exercises and group discussions were sprinkled throughout the week so that AM staff could connect, share ideas, and improve each other’s work.

 

 

Some of us gathered over Zoom for an origami workshop hosted by an instructor in Japan, others participated in a guided collaboration exercise, or joined in one of the many happy hours—on a rooftop in Portland, in a Seattle speakeasy, or at a San Francisco tapas bar. There were neighborhood walkabouts, design critiques, interactive collages, and so much more. In fact, there were more than 15 activities organized across our three offices.

 

After the week was over, Kerstyn—AM Content Coordinator—told us that “as a fully remote employee, the opportunity to connect playfully with others at AM was welcome and offered many moments of creativity to look forward to.”

 

 

And it really was FUN! Perhaps the best way to illustrate just how much we laughed during Design Week (besides showing you the pictures) is to share a few of the fan favorite “proverbs” we collaboratively generated during our AArdvark Design Labs workshops:

 

“Sometimes people have ideas from the brain that transcend time and wavelengths.”

“Don’t forget to remember how a dog sees the bathroom before eating.”

 

“The AArdvark workshop was entertaining and illuminating, with back-and-forth between small groups, focusing together on rapid-fire improvisation” Kerstyn added. “Design Week was a treasure-trove of connection, conversation, and collaboration.”

 

 

 

 

by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator

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Bringing Bigger Buildings to Smaller Jurisdictions

September 13, 2022
Our Experience and Expertise Lead to Successes

Over the last several years, more demand in smaller markets has resulted in increased proposals for larger scale developments. These jurisdictions have not previously had to review projects that utilize code criteria that are unique to larger building types. 

 

From the construction permitting point of view, bigger buildings have different codes, and those codes have different interpretations from city to city, and sometimes reviewer to reviewer. 

 

Jurisdictions are experts at the familiar but can often be resistant to the new. Given the role that building officials play in safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of their community, a conservative approach to new code criteria is a reasonably common practice.  

 

Our experience in jurisdictions with more complex code usage can help clients understand the way others have successfully worked with designers to implement unfamiliar strategies in code compliance. 

 

Our expertise in larger buildings in bigger markets can be valuable with code analysis and interpretation in smaller markets, both from the designer and reviewers’ points of view.  

 

We have consistently seen that building official/fire marshal engagement prior to submittal is key. Meeting early and often minimizes unforeseen issues arising during plan check review. Our history of discussions/solutions from multiple jurisdictions allows for specific issues to be flagged and addressed with real-world applications that have been proven to be successful. 

 

We have found that when discussing podium construction there are several key elements to consider within the wood-framed components that differ from applications that do not include a concrete podium. Here are a few key items to consider:  

 

  • Type III: A wood construction with two-hour rated exterior walls, from the inside and out.
    When building height exceeds 70 ft., this construction type allows for building heights up to 85 ft., and requires non-combustible exterior wall construction, commonly achieved through the use of fire-retardant treated lumber. Cladding and its support elements must also be non-combustible above 40 ft. Critical considerations include close study of the highest occupiable floor level based on fire access set-up point. If the lowest point of fire access results in a dimension to the highest occupiable floor level that exceeds 75 ft., then high-rise criteria become applicable. Cost typically limits high-rise construction to projects which far exceed 75 ft. height. Designers must consider this cost impact, especially when contemplating occupied roof decks, which some jurisdictions will allow to exceed the 75 ft. height, while others will not.
     

 

Project Example – Hudson on Farmer (Farmer Arts), Tempe, AZ (Framing construction, completed building) 

 

 

 

  • Type V: A wood construction with one-hour rated exterior walls from the outside.
    When construction does not exceed 70 ft. this construction type allows for reduced costs and more easily managed fire resistivity criteria. Building area is limited, and in many cases fire walls within the building are required to compartmentalize the structure. For multifamily buildings, corridors penetrate these walls requiring rated opening protection. Although these walls add cost, they provide an opportunity to reduce the number of stairwells when used as horizontal exits between building compartments. Designers must consider how, and when, to use the horizontal exit tool, ensuring that no more than half of the required exits from a floor level are provided by horizontal exits. Additionally, these opening assemblies can be provided via several options, including manufactured assemblies, and custom specified components. Designers must consider the comparative costs of the different approaches and the capacity of the project’s general contractor to manage the installation of the selected approach.
     

 

Project Example – Modera Northgate, Seattle, WA. (Final rendering, floor plan compartment diagram)  

 

 

 

  • Type I: Podium/basement non-combustible construction of one, two, or three levels can be provided as a podium for multiple stories of wood construction above.
    The ability to allow for the wood frame construction type of the building above to penetrate the podium reduces costs when stairs are able to be built of wood. Exterior wall framing must be built of non-combustible framing, however, when using metal studs, exterior insulation is often required to meet energy code insulation values. Using fire-retardant treated lumber can be an effective tool in allowing for exterior sheathing and cladding planes to align across the podium level.
     

 

Project Example – Canopy (Shea Aurora) Phase II, Shoreline, WA (podium construction photo, final rendering) 

 

 

 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, being able to work from multiple points of view allows for specific concerns to be addressed, while looking to past successes for location-specific solutions. 

 

 

by Don Sowieja, Principal AIA, NCARB

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An Integrated Approach to Revolutionary Healthcare Design

September 12, 2022
Providence Reed's Crossing Wellness Center

Population health relies on more than simply treating sickness. Leading a healthcare shift to a value-based model whose viability depends on people maintaining their health, from a fee-for-service financial model, our client’s strategy embodies this pivot with a new healthcare center that integrates traditional clinical services with wellness facilities. The Providence Reed’s Crossing Wellness Center is a dynamic new healthcare facility that communicates warmth, healing, approachability — holistic architecture that sees people as more than patients. Community-oriented general fitness and wellness spaces act as bridges to more specialized functions like integrative health, dermatology, retail, physical therapy, imaging, women’s care, pediatrics, and more. Our design connects services with open, blended thoughtful architecture and interior design in an active urban environment.

 

Our hope: To help people get and stay healthy.

 

 

This radical new facility feels like it’s part of Main Street while feeling unlike anything else out there. To successfully integrate wellness with clinical services, we start by focusing on how to maximize operational benefits. Our design must communicate warmth and professionalism, relaxation with dynamic activity, aspiration, and inclusion. It’s not enough to simply combine traditional healthcare design with wellness. Our design concept must holistically communicate both. Because our client’s vision treats patients as complete people whose individual health is affected by diet, behavior, mental and emotional states, as well as physical abilities, our core interior design concept likewise promotes overall healthy living and wellbeing. Biophilic elements like natural light and exposed wood elements soothe visitors and decreases stress while they’re working out, learning about nutrition, or waiting to see their physician. Beautiful, integrated color palettes that fit each program will guide and orient people within the facility. Indoor/outdoor spaces further connect our design to its community and bioregion.

 

 

Our hope: A design that feels kinetic yet relaxing, empowering and healing, and completely revolutionary.

 

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

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Mass Timber: Harder Mechanical

September 1, 2022
Timelessly Modern

A fifth-generation Portland family business, Harder Mechanical needed a new, modern headquarters to last them for another 80 years. Because reinvention tends to be part of their business—they gain expertise in the newest processes, be it mill work or high-tech manufacturing, and periodically transform themselves along the way—they were looking explicitly for an innovative showcase office.

 

 

Harder Mechanical building needed to stay rooted in the past while being built for the future. Because the owner is a mechanical and plumbing subcontractor and will self-perform their own scope, the Harder team became an integral part of the design process.

 

 

After learning who they are, how they view their work, and what they needed in a collaborative working session, our design encompasses a beautiful, durable brick building using renewable cross-laminated timber (CLT).

 

Their desire for an innovative approach—to not only the design but also the design process—led to an adapted integrated project delivery method. This allowed for close collaboration with Harder, the General Contractor, Swinerton, and their trade partners to achieve efficiencies and innovative construction methods that meet both design and construction goals.

 

 

The wish to showcase Harder’s own work and innovation led to exposed ceilings and exposed structure and mechanical systems. It is here where the Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) structural system became a central design element. Utilizing Swinerton’s expertise in this area, the CLT simultaneously provides environmental benefits both to the occupants and in broader terms, along with time and cost saving installation.

 

 

Externally, the company’s rich history combined with the historic neighborhood led to the selection of both a durable and beautiful dark brick facade reminiscent of the surrounding context. This traditional material paired with a contemporary aesthetic allows the building to become part of MLK’s future whilst respecting its past. The building will last for decades, aligning with and improving the Elliott neighborhood in a way that’s both timeless and exceedingly modern.

 

 

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Wynne Watts Commons

August 26, 2022
High-Tech Accessibility for the Win

It is undeniable that housing insecurity affects millions across the United States. Rents are up and homelessness is on the rise. There are many factors that lead to these crises, including high housing costs relative to income, poor housing quality, unstable neighborhoods, or even health concerns and peripheral medical challenges and costs. Add to that the encompassing environmental impacts of climate change and a driving need to design and build more sustainably; we are faced with the need to take a more holistic approach to housing and accessibility to address our growing concern for the wellbeing of our communities.

 

We partnered with Albertina Kerr, an organization dedicated to supporting people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), mental health challenges, and other social barriers, to design the largest affordable and accessible housing project in the PNW. This joint project became one of the largest Zero Energy affordable housing projects in the U.S.

 

This four-story, 150-unit complex features 30 accessible units designed to provide adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, earning 30% or less than the average median income, a place to live independently. Three units are available to families needing temporary housing and the remaining units are reserved for low wage direct service providers. This project showcases innovative technologies and design features readily available today to achieve better health outcomes for residents, minimal overall carbon emissions, and significant savings on energy bills. Energy-efficient features include a 660 KWh PV Array that will produce 727 MW-hours of electricity annually, enough renewable energy to fully operate the building with no utility cost to residents.

 

Albertina Kerr’s in-house staff were consulted to help inform the direction of features that are most useful to the residents. Smart-home integrations enhance safety and useability, and pull-out cook tops and mechanized upper cabinets help residents manage daily tasks. Thoughtfully integrated accessibility features include room darkening shades, RGB controllable lighting for chromatherapy mood management, and acoustically enhanced wall, floor, and ceiling construction that gives residents control of their space to prevent overstimulation.

 

Wynne Watts Commons is a huge step forward for sustainable and inclusive quality housing for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

 

 

 

by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator

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Employee Spotlight: Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin

August 24, 2022
Empowering Others

Empathetic, balanced, and calm—three words you’ll hear from Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin’s team if you ask them to describe her leadership style.

 

This month we’re excited to be spotlighting Jen, an architect and Managing Design Principal in our Seattle office. In her eleven years with AM, Jen has come to stand out as a female role model in architecture due to her unwavering advocacy for her teams, and for women in particular.

 

Jen approaches her leadership position with the intention to empower others. She creates an environment conducive to growth by “letting others get creative and do their best work,” as one of her colleagues has noted, “while at the same time staying engaged and providing feedback that guides the project in the right direction and helps you grow as a designer.”

 

We asked Jen to share her advice for emerging professionals in the industry. Here’s what she told us:

 

1. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and ask for opportunities.

 

2. Find your mentor—someone who will offer guidance and stand up for you when you need it. Check in with them regularly.

 

3. Don’t change yourself to fit into a higher-level role. There is room for you to become a leader while doing what you love and are good at. A great leadership role will be flexible enough to match your skills and passions.

 

 

by Mackenzie Gilstrap, Sr. Marketing Coordinator

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Mass Timber: Moda Tower Lobby

August 19, 2022
Activating Public Art and Springtime Through Renovation

For our first mass-timber curtain wall in Portland’s Moda Tower, our goal was to design a canvas that activates the new public art at its heart. Effectively renovating a lobby for public art means more than just designing a white gallery box. The renovated lobby space requires a design that both elevates the artwork and functions for practicalities like circulation, lighting and climate, and code.

 

Before, Moda Tower’s lobby was like many others: small, dark, and relatively constricted. After decommissioning the long-standing previous artwork, we enlarged the lobby and its windows, and replaced the dark, dated floor with bright, crisp materials. The new 30 ft mass timber curtain wall is punctuated by wood-accented and fresh white walls. Warmth and light now invite visitors entering the lobby.

 

More than just a neutral background, the renovated Moda Tower lobby and our mass timber curtain wall are integral parts of the featured artwork, “Canopy” by Portland-based artist Joe Thurston. Coordinating with our client Unico Properties and Thurston, our team created a lobby redesign that captures the artist’s idea of a springlike forest canopy – the feeling of trees reaching toward each other against the sky.

 

 

We want visitors to look up as they enter. The glass leaves of Thurston’s tree-inspired artwork hang from the lobby’s ceiling 30 feet up, spotlighted by our expansive, not-quite-neutral gallery space. Outside, passersby are treated to a bright, vibrant extension of Portland’s forests. Using mass timber and other wood accents brings a unique natural beauty and warmth that flows through the space. Within the lobby, people should pause, even momentarily, to look up and find something unexpected.

 

Go to Moda Tower Lobby’s Project Page >>

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Spotlight: Intern Jules Stafford

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

Q: Tell us what you learned through your summer internship at Ankrom Moisan.

 

A: This summer, I’ve gotten the chance to work on so many different projects, participate in client meetings, go on site visits, and get to know some wonderful people. I’ve learned so much this summer, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to be the best designer I can be. I’ve learned to step out of my comfort zone and be open to new experiences and lessons. I hope that as I step into my career I will continue to learn; pulling from all of the lessons and experiences I’ve had here at Ankrom Moisan!

 

Q: What was the biggest surprise you experienced?

 

A: How welcoming and kind everyone I met has been! I was definitely intimidated to walk into a large Architecture and Interior Design firm as a summer intern, but all of the designers and architects have been so kind. I remember walking in on my first day and it was as if everyone had known me for years. Everyone is ready to jump whenever I have any questions, ask me for my opinion, and trust me with decisions. They have become great mentors and have treated me so extremely well. It’s been such an amazing surprise.

 

Q: What story do you think you will tell all of your classmates?

 

A: At George Fox University, we have a tight knit group of Interior Design majors. My cohort is small, but we’re growing, so I want to give reassurance to my peers.  As students, it can be overwhelming to walk into a firm and need to learn so many new things, so fast. Suddenly you’re aware of just how much you don’t know. So, a story I would tell my peers is how I’ve learned, despite my fears, that I am capable of so much. We are learning exactly what we need to learn. All the projects and homework is so helpful and valuable. I’m excited to go into my last year with everything I’ve learned and work on new projects.

 

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Mass Timber in the Office

July 29, 2022
Biophilic Incentive for Showing Up to Work in Person

Intro

It is a challenge right now for employers everywhere to get people into the office. It has us rethinking ways to encourage people to want to physically show up to work. We are envisioning what the office of the future could be, and are considering how to simplify, how to incorporate holistic wellness, encourage connection, and sustainability. Mass timber, used in office building design, meets many of these needs by offering occupants a healthy, efficient, inviting, and sustainable workplace environment. It is not surprising that more businesses are seeking out the benefits of biophilic design and timber-built architecture to pursue and retain their best employees. Locally and sustainably sourced, prefabricated mass timber is not only considered a sustainable building material but can also streamline the construction timeline and decrease the construction budget.

 

Connection

Researchers suggest that mass timber provides both physical and psychological biophilic benefits that go beyond the warm, natural, and comforting aesthetic appeal of wood. Mass timber reconnects people with nature by bringing the outside into the workplace. The biophilic benefits of timber speak to a person’s four out of five senses; one can see the variations of colors and grain within the wood, as well as experience touch, smell or even sounds of the timber.  Wood, as an environmental design choice has been known to reduce sympathetic nervous activity and blood pressure. These sensory cues naturally remind people of their connection with the outside environment and nature. This is important as people who relate to nature often find themselves in an improved mood, feeling more productive, calmer, and experiencing a higher degree of concentration. Mass timber workplaces have been described by occupants as relaxing and soothing environments which in turn naturally ease stress. Employers have reported that they have seen improvement in their bottom line, along with increased morale, fewer sick days, and less employee turnover since moving into a mass timber interior environment. These experiences contribute to an overall healthier workplace.

 

Wellness

Wood naturally provides benefits that impact our human health. Mass timber has shown to have low VOCs, and that wood can regulate indoor air quality and relative humidity to comfortable ranges for most people. When conditions are dry, wood can release moisture into the air. Similarly, when the air contains humidity, moisture can be absorbed into the mass timber, maintaining a healthier and more balanced environment. Wood is naturally antimicrobial, as bacteria is less easily transferred from wood than from plastic.

 

Sustainable

Material matters when it comes to a sustainable built environment. When appropriately and efficiently sourced, wood is a renewable and sustainable material that reduces carbon emissions in the environment. Those seeking mass timber buildings have successfully found that they can substitute wood in place of other construction materials typically used, such as brick, concrete, and steel.

 

Simplify

Designing with mass timber inheritably simplifies the interior finishes as the wood unquestionably becomes the predominate feature. The ceiling, structural beams, and columns remain exposed without requiring finish applications. The long-spanning structural system of mass timber not only brings nature inside, but additionally, offers ample natural light and easily accommodates both an exposed ceiling design as well as an open office floor plan.

 

Mass timber simplifies and decreases construction cost and schedule. Because mass timber is lighter in weight than steel and concrete structural counterparts, often smaller and less expensive foundations and other structural components are required. By constructing with prefabricated timber, which increases efficiency, the labor needed on-site decreases and saves on overall costs.

 

by Kim Gonzales, Senior Associate / Interior Designer