Tag Archives: Adrian Thompson

Interior Design Can’t Avoid the Government Shutdown


As the government shutdown lumbers into an unprecedented month-long nightmare, the impact of the widely-discussed situation is being felt across the nation.

As of January 2, 2019, non-mandatory government resources were discontinued, including all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo—that even includes the National Zoo’s panda cam as well, which broadcasts Bai Bai the panda in real-time.

The government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, 2018, is affecting more than a quarter of the federal government, leaving around 800,000 government employees to be furloughed or forced to work without pay until the budget is passed.

But what does it mean for designers?


If your 2019 resolution included making the move to become a small business owner using loans from the government, that will have to be put on hold.


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The Small Business Administration (SBA) doesn’t lend money directly, but it does work with independent lenders to provide loans to small businesses. Additionally, the SBA sets guidelines to help minimize risks for both lenders and small business owners.

Read also: What ‘Justice’ Means for Interior Design

Small businesses who have already been approved and are receiving loans may not be affected, but because those employed by the SBA are currently furloughed, new applications won’t be processed, nor will questions be answered. Those whose applications are being processed can expect delays, even after the office re-opens.


While the Smithsonian museums kept doors open thanks to the 2018 funds that were still available, they are now closed until an agreement is reached. The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, located in New York City, is one of the most prominent institutions dedicated specifically to design.

Beyond exhibitions, the Cooper Hewitt provides educational series to families, children and teens. As of now, the only program that is officially cancelled is the January 5, 2019, family program called Sewer in a Suitcase.


While national parks will stay open during the shutdown, you can expect little in the way of services.

“For most parks, there will be no National Park Service-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance,” states the National Park Service’s website.

Parks aren’t only not being cleaned, they are also losing money by the minute. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) estimates that national parks have lost over $5 million in entrance fees due to the government shutdown so far, a number that is steadily rising as the shutdown carries on.

Park staff is also highly limited at this time. If you’re one of those who design for the NPS or government-funded historical societies, or if you were thinking about recently volunteering at a national park, that will have to wait for now. Frozen budgets not only mean that money won’t be there, but with so many furloughed employees, it could mean most of your meeting attendees won’t be either.


On Dec. 19, 2018, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it has awarded more than $139 million to 48 state and local government agencies to protect children and families from lead exposure. Another $6.6 million is being made available for testing and clean up of lead-based paint hazards in public housing.

Grant applications must be received through by February 18, 2019, despite the shutdown.

Related: Start Worrying About Asbestos Again


With international tradeshows kicking off – starting with Heimtextil in Frankfurt, Germany, January 8-11 – travel will luckily not be impacted. Air traffic control and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will continue to work during the shutdown, and Amtrak will operate as usual.

If you’re waiting for your passport, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, which handle passports, Visas, intercountry adoption and more, states that processing time will still take four to six weeks, and they urge anyone with an in-person interview to keep their appointment time.

With no current resolution in sight, President Trump continues to meet with Democratic leaders to try and come to a peaceful agreement.

Read next: Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk Uses Design to Bridge Political Gaps


Continue reading Interior Design Can’t Avoid the Government Shutdown


Stunning Svart Hotel is World’s First Powerhouse Building in the Arctic Circle


The future is here. Arriving in circular-form, Svart is a new building concept in the Arctic Circle that mixes modern design with innovation green building standards.

Set to open in 2021, it is being constructed in collaboration between MIRIS, Snøhetta and Powerhouse. International architecture and design firm Snøhetta is known for its bold designs, such as Under, Europe’s first underwater restaurant.

Photography courtesy of Miris

Resting at the base of the Svartisen glacier in Norway, Svart will feature breathtaking 360-degree views of surrounding Arctic terrain and glimpses of the Northern lights. Its architecture is inspired by local coastal building traditions in the form of “fiskehjell,” an A-shaped wooden structure used to dry fish, and “rorbue”, a traditional type of seasonal house used by fisherman.

The rorbue reference can be found in the hotel’s supporting structure – weather-resistant wooden poles that stretch beneath the water, and project the building out and over the Holandsfjorden fjord. Giving the hotel an almost transparent appearance, the poles ensure that the building physically places a minimal footprint in nature, according to Snøhetta’s website.


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Given the hotel’s environmental surroundings, it was important for Snøhetta to design a sustainable building – Svart is the world’s first building to be built after the energy positive Powerhouse standard by the Arctic Circle.


Founded in 2011, Powerhouse represents a collaboration in the development of energy-positive buildings, and consists of property company Entra, entrepreneur Skanska, environmental organization Zero, Snøhetta architects and consulting company Asplan Viak.

The original idea behind the alliance was that it takes more than one team to build a positive-energy building, according to Rune Stene, Powerhouse’s managing director.

To reach the rigorous Powerhouse standard, a building must be an energy-positive facility that, in the course of a 60-year period, generates more renewable energy than the total amount of energy that would be required to sustain daily operations, and to build the building, produce materials for it and demolish it.

In Svart’s case, this means that by around 2080, the hotel will have produced more energy than it cost to create and operate. It will likely meet its goal considering the building is proposed to reduce its yearly energy consumption by 85 percent compared to other modern hotels. Svart will also harvest enough solar energy to cover both its operations and the energy needed to construct it.

While other certifications like LEED, WELL and BREEAM consider environmental or social factors, the Powerhouse standard focuses solely on plus-energy facilities.

There is no other concept as challenging as Powerhouse that we know about, when it comes to energy,” says Stene. “There are several plus-energy buildings around, but they typically only account for the operational energy, not the entire lifecycle. The material embodied energy is a substantial part of the building.”


Stene states that there isn’t necessarily a certification process. Rather, a report must be gathered that details exactly how the energy budget comes together to create a surplus.

When construction on a proposed Powerhouse building such as Svart is complete, the Powerhouse alliance checks the numbers (which are open to public record) to ensure that the facility is up to its standards. Stene says that, so far, Powerhouse has completed two projects, two are currently in construction and three are in design (including Svart).

The poles of the hotel double as a wooden boardwalk for visitors to stroll in the summer, according to Snøhetta’s website. In the winter, the boardwalk can be used to store boats and kayaks, reducing the need for garages and additional storage space.?

Powerhouse can be built all over the world,” he adds. “We have trademarked the logo and concept in the European Union, the U.S. and Norway.”

The two completed projects include Kjørbo in Sandvika, Norway, a rehabilitated office building, and Drøbak Montessori school, the most environmentally-friendly school in Norway. To reach the Powerhouse standard, the team for Svart made several cutting-edge design choices, including:

  • An extensive mapping of how solar radiation behaves in relation to mountainous context throughout the year to optimize the harvest of energy
  • A circular design of the hotels rooms, restaurants and terraces are strategically placed to exploit the Sun’s energy throughout the day and seasons
  • The hotel’s roof features Norwegian solar panels produced with clean hydro energy reducing the carbon footprint
  • Secluded terraces that protect against isolation from the sun in the summer, removing the need for artificial cooling
  • Large windows to exploit the Sun’s natural thermal energy

Building an energy positive and low-impact hotel like Svart may sound demanding, but Stene notes that the cost to become a Powerhouse building largely depends on whether the building will be newly constructed or refurbished. Regardless, this energy-positive certification may just be gaining notice at the right time. Green building is exploring new directions like health and wellness and, considering that buildings account for 40 percent of global energy consumption today, we can all benefit from transforming them from energy consumers to energy producers.

Design News | New Texas STEM School Honors NASA Legend

Continue reading Stunning Svart Hotel is World’s First Powerhouse Building in the Arctic Circle

Small Furniture, Big Impact

posted on 08/07/2018

Providing a comfortable environment with reliable furniture and supplies is an essential part of any student’s learning. That is why UNICEF, the United Nations agency aimed at improving the lives of children and their families in low- and middle-income countries, launched an international tender to design ergonomically correct, child-friendly, and sustainableclassroom furniture for children globally, particularly in Sub-Saharan African communities—where consistency, quality, and new design could be challenging.

Based on a competitive process, UNICEF selected Mary Burnham and Jeff Murphy, partners at Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects in New York as the architect firm that would design the classroom furniture. The team created prototypes of two new desks and a chair that fully meet with UNICEF requirements, and that could also be made by the region’s small-scale, local manufactures. The designs were developed on an open-source platform and made available to all.


“We were attracted to UNICEF’s humanistic agenda and their commitment to education and serving children,” said Murphy of his inspiration for getting involved. Burnham and Murphy started by surveying school furniture use and common fabrication methods in Rwanda and Malawi. They then presented their research and design approaches to UNICEF’s Innovation Unit in Copenhagen, where a team of external experts provided feedback and helped them decide on the final three designs.


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Made with wood, painted metal tubes, and simple joinery, the new UNICEF furniture designs were tested in Copenhagen and by field researchers (Malawi students). After final tests and a few minor changes, prototypes of the desks and chairs were sent eventually to Malawi, where they serve as model pieces to be copied by local fabricators. Since the project’s initial start in 2012, a total of 4,186 sets of furniture have been or are in the process of being installed across Rwanda, Malawi, and Ethiopia in 10 schools and 32 classrooms.


UNICEF creates Target Product Profiles (TPPs) to communicate requirements for products which are currently not available on the market, but which fulfill a priority need to be used in the unique context in which UNICEF and its partners operate. TPPs include information on how the new product will be used, by or for whom, and the minimum and ideal performance criteria. The purpose of TPPs is to guide industry to develop products that meet UNICEF’s needs, however, they do not act as the final procurement specifications, but rather as a list of desired requirements that combined describes the ideal product considering the context. Learn more about TPPs and sign up to receive updates by clicking here.


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Continue reading Small Furniture, Big Impact

Living Walls Put the ‘Green’ in Greenbuild


Nothing says dedication to green building like putting actual greens on a building. Displayed at more than one booth during this year’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago were several examples of exterior and interior living green walls.

SageGreenLife green wall example.
(Photo provided by SageGreenLife)

A growing trend, these living walls have become an easy way for companies in a variety of sectors — healthcare, office, hospitality, etc. — to incorporate sustainable design into their building or facility while also promoting the health and well-being of employees.

How Does It Work?

Nathan Beckner, horticulturalist and plant designer for SageGreenLife, showcased during GreenBuild just how SageGreenLife’s exterior and interior walls work exactly – it turns out to be much simpler than one thinks.

SageGreenLife Corporate Wall

SageGreenLife’s living walls, for example, are comprised of a PVC backing board and drainage mat on the bottom, and then battens hold up tile and irrigation on the top. “The tiles fit between the battens and each one is irrigated individually,” explains Beckner.

“So that’s really key to show how it’s different from other systems because each row of ours has its own dedicated line, so it’s really going to be able to control the water. You can really dial it in and have as minimal water waste as possible,” he continues. (Photo provided by SageGreenLife)

Important to the installation process is providing easy access for future maintenance and changing out plants. Beckner points out that when designing green walls for exteriors, one must consider the location of the plants, their exposure to the elements and the region’s weather.

See how one parking garage in Bloomington, IN, took its climate into consideration and decided to use annuals for its colorful exterior display.

A Green Wall Gave Life to this Parking Garage

Squares of colorful flowers and plants spill out of an entire column of windows – giving what was once a standard, utilitarian six-story garage a lively addition to its exterior.

See how this parking garage in Bloomington, IN, took its climate into consideration and decided to use annuals for its colorful exterior display.

“For interiors, it’s a completely different animal” adds Beckner. “You have to take into consideration high traffic. Are a lot of people going to be touching the plants? This happens often. A lot of interaction with social media also happens so you have to make sure the plant material is durable enough for the space.”

SageGreenLife office set
(Photo provided by SageGreenLife)

What are the benefits?

Yawkey Gallery of the Charles River provided by AmbiusWe hear time and time again that having plants inside can bring about a plethora of positive outcomes. While exterior plants are easy on the eyes and make for great visuals, it seems that the benefits of interior plants are more profound.

(Photo: Yawkey Gallery of the Charles River provided by Ambius)

“There’s a lot of benefits on installing green walls in interiors, especially in office spaces,” says Zack Sterkenberg from Ambius, another living green wall provider on display at Greenbuild. “There’s been studies that have proven just the view of greenery increases productivity and health and wellness.”

Plants are natural air purifiers and have proven to be mood boosters, enhance concentration and memory, help increase compassion and improve relationships. Even moss has proven to possess acoustical benefits when incorporated into a facility’s interior.

When asked why companies should consider installing a living wall, Ambius architect Matt Hills says it just depends on what the company is looking for.

“Are they looking to attract new talent?” Hills asks. “Green walls are great for branding, so if somebody walks in – especially someone from the millennial generation – they’re looking for a company that’s thinking about the environment, that’s thinking about what they are interested in and sustainability, and green wall branding is a great way of doing that.”

Picking Your Plants

If considering installing a living green wall, the most important part of the process will be selecting the right plants and space to put them in. Both SageGreenLife and Ambius have a wide range of plants available to use for exterior and interior projects.

Ambius living wall
(Photo provided by Ambius)

It’s crucial to take light into consideration – some species like ferns, evergreens and snake plants can tolerate low light while others like cacti and chrysanthemums need a bit more. You can learn more in Perks of Plants: How to Pick the Right Plant for Your Space.

Remember that regional species are best for exteriors, while interiors have a bit more flexibility when it comes to the selection process.

Living Walls - SafeGreenLife I Hear Design Podcast

What does it take for a living walls company to make sure even the worst brown thumbs keep their system alive?

Kadie Yale, interiors+sources’ editor-in-chief, sits down with Nathan Beckner, lead plant designer of sagegreenlife to discuss their latest collaboration with Gensler

“If it’s more for a visual look, we have designers that put together design options based on industry trends and also feedback from the clients,” says Sterkenberg. “So if the client is looking for a specific type or feel to the wall, we can design small plants, large plants, etc.”

George Washington University provided by Ambius
(Photo: George Washington University provided by Ambius)

Sterkenberg also adds that because some plants remove different chemicals than others from the air, clients can customize specific plants to incorporate into the wall to take out varying pollutants.

See which species can give you a breath of fresh air in 5 Purifying Indoor Plants.

5 Air Purifying Indoor Plants

Research into air purifying indoor plants like the Golden Pothos (pictured) has yielded several top species that are especially good at absorbing VOCs with their leaves and roots.

See which greenery can give you a breath of fresh air in 5 Air Purifying Indoor Plants.


With sustainable design and a sharp focus on health and wellness continuing to evolve the building process, it’s likely the popularity and sight of living green walls will continue to flourish. While building and facility managers don’t need a green thumb to take care of their space’s living wall, it is always helpful to learn what to expect with them once installed.

Get growing!

Janelle Penny, senior staff writer at BUILDINGS, contributed to this article.

Continue reading Living Walls Put the ‘Green’ in Greenbuild

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