Tag Archives: AIA

Housing still hoping to gain momentum

Michael J. Berens

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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Housing still hoping to gain momentum

Slow but steady is the current prognosis for the housing industry. Housing starts are up for the first seven months of the year, but month-to-month gains have remained flat for the past four months. Meanwhile, requests for single-family permits have declined, which could mean fewer new starts in the months ahead.

Nonetheless, builders and housing experts expect the industry will continue to experience modest growth in the second half of the year.

Overall, housing showed signs of improvement in July. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that housing starts (in number of units) rose 2.1 percent, compared to June, reaching their highest reading since February. Most of the gain was in the multifamily sector, which was up 5 percent. New single-family starts stayed positive but flat, nudging up only 0.5 percent. Applications for new permits slipped slightly (0.1 percent) but were 0.9 percent above a year ago.

Similarly, Dodge reports residential construction (in dollars) increased 3 percent in July over June. Again, the strongest gains were in multifamily, which jumped 9 percent, while single-family construction ticked up just 1 percent. Multifamily also was the strongest performer on the Architecture Billings Index for July, says the American Institute of Architects.

According to the National Association of Home Builders’ Leading Market Index for the second quarter of 2016, average economic and housing activity nationwide is now at 97 percent of “normal,” with 91 percent of markets showing year-over-year improvements. For housing, that means single-family permits and housing prices are nearly at 2000-2003 levels.

However, the boost has come mainly from rising housing prices. Permits as yet have rebounded only to 50 percent of “normal” activity. Realtor magazine relates sales of existing homes “heated up” in July, fueled by an increase in inventory (due to rising housing prices) and historically low mortgage rates.

More millennials in the 25- to 34-year-old age range were actively looking to purchase a home, as well. Qualifying for a mortgage and a shortage of affordable properties continue to be hurdles for many would-be first-time homebuyers, though. That, in turn, is driving the need for rental housing, which is pushing the demand for multifamily units.

Despite the rather mixed bag of favorable and concerning indicators, the industry outlook remains positive. Builder confidence, as measured by the NAHB’s Housing Market Index, was up two points in August, buoyed by improving employment and economic news. Builders were slightly more optimistic (up one point) about sales expectations for the next six months.

A joint forecast by economists from the Associated Builders and Contractors, AIA and NAHB predicts the industry will end the year maintaining its current level of a 10-plus percent increase over last year, and will continue to see gradual, modest growth in 2017.

In its National Residential Economic Report for the second quarter of 2016, MetroStudy forecasts the total number of residential permits will exceed that of 2015 by year’s end. For the longer term, it foresees an overall healthy housing market during the next five years, with valuations increasing and demand outpacing supply.

Unless some change occurs either in household income or home prices, affordability will remain on a drag on the industry’s efforts to accelerate growth.

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About the Author

Michael J. Berens

Michael J. Berens is a freelance researcher and writer with more than 30 years of experience in association communication and management. He can be reached at

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Net zero construction trailer brings health and wellness to the jobsite

As AEC firms scramble to upgrade their offices to maximize occupant wellness and productivity, Pepper Construction asks, What about the jobsite office?

JANUARY 02, 2019 |
Net zero construction trailer brings health and wellness to the jobsite

The 12×60-foot Net Zero Jobsite Trailer debuted in November at the Greenbuild show in Chicago. It features a super-insulated shell and many of the comforts of a traditional office workspace. Photo: ©2018 Ballogg Photography

The AEC industry has gone all in on sustainability, energy efficiency, and occupant health and wellness. These elements are woven into the fabric of just about every new building, including AEC firms’ own offices.

However, there’s one critical workspace that remains an afterthought when it comes to sustainability, health, wellness, and productivity: the jobsite trailer. 

Chicago-based Pepper Construction has a plan to bring its jobsites up to speed. In November, at the Greenbuild show, the contractor unveiled its Net Zero Jobsite Trailer. The 12×60-foot structure is designed to focus on the human experience, productivity, and quality from every aspect to make sure employees in the field have the same wellness features as those in a traditional office setting.

See Also: A modular, scalable mobile hospital can quickly respond to natural disasters and crises


“Most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, and that environment has a significant impact on our health,” says Susan Heinking, AIA, LEED Fellow, Pepper’s VP of High Performance and Sustainable Construction, who led the project. “That philosophy also applies to the men and women working on our jobsites. We want our trailer to match our values.”


The trailer’s exterior is clad in cement fiber panels and illuminated with daylight-sensing light fixtures. Photo: ©2018 Ballogg Photography

A traditional jobsite construction trailer emits 53,712 lb of CO2 emissions into the air each year, making its carbon footprint equivalent to the energy use of four residential homes. The Net Zero Trailer is designed to greatly minimize its overall energy use, which is then offset with rooftop photovoltaic panels.   

Cement fiber panels clad the trailer and reduce heat absorption. Six inches of rigid insulation increase energy efficiency, eliminate temperature swings, and double the R-values for the walls, floor, and roof, which range from R-30 to R-40. On the roof, three strings of nine commercial solar panels convert four hours of sunlight into the energy needed to power the trailer for a full work day. 

Double-pane, low-argon windows are fitted with transparent shades for glare control and are operable to provide fresh air. Natural light pours in through these windows, greatly reducing the need for lighting. When artificial lighting is necessary, a wireless low-consumption system with integrated occupancy and daylight sensors activates. 

The trailer features a meeting room that can hold up to 14 people and hoteling space for visitors. Above the meeting room is recycled, bio-formed felt that provides sound absorption. The flexible workspace includes stand-up desks, folding Red List-free furniture, and storage lockers. A full-amenity kitchen, equipped with appliances and fixtures, is included to eliminate restrictions on occupant diets. 


Details such as locker storage and flexible work space transform previously utilitarian conditions into a modern, healthy workspace. Photo: ©2018 Ballogg Photography.

Built to be paperless, the superintendent’s office is equipped with stand-up desks and occupancy-sensing air conditioning. Photo: ©2018 Ballogg Photography.

The full-amenity kitchen enables employees the opportunity to pursue healthier eating habits. Photo: ©2018 Ballogg Photography.


With as little as four hours of daylight, the solar panels produce enough energy to exceed the trailer’s daily energy demand. Photo: ©2018 Ballogg Photography.


Pepper vetted the design through an energy model to ensure the trailer performs at peak levels. Photo: ©2018 Ballogg Photography.

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A New Approach to Education

Turn Large School Projects Around Faster.

Photo Courtesy of Vectorworks

For more than 50 years, Boston-based Flansburgh Architects has been designing award-winning civic, cultural, and educational facilities. “Our work is a microcosm of all building types,” explains Joseph Marshall, AIA, architect and design technology coordinator at Flansburgh. “For example, public, private, and international schools with large campuses allow us to design theaters, dormitories, athletic facilities, and a variety of all building types.” While these complex projects allow for diversity in design, they also require dynamic solutions. As such, Flansburgh has now fully transitioned to BIM to ensure smoother collaboration, both internally and externally.

Over the years, Marshall and his colleagues integrated new components of the latest Vectorworks Architect releases into their workflow to see how BIM could impact their firm’s approach. As a result, Flansburgh is now at the forefront of implementing and advancing cutting-edge technology in architectural design. This BIM-focused process took off with two of Flansburgh’s recently completed projects.

“Holbrook School was one of the first projects where we used BIM with a full consultant team,” says architect and BIM coordinator, Brian Hores, AIA. As the first new full pre-K through 12 public school in Massachusetts, the project was constructed around the existing school while it was still occupied and with minimal disruption to day-to-day school activities.

Having the ability to combine all trades into one building model during early phases of design helped to prevent easily avoidable efficiency problems. Hores’ team kept up with the fast pace of the project by importing all of The Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) data models from the contractors, no matter which BIM software they were using, into their Vectorworks model for the new Holbrook school.

Flansburgh’s master plan for St. John’s Preparatory School, located in the scenic town of Danvers north of Boston, created several new additions to the campus including a new STEM building, a renovated middle school, and a state-of-the-art wellness center. The school wanted a space that would cater to students’ overall well-being, so the Flansburgh team used standard physical models to help everyone visualize the space. “From there, the preferred scheme was brought into a 3D model,” says Marshall, “which aided in the further design development.”

Photo Courtesy of Vectorworks

Once the digital model was completed, stakeholders could quickly see how their input affected the design and get a true sense of the finished product. “Using the visualization tools early on lets everyone envision the building. Some of our renderings look as good as photographs,” Marshall notes. Officials at St. John’s Prep used Flansburgh’s renderings for fundraising purposes, and invited Marshall and Flansburgh vice president Kent Kovacs, AIA, to use the project as a teaching tool, introducing the students to architecture and the efficiency of the BIM design process.

“We have been using Vectorworks effectively for a long time,” Marshall says. “It’s an all-in-one design tool with which we can deliver a BIM project without compromising our design process.”



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ARCHITECT‘s Ayda Ayoubi reports the AIA’s monthly Architecture BillingsIndex (ABI) came in at a score of 55.3 in January, a 4.3-point increase from the previous month’s revised score of 51, marking the 16th consecutive month of gains.

The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity in the U.S., and reflects a nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending nationally, regionally, and by project type. A score above 50, as seen in January, represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score below 50 represents a contraction.

“The government shutdown affected architecture firms but doesn’t appear to have created a slowdown in the profession,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “While AIA did hear from a few firms that were experiencing significant cash flow issues due to the shutdown, the data suggests that the majority of firms had no long-term impact.”

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Architecture Billings Slow Yet End 2018 with Growing Demand

Ongoing tariff situation, unstable business conditions, and the partial government shutdown could lead to further softening

Jan 28, 2019

Architecture firm billings growth softened in December but remained positive for the fifteenth consecutive month, according to a recent report from The American Institute of Architects (AIA).

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for December was 50.4 compared to 54.7 in November.  Despite the positive billings, a softening in growth was seen across several regions and sectors, as well as in project inquiries and design contracts.

“Given the concerns over the ongoing tariff situation, it is not surprising to see a bit of a slowdown in progress on current projects,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Growing anxiety over unstable business conditions and the partial shutdown of the government may lead to further softening in the coming months.”

Key ABI highlights for December include:

  • Regional averages: Midwest (56.3), Northeast (51.6), South (49.4), West (49.2)
  • Sector index breakdown: institutional (53.1), commercial/industrial (51.2), mixed practice (50.2), multi-family residential (49.8)
  • Project inquiries index: 55.6
  • Design contracts index: 52.1

Regional and sector categories above are calculated as a three-month moving average, whereas the national index, design contracts, and inquiries are monthly numbers.

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7 Vintage Interior Design Trends That Are Making a Comeback

| Oct 18, 2016

Just because a trend is dated doesn’t mean it’s bad. After all, Louis XIV lived in the 17th century, and look how crazy people go over his favorite furnishings.

Although designers will say that good design is timeless, it’s too late for all those homeowners who were ripping out their vintage Mid-Century Modern accents for decades until “Mad Men” made the 1960s cool again. Now even wood-paneled walls, which those of us who grew up in the ’70s love to hate, are coming back in a new, stylish way (and our kids will probably tear it out in 20 years’ time).

Of course, not every interior design trend needs a revival. Absolutely no one wants popcorn ceilings back. But these seven retro looks are either clawing their way back toward popularity—or (fingers crossed) they will be soon.


1920s: Tortoiseshell

Pacific Heights Townhouse

This intricate design grew popular in the late 19th century and enjoyed an Art Deco-inspired resurgence during the 1920s. Today, this mottled black-and-brown pattern is a classic for spectacles, shoes, and hair combs—but why did it disappear from our decor? (To be clear, we’re not asking designers to poach the endangered hawksbill sea turtle to make our living rooms great again.)

Today’s white walls and minimalist designs are the perfect backdrop for complex, dark motifs. Choose a small accent, like this tortoiseshell vase or inlaid mirror. Or if you’re feeling daring, tortoiseshell tiling makes a bold addition to a bath. Pair with simple marble tile, crisp walls, and bronze accents to create a funky, elegant washroom. Designers have just started poking around with tortoiseshell accents, so risk-takers get the joy of being trend-setters.


1930s: Stained glass

Swan River Home

We’re all about our double-paned glass and our energy-efficient windows, but the downside to such practical choices is that modern windows lack interest and excitement. Most homeowners only consider stained glass if they’ve purchased a vintage beauty, but it works just as beautifully inside a contemporary space.

Trendsetters have already received the memo, incorporating stained glass into furniture and accessories, but with some modern twists.

While it might cost a pretty penny, most cities have studios that can create custom stained glass designs that fit your home’s style—no matter which century inspired you. Simple designs in bright, cheerful colors perk up a pared-down space, and quirky, geometric designs bring life to a boring transom. But be prepared: Stained glass windows are less energy-efficient. Work with your installer to create a solution that works for you.


1940s: Colored milk glass

Amy Trowman Sullivans Beach House No. 3

If you haven’t spent much time thinking about ’40s decor, you’re in good company. Similar to the ’70s, the pre-Mid-Century decade loved weird floor plans and too much green. But they did one thing right: colored milk glass.

Vintage collectors can spend some serious coin hunting down authentic Anchor Hocking jadeite glassware on eBay and Etsy. Traditional milk glass is white, but colored alternatives—like the hyperpopular jade version and its twin sister, azurite—are coveted by collectors and vintage enthusiasts. But their subdued hues and gorgeous designs make them an ideal addition to today’s all-white kitchens, which desperately need a touch of color.

Unless you’re willing to jump in with the auction crowds, finding colored milk glass today can be a challenge. But done correctly, it complements even the most modern kitchen and works effortlessly in farmhouse-style homes.


1950s: Bold kitchens

House in Kfar Tavor

When it comes to outfitting our home in ’50s decor, we often veer toward the always popular Mid-Century Modern—with a few cases of full-on Mamie Eisenhower pink. But there’s one Mid-Century trend that gets the sledgehammer whenever vintage homes change hands: colorful kitchens, painted in bright yellows, greens, or blues.

Not that white kitchens aren’t lovely—they’re clean, minimalist, and right now, both classic and trendy. But from the subway tile to the crisp Corian countertops, there’s no denying they all kind of look the same. 

Mid-Century kitchens were swathed in color, from the fridge to the countertops to the cabinetry. And while there’s no need to paint everything the same color, a bold accent color can make food prep far more interesting. We know we’re part of a fringe movement with our pleas for more color in the kitchen, but we predict that will change soon—experts say the days of cautious kitchen design are numbered.


1960s: Patterned wallpaper

Bohemian Apartment Study
Sometime around the turn of this century, we all collectively decided to spend 70 billion hours scraping off the garish wallpaper that had plagued our homes for many, many decades. That left us rather hesitant to turn around and slather on such a risky decor choice again.But wallpaper is making a comeback, taking cues from inspired designers of the ’60s (and early ’70s) who created delightful patterns that made for a killer accent wall. Sure, their designs featured way too much brown and orange—hardly anyone’s favorite color this side of 2000—but they were playfulfunky, and geometric.

You can modernize the look by swapping in white and gold for the outdated shades, or go wild with bright colors and fun patterns to bring quirky ’60s style to your modern abode. And don’t worry about the sweat: Many of today’s wallpapers are significantly easier to remove.


1970s: Avocado green


Avocado is the best fruit. Why is it a curse word when it comes to paint?

Hear us out. Yes, avocado green was possibly one of the worst decor ideas of the ’70s. But subtract the burnt-orange carpeting, the outdated faux-veneer wood-paneled walls, and it’s almost attractive.

Paired with wooden beams, it’s downright modern. Subdue it a little—ask your favorite paint store to mix in some white. Start small and paint your cabinets or cover your favorite bookshelf. But don’t you dare match it with brass. Please don’t buy avocado carpets. And no, the world isn’t ready for a guacamole-inspired armchair.


1980s: Chintz

Guest Bath

Finally, the comeback we’ve been eagerly awaiting—chintz. Yeah, you read that right. We’re thrilled this look is making its return to the decor world. Sure, done improperly, it feels like your grandma’s house. Paired with dark woods, it can feel downright ridiculous. And if you’re ostentatious enough to pair it with another pattern (or, God forbid, another chintz pattern), it can make your eyes bleed.

But by selecting large-scale, graphic fabrics and wallpapers, the outdated floral pattern fits right in on Pinterest. That’s because the ’80s had the right idea with flowers. They’re elegant, flirty, and nice to look at. And when wintertime comes, it might just feel a bit like spring.


Jamie Wiebe writes about home design and real estate for She has previously written for House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Real Simple, Veranda, and more.
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AIA: Billings Remain Positive for the 14th Consecutive Month

Last month, the overall billings increased by a healthy margin to a score of 54.7, and architecture firms in the Northeast, West, and South regions reported positive growth in billings.

The AIA’s monthly Architecture Billings Index (ABI) came in at a score of 54.7 in November, marking the 14th consecutive month of gains. The ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity in the U.S., and reflects a nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending nationally, regionally, and by project type. A score above 50, as seen in November, represents an increase in billings from the previous month, while a score below 50 represents a contraction.

AIA ARCHITECTURE BILLINGS INDEXClick and drag in the plot area to zoom in2010201220142016201830354045505560

“Despite some concerns about a potential economic downturn, architecture firms continue to report strong billings, inquiries, and new design contracts,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “For the coming year, concerns about the economy among architecture firm leaders tend to be balanced by their concerns about a lack of qualified employee prospects.”

ARCHITECTURE BILLINGS INDEXPast 12 MonthsBillingsInquiriesDesign ContractsNovDecJanFebMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugSeptOctNov47.55052.55557.56062.565

In November, design contracts posted a score of 54.6—a 1.8-point increase from October’s score of 52.8, a sign that momentum is getting strong again .

ARCHITECTURE BILLINGS INDEX, BY REGIONPast 12 MonthsNortheastMidwestSouthWestNovDecJanFebMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugSeptOctNov4547.55052.55557.56062.5

The scores for regional billings—which, unlike the national score, are calculated as a three-month moving averages—increased in three regions in November. The billings score for the Northeast grew 5 points to a score of 56.8. Demand for design services in the South increased by 2.1 points to a score of 50.5. Billings also increased in the West by 2.6 points, to a score of 49. Demand for design services decreased significantly by 4.7 points to a score of 53.1 in the Midwest.

ARCHITECTURE BILLINGS INDEX, BY SECTORPast 12 MonthsMultifamily ResidentialCommercial/IndustrialInstitutionalMixed PracticeNovDecJanFebMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugSeptOctNov504547.552.55557.5

Billings decreased in two of the four individual industry sectors in November, but all posted a score above 50, indicating growth. The multifamily residential score dropped by 1.1 point to a score of 51.2 and the institutional sector’s score decreased by 1.2 points to a score of 50.8. The commercial/industrial sector grew 4.9 points to a score of 53.8. And the mixed practice sector posted a score of 53.8, a 1.1-point increase from October’s score of 52.7. (Results of sectors are also calculated as three-month moving averages.)

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Improving Experiential Living Through Collaborative Paradigms



There has been a lot of discussion around combining or sharing design verticals, merging of how we live, work, relax, gain access to services and interact. Interesting inventive terms include “resimmercial,” “resitality,” “healthitality,” “eduhealth.” I imagine there will be more terms evolving as trends continue to overlap in various design segments.

Overall, this is the opportunity to create experiential design by not assuming that old norms, design assumptions and previous modes of operating are relevant to today’s world. They aren’t – change is the constant.

PWP Studio. Courtesy of Emerald Expositions and Contract, Healthcare Design, Environments for Aging, Design: Retail, and Hospitality Design. From left to right: Margaret McMahon, senior vice president and managing director, Wimberly Interiors; Jane Rohde, principal, JSR Associates; Dina Griffin, president, Interactive Design Architects; Suzen Heeley, executive director of design and construction, facilities management division, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Robin Guenther, principal, Perkins+Will; Roya Sullivan, national director of window presentation, Macy’s; Ave Bradley, creative director and global senior vice president of design, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Lauren Geremia, principal, Geremia Design; and Cindi Kato, PAVE Board president and vice president and global retail business development director, CallisonRTKL.


Working women – per the 1980s movie “Nine to Five” with Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda — identified the issues with diversity and equality in the workplace, equal work for equal pay and many ills with the inequality faced in business.

Fast forward to 2018 and the experience economy, an individual could be doing business while sitting in a coffee shop in New York working with someone in Shanghai that they had never met in person, but are working together because of expertise, similar ideas or collaboration that’s needed to bring about a successful business relationship that could change the world.


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Flexibility, personal responsibility and trust are necessities for businesses to be successful. The intermixing of experience and generations brings about new solutions to address everything from housing shortages to social problems to delivery of services and products.

Embracing inclusivity and the crossover between work and living are no longer linear, but separations are blurred. Work and living overlaps and can take place wherever and whenever as long as the mission, project constraints, expectations and business outcomes are clearly delineated and met from the beginning of a project. If workers agree to this framework, then flexibility and trust can develop to create success.


During the Women in Design event held in New York on Oct. 30, 2018, I had the opportunity to accept my Women in Design Award at the end of the program and was simply dazzled by the stories of the 10 talented designers that were honored before me.

Two particular stories made me start thinking of how collaboration could be completed differently in the future – perhaps in support of person-centered initiatives that could create a tipping point for the future of designing for elders and vulnerable populations, and supporting experiential design for all people.

One was Roya Sullivan, the national director of window presentation for Macy’s. Her designs were colorful, fun and playful; the image of a chameleon with bright green Adidas sneakers stood out for me. Roya talked about the difficulty in retail and the balance between online purchasing and the tangibility of creating windows that provoked an experience.

The Women in Design Award

The Women in Design award handcrafted by Kristen Bonnel and Christine Sheu from Eventscape in Canada. The bottom wood portion represents the percentage of women in leadership roles in design and white portion represents the percentage of men in leadership roles in design. The goal is for the wood portion to grow higher every year as more women raise up to take on leadership roles and provide innovative design solutions.

I looked at the images and thought: ’How could we take that energy and creativity of the wonderful window design and apply it to senior living so that experiential living was part of elders’ daily lives?’ Wow! This could be an absolute game changer.

Let’s no longer look at what we have done, but what could happen if we simply started from scratch, took a fresh look, and reinvented the thought process and framework for developing an entire new paradigm that meets housing, service, and amenity needs – not just for elders, but for all people. This would apply to the built environment as much as to product design.

The other designer that stood out for me was Lauren Geremia, principal at Geremia Design in the Bay Area. She has completed spaces for Instagram and Dropbox – based upon completing spaces that created an experience that was notable for those starting dot-com businesses.

This is the mixing of daily living with working as part of the culture and environment. Can this approach to design talk to housing solutions that mix with daily living experiences for older adults and younger children that have been traditionally institutionalized – not by choice, but by necessity? Is there a design solution that intermixes generations and can be openly supported by the community at-large? Is it true, if needs are expressed to the community, that they will raise up and collaboratively change the living circumstances for so many that simply need to be seen and heard, and need a bit of assistance to positively move forward with their lives?


The week before Thanksgiving, I went to visit my goddaughter and her daughter at Johns Hopkins University. Her daughter has a hereditary cancer that her grandfather had died from a number of years ago. She had successfully made it through surgery, removing portions of her thyroid and adrenals. Her simple request was for a Popeye’s 5-piece box of chicken tenders, so I knew she was on the mend. When I got there, the father of her 9-month-old son brought in the baby. We were reminiscing some, but then the conversation became more serious.

None of them, including the baby’s father, who lost his own dad in August, has stable, consistent housing. The two women have jobs and the young man is in technical school with the ultimate goal to work in construction.

The discussion revolved around the need for housing. The current conditions include couch surfing, kind friends and distant relatives as part of the network to find a place to sleep so that they can get up and make it to work, babysitters’ and school. In this small microcosm of safety of the hospital room, I could feel all of their concern, worry and anxiety. But for that one moment, everyone was safe, feed and knew where they would be sleeping that night, but not for the next nights following. The struggle was real, but the moment was peaceful as the baby laid on his tummy and started to breath heavy with sleep.

How is it that in our nation we don’t have decent housing that could support a working individual long enough to be able to become part of the larger fabric of society? Couldn’t these creative minds that come from all types of design experience and leadership positions come together to change this crisis?

Similar to different ways of living and working, individuals need to be able to build trust and collaboration to move forward and create opportunity for those aging out of foster care, those truly willing to work but know in their hearts that no one wants them when they lose a parent, and change the paradigm for success? The youth is our future and we have need to step up the pace of solutions. We’re losing generations of wonderful, caring and loving people that need to be welcomed into the world of success – supporting, providing and nurturing them; assisting to meet their needs; and believing in them.

On this Thanksgiving, I was grateful for being with my parents in the small town where I grew up. Cooking big pots of squash, beans and ham hocks, and homemade applesauce. All the senses are dancing with the smells and taste of food. My thoughts go to my goddaughter and her family, wishing for all of them to have a place called home. Safe, warm and comfortable, as a right that all people should be able to attain through fortitude and hard work versus being unattainable in a world that doesn’t see so many that are in need.


Design leadership could move the needle positively toward creation of person-centered living. My congratulations to all of the Women in Design honorees – each one inspiring – amazing women doing incredible work. Let us come together as a community and bring about change – share the people and contacts that we have that can support person-centered living – creating a forum that can move the needle in a positive direction.

More Design News | Highlighting Equality & Diversity

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How bathroom design can be a bridge to more accessible architecture

The Stalled Initiative and MIXDesign are asking architects and designers to “cast a wider net” when thinking about inclusive design

A Stalled bathroom prototype for airports focuses on breaking the space into three separate areas.
MIXdesign and Stalled

For architect and Yale professor Joel Sanders, equitable, accessible design starts with changing the settings. The challenge facing professionals, planners, and elected officials is to look past the traditional default.

“In general, the default user the profession thinks about when designing a building is an able-bodied, young, cisgender, white, secular user,” Sanders says. “It’s a consequence of how architects are trained and practice.”

Sanders believes the design profession is at a crossroads when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

The desire to showcase how social inclusion is connected to building design led Sanders, transgender historian Susan Stryker, and legal scholar Terry Kogan, to launch a design firm and consultancy, MIXdesign, focused on issues of accessibility and universal design. They’ve also launched Stalled, an initiative to raise awareness of inclusive bathroom design, as well as offering open-source blueprints. Now, a year after Stalled’s launch, Sanders feels he’s learned a lot about promoting the design needs of “non-conforming bodies, genders, and religions.”

By deconstructing the space and creating separate areas for separate activities, the Stalled bathroom design prototype aims to make the space more comfortable for all users.
MIXdesign and Stalled

Often, when the profession talks about disability, or designing for all users, it focuses on designing for mobility issues. Mobility is an important consideration and a focus of legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, but it is not the only form of accessibility architects should address.

“We need to cast a wider net across not just physical disabilities, but people with visual or acoustic challenges, as well as the entire spectrum of race, gender, and religion,” says Sanders.

The Stalled initiative used the question of how to design bathrooms to provide the transgender community with better access—inspired by the raft of so-called “bathroom bills”—to show how a more open-ended approach to design can help the wider public. The Stalled proposal—which included single-stall restrooms, floorplans meant to guarantee mobility access, as well as layouts that guaranteed privacy—was meant to exemplify design that “casts a wider net” in terms of looking at how different users approach the same space and task.

Stalled initially grew out of work that Sanders, Stryker, and Kogan were doing around design history and research, and the approach continues to inform their work today. Including a historian and legal scholar within the design team offers important context, and helps navigate—and, ideally, one day reform—building codes.

“We need to hear from the users,” Sanders says. “We saw that everyone thought of this as a problem of safety. The bathroom is a place that’s a focus of social anxiety, and continues to be so.”

The Stalled team has promoted its vision within the design community, presenting its findings to New York City government as well as at the AIA Conference on Architecture earlier this summer, and completing model retrofits for clients such as Galludet University. Ideally, according to Sanders, this work and advocacy becomes one, leading to blueprints for common sense building code reform as well as floorplans that other architects and designers can use.

“Right now, everyone is left to their own devices to figure it out themselves,” says Sanders. “A university may put together a task force. Others see the solution as just a matter of signage and icons. But the public needs to understand it’s an important issue that needs designers, and ultimately laws and guidelines that facilitate this process.”

Since MIXDesign launched, the group has also gotten inquiries from federal government agencies looking at how the types of renovations and designs championed by the Stalled initiative could work on a larger scale.

“We need to think across all these different user needs,” says Sanders. “The solutions we find will enhance everyone’s lives.”

Continue reading How bathroom design can be a bridge to more accessible architecture

Architecture firm billings continue to slow, but remain positive in October

Continue reading Architecture firm billings continue to slow, but remain positive in October

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