Sunday, October 31, 2010

Workspring and the benefits of Third Places

Last summer while attending NEOCON 2010 in Chicago I visited Workspring just a few blocks away from the Merchandise Mart.  Prior to visiting I had been talking on and off with Mark Greiner Workspring's General Manager and the Chief Experience Officer (CXO),Steelcase Inc. and a Senior VP. 
 Entry looking into reception area 
He told me how the business developed out of an idea he and a group of  others at Steelcase's Workplace Futures consulting group had, how they found support within Steelcase and Venture Capital funding to build a functioning prototype of research work to test ideas on the value of collaborative work experiences in and  off-site from traditional workplaces.  As Mark and others I've met at Workplace Futures have said, this projects comes out the Steelcase business ethos of Understand, Observe, Synthesize, Realize, Prototype and Measure.   The purpose of the space, equipment and people providing services there are to assist businesses in having memorable and valuable collaboration experiences bettering their organization.  The space has been online for over two years now and the positive reviews are coming in as seen from customer testimonials on the website.

I'd missed seeing it the year before and wanted very much to see Workspring, "a high-performance for fee work experience".  Or saying it another way, a "Third place" to hold collaborative off-site meetings whether for an intimate group of 2 or 3, a large geographically dispersed project team working on rolling out a new product or service, or renting the whole space for a large multi-faceted multi-day work experiences. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Supporting Clean Energy_A Vermont Perspective

Here's a video I posted to the RePower America Wall about supporting Clean Energy. Like I said in the video below I see here in Vermont all around me communities shifting away from dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil to renewable, clean sources.  Shifting towards cleaner sources both benefits our local environment and promotes green jobs in our local communities.  Many Vermont companies now manufacture, install and consult on bringing clean energy, whether solar, wind, geothermal, biomass into Vermont homes, businesses and institutions.  By doing so we ensure a more stable and sustainable way of life for generations to come.
For more information about the impact of renewable energy here in Vermont I urge you to click on this link to the Renewable Energy Vermont website and it's sister entity, Efficiency Vermont, an energy efficiency utility working to bring energy efficiency and conservation deeper into households and businesses around our small state.  Another resource is the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, an organization dedicated to shifting Vermont towards clean energy and green jobs.  
What's great about Vermont is while we may be small, we have big ideas and a track record others can learn from on their journey towards shifting away from fossil fuel dependence towards clean energy and building stronger local communities.  Check us out for best practices on how to do this.  Contact me if you'd  like more information from any of these resources or if you're considering adding renewable energy sources to your building project.  I can help or if not, I will find someone who can.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Spirals and Gravel

I am a fan of sacred places and spaces.  Sometimes they are fueled by movement of the body in some kind of ritual.

Here, I explored making a spiral in a bed of gravel at a friends home. While it wasn't an exactly religious experience per se. starting out at the center and walking in a tightly spiraling path outward was both meditative and rhythmic.  Not to mention a little dizzying.

While temporary, the completed spiraling form had a beauty and appeal about it.  A few days later, it dissolved in the storm runoff from our recent heavy rainstorms.  Largely a figment of my body memory, I do pleasantly I remember the flowing feel of walking in the heavy gravel, the stones giving way beneath my feet making crunchy noises as I made my spiral shape.  What was really neat was how the low afternoon sun grazed the ridge and gullies, amplifying shape and form.  The photo captures the essence of the light and is a reminder of how fleeting such experiences truly are.

The act of turning in circles like this has a name, circumambulation.  Whether its a pilgrimage around a holy mountain, a religious monument or a May pole, the act of circling around is a primordial aspect of our lives.  The experience of being in the gravel reinforced this greater message in an aspiritual way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Vermont Perspective of the High Performance Workplace

Often times people ask what does designcultivation have to do with workplace design?  While it's the name of this blog I propose it's the also the act of cultivating awareness about unfamiliar aspects, information, best practices about designing and operating the high performance workplace. 

Many of us have experienced short-lived trends in workplace design buffeted more by the winds of fashion or onset of new products rather than focusing on what matters most, creating the high performing organization of which the physical workplace is merely a reflection.  It's not about the equipment and gadgets, how high or how low your panels are.  It's about leveraging the DNA of a company, its organizational mission, values and goals into its physical setting.  This helps to maximize the value and promise of its primary asset, its people and the workplace community they share together.

Because I live in Vermont with early adopters of corporate social responsibility like Ben & Jerry's, Chroma Technology, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Green Mountain Power, King Arthur Flour, Magic Hat Brewery, Main Street Landing, National Life of  VermontNRG Systems and Seventh Generation to name a few, I've come to realize building great companies is more than just building a great bottom line.  It's about people, planet and profits together.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

USGBC, LEED Targeted by Class-Action Suit -

USGBC, LEED Targeted by Class-Action Suit -

Check out this interesting article which gets to the core of the challenge we all face in the rise in popularity and promise of Green Building. Achieving a culture of transperancy is critical to the continued success of the USGBC's LEED building rating systems. This lawsuit illuminates the core issue at stake with the green building process, is the LEED brand a proven path to energy savings and resource conservation? Or is something else going on? Thanks to Building Green for letting us know about this lawsuit and providing helpful background information. We'll wait to see how this plays out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Passive Haus in Central Vermont

Today I saw a link to this video from the New York Times site showcasing an unusual super insulated and hyper efficient home requiring no heating systems in the lovely hills of central Vermont where I live. 

The Landau family engaged a local architectural, engineering and building team to design, produce and install their home on its site to a levels of extraordinary energy efficiency and air-tightness requiring no internal heating system at all.  The family was very interested in living in a home with zero energy use to not rely upon fossil fuels. 

Their home is modeled on the European Passiv Haus model now becoming more known in the US.  There is a US Passive Haus institute, an affiliate of the original in Germany. For more projects in the US, please click this link.

Bensonwood homes, one of the building team members produced and installed the exterior building envelope including frame, walls and roof systems.  They're just over the border in nearby New Hampshire.  They are on the forefront of integrating super-high performance building design into CAD CAM aided panelized production of building elements assembled together onto the site.  It's a novel approach to construction and design build which results into more control over the building process and higher quality control with apparently minor additional costs to the project.   

A take away for me is that it is possible to design and build these kinds of homes in the chilly world of the Northeastern US.  The capabilities exist practically in our back yard.


The original link to me to this great video is courtesy of Greg Howes from the LinkedIn Group"Net Zero Building" of which I belong as well.  Greg is CEO of