Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Strategic Workplace Design Survey Results - Part 2 of 2

Earlier in February I wrote about initial results of the Strategic Workplace Survey I conducted to test out the Surveymonkey interface and gather insight about key business issues shaping the high performance workplace in 2011 and beyond.  I also sought out insight on how respondents workplace environments could be improved through better more informed design and operational strategies.

Increased worker mobility and collaboration link the five to seven issues survey respondents identified can improve their workspace.  Most surprisingly stand-up work stations were tops with improving workspace acoustics and easier access to meeting rooms tying for second.  Having space for guest seating at workstations, more meeting spaces with greater diversity of sizes reinforced the need for collaborative options to help workers perform more effectively.  Improving task seating at workstations and more filing and storage options were also important.

This is especially relevant with the downward trend of workspace per worker.  While digital filing continues to   grow in usage, having space to store needed support materials and long term filing remained important to respondents.  When selecting workstations or designing built-in work areas, consider installing overhead bins with lockable doors or open shelving helps achieve a double level of storage.  There seems to be an informal trend to use this kind of storage also for stacking documents.  Another option to consider is to select some level of storage below the desk work surface such as a fixed or movable pedestal file along with small drawers and open shelving.

Respondents weren't enthused about less walls and more open work areas, didn't find access to fresh air as important and didn't find adding video conferencing cameras at the work-area enticing.  This might reflect the demographics of those who took the survey. A majority were between the ages of 36 to 55 reflecting perhaps a tendency to yet use web cameras as part of their daily routine.  I suspect if asked in a couple of years, workers will be using video conferencing more often.

I also asked about the importance of a more sustain-ably designed or green workplace.  Over half said it matters but it's not critically important, while about 30 percent said it was.  So if you lump together the highest responses about 80 percent responded favorably at least with a large minority saying it was extremely critical to do so. While it's not an overwhelming mandate this sentiment certainly supports making serious efforts here.  Building owners, landlords, property managers and facilities staff please take note.  Especially with the wake up call recently in the Middle East we're reminded of how vulnerable we are to shifts in world events and dependency on carbon centric fossil fuels.  Moving forward with greater adoption of green design is I believe is fundamental to ensuring operational predictability for smart businesses going forward.  I'll write about that in future posts.

The next question revolved around inter-office communication between nearby co-workers.  I asked this because I'm not sure all of this technology is helping us to do our best, especially in team focused work.  Fortunately, most responded they get up and walk over to talk to co-workers when they need to interact. However, not far behind people called or emailed their co-workers instead.  Nobody tweeted or Facebooked but there was IM'ing happening.

Monday, February 21, 2011

1st photoshop sketch with my Bamboo Pad and Magic Pen

I live in Vermont.  It's a nexus of the slow food movement, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy with Wind and Solar. So I share with you a quick sketch composition with a barn, solar tracker in the foreground and ridge mounted wind turbines in the background.  As many of you know it's a great place to visit and be inspired.  Or if you live here you're likely participating in the conversation about all of this and doing great things!

Thanks to my brother and sister in law for the Bamboo Pad and Magic Pen Christmas present!  Sorry it took so long to get into it.  I think I was a little scared by it.  Seriously!

However I dove in today and boy was it worth it.  As a visualizer and artist among the many hats I wear these days, this tool rocks!  The pen's touch action to the pad was very intuitive with a pretty slick ability to manipulate the Photoshop CS5 menu, tap on various tools, widen brush width on the fly and vary opacity of the brush strokes.  I did this sketch in about 20 mins.  Doing the first part before dinner and the latter after.

The tip is pressure sensitive so the linework can vary whether making lines or erasing / subtracting shading.

One of my favorite things to do with Photoshop is the create various layers of shading and modeling and vary their intensity of opacity and fill to create more variation in visual surface appearance.  I did this here with the background of the Mountains and the foreground gray shades.

Tell me what you think?  Do any readers out there use Bamboo Pens like this?  What do you say!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Passivhaus to Our Haus?

Why the funny post title?  Well, I went to a conference last week in Burlington and came away wondering if the Passiv Haus movement is really accessible to the mainstream.  It's a play on words because I attended a presentation about a house which was titled "From Bauhaus to Passivhaus".   I commend conference planners for bringing together professionals with their case studies working on opposite ends of the spectrum; designers working for the rather wealthy 'spare no expense group' and those working with Habitat for Humanity,' let's figure out how to do this for everyone group'.  Somewhere in the middle we shall meet.

At last week's Better Building by Design Conference hosted by Efficiency Vermont I saw a handful of presentations showcasing Passiv Haus projects and their innovative design process as well as other super low energy net zero possible homes and projects.  I learned there is a little bit of controversy for some reason going on now in our community between engineers, architects and building scientists about how low is too low or over the top excessive in home design and performance.  And finally, how can Passivhaus and low energy/ net zero home design early adopters help move the residential marketplace toward a more positive energy efficient and resource conserving position?  How can they replicate and expand the learning and experiences upto a community and regional scale?  That's what it's all about.  How we can help soften the hard landing for coming generations Bill McKibben lately of the book Eaarth forecasts in our coming shared future? Well I now have a deeper understanding, albeit brief, of many of the issues at hand and passions uniting them.  And yes, there are some answers and there is hope.

What did I see and hear then...?
One was a renovation of a not so historic early modern Connecticut home designed by Ken Levenson of Ken Levenson Architects, P.C.  Another was a Habitat for Humanity home designed by J.B. Clancy of Albert, Righter & Tittmann Architects, Inc. who designed it in collaboration with Peter Schneider from VEIC (the mother company of Efficiency Vermont) and Preferred Building Systems out of Claremont, NH.  I also attended a spectacular presentation by  Marc Rosenbaum from South Mountain Company, a noted energy design consultant here in the northeast and Building Science Corporation's Kohta Ueno who did a great job standing in for John Straube who was unable to be there last week.  They started out as if they needed boxing gloves (actually not really...they're very kind and balanced engineers) but in the end there was much more agreement than consternation.

Where do I start...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

BBBD 2011 - Bill Reed on Integrative and Regenerative Design

Almost a week ago at the annual Efficiency Vermont Better Buildings by Design Conference Bill Reed opened the conference Wedensday, Feb 9th with a galvanizing keynote address.  He spoke about how important it is to start the design process back out at the water ecosystem not on the perimeters of a project site. I've seen Bill speak before at AIA National conference in San Antonio in 2007 and at the USGBC 2008 Greenbuild in Boston. He's inspirational as a keynoter.  Here as then he reminded me and the likely 500+ in the room of the importance of seeking to understand the interaction between natural systems and forces on and around a site in our design work.

As a founding member of the USGBC, Bill also reiterated his view the LEED rating system is not an end unto itself but rather a means to the end point of creating sustainable places and communities.  Often as he said "In

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Viability and impact of Sustainability Efforts in Manufacturing

I am always looking for interesting information and background about how moving towards sustainable design and business practices both in the design and operation of facilities leads to positive bottom line effecting change.   See the link below to Paul's helpful article describing his perspectives on this issue!  Have you incorporated various sustainaiblity and green design measures into your facilties design and operation?  What works for your company?  Any best practices to share with others here at designcultivation?  Let us know.  In the meanwhile, enjoy the link below.

Sustainability projects improve safety, raise efficiency and reduce costs
Paul Studebaker, CMRP, editorial directorPaul Studebaker, CMRP, editorial director, says industry is taking the lead on saving the world for future generations.

Thanks, Steve

Monday, February 7, 2011

Better Buildings by Design 2011 Conference

Every year in February there are two things I count on. One is heavy snowstorms.  Two is the annual Efficiency Vermont Better Buildings by Design Conference held in Burlington, VT at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center.  Like clockwork heavy snow is predicted this week and BBBD 2011 is happening Weds. Feb. 9th and Thursday, Feb 10th.

The two day conference is jam-packed with many of my favorite business people, building design, construction pros, suppliers and vendors all dedicating their professional lives to improving the buildings where we live, sleep, work, buy-things and go to school in Vermont and New England!.

It's one of the best places to learn about the latest innovations in energy efficiency, conservation and high performance building design targeted to the cold climate region we live in here in the northeast. Leaders and experts from Vermont and New England, along with repeat presenters from across the country and Canada will be there to share their knowledge.  Whether you're a homeowner, home-builder, architect, interior designer, facilities manager, commercial general contractor, company owners looking for designers and builders, it's a great place to go, especially if you're wondering about best practices in building design, heating and cooling systems, whole house design, LEED, lighting for energy efficiency (and beauty).

Bill Reed, noted green design thought leader and consultant kicks of the conference with a keynote address.  I've heard Bill speak at the USGBC Greenbuild conference and the AIA National Convention in years past and have had the chance to work with him while at Maclay Architects, a firm I worked for many years, on various projects.  He's really inspirational!

Weds evening from 4:30 to 7:00 Pm there will be a trade show / networking event where all of the many dedicated and informative vendors will be showing the wares.  There will also be award ceremonies for winners of this years Better Buildings Design Competition both on the residential and commercial side.  It's a great way to see for your self what green building is all about with posters of submitted and winning projects all on display.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Economic Graphs - Recovery amidst rising oil prices

I visited USA Today's Economic Outlook area on their website and produced these graphs which I share courtesy of their site. I like what I'm seeing on the upper graph especially the projected continued US economic growth.  It's the lower graph which charts Crude Oil prices which worries me.  The latest price per barrel of oil is $90/barrel.  The first time we saw that price was in November 2007 according to this graph and the last time was October 2008 right in the middle of the epic US banking system financial crisis.

At least to my eyes the oil price trend will continue to move upward in the coming years returning pressure on consumers and the business world to more whole heartedly  embrace energy efficiency, energy conservation and resource preserving behaviors and operational measures.  Not only because it might be nice for mother earth and feels right but because their bottom line and longer term business success demands it.  Forward looking companies coming out of this recession may want to dust off their carbon footprint reports from 2007 and 2008 and sustainability initiatives because it might just be prudent business to do so and consider taking concrete actions to reduce their vulnerabilities to rising energy and commodity costs.  By reinvigorating your internal green operations teams and greening facilities initiatives and aligning them again with long term business objectives and priorities, you'll be doing your shareholders and stakeholders a great favor!  Maybe you're already doing this which is great.  But if you're not. then food for thought!

Anyway, enjoy the graphics!  They're pretty interesting.  The USA Today link I gave you allows you to toggle between the the 11 key economic factors forming the basis of the top graph.  It's a novel and easy to operate.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Strategic Workplace Survey Results In! Part 1 of 2

I am sharing with you today the results of the recent Strategic Workplace Survey I conducted over the last two weeks.  Thanks to all of you who participated! I did the survey to do a number of things. First was to test out the surveymonkey.com online survey process.  Primarily I wanted to shed light on issues shaping the design and operation of the workplace this year and beyond and learn more on what is on the minds of the readers of this blog and those I reached out to via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.   I'll also keep the survey open for a while to continue collecting data.

Reinforcing the generally better news about the economy most responded their place of work would likely be adding staff or additional resources or at least keeping staffing numbers level.  No one surveyed reported the likelihood of more layoffs or downsizing.
The area which surprised me somewhat was the results from the selection of the top three general workplace challenges facing respondents in 2011?  Worker disengagement and lack of clear management process and support were tied with lack of training and development focus and attracting and retaining talent as key underlying concerns.
Perhaps this indicates workers at all levels are burned out from the past couple of hard years and that management hasn't paid attention to managing effectively or providing clear training and professional development oppourtunities.  The cut-backs many have endured or had to make might be now hurting growth, innovation, performance and service.  Clearly more can be done operationally to build more effective team work and worker engagement.  This might be good news for those in the training and professional development services area to connect with clients again!

When asked what were the five general physical aspects needing the most help in the workplace the standout was a shortage of collaboration and meeting spaces. After that there was a tie between inadequate shared common areas, poor acoustics and lack of visual privacy, poor indoor air quality, followed by distance from home and lack of adequate parking.

These are common issues we design professionals here from our management customers and space users.  If these issues were more aggressively addressed in workplace design or renovation, perhaps this could impact worker productivity and wellbeing, ultimately helping the bottom line of the company.  When you're considering your next project whether renovations, additions or new construction really dig deep here when developing the project brief and space programs. Consider adding more conference and meeting spaces of various sizes and types. Make sure you tame the acoustics, general lighting issues and indoor air quality.

With your architects, interior designers and facilities people, talk to your employees and really find out how they view the spaces they work in and how to re-imagine together a more collaborative, effective workplace.  What kinds of common space and amenities would help both employee effectiveness and worker wellbeing?

Next post I'll focus on more specific ways workspaces can be improved, issues around sustainability and green design and day to day interactions between workers results there.  I'll also share some feedback from other designers who wrote me back in some of the LinkedIn groups I belong to.  In the meanwhile, thanks for checking back about the survey results.  Let me know if this is helpful to you and if there's anything I can do to improve.  Thanks, Steve