CoreNet Global Summit- Seattle 2017

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A Proven Approach for Creating a Culture of Total Health


November 6 2017 | 3:45 – 4:45


Corporations spend an average of $750/person on wellness initiatives and only achieve a 15% participation rate. Insurance and program costs continue to escalate faster than profits. For many companies this is the third largest expense and one that is unpredictable and out of control. The corporate journey to wellness faces challenges of multiple siloed stakeholders, complexity of options, C-suite disengagement and employee resistance. Tying this together into a coherent facility strategy makes the challenge even greater. In this presentation you will learn how Kaiser Permanente used a facility strategy as a catalyst for culture change and a means of connecting the different silos. You will also receive a workbook developed by more than 60 experts and stakeholders as a tool to take a company through its journey to total health.

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover  how to connect the dots between the different stakeholder groups and an integrated facility strategy.
  • Deepen your understanding of how to take a company through a comprehensive assessment and strategy narrative to develop their own road map to total health.
  • Strengthen your ability to lead your organization through a process of discovery and to arrive at plan of action.


Charretting for Results

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Brady Mick, Samantha Delabar, and Meredith Payne of BHDP Architecture discuss how design strategists and business leaders must learn to effectively work together to transform workplace design. 

Successful charrette

Example Results from a successful charrette

For the past half century, design often referred to an individual who asked a few questions about a problem, went away for a period of time, and returned with well-crafted ideas to present as solutions to clients’ problems. Referred to as the master-design model, many architects and interior designers today developed their technique using this process. However, with the ever-increasing advancements in technology, the problems of design are entirely too complex to expect any one person to create the “perfect” solution. Here’s where charretting—the planning and design process where participants work collaboratively to find solutions—can play an important role. Its definition involves any interaction in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem. The structure of each design project comes with a different set of stakeholders on the design side. However, more progressive design firms are expanding their definition of charrette to include stakeholders on the client’s side as well. In practice this form of charretting is a “graphic conversation” between designers and those who are intended to benefit from the design.

The Foundation of Charretting

It’s common knowledge among doctors that no two heart attacks are alike. This is one reason why they need their patients to play critical roles in deciding the best treatment plan. For comparable reasons, the design process calls for the same level of teamwork. Collaborative sessions are key. The intention is to link the genius of professional designers as closely as possible to the end user’s need, aspirations and behaviors. Getting the right people in the room to define, arrange, and conceptualize a future place to inhabit higher value work  is the wisest and simplest answer. Each side (design strategists and business leaders) comes to the table with a unique set of knowledge and expertise to help carry out the charrette. Usually, those representing the client side don’t draw, nor have they been trained to consider a space in terms of work settings. That’s up to the design strategist. On the other hand, what business leaders bring is their intense knowledge about the heart of the company, the office space needs, assigned and unassigned desks, future expansion plans, and other basic elements of what should comprise their office.

Another foundation of charretting is the use of storytelling scenarios to steer clients into the design process. Start by encouraging company executives to recount stories about special events, important meetings, late nights, and other dealings that have transpired throughout the years. Engage in active conversations with leaders so they can understand how a decision like, “Does everyone get an assigned seat?” impacts the outcome. In the end, conversation is translated from the business need to people behaviors, and ideally efficient space is created.

BHDP charrette

BHDP’s Brady Mick leading a session charrette

The Five-step Process for Implementing the Charrette Model

  1. Clarify the strategic intent. Here, the focus is on bringing to life the words most often used when describing workplace needs. Yet, many clients provide only one word descriptions like: fun, innovative, collaborative, and productive. Go one step further toward clarifying these terms by developing word pictures. For instance, “fun” might be two people sitting in a comfortable spot—having just finished a heap of work—and they’re relaxing. “Innovative” evokes an aura of discovery and shared visions—perhaps depicted by two people having an aha moment during a work session. “Collaborative” could be three or four associates discussing the merits of a new system. And, “productive” might be a meeting wrapping up or someone collating a final presentation.
  2. Provide visual cues. Abundance comes to mind when describing this phase. A full spectrum of space types must be provided for a client’s options. Visuals go beyond furniture types and room shapes. They require envisioning how each setting might perform when people are inserted. For example, through identifying how many work behavior types are in play and picturing how a spontaneous meeting might play out, the value of a design option can be immediately explored and graphically represented. What about meetings of between eight and 20 people? Is this a spacious conference room, or is it wiser to break it down into a neighborhood of work areas? Once these visual cues are discussed, the design elements are added in to see how they affect the space.
  3. Create an intimate design experience. Each senior leader (client side) should be paired to work with one design strategist. Make sure these are one-on-one sessions—and the use of tracing paper is mandatory. There, a scripted conversation is written based on the design/business strategy. Most often it is the design strategists who become responsible for the graphic representation of ideas. Often they ask clients to take a “day in the life” approach to assist their process. What activities normally make up a day’s work? The tricky part of this endeavor is that the strategist must remain focused on capturing the developing vision of the senior leader—and must allow the process to steer itself toward the best physical conclusion. True magic develops when the client becomes comfortable enough to pick up a pen and add to the work being created in front of their eyes.
  4. Connect the sketches to the real world. Help leaders link the pictures to their workplace through a look and feel image exercise. Using this step helps strategists avoid asking the client to employ the “red and green dots” method—where leaders use these colored stickers to indicate what they like and don’t like and what their personal preferences are. Instead, the goal is to find images that seem to come closest to representing what’s been sketched.
  5. Allow leaders to present their ideas. Each leader should be given presentation time to share ideas with other leaders. Since they have played an instrumental role in the creative process from the start, leaders are more likely to be comfortable discussing the merits of their charrette results—including what they believe is mandatory and what isn’t. Ideally, the end goal is for each leader to cross-pollinate his/her idea with others in such a way that the whole team can evolve shared ideas into a cohesive concept.

Charretting Challenges

There are two points of challenge with charrettes that, if conquered, seem to drive more successful outcomes. The first stems from whether or not a designer will leave his or her ego at home during the charretting process, and that’s not being stated with malice. Designers should have a strong sense of self-worth and that awareness should be revealed through a potent degree of pride toward their work. However, for charretting to succeed, an attitude of collaboration is essential. In other words, designers need to be willing to share their central role—as the creator—with the other stakeholders. If this can transpire, the charrette likely will undergo an energetic, agile session full of prompts that are intended to unite the designer with the end user’s need. Keep in mind that it’s hard to avoid the uncertain, esoteric graphic conversations that kick off most charrettes. But, they’re normal. It takes the awkwardness of those initial ambiguities to arrive at the right solutions.

The second challenge is trying to get business leaders to realize and accept that they can be creative in design (even if just for a short period of time). By assuring leaders they have this ability, it supplies the confidence needed to produce their ideas through the process. As a result, business leaders shed their expectations that a designer has to ask all the questions, then leave for a few weeks, and return to present the “big reveal.”

design charrette

BHDP’s Samantha Delabar leading final charrette results with senior leaders

The Relevance of Charretting in Today’s Workplace

BHDP’s client data support why charretting is significant. Throughout the firm’s 80-year history, associates have interviewed clients and learned time after time that assigned work cubicles in the United States are more than half empty at any given point in a workday. These findings suggest that America has moved from the more production-oriented assembly line work to the understanding that people don’t need to be at their desks to get their work done. Although office design is shifting away from assigned to more collaborative spaces, some managers still vie for assigned seats whether they use them or not. For this reason, the change is occurring more slowly than some would like. In the end, coming to realizations about available space demonstrates the value of the charrette. By making a design experience alive and active, it becomes a more visual, results-oriented experience.

charrette review

BHDP’s Brady Mick leading a senior leader charrette review

Believe in the Charrette

In the world of modern design, the industry paradigm is being shattered and designers are learning to yield the pen. Once design strategists and business leaders work comfortably on the same piece of sketch paper—that’s when workplace design will transform offices away from rigid, assigned spaces and more toward collaborative, productive areas. Since the open workplace evolved out of 20 years of increased collaboration, it now calls for replacing the master-designer model with a process like charretting—allowing stakeholders to share in a graphic conversation to create results. It makes good sense because those who have a stake in the outcome are more likely to believe in it—and believing in it means defending it and taking action on it.

About the Authors

Brady Mick, Samantha Delabar and Meredith Payne are design strategists for BHDP Architecture. BHDP Architecture, an award-winning international firm, headquartered in Cincinnati, OH, with offices in Columbus, OH; Raleigh, NC; Pittsburgh, PA; and Atlanta, GA was founded in 1937. Today, the firm is recognized for intelligent, innovative, and inspiring solutions in architecture, planning, interior design, project management, and strategic consulting. The firm also offers custom facility management, location tracking tools, and analytic support via AVUITY, its independent technology services consulting practice. Recently named one of the Fastest Growing Architecture and Design Firms of 2015 by Interior Design Magazine, BHDP serves five core markets: Workplace, Retail, Higher Education, Science, and Integrated Industrial Design.


Originally published in Workplace Design Magazine.

Do You Need a Conference Room Booking System? Here are Five Tips to Know Before Committing

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meeting space

Have you noticed that the office environment is changing? Few people go into an office at 8 a.m., sit at a desk, stay for eight hours (with an hour lunch break), and come home. Instead, we see the rise of the mobile workforce. Technology coupled with demands of children and aging parents have revolutionized the way we work.

When employees are in the office, they need to meet.  These meetings often are not planned as the statistics show: 33% of all meetings are unplanned — but quickly finding space is challenging.

One company stated that 60-70% of their meetings in conference rooms are ad hoc.

There is also the challenge of not having enough space to meet even though 20% of meetings rooms that are booked are not being used at any one time.

Organizations tend to not have the right combination of meeting space. One survey found that 73% of meetings involve only two to four people, yet more than half of conference-room space is built for meetings of seven or more.

It’s clear: Employees are wasting valuable time every day looking for the right meeting space.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

What’s keeping organizations from making better use of meeting spaces? First, most companies don’t use room scheduling tools because of high cost and large quantity needed to implement. Instead, many organizations rely on programs like Outlook to book rooms.  We know, however, that’s not the primary purpose of Outlook, and thus it’s difficult to schedule ad hoc meetings using that software.

Another problem? Lack of visibility of meeting room usage. Who is using the rooms? When are the rooms used? How many people are in the meetings? This data would be beneficial for any company, but most organizations do not even attempt to gather such data.

Then there’s the problem of rooms that are booked but not used. “Aspirational” meetings are often scheduled, but they never materialize. Others are canceled at the last minute. Meanwhile, there are continued requests for more meeting space.

There are some great meeting solutions in the market, but these are often expensive to deploy, with upfront hardware and implementation fees. There’s a lack of return-on-investment.

Here are some tips for finding a conference room solution that is cost-effective:

  1. Look for real-time availability so that employees can book rooms on the fly.
  2. Consider an out-of-the-box solution that allows you to set up your own conference room kiosk without any cost of outside vendors or specialists.
  3. Ensure you have compatible tablets. Some solutions are flexible and allow any type from iPad to Kindle.
  4. Find an application that is compatible with your scheduling platform. For example, many work directly with Office 365 software.
  5. Consider a system that allows you to pair with sensor technology, so that you can know what conference rooms are in use and re-book them at any time, in real time.


Looking to get started with conference room booking technology? Contact AVUITY.

Why a Smart Workspace is the Biggest Recruiting Tool for Top Talent

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smart workspace

Some firms offer laundry service; others offer child care. When it comes to finding ways to recruit top talent in today’s competitive market, ideas abound. But one of the best (and most overlooked) recruiting tools is a workspace that’s hip and inviting — both outside and in.

Open office designs look great, but they create distraction and noise. You might want to live in an airy loft, but that doesn’t mean you should work in one with 200 of your coworkers. The original concept of open office designs was to promote collaboration and decrease costs for employers, who could fit more employees in smaller spaces and save on cubicle walls. But, as Google learned, the benefits of open collaboration are outweighed by the negative effect on performance.

How does a company attract top talent and maintain a productive office? Cool office space is an advantage, but functional work space is a necessity. Instead of open office designs, consider collaboration spaces that promote creativity and allow impromptu sharing of data through smartboards and surface projectors.

A flexible work environment, including allowing people to work remotely, is both a perk for current employees and a recruitment tool for prospective employees. This fact drives the need for collaborative rooms, because remote workers will be coming and going from the office space.

Huddle rooms, workspace pods, and phone booths are required for times that one needs uninterrupted silence for focus. Likewise, an impressive entryway and reception area are important and should be designed with the goal of helping the new recruit understand your product, work style and philosophy.

The new workplace experience — the kind that attracts top talent — also includes easy access to data in and out of the office, ease of scheduling office resources like AVUITY’s Conference Room Kiosk, sustainability initiatives, and modern, comfortable furniture.

When it comes to physical location, the smartest firms look at office space close to public transit or urban historic areas slated for redevelopment. For example, in Cincinnati, the Over the Rhine neighborhood is one of the largest urban historic districts in the country and now attracts creative agencies, tech startups and other firms who know that place is as important as space.

In these ways and many more, flexible, functional workspaces become both an employee perk and a tool to recruit top talent. AVUITY can help.


Why A Smart Workspace is the Biggest Recruiting Tool for Top Talent

Part II: Today’s Academic Libraries Meet the Needs of All Stakeholders

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Academic libraries support the research and educational activities of higher institutions through the sharing of information. However, today’s method of sharing information is constantly evolving. Because of changing technology, academic libraries struggle to meet the needs of their many stakeholders. The challenge they face is finding the balance between housing information while creating spaces conducive to today’s learners. Part I of this two-part article addressed how to find the library’s purpose in today’s learning environment, while Part II covers how to create spaces that include all stakeholders in any renovation or new design of an academic library.


Key Stakeholders

Originally, a library’s first design was based on the technology, study habits and research methodologies of the time. As these elements continue to change, so, too, must the library to remain a relevant contributor to campus life. For this reason, discussions about redefining and redesigning a library need to include and encourage participation from those who use the library, including faculty, staff, students and external community members and program sponsors.

In 2012, with this framework in mind, the library at Columbus State Community College (CSCC) in Ohio underwent a renovation. During the planning of this renovation, key stakeholders were asked to participate in focus groups, surveys and one-on-ones to provide input into the redesign. “Our goal was to make the building accessible to these diverse groups for all their unique needs,” said Bruce Massis, director of libraries for CSCC.

In the process, CSCC officials discovered the stakeholders wanted a combination of technology and quiet study areas, so ultimately the library was renovated to accommodate this mix.

On the other hand, not all stakeholder requests can (or should) be honored.  “That’s a bit of a stretch,” said Rebecca Lubas, associate dean, Claremont Colleges Library. “We didn’t completely ignore that suggestion though. We have a treadmill standing desk, and it’s enormously popular.”

Strike a Balance

One of the biggest challenges in designing or redesigning academic libraries is determining how much of the current collection will remain on the library floor. The importance of the browsing experience should be weighed with the value of the space occupied by rarely circulated books. While many alternatives exist for storing older resources, it is important to consider the desires of faculty who may oppose removing books.

“We go to the faculty first and tell them we’re considering removing these books from the shelves. Sometimes we keep the older material on the shelf because they still want it,” said Massis.

Current technology may alleviate some of these issues. Because CSCC is a member of Ohio’s Academic Library Consortium, OhioLINK, its students and faculty have access to a larger number of books and electronic resources than what CSCC can offer at its library.

Ultimately, the solution lies in the library’s intrinsic qualities and how it serves its key stakeholders. “It’s a matter of meeting expectations and recognizing that expectations will change over time,” said Tonya Fawcett, director of library services at Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake, Ind. “When you come into a library, you expect to see books. You expect to have librarians to help you find the resources you’re looking for and help you understand how to use those resources. And you expect to have a comfortable place to go to be able to interact with those resources.”

Leadership’s Role

Two additional groups of stakeholders need to be included in an academic library design or renovation. The first is the college administartors. Their role is to analyze the institution’s mission and vision to determine the library’s specific intent. For example, if the library is supposed to be more student-friendly than scholarly, the purpose of the library becomes more social. This core purpose is then translated into the library’s physical space through more group and collaboration areas.

The final group of stakeholders is the library staff leadership — those responsible for taking the lead in creating and sustaining an academic library’s mission. “Whatever the program is, what’s the end goal? Are we supporting students in their studying? Are we supporting faculty to improve their teaching or assist their latest research searches? We need to keep our eyes on the academic mission of the institution and make sure the library supports that mission,” said Lubas.

By ensuring the mission is reinforced in meaningful ways through technology advances and how people interact, academic library leadership can balance the requirements of all stakeholders.

Tom Sens is a client leader on the higher education team at BHDP Architecture, an international design firm that focuses on creating innovative environments and experiences tailored to the client culture and work process.

Part II: Today’s Academic Libraries Meet the Needs of All Stakeholders

Breaking Silos: Converting a Library Into a Research Commons

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Written Erin Poland and Mike Schulte

library into research commons

Space flexibility was one of the key project goals for the Research Commons in the 18th Avenue Library at Ohio State University in Columbus.


What type of academic space encourages students from different disciplines to brainstorm, study and innovate in one another’s company? This was the question put to team members who worked on the new Research Commons in the 18th Avenue Library at Ohio State University in Columbus. The goal was to create a highly flexible environment capable of leveraging the latest technology while fostering discovery, education and innovation.

The resulting design was the product of a collaborative planning process that involved the newly formed Research Commons staff, researchers, the architect, and technology consultants. At workshops, project stakeholders and the design team developed the project vision and key goals through the use of discussions, pin-ups, and key word grouping. These brainstorming sessions enabled the team to establish a vision and articulate five underlying goals for the project.

Five key principles

A little more than a year since opening, the Research Commons is exceeding its operational goals. Five driving principles set the stage for construction and enabled the design team to create the ideal space, systems and technology:

  • Flexibility to accommodate  students at all hours. The Research  Commons, situated  in a 24-hour student library, aims to provide open, collaborative, and flexible space and furniture to support intense graduate research during the day and quiet undergraduate academic study at night.
  • Creative outlets to encourage serendipity between disciplines. This means open space with technology and writable surfaces to encourage the melding of ideas, research, and practice between disciplines that don’t commonly
  • Purposeful design. The space was built to accommodate technology-based projects. So, it had to advance the university’s dedication to cutting-edge research and recruitment ofworld­ class faculty and students. Since the Research Commons opened, the university hired a digital humanities librarian, an applications developer, a data services specialist, and a research impact librarian, among others.
  • Blending technology and architecture. The seamless incorporation of technology with the architecture enables exploration and the sharing of ideas through a variety of high-tech and interactive tools.
  • Breaking the mold. The aim was to deliver an inspirational, diverse, and active space that diverges from the typical academic library design, in an effort to drive interdisciplinary innovation and research

The Research Commons in use

The Research Commons sought to look beyond the usual disciplinary silos and create an environment that works for everyone. Starting with a tight budget-one third of which had to be spent on technology-the project could have ended up simply as a place to house and use technology. But because of the collaboration it invites through thoughtful design, the space has turned out to be much more.

“Today, the flexibility of our space has helped us to think creatively about the ongoing evolution of our services in new and exciting directions that address emerging needs around campus,” says Joshua Sadvari, Research Commons Program Manager and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist for OSU.

GIS Day 2016, held in the Research Commons, illustrated the design’s potential. A hands-on workshop in the computer lab was followed by a series of lightning talks in the colloquia space. Then, attendees moved into the brainstorming spaces to see exhibits of maps and to talk with GIS professionals from around campus.

“We had over 100 attendees throughout the day from across campus and from the local community,” says Sadvari, “and we were able to do so many different things because of the variety of spaces available to us.”

ohio state library research commons

An overview of flexible spaces in the 18th Avenue Library Research Commons at the Ohio State University.

Another notable event was the Narrative Medicine/Disability Studies CoLABoratory held in January 2017. Despite no direct involvement of Research Commons staff in organizing the event, it exhibited the high-tech capabilities of the facility and demonstrated the Research Commons usefulness to other campus groups.

The CoLABoratory was held in the Colloquia space, where presentations were delivered on the main projection screen. Meanwhile, two monitors on either side of the main screen were hosting content from different individuals who had wirelessly connected to them from different spots in the room.

One captured comments and ideas from the group throughout the day so that everyone saw a running list of discussion topics for the brainstorming session. The other allowed a Disability Services staff member to transcribe the presentations in real time for deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees.

“We received tremendous feedback from the event organizers about the flexibility and technology that contributed to the success of their event,” Sadvari says.

Feedback gathered from users has been positive. For example, the 2016 spring semester included 23 education and training programs attended by about 500 researchers from across all user levels and from more than 120 different departments and campus units. During that time, 1,445 transactions were recorded from the Research Commons concierge desk (88 percent directional, 12 percent basic reference).

“It is very fulfilling to see the ways graduate students are recognizing the Research Commons as a unique space for their work,” Sadvari says, “and our staff is truly invested in supporting them and making a positive impact in their success as researchers at Ohio State and beyond.”

As an increasing number of libraries are being remodeled, it is clear that they are evolving to adapt to the needs of students, instructors, administrators, and the community. Real estate inside a library-once limited to books-is taking a backseat to meeting and studying space. The Research Commons at the 18th Avenue Library is an example of how collaboration, established goals, and a defined plan can create a campus space that encourages interdisciplinary discovery and innovation.




Erin Poland, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED AP is a senior interior designer, and Mike Schulte, AJA, NCARB, LEED AP is an architect with BHDP Architecture. Both work primarily in the higher education marketplace. For information, call 614-486-1960 or visit

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Part I: Finding the Library’s Unique Role & Purpose

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Library Trends

Historically, the library has been the central information resource and academic heart for scholarly activity on college campuses. In that capacity, it is considered a valuable academic asset. Yet, due in large part to the digital revolution, the library’s role has shifted to accommodate the needs of today’s learners. In the process, some campus libraries now house non-academic services such as dry-cleaners, cafes, spirit shops and other non-academic functions. But, are these new uses in the best interest of the university? Without a vision and strategic plan, the library is at risk of becoming a “catch-all” building.

Evolution of Academic Libraries

The role of the library as a resource to assist people in accessing information has not changed through the ages. What has changed is how that information is shared, from verbal storytelling among scholars to written information on papyrus scrolls, many of which were stored in one of the first academic libraries — the ancient Alexandria Library. Eventually, scholars switched to parchment and then paper as the preferred method for recording information. This meant academic libraries had to transform to properly store and display books instead of scrolls. Today, libraries are undergoing other modifications as digitally recorded information becomes the norm.

At the same time, the research and study habits of students are changing. Traditionally, libraries were outfitted to accommodate quiet, individual studying through separate study carrels and rooms. Now, students are engaging in more teamwork to prepare them for working together as part of bigger units in their future careers. There still is the desire to have quiet study, but students want flexibility to choose to study individually, study alone together or study as a team in small groups at their libraries.

Are Libraries “Catch-All” Buildings?

A “catch-all” building is one that incorporates multiple purposes and uses. In the case of the library, the evolution of shared technology partnered with the needs of the library’s stakeholders is contributing to several academic libraries turning into “catch-all” buildings. In some instances, the reason for the evolution is due to a lack of resources, funding or available space. At other institutions, it is a matter of convenience since the library is a central facility on campus.

In addressing the redesign of the library of the Claremont Colleges in California, Associate Dean Rebecca Lubas said, “One of the concerns throughout our planning process was that the library doesn’t become a catch-all. It’s important that anything we’re doing to serve the needs of students and faculty must align with and support our academic program.”

Lubas also noted that the library has an important responsibility as the resource supporting and promoting an institution’s unique mission and vision. To do so, the library needs to be designed to fulfill a unique purpose, rather than serving all purposes.

Defining the Library’s Distinctive Purpose

Determining a library’s unique function starts with identifying its intrinsic qualities and value proposition. The Claremont Colleges Library serves seven institutions. “Since we are a center for the seven colleges to come together, a lot of collaboration occurs within our library, whether it’s a group study project or creative endeavors between students on campuses,” Lubas said. “It’s more than a place to quietly study. It’s a place that allows for the creative aspects of the research process to happen.”

Tom Sens
Photo Credit (all): Phebus Photography

Similarly, Bruce Massis, director of libraries at Columbus State Community College in Ohio, sees the library as the center of the academic community on a campus. “We’re here for students, faculty, administration and staff. The academic library has evolved into a space that’s a combination of where you can find modern technology or a quiet study space to read,” said Massis.

It is also important to prepare the library’s purpose for the future by being aware of the latest ways of learning, including innovations with virtual reality. “If we’re going to future proof, we must be willing to change the ways of delivering information and resources in our libraries,” said Tonya Fawcett, director of library services at Grace College and Seminary in Indiana.

Preparing for the future means involving students and leadership in library designs and renovations. “By asking the right questions, we can find out what students and faculty need in their research and study environments,” added Fawcett.

Serving Stakeholders

The universal purpose of any library is to be a resource that assists people to access and share information to become better-informed citizens. Traditional public libraries serve the general public and may be more appropriate places to find non-academic functions. On the other hand, the research focus of academic libraries means that it has an exclusive purpose, based on the mission and vision of its institution. Determining the library’s role requires broad stakeholder input to rethink the library’s mission and how it will serve students and faculty into the future.

Tom Sens is a client leader on the higher education team at BHDP Architecture, an international design firm that focuses on creating innovative environments and experiences tailored to the client culture and work process.


Part I: Finding the Library’s Unique Role & Purpose

What Do Students Need In A Campus Library? Just Ask Them.

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To understand further how students are using their libraries, a Cincinnati architecture firm surveyed more than 20 of these higher education facilities.
The college library’s exterior might be majestic and ivy covered and appear to be a solemn place where words of wisdom literally are etched in stone. But inside, it’s a different story. Rather than silently poring over books and penciling notes, today’s students might be working with a team of classmates, using the internet to research, creating a PowerPoint, or practicing a podcast.
“I have walked by some study areas where each student has three or four electronic devices, all running at the same time or charging,” said Arne Almquist, dean of the library at Northern Kentucky University. He also noted that lively group-study sessions are another trend, and libraries have become social hubs.

Campus Library
As a result, library architects and designers face many challenges when they plan and create spaces that work well for these young patrons. To get the best results, a good starting point is to ask students what they want and get ready to rethink the role of one of the most important buildings on campus.

How To Update An Icon? Carefully.

Dramatic shifts in the ways students use libraries — driven by trends in education as well as technology — have made college library design a busy field. Often these buildings are in central, scenic locations that beg for creative architectural solutions. Their historical status may make them icons to faculty and alumni. They might even be featured on logos and letterheads.

Understandably, administrators tend to tread lightly when updating such venerable structures.
Rather than designing from the ground up, campus library projects are likely to involve renovation
and remodeling. This reflects the financial constraints that face most universities today as well as a
desire to preserve history.

How can this be achieved? BHDP Architecture of Cincinnati decided to go directly to students for
insights on what would make campus libraries more tech-savvy, welcoming, and user-friendly. The
investigators were their peers, graduate students in architecture and design. Over the past year,
student teams visited more than 20 libraries in Ohio and Kentucky that included a mix of larger and
smaller campuses, public and private, urban and suburban.

The teams observed, photographed and sketched, at varying times on different days. Most
important, they asked students questions:

  • How often do you use the library?
  • What do you come here to do most often?
  • On average, how many books do you check out/use from the library in a year?
  • Where do you work on schoolwork if not here, and why?
  • What is one thing you would change/add/remove in the library if given the chance?

Some results of this research project were surprising — even to Bruce Massis, director of libraries at Columbus State University and an authority on library trends. His campus was among those studied.

For example, Massis noted that as libraries have become centers for socializing and collaborative learning, one might expect demands for features like audiovisual perks. But some students told the teams they were most desperate for sanctuary, away from noise and crowds.

“As much technology as students requested to be installed in the library, there was still a need and numerous requests for quiet study spaces where they could work on their studies in peace,” Massis said.


Key Findings From The Project

What else did the students want in their libraries? Here are some highlights.

NKU Library-3Places to plug in. Laptops, tablets, iPods, cellphones… students are bringing all of these to the library, and all need to be plugged in and recharged. Accessible outlets are a must, for convenience and safety. A busy library is not a place where you want to add the hazardous clutter of extension cords.

A brighter outlook. Academic enlightenment isn’t the only kind students crave. Well-placed task lighting helps keep them on point, while ambient, natural light promotes a feeling of health and cheer.

Specialized spaces. Long lines of tables, long rows of chairs… that isn’t a sufficient setup for the ways libraries are used now. Students want a variety of specialized spaces for work and research. That means spaces for collaborative study assignments; small, insulated rooms; places with audiovisual equipment; and comfortable areas for group discussion or tutoring.

Improved signage. As libraries add spaces geared to various tasks, clear signage becomes even more important. Not only does it help people find their way around, but it indicates which tasks and sound levels are appropriate in different areas. Additional signage also can help students translate the call numbers of the Library of Congress classification system into more understandable categories that permit easier navigation of a library’s vast print collections.

NKU Library-5A sip and a snack. Although once forbidden, people are eating and drinking at the library. Students need to recharge their bodies as well as their electronic devices, or grab a snack on the way to their next stop. Northern Kentucky University’s Almquist reports that a coffee and bagel shop adjacent to his library has been expanded twice and “it’s the most popular space on campus.”

Fewer books, perhaps. Pragmatic decisions about using the available space might mean a choice to jettison some of the book collection. This can be controversial for the generation that fondly remembers browsing bookshelves for the classics. But it’s a no-brainer for today’s students. In addition, making resources such as academic journals available digitally can expand access to a broader variety of materials. When there’s pushback, a diplomatic approach helps: Northern Kentucky University publishes a list of items to be removed 60 days in advance, allowing time to field possible objections.

Look For Student-driven Solutions

Thanks to tech-dependent students and collaborative trends in education, significant changes are happening in every corner of campus. The library — increasingly more of a “learning commons” — is one place where updates might be most urgently needed.

True, today’s students are less likely than their elders to be strolling through library stacks and checking out books. But it would be a mistake to let these venerable buildings become obsolete — not to mention, a squandering of both tradition and resources.

Strategic innovations in technology and library design are vital for meeting the needs of students and the expectations of their parents, often paying the bills. And as with any architectural project, it’s crucial to consult the people who’ll actually be using the space. Students have great answers about what they want and need from the library — if only we ask the right questions.

library design


Tom Sens (seen here, left) is a client leader on the higher education team at BHDP Architecture. He has a BA in Environmental Design and MA in Architecture from Miami University. John Bloomstrom (right) is the marketing director at BHDP Architecture. He has a BS in Administrative Science and a MBA from The Ohio State University. BHDP Architecture, established in 1937, is an international design firm that focuses on creating innovative environments and experiences tailored to the client culture and work process.

What Do Students Need In A Campus Library? Just Ask Them.

Where Might Artificial Intelligence be Leading Us?

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Electronic Faces

Diana Rhoten, Managing Director at IDEO, spoke at WorkTech New York recently on Artificial Intelligence. In her talk, she suggested, “The rise of new social behaviors being stimulated by the gig economy and the emergence of advanced technologies like AI are changing work.” Within her perspective was the mention of the possibility of a work-free future, implying that our conception of work will change so dramatically as to be unrecognizable from where we sit today.

During Q&A I had the opportunity to ask her about preparing for this probable future.
Brady: I’m curious what you might recommend to 8 to 15 year-olds to prepare them for a potential work-free society?
Diana: I’m not going to give you a satisfying answer, because I haven’t found one yet. I don’t think we’ll ever be in a world in which there’s no work; it will never be that extreme. I think we might face situations in which there’s more “Indie-work” (freelance expertise). We’re working with universities on this question. I’ve always been of the theory that learning is based on the way in which we have been taught. Today learning is not about the course or the curriculum, it’s about the ability to learn. I know that’s not satisfying, but it is true.
Brady: What can humans do in the future that AI may not be able to do?
Diana: It’s the cognitive and the metacognitive skills, our self-awareness, that is important. Again an unsatisfying answer, but true. Our kids are only going to apply those cognitive and metacognitive skills deeply into the things they love. How we organize our institutions of learning around these passions is important so that when our social institutions of work change on the extreme end, we are ready to learn. This change is likely to be so radical that learning and working may either disappear or be displaced to some extent. We will need to have people who are self-sufficient and passion-centric to lead their own independent lines of work.

IDEA 01: Diana’s response suggests preparing for a future full of artificial intelligence where our kids (and ourselves) will need to become focused on learning how to learn. I believe that learning skills will require an ability to “unlearn” what we have previously been taught, and then apply our human ability to discern what is right and good. The value of our ability to discern is to arrive at truth and trust in the value that technology is already delivering for us.

IDEA 02: Most future thinking comes with a hint of aloneness. Diana’s explanation suggests that kids today need to prepare for an AI laced future in an air of individualism. What if AI becomes focused on driving us together into new forms of relationship, while we each develop our individual skills, strengths and passions toward creating value in our work? Is this not the appeal of social networking to share images of kittens? Our human ability to relate to each other will remain a baseline requirement of creating value in the future of work.

IDEA 03: It is unlikely that the future will require extreme individualism to create the work needed to drive value. With co-working centers currently popping up like mushrooms in the woods after a summer rain, it seems that a path is being laid to drive Diana’s idea of “Indie-work” (freelance expertise) toward a freer form of organizational systems; and that these more open relationship systems will be outside the traditional corporate setting.

In design and workplace strategy, we are only beginning to scratch the surface when imagining the potential impact that AI will have on the design of future workplaces. Perhaps you’re pondering this as well. Will discernment, relationship, and freer forms of social organization change the way you work? Do you imagine your favorite 12 to 18-year-old dreaming of working at a traditional cube/office/conference room workplace; even one sprinkled with “activity settings”? Send me a note, I’d love to hear your thoughts and fresh perspectives.

BTW, here’s my own latest encounter with AI… Siri recently notified me the directions I was following had a detour that would reduce my travel time to a client’s office by 8 minutes. Blindly, I followed the redirection only to be surprised by a series of road construction delays that had not been anticipated due to the mapping speed of other travelers. Siri’s redirection did not add value because I arrived at my destination 20 minutes later than expected. I didn’t discern if the data was of value in the moment! I failed to follow my instincts to continue my original path. I wonder, how would my kids might have reacted to Siri’s suggestion?

BHDP Architecture Opens New Office in Atlanta, GA

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BHDP Atlanta Office Release

We are pleased to announce the opening of our new office in Atlanta, GA. The office is located at 1230 Peachtree Street, Suite 1900, Atlanta, Georgia 30309 and can be contacted by phone at 770-545-5862.

The office will be led by Lucas Roberts, AIA, LEED AP, who has a decade of workplace design experience. “BHDP has several clients already in and around the Atlanta area, so it makes sense to have an office here so we can serve them better,” said Lucas Roberts, Client Leader.

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