A Better Way to Design

Recently, ibds completed a design for approximately 30,000 SF of office space renovation in Creve Coeur. Most existing construction on the floor was gutted except for some existing emergency stair wells, building structure, and an elevator lobby which will be renovated under a separate project. Apart from some existing building limitations, the space was essentially a blank canvas for the owner, design team and contractor to explore ideas and create an amazing space for the client. Vital to this exploration of ideas and communication of those ideas was providing subject matter experts in key areas of design and the use of technology. Technology was implemented mainly with the use of 3D modeling and virtual reality visualization, allowing the client to stand in the space and view the space before it is built. Providing subject matter experts in key areas of design and utilizing the latest technology not only provided the client substantial value but proved to be a better way to design when considering the traditional design-bid-build project delivery method.

The client had a paired goal, they needed a space that would both represent their company culture as well as provide the physical space to accommodate a growing business. The company culture as it related to the built environment could be described with one word, flexibility. Summarizing an entire company culture with one word may seam like an over simplification but “flexible” is a loaded word. The client required a space that offered areas that were private, semi-private and public while also accommodating meeting areas of varying degrees of size and privacy. Additionally, personal interaction was important, so the space had to offer socialization areas including space for all hands meetings for up to 175 people.

In addition to the interior space needing to be flexible, allowing multiple levels of privacy and function, the space finish had to embody the company branding and provide a modern appearance. Primarily, this was accomplished with the use of glass with varying degrees of transparency. Glass offers a modern feel while also providing a direct visual connection which served semi-public space function perfectly. When spaces were required to be more private, varying levels of transparency were added to the glass to remove the direct visual connection from public areas while still allowing natural light to enter the space. In order to accomplish public and socialization functions, the glass was removed, and “huddle” areas were created. In the end, the use of varying levels of transparency, glass, and “huddle” areas provide a highly flexible, modern space serving all required space functions.

In addition to glass, multiple finish materials were considered to promote company branding and further convey a modern design. Virtual reality visualization was vital in conveying these materials to the client. The client was able to stand in the space while reviewing materials concepts. The use of the company’s logo colors where introduced at strategic locations throughout the building, including a custom carpet color weave, accent wall paint, glass decals and furniture finishes. Additionally, the existing concrete floor slab was exposed in areas and in others a concrete floor tile was used. The end result was a modern office space that incorporated company colors to create visually striking spaces.

The existing building had one major limitation in creating the perfect space for the client. The ceiling structure is a cast-in-place concrete floor and beam system with a deck height of only 12’, approximately. The design team turned this limitation into a positive by identifying opportunities to relocate duct work and expose the ceiling structure. The ceiling structure was in good condition in terms of visual appearance and the exposed concrete structure provided a modern appearance while also raising the ceiling height in selected areas. Eagan Building Group being involved in the project from the beginning of design had a critical impact on the building design. Being able to walk the space and identify which spaces could be exposed and which duct work could be removed or relocated economically informed the design to a level that a designer alone would not have access to. Additionally, this same level of cost scrutiny was applied to all areas of the design, early in the design process, from door hardware to carpet. Having a contractor on board in the design process allowed the design team to track budgets and provided access to the latest industry pricing of not only materials but also the sub-contractor market. This allowed the design to be completed while also considering budget to a level that a designer alone could simply not accomplish.

Furniture and fittings represented over 50% of the overall budget and was crucial to the overall success of the project not only from a cost standpoint but also when considering function of the space. Traditionally furniture designers and suppliers are introduced in the design process after the design is mostly developed. Many times, the furniture designer and architect work separately having little interaction or collaboration. This project, like many others, relied heavily on furniture design. For this reason, Warehouse of Fixtures was a part of the design team from the beginning. ibds worked closely with Warehouse of Fixtures to implement finishes and space planning while also closely tracking budget impacts of design decisions that were being developed. Without this vital input, which represented a major part of the space design and budget, the design could not have been accomplished successfully.

Schedule, like most any building project, was of the upmost importance to the success of the project. With the architect (ibds), working closely with the contractor (Eagan Building Group) and the furniture designer and supplier (Warehouse of Fixtures) the project was designed, and construction was implemented with little wasted time. While the design was being finalized, multiple work packages were released allowing the contractor to demolish the existing interior space while the design process was unfolding. Additionally, the architectural design was submitted for permitting early, while MEP design was being finalized. This allowed the building official and plan reviewer to be involved early and review the project while all remaining design disciplines were being finalized. This was critical because it allowed the design team to respond to input from the building official without affecting the schedule. The client not only received the value of MEP design being accomplished by the trades performing the work but was also able to realize schedule reductions.

Most building design projects include four main components. Budget, design, schedule and furnishings. When considering the traditional design-bid-build project delivery method, forming design alliances with industry experts early in the design process and utilizing the latest technology not only positively impacts these four areas but provides substantial value to the client and is simply a better way to design.