Little - Beyond Workplace II

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“The report of my death was an exaggeration” – Mark Twain To appropriate a quote by Mark Twain, many people are talking about the death of the workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 event. The C-19 event is a Black Swan event still unfolding on the world stage which will inevitably result in long term changes for the Workplace. Although we’re currently seeing a fracturing of workplace strategy and how companies are dealing with physical workspace, at some point the pandemic will pass. What changes will remain? And, because of the fundamental way humans engage and interact with each other, what things won't change? For any company that sees in-person collaboration as a differentiator or a strategic advantage for their clients and their workforce, the workplace will still remain relevant. This Beyond Workplace edition explores some of the issues that keep our workplaces relevant, with an eye to the future.



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Uncertainty About the Workplace in the Time of COVID-19





– Jim Thompson

Embracing and Thriving While Re-Imagining Everything





– Carolyn Rickard-Brideau

Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19

Confidential Client, page 11





– Jillian Pedro

Supporting Wellbeing and Core Organizational Values





– Lindsey Walker

How the COVID-19 Event has Accelerated Multi-Platform Communications





Signature Flight, page 26

– Daniel Montaño

Experience-Driven Design for Workforce Engagement



Selecting the System that's Right for Your Building





Today’s Workplace Needs to Extend Beyond the Building

The Parkline, page 48







THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE & THE WELL WORKPLACE (A CASE STUDY) Design Elements That Maximize Employee Wellness





– Enzo Marfella

Movable Architecture Creates Responsive Settings





– Marcus Acheson

4-D: Design-Driven Due Diligence Increasing Speed to Decision

– David Stephenson

Financial Considerations Before Generating a New Lease Agreement

– Ryan Ives



Maximize Space Utilization to Reduce Real Estate Costs





– Carolyn Rickard-Brideau

– Scott Brideau

Five Lessons the Pandemic Can Teach Us About Resilience

Increasing Personal Convenience and Operational Efficiency




Anh Tran, LEED AP BD+C, is a Workplace Anthropologist and leads Little’s measurement team. She can be reached at


Beyond Workplace II


ou’re probably reading this because – before the pandemic hit – you were looking for answers. You want to know what will be next, what will be best, what will really solve the things you’ve been thinking about in your workplace for lo, these many years. Is open plan going to be amaaaaazing or is it the worst thing ever? Can we fit 50 more people into this space or do we need to find a new one? And then…COVID-19. Now, you most likely have a different filter – can I send people who depend on me back into the spaces we already have? Can I serve clients, employees, collaborators, patients? Can I please say hi to someone in person? What can I do? What will I do? PRE COVID-19


When we need solutions, it feels daunting to spend time feeling our way around the edges of vast issues - the place where our workplaces intersect with our humanity, and our health, and our economy, and our neighbors, and our communities - and all the worries we have for ourselves and those we love. To look at what we’ve designed previously and what we were going to design, and cross-check whether we’re doing enough to safeguard and future proof space against pandemics and other threats. I can’t give you a pat answer; I don’t have one. And this is no judgment on everyone running to try and make or find answers – especially as designers, we’ve spent years training and obsessing over solving problems, and many of us are trying to predict, control, and affect what’s become an even more unknowable future. Therapy for the therapist, as it were.


But, that uncertainty is probably where we need to live right now in order to move forward when we’re ready. If we sit with our discomfort and the things we’re worried and anxious about, that will tell us about the outcomes we’re looking for and the choices we’ll need to make. We’ve always used visioning to start this process, but with the unintentional expansion of time we’re experiencing right now, it seems less a luxury than a necessity. We will all have to focus on what we want to accomplish when this is more manageable, and then adjust our strategies accordingly. With that in mind, we’d like to share some questions we’re always asking our clients, and are asking ourselves as designers now:

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How do I want to feel in the office? How do I want to work? How do I want my colleagues to feel? How do I want to work with them? What can we do that would be helpful to the kind of culture and practices we want to have? What things would help me feel safe and healthy in our space? What makes me uncomfortable right now? What worries me? What makes us who we are together? Does our space encourage us to hold onto the good things? Where do I see myself and my organization in (whatever time period you’re comfortable imagining)?

These questions are an invitation to avoid jumping to concrete solutions too early, and hopefully they begin some of the deeper conversations and dialogue that will help all of us figure out what our next moves will be. And if you need one, there’s a design team somewhere ready to keep you company on physically distant sofas, stress-eating chips, furiously drawing and thinking about what we’ll do about all of the environments we usually move through. But there won’t be any answers until we’ve had the conversations. View Contents



Emphasizing exceptional service and excellence in collaboration and innovation A global leader in commercial real estate, Cushman & Wakefield helps clients transform not only the way people shop and live, but also, the way they work. The organization’s new office in uptown Charlotte, NC serves as a catalyst to inspire both employees and visitors alike. The project team’s challenge was best summarized with the client's statement, “We want a place to help us attract the best talent and the best clients where we can deliver the best results.”


Beyond Workplace II

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“Our move demonstrates a commitment to our industry and a commitment to the image we portray in the marketplace. The new environment supports the way we want to do business going forward.”

“Our new office is more than just a place I go to work each day, it truly represents the latest in workplace strategy and serves as the hub of our people, culture, clients and brand.”

Marc Robinson Vice Chairman

Keith Bell Executive Director Broker


Beyond Workplace II

“The client and employee experience - combined with our ability to be more collaborative, productive, and flexible - has made our office environment something special in the Charlotte market. Cushman & Wakefield truly stands out as a great place to work.” Rob Cochran Managing Director

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SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST Embracing and Thriving While Re-Imagining Everything By Jim Thompson


ow do we balance who we are, as individuals and organizations, and what we’ve historically been known for with the urgencies of now and the musts of tomorrow? If you haven’t given it thought, you’re already irrelevant. For organizations to survive in an ‘innovate or die’ world, it’s becoming imperative to master current demands while anticipating and planning for future innovation. New technologies are disrupting industries faster than ever before, and we’re faced with finding a balance between thriving in the now and continuously reinventing ourselves and our organizations. Those who survive are agile and adaptable, with ultimate success depending on how comfortable we are stretching ourselves in new, uncomfortable and disruptive ways while adjusting to rapid change. THINK LIKE A START-UP As organizations evolve, a common theme is that we need dreamers and doers at the same time. Sarah Ban Breathnach sums this sentiment up nicely with “The world needs dreamers and doers, but above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” It’s thinking like a start-up. Action over research and testing over analysis; coming up with quick ideas and rapid testing to make sure those ideas bring the value necessary to push things forward. The educator Sir Ken Robinson talks about the differentiation in terminology where imagination, what we all think about creatively, the ideas that pop into our heads, can make us feel like we have this wonderful thing that we can do. He goes on to say, however, that creativity is when you craft something new with that imagination. There is important differentiation beyond imagination and creativity: innovation means you do something that has value in the marketplace.


Beyond Workplace II

INNOVATION IS NOT EASY In his book The Three Box Solution, Vijay Govindarajan talks about the balance of simultaneously managing and optimizing what an organization does today with the imperatives of what needs to happen for tomorrow, and he shows this in three principles – his Three Box Solution. One of his principles, or boxes, is Manage the Present, which refers to how we optimize what we do today; how we become better, faster and cheaper with the opportunity and workload that we have today. We also need to immediately be thinking about how we selectively abandon things that are no longer valid or are losing value in the marketplace while investing in another box – Create the Future. The world is changing so fast that it is increasingly important to consider these boxes with respect to our own businesses and the imperative to innovate or die. Govindarajan's logic is balanced with his three ‘traps’ that prevent innovation. The Complacency Trap is where the future is shrouded in a fog of misplaced confidence and understanding as to what’s happening today and how things are exponentially changing around us. The second trap is the Cannibalization Trap where leaders are persuaded that new business models based on nonlinear ideas will jeopardize the firm’s present prosperity. As Steve Jobs once said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will”. The final trap is the Competency Trap. This “arises when positive results in the current business encourage the organization to invest in core competencies and provide little incentive for investing in new [age] and future-oriented competencies; employees skills reflect the company’s legacy success”. It becomes about managing past success and not acknowledging or realizing how significantly the world is changing.

COMFORT VERSUS DISCOMFORT The inability to see the future, of misplaced confidence, of looking inward verses outward and challenging what may be, are the competencies of the future. What has become the comfort zone of many organizations is a lack of understanding change. We may not know with certainty what is in front of us, but we need to feel uncomfortable in order to find a way to progress; to define our stretch zone. There is risk and a fallacy that thinking innovatively is thinking about ‘the next big thing’. The next big thing does not necessarily have to be big or even a thing. It can be a service. It may not be “next” either; it may be later. Rather than always thinking of mega innovations, we should recognize that a small, incremental moment can be extremely beneficial.

TWO SIDES TO THE INNOVATION COIN Innovation cultures and organizations are depicted as ‘fun’ because there is a willingness to experiment, to step out of bounds and have a tolerance for failure. These organizations are psychologically safe, highly collaborative and non-hierarchical. While there is tolerance for failure there is little tolerance for incompetence. They also have ‘rails’ to maintain a true path forward: highly disciplined people with a willingness to experiment, a psychologically safe culture that manages unflinching candor in its quest to be agile with a velocity towards remarkable solutions, highly collaborative dynamics with individual accountability, and a flat non-hierarchical organization with strong leadership.

Some of the most touted innovators have had their share of failures: Apple’s MobileMe, Google Glass and Amazon’s Fire Phone. While they have all had more successes than failures, it is these failures that inform a culture of dreamers as doers, action over research and testing over analysis. Innovative organizations set exceptionally high standards for their people. There is no tolerance for incompetence. Amazon, for example, ranks on a forced curve where the bottom 10% of low to non-performers are culled. Google, one of the hardest places to get a job (2 million applications for 5,000 positions, or odds of 400/1), adopts a different strategy. When someone is not succeeding in their current role, a performance management system moves them into a new role that may be a better fit for their skill set. Almost anything can be justified without discipline, so it’s critical that clear criteria is established and applied when deciding to move an idea forward, modify or kill it. Disciplined experimentation makes it less risky to try new things and learn from those things that did not work.

ated specific features for educators because they understand how educators work. The value was borne by listening to a group of potential users and tweaking the tool to make it better for them.



Innovation can be crushed if people are afraid to constructively criticize, openly challenge superiors’ views, debate ideas of others and raise counter perspectives. It’s a two-way street, and the candid organization will outperform the nice one every time. Too often being highly collaborative gets confused with consensus. Consensus is poison for rapid decision making. Accountability to one another and feeling safe to share and have ownership can be truly transformational for a culture, enabling it to pivot quickly and move in meaningful, new directions. Accountability and collaboration can be complementary, and accountability can drive collaboration. You own the decision you make, for better or for worse. The last thing you would do is shut yourself off from feedback or from enlisting the cooperation and collaboration of people inside and outside the organization that can help you. Strong leadership in culturally flat organizations gives people wide latitude to act and make decisions as well as voice their opinions. In times like these, we need leadership at all levels and be prepared to step aside as other voices come to the table. Doing so allows an organization to realize and capitalize on the potential of nontraditional leaders.

Three types of innovation drive how we approach what we do. The first is simply incremental Innovation. It’s what we do every day, and every day we get a little better at it. Breakthrough Innovation is when we shift the mindset of the marketplace, which is where we get the likes of Apple. Breakthrough Innovation allows Experiential Innovation to occur. Experiential Innovation is about changing our lives, how we do business and how we engage one another. The attributes of innovation start first with ‘priming’ yourself and your company to be ready for that moment when that learning or that knowledge can be applicable to a problem. Crowdsourcing flourishes in such a continuous learning environment, where questions live in a space (whiteboards or digital) and answers can be shared in real time by anyone for all to see and to learn from. Brainwriting through technologies like GroupMap and Miro also facilitate the continuous sharing of ideas by replacing traditional brainstorming with the ability to virtually write thoughts to questions that are posed. Another attribute of innovation is ‘acceptance’ and not falling into the trap of Kodak, who doubled down on their core business – film – instead of accepting digital technologies (even when they had invented the technology). In ‘networked developments’, things don’t happen in silos. A great example is the idea of transdisciplinarity, which is an interconnectivity across disciplines. Challenges of innovation may be better solved with a transdisciplinary mindset instead of a disciplinary approach. ‘Clustering value’ creates and supports the ecosystem for innovation to flourish. A great example of this is Tesla. The advent of their electric car battery drove an ecosystem of charging stations across the US, which are becoming much more than that (restaurants or stores, for example). What started as an innovation with a battery has broader repercussions as one starts to scale the innovation up.

CREATE AN INNOVATION BIOME How do we create this ‘transformative engine’? In his book The Innovation Biome, Kumar Mehta talks about the biome as a place that provides the settings and conditions that determine what flourishes and what dies. How is this mirrored in a corporate environment when the goal is to make “innovation a replicable and consistent activity”? By creating an ecosystem that offers these conditions through leadership, the role of the individual, and cultural place, among others. A place where teams are innovative with committed leaders and leaders are innovative in sharing a vision. The case is made in Mehta’s book that the overall process toward innovation fails if any one of these is lacking, begging the question of how we all can have a role in the innovation process. Solving real needs is about bringing value to the marketplace. ZOOM being the most downloaded app in the world went beyond delivering the value of digital connection; it cre-

The ability to focus on the future, to get comfortable with discomfort, and challenge the traditional norms are the competencies of the future.

Jim Thompson, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP BD+C, is a Partner and Design Principal in the Workplace Practice at Little. He can be reached at

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Beyond Workplace II


Flexible framework accommodates future changes for this Fortune 500 The workplace is a tool for the work being done - it's about flexibility in workstyle and not just a physical solution. Creating a kit-of-parts including built space and systems furniture with shared common modules for interchangeability, the design team helped the client's nationwide workforce transition to their "new ways of work" program. With a portfolio of nearly twomillion square feet, this flexible framework accommodates future changes in operations, organizational structure and technology.

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When COVID -19 hit, almost all corporate and social places that gave our lives pattern and rhythm came to a halt. Where we used to talk about a Third Place, we are now mostly confined to One Place. The fluid wave of viral infection ultimately required all of us to physically distance, work from home and minimize the circles we were used to traveling in.

THE WORLD CAME TO A STOP By Carolyn Rickard-Brideau The lack of human contact along with pervasive uncertainty about almost every aspect of daily life has more than tripled the rates of anxiety and depression in the US, resulting in a huge challenge to the mental health within the entire US, not just in workplaces. Within a week of the video showing George Floyd’s death, anxiety and depression among African-Americans shot from 36% to 41%, an increase higher than any other ethnic group and representing an additional 1.4 million people. The suspected rate of drug overdoses has increased exponentially, from 18% in March to 29% in April to 42% in May based on information from hospitals. The mental health challenges we’re dealing with have reached epidemic levels, mirroring the coronavirus itself.


Beyond Workplace II

LONELINESS AND SOCIAL ISOLATION Human connection lies at the heart of human wellbeing. From the moment we’re born to the time we die, one way we measure of successful life is through social connection. We even have a specific neuron in our brain – the mirror neuron – which allows humans to build empathy and feelings of community and shared experience. The human brain is very sensitive to being lonely. One day of feeling lonely has the approximate neural signature of fasting for a day; the lack of social interaction can create an urgency similar to hunger. There is a big difference between physical isolation and perceived isolation. Short-term loneliness can be useful and necessary in part to highlight the importance of social support and belonging. But longer term, unanswered loneliness can

lead to a spiraling of behaviors that stretch far beyond a lack of productivity to longterm, negative health consequences. The perception of long-term loneliness, however, can result in maladaptive social cognition, a phenomenon where a person mistakes their highly developed sensitivity to social cues for a lack of ability to make friends, leading them to read ambiguous social cues negatively and further withdraw from social settings. This vicious cycle of withdrawal from social interaction leads to hyper-vigilance, emotional numbing and social isolation. Social isolation creates building blocks that contribute to far-reaching, negative health impacts. Lonely people’s bodies are different than those of people who are not lonely. • Loneliness can result in changes in the structure of the brain. • Lonely people have a higher incidence of chronic inflammation, which has been linked to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. • People who are lonely take longer to fall asleep and experience lower sleep effectiveness. • Loneliness increases a person’s level of the stress hormone, cortisol, resulting in reduced immunity, higher blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. The lack of deep social networks can present the same negative health impacts as smoking 13 cigarettes a day. BUILDING FOUNDATIONAL HEALTH So how do we address mental health now and beyond COVID -19? How can spaces and workplaces help to mitigate it? A well-designed workspace – whether at work or at home – can help create sound foundational health for its occupants, and foundational health increases physical and mental resilience by making it harder for chronic disease to settle in a body. Building features that encourage people to be more active as a natural part of their day help the human body perform at the physical level it was designed for while providing brain benefits in memory, cognition and mood elevation. Many people have adopted a “COVID -19 pet” during the pandemic, naturally increasing their daily

activity. Employers that welcome pets may find that employees are more comfortable returning to their workplace because of the physical and mental benefits that animals provide. Another element for foundational health is exposure to nature, or the concept of biophilia. Humans have an evolutionary memory of nature that calms and restores our minds and bodies, lowering levels of stress hormones and blood pressure while increasing physical and mental energy. So workplaces that incorporate actual nature (visually or physically), natural elements (a green or moss wall, plants), natural materials and patterns, or natural analogs (a moving mobile that human brains read as birds or leaves rustling in a breeze) go a

should be required knowledge for every manager to ensure that their people are getting the support they need, therefore increasing the value they bring to their clients, co-workers and companies. THE WORKPLACE AS A MITIGATOR While the COVID -19 pandemic has exponentially magnified the number of individuals currently dealing with mental health challenges, at some moment in their life over 50% of people in the US will experience one. The way that we create workplace policies and design buildings and spaces to help address those situations go a long way in making our workplaces productive environments populated by engaged and healthy people.

Human connection lies at the heart of human wellbeing. long way in reducing stress and helping employees quiet their brains, freeing them up to be happier and more prone to engage in the surrounding culture. Perhaps the most important way to foster foundational health is by creating relationships with employees that are built on mutual support. Ending loneliness isn’t about getting something or joining Zoom Happy Hours. Humans seek genuine, meaningful, mutual support, and the reciprocal acts of “giving” and “getting” are what build trust, create real, durable relationships and nurture the accompanying feelings of belonging. Companies and managers who build one-on-one, small and larger team relationships with their employees will discover that the basis of their connections is much more honest and valuable. Basic mental health literacy

Classes like Mental Health First Aid can help an employer recognize the signs that someone may be struggling with a mental health issue.

Carolyn Rickard-Brideau, AIA, LEED BD+C, WELL AP (provisional), is a Partner and Corporate President at Little and can be reached at

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Beyond Workplace II


A flexible space for staff and clients to recharge, meet & relax. This casual environment, full of color and texture, brings the Belk headquarters's atrium back to life. Our design team was tasked with this renovation project that would impact how employees work, relax, share new ideas and how they create a sustained energy and trust around a new company vision. Borrowing from the hospitality industry by incorporating comfortable seating, unique centerpieces like the 12’ tall wooden “sunburst” and indoor terraces, this renovation resulted in a powerful place to fuel the body, nurture the mind and cultivate relationships.

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ed | 10.11.16



Creating an Energized Community



An Urban Approach to the Interior Landscape


Beyond Workplace II

Sculpting the Space

Inspiration for the wooden "sunburst" sculpture came from one of Belk’s historical logos

All in the Details

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nderstanding human behavior in the workplace requires investigation into situational cues and social norms as well as motivations more deeply ingrained in the psyche, such as values or attitudes. The behavioral motivations that organizations have the most oversight of are social norms within their company culture. Understanding social norms and how they motivate human behavior should be a primary consideration for creating and adapting a workplace culture that keeps people healthy, prioritizes their wellbeing, and aligns with any other unique organizational values. One of the most prominent questions being asked today is: what will become the “new norm” of the near and distant future? To answer that, we must first understand what the norms are.

SOCIAL NORMS Social norms are behaviors that represent the perception of what ought to be (injunctive norms), and the perception of what is (descriptive norms). Some norms are explicitly encouraged through policy and others form more organically as people respond to a social and physical environment that drive their behavioral responses. Both types of norms have significant impact on human behavior, and they can both form through explicit policy or organic human reaction. They can also complement or contradict each other. Appropriate behavior according to policy may be widely known, but if people witness others not complying, this descriptive norm may be a more influential motivator on how to behave. In some cases, a cross-norm inhibition effect can occur, meaning that violation of one norm can inhibit the influence of other norms. In a post-pandemic world, for example, witnessing others no longer maintain physical distancing could cause one to stop following recommendations for hand-sanitizing or other related behaviors. In other cases, a boomerang effect can occur where one behaves in a manner opposite to the injunctive norm that is presented to them. For example, if an organization shows gratitude to individuals for an exemplary job following healthy protocols in an attempt to reinforce what one ought to be doing, it is possible that they will respond by no longer following those protocols because they gain a sense that they have 'done their part'. It is important to consider how both types of norms can affect behavior to ensure interventions will have an impact that aligns with their intent.


Beyond Workplace II


Together we can design a resilient workplace that enhances human health, wellbeing, and core organizational values.

There is a phenomenon called the Habit Discontinuity Hypothesis which states that behavior change is more effective during a change in context. Studies show that during a transition to a new job or when an entire office moves its location, people are more likely to adopt new habits. Sensitivity to new information is increased and this is thought to create more open-mindedness to change. The creation of a new norm in the workplace will start to happen immediately based on organic human reaction. Organizations must be prepared and take advantage of the opportunity to influence habit changes that support new social norms desired within their culture. Working with workplace strategists and architectural designers to create company culture is nothing new. From spatial qualities that provide opportunities to engage or withdraw, furniture arrangements that encourage social interaction, those that provide privacy and discourage social interaction, and aesthetics that provide a sense of home to address work-life integration, designing one’s environment is an obvious way of cueing appropriate behavior. However, managing change goes beyond a picture-perfect environment the day an organization moves in. For example, if part of the workplace is arranged in a way to encourage privacy and office protocols identify the area as a place for focused work but a few individuals start using it for collaboration, this “non-compliance” should be noted and addressed. This could mean environmental graphics that reinforce the intent of the space or redirect people to spaces that are designed to foster engagement and social connection. However, it could also mean needing to understand why this change of use has occurred and perhaps adapt the space to more fully support this new behavior. Listening to the workforce population that occupies the space is key to understanding what they need and what cues they may be getting, even unintentionally, from the design of the space. With a better understanding of how social norms influence behavior, organizations can create and adapt to a new norm in the workplace. It’s critical to be aware of factors that influence the change and adoption of behaviors so we can formulate ways to align them and increase the success of any behavioral changes we wish to create. We must be prepared to act during this time of great change which is a window of opportunity to respond to the new needs of our workforce populations. In this unprecedented time with an unpredictable future, we must recognize norm-alternative behaviors in order to adapt to them or redirect them, productively. Together we can design a resilient workplace that enhances human wellbeing, productivity and core organizational values by understanding the best time and reasons to implement behavioral changes in the workplace.

Jillian Pedro is a project architect at Little and can be reached at

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Beyond Workplace II


Connecting space and highlighting a brand through a true spacial experience Focused on the principles of the agile work environment and employee health and well-being, this renovation focused on how to connect two floor plates separated by a connecting atrium “bridge.” To overcome this challenge, the plates are stitched together using the brand concept of a “Finastra ribbon.” Representing openness, agility, energy and innovation of the logo demanded that the expression became a true spatial experience and more than a simple series of graphics on a wall. The design solution brought these attributes to life by a physical narrative of built objects that one sees, moves towards, around, and occupies and thus becomes a true physical manifestation of the Finastra brand experience.

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Though 2 separate but linked floor plates, the experiential link or ligature is an architectural expression where architecture becomes sculpture, a narrative born from and reminiscent of, the Finastra branded ‘ribbon’; where program, brand and architectural form, ‘sculpt’ a singular experience.


Beyond Workplace II

Representing openness, agility, energy and innovation the physical manifestation of the Finastra brand mark (logo) demanded this expression be more than graphics on a wall, that it be visually alive, subtle yet provocative, physically everchanging and delightful.





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"Beep, beep, chirp, chirp, buzz, buzz. Throughout the workplace, these signals of communication – all tethered to technology – sound, notifying workers of calls, emails, and text messages, along with instant messages flashing on computer taskbars. The rapid pace of change in technology impacts the workplace exchange of ideas and information. Whether the communication is taking place by audio or visual means, the complexity of the current workplace requires an understanding of the influencing factors on employee communications. Communication affects employee engagement, productivity, and workplace effectiveness, contributing to overall organizational success, stagnation, or failure."



Beyond Workplace II


he statements above were written in a pre COVID-19 era. That workplace included face-to-face and in-person communication along with secondary exchanges supported by technology. Now, in a world where the majority if not all communication is facilitated by technology, what has changed in the importance of understanding employee communications? Nothing. Now more than ever, words must be intentional and fully understood. With the extreme focus and demand placed on the capabilities of technology, the individual is still the primary driving force of these interactions. While we are living in a world where global pandemics are no longer a reference to a historical period, we are challenged by continuous technology improvements trying to connect and reconnect the missing human interaction we all desire, which cannot be overlooked. Work styles and organizational change will continue in this accelerating

digital age causing a COLLISION of both idea exchange and information overload. As shapers of space, companies and designers must understand the value of all communications and interactions – both theirs and the people they’re designing for. The ability to communicate with colleagues, whether of a similar generation, similar discipline, or even geographic location, is bedrock in the functioning of an organization. To support and encourage effective communication, it is necessary to understand individual human interactions (in-person or through technology) and the impact the built environment (within a home or corporate office) can have on communications across both physical and digital realms. The capability to connect, share materials, collaborate and co-create information is primary to the performance of an organization. Effective communication is a process that includes face-to-face interac-

tions, written/graphic material (e.g., paper documents or whiteboards), and digital interface (e.g., phone, computer screen sharing, or teleconferencing). All three methods of communication can be formal or informal, depending on work activity and setting. While face-to-face is the most efficient and effective during these times of uncertainty and without the ability to determine the next phase of human interaction in the physical office environment, we must begin to rely on a blend of communication methods to exchange information so that the employees and the overall organization continue to be productive and effective. As we created today’s office, we created workplaces that included open work environments to aid members of all generations, disciplines, and organizational placement, to facilitate peer-to-peer learning, and the unspoken communication through the body language and facial expressions of colleagues. This allowed for the understanding of the subtleties of non-verbal behavior and patterns of interactions. These physical environments helped to hone social skills and create connection and belonging for an organization. The visual freedom of limited physical barriers increased organizational agility, allowing for informal conversation where knowledge and understanding could develop between individuals. We pushed for offices to be interactive and collaborative, while also understanding the importance of limiting distractions to employees by offering a diversity of space types and functions. The world, including the application of environmental design, changed in 2020. What was supposed to have been Leap Year 2020, the WHO’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and the International Year of Planet Health by the United Nations, has become the year of fighting COVID-19, of global problem solving, and a worldwide experiment of working-from-home. Organizations in 2020 are now relying on individuals’ homes and mobile technology to create a productive work environment. Technology is moving beyond traditional tools like computers, phones and internet connections, to mobile work tools, cloudbased software, mesh networks and immersive environments - simulations that fill the user’s visual field, giving the sensation of physical presence. Virtual reality software and devices deliver immersion from

the individual’s point of view, while immersive rooms bring many viewers into the same simulation and interaction. These advancements allow for different types of information to be communicated with colleagues and through changing mediums. Mobile devices (laptops, soft phones, cell phones, portable monitors) support the work-everywhere- and- anytime attitude of today’s workforce, work pace, and this worldwide experiment. The ability of cloud-based software has not only reduced the cost and complexity of owning and operating computers and networks but also enabled access to applications and documents anywhere in the world via the Internet, without which this work-fromhome experiment could never have started. While the previous examples of technology support digital communication exchanges, further advances in immersive environments will heighten the ability of communication, and the information that can be quickly exchanged and learned. While today this technology is primarily used for attractions and games or to show movement within a newly planned building, this will impact the design of the space and the overall process providing specific communication tools for everyone involved in the design - client and designer, alike. This technology will ultimately support remote communication and human interaction through virtual experience.

It is critical to remember other elements that can be additional barriers of communication, beyond physical features and technology, including personalities, generational cohort, location, and organizational culture. While preferences will play a role in workplace design along with elevating safety, wellness, and wellbeing, the overall goal of a workplace is to support organizational employees by encouraging the flow of information and knowledge through multiple channels of communication. A holistic approach to communication that supports technology will involve human resource policies and design for the conscious interactions of the end user and will reduce and eliminate barriers that impede communication, whether physical, virtual or perceived. Communication, no matter the medium, is the internal foundation of an organization with employees as well as the external medium with clients. Advances in communication technology ecosystems now enable the possibility of communication to take place while enhancing collaboration and agility in an organization. We must take a broader perspective when designing and implementing change to support workplace communication through multifaceted approaches to avoid a collision of conflicting ideas.

Lindsey Walker, Prosci CCP, NCIDQ, WELL AP, is a Prosci Certified Change Practitioner at Little and can be reached at

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Merging two aviation brands, this headquarters draws from unique inspiration. Located in Lake Nona, FL, this project is designed for two companies merging their aircraft and flight line services, and relocating into a single new headquarters. The project was an opportunity to design an environment which reinforces the collaborative culture between the two firms, creating a significant new U.S. presence.

AIA Orlando Award of Honor


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ny designer worth their salt approaches design with intention—aligned with goals that will make the building functional and purposeful. While these are critical areas of focus, a far more provocative notion is to focus on the intended feelings the user will have or how they’ll respond or behave as a result of being in a place. For example, a client may ask for their lobby to feel ‘welcoming’ or for their place of worship to feel ‘uplifting,’ and with intention, people will feel like they belong and are greeted naturally by their host, or they’ll feel closer to their maker and act more righteous. But what if your intention is to make your managers collaborate more productively so that they can innovate— can a particular office setting cause that to happen? Or what if a company’s brand promise to its customers is ‘we always put our customers’ needs first’— how would you shape an experience that made the customer feel that this is a priority? This is Experience Design, a critical step in the initial stages of designing a workplace, or any place for that matter. When done correctly, it provides the design team with a detailed depiction of how an experience unfolds for multiple user types while also providing direction for strategically locating significant elements or activities. Experience Design (often referred to as ‘XD’ or ‘Experience Strategy’) has been gaining momentum for some


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time now, accelerated perhaps by the 1998 book The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. The reason the ‘experience’ notion has gotten traction is that it resonates with all of us— the experiences that are worth remembering should be a central driver of design, not an accidental outcome. Experience Design is based on human-centered design principles, requiring research that results in a deep understanding of behaviors, habits and rituals. The process balances the goal of creating enhanced emotional connections with the goal of resolving functional solutions that appeal to our desire for convenience and simplicity. When looking for examples of environments that are experience-driven, the retail sector has led the way, creating store designs that are immersive, participatory and engaging. Of course, that wasn’t always the case— for decades the primary reason to go to a store was comparison of features and price. As e-commerce has continually increased market share, stealing customers away from brick & mortar, retailers have had to consider a new purpose for their stores—it’s the unique experience their brand can provide. Where does the retailer start when considering ‘what kind of experience should our store provide’ (especially if ‘shopping’ is no longer the primary driver)? They begin by looking at their brand attributes, especially those that can be ‘activated’

through specific settings or behaviors. For example, an outdoor active lifestyle brand may have a refrigerated room so a customer can try out a high performance jackets, not only making a visit to the store fun and memorable, but an experience that can’t happen online. The list of examples goes on forever and we’ve seen some very creative experiences shaped by today’s progressive and change-savvy brands. How can this be applied to the design of an office environment? To answer that question, one must first suspend thinking about the environment (at least for now). Rather, begin looking at the company’s brand position—what they stand for and how their customers and associates know these basic, yet important principles. When developing brand positions for clients, Little shapes brand objectives which stand as pillars that clarify and organize supporting notions and eventually actions. A similar process is employed when the same company hires an agency to create graphics, logos and collateral print/media material. These elements of their brand will have a unique position in the marketplace and even have a distinct ‘tone of voice.’ Shouldn’t the process be the same when considering the experience of being in their workplace? Moreover, since the company’s place of business should bring their brand to life, Experience Design can be a critical part of the equation in delivering on their brand promise. Often times, the actual experience is a ‘let-down’ because the promises made (in advertising/promotions, website, recruiting, etc.) aren’t obvious when you arrive as a guest or work at their office. While Experience Design gives direct cues as to the look and feel of a place (i.e., “welcoming”= open, warm, light), its chief concern is focused on creating settings that promote a deliberate action or behavior. In order to cause the narrative to unfold in a sensible

way, the experience designer choreographs the path of movement— the journey—in a way that will emphasize an intentional sequence. As important as the path and sequence is creating places of emphasis—signature moments—that call attention to an important aspect of the brand or an activity that highlights an intentional behavior. The net result of creating a workplace that matches the brand is improved talent acquisition and employee retention resulting from associates that live the company mission and visitors that see the brand come to life. In today’s interconnected world, Experience Design seeks to unify experience across multiple touchpoints— online vs. in-place, private vs. group setting. In addition, today’s workplace must provide hybrid options that emerging professionals demand (cafés, lounges, play spaces), and therefore Experience Design must reconcile the variety of experiences and incorporate a multi-disciplinary approach. We live in a world where we have seen proof of concept that most office employees can work from home effectively. Why have an office at all? Let’s return to our retail sector example: like retail, a company is more than the service or product it sells. If the brand is to come to life and reach its full potential, then the experience of engagement is the critical missing piece resulting from everyone working remotely. Now more than ever, companies considering their workplace should require an Experience Design-driven process.

Daniel Montaño, LEED AP, CDT, is a Partner & Design Principal at Little and can be reached at

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4 KEY INSIGHTS 1. WELL Increased Employee Satisfaction WELL-related post-occupancy metrics showed improvement in all key wellness categories. This progress not only enhances the overall environment, it also quantifies the positive impact on employee health and helps inform future decisions regarding wellness and change management strategies. As a result of implementing a thoughtful WELL Silver certified workplace, Little employees are more active, and more attuned to hydration and nutrition choices, resulting in greater energy levels and a better connection to their own personal wellness goals.

P O S T- O C C U PA N C Y R E S U LT S The relocation of employees from one workplace to another presents an ideal opportunity to assess, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the subsequent changes in behavior, morale, workstyles and processes. These impacts can be proactively shaped through purposeful design strategies and thoughtful engagement with employees throughout the relocation process. When Little moved its largest office of 200 people to a different location within the same city, the leadership team established WELL certification as a primary goal for the new space. The project team was also asked to develop and implement a robust change communications plan to keep employees informed and excited about the workplace being created for them. By taking a human centered approach when solving for a complexity of issues that people face in the workplace, designers and the project team moved past checklists and implementation to the analysis of how design decisions can evolve and influence personal changes over time. As part of their own office pre- and post-occupancy studies, Little not only validated its WELL strategies but also gained a deeper understanding of their impact, and that of the project team’s thoughtful change management approach, on Little employees, its physical environment and how they will work in the future.


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increase in personal water consumption

improvement in sleep quality


increase in movement during the day



increase in energy levels

improvement in daylight and views


improvement in food and nutritional habits



reduction in eye strain

attention to personal wellness


engagement with surrounding community



reduction in workstation glare

increase in use of stairs


satisfaction with thermal comfort

2. Focus on Engagement & Empowerment

3. Change takes Training and Reinforcement Despite a robust change management program, the compressed move schedule required employees to acclimate and absorb various levels of information upon relocating to their new home. Although a typical approach within the industry, a broader, phased strategy that allows for expanded training, revisiting and reinforcing protocols after the initial relocation phase makes for a more successful adoption. Most importantly, this allows organizations to help employees absorb the “why” behind many of the WELL concepts within the workplace while adjusting to their own personal changes. To execute this approach, think about change management strategy & planning in three phases: • Preparation & Management (at least 12 months pre-occupancy) • Week 1 Occupancy (1st week of relocation) • Reinforcement (12-18 months post occupancy)

4. Look toward the Evolving Future Throughout the remainder of 2020 and beyond, influences of this global pandemic will continue to reveal themselves and the definition of wellbeing will continue to develop. While personal wellbeing and overall health & safety will remain a priority and be expected by their employees, Little will continue to adjust and reset its focus in order to accommodate: • • • • •

Employee Mental & Emotional Wellbeing Workplace Policy & Guidelines Planning & Design guidelines Facilities and Operational Management & Roles Technology Innovations


When people are engaged at work, they are happier, more productive and more effective. While not an earthshattering revelation, this fundamental premise is often overlooked during a transformational period for employees. Just as important as the benefits to a WELL certified workspace, is empowering people and acknowledging possible personal disconnects. For that to be realized, wellbeing requires people to make their own decisions that are in the best interest of their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, and to acknowledge the complexity and intricacies between these three areas. This acknowledgement requires adoption of new behaviors and even beliefs, which is a critical component of the wellbeing equation – specifically to the WELL certification.

P O S T- O C C U PA N C Y R E S U LT S Performing well contributes to personal satisfaction


Perception that role is important to accomplishing Little’s purpose and goals.


Understanding of contribution to overall success of the organization


Sense of shared purpose with co-workers from different parts of our organization


Employees are actively engaged in the change process and its implementation


Ability to influence details of change



agreement that performing well contributes to personal satisfaction LIKERT SCALE: 1 – 5 (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree)


workspace accurately reflects organization’s values and brand

familiarity with team members responsible for leading project effort

ease of understanding mission & values through environment


agreement that allocation of space and amenities is fair and equitable

sense of shared purpose with co-workers in different parts of organization

increase in feeling that everyone is focused on the same goals and objectives





visibility of other team members’ contributions



ability to influence details of change

Employees are more active, and more attuned to hydration and nutrition choices, resulting in greater energy levels and a better connection to their own personal wellness goals.

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DATA DRIVEN MERGERS A CASE STUDY It seems there is an announcement every week about two companies merging or a company spinning a part of themselves off into a new company. The constant coupling and decoupling of companies means that real estate managers always need to know exactly what they have, how well its being used and how long they are legally obligated to pay for it. When you go into a merger without a good handle on these elements, planning quickly devolves into a mad scramble to gather data. This scenario is exactly why I received a frantic call from a client in August of 2018 requesting I join a call the next day with their executive merger team. Talk about pressure under short notice. Let’s back up two years. This entertainment company is a valued client of ours. They own a large studio lot and office and studio space across the United States, and we had been working with them to elevate their Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) to the next level. We had integrated new space standards within the system to help with space allocation and future planning and had standardized their reporting so there were fewer reports, but with more accurate data. We were embarking on a project to improve their new hire onboarding process that tied closely with the HR system when "BAM!", the merger was announced. The department we were working with did not track real estate for the entire company, only one division of it. Another division had their own homegrown legacy system, and in some cases, the two systems were carrying different data about the same floor in a building. It was quickly apparent that there would be issues in providing an accurate list of real estate holdings for the merger – which is what precipitated the frantic call.


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It was clear from the report generated by the homegrown system that there were gaps and differences in how space was being categorized and accounted for. In order to provide a consistent accounting of space across the entire organization, our first recommendation was to migrate the homegrown system’s data into the IWMS. This enabled us to standardize the categorization and allocation of space across the portfolio, resulting in much clearer descriptions of the spaces that were not typical office buildings. The studio lot contained an interesting mix of buildings, such as sound stages, bungalows being used as office space and housing for A-list actors, parking decks, central mechanical plants and guard booths, each of which posed a challenge regarding how they should be accounted for in the IWMS. By leveraging our experience and existing industry standards, we were able to guide the merger team through this process, resulting in a clearly documented standard. Speaking of standards, we recommended the client adopt the latest BOMA standard (BOMA 2017) when calculating their total rentable area for the portfolio because its provisions allow for previously non-rentable areas to be included in the calculation for total rentable area. It also outlines a new method for allocating support spaces across multiple buildings in a portfolio. Having an IWMS in place to crunch these numbers, accurately and on demand, allowed the merger team to run multiple occupancy scenarios as they negotiated the final terms of the deal. The last challenge in the real estate planning process of this merger was the realignment of departments across the portfolio. This merger resulted in a portion of our client’s original company being spun off into a new company that retained ownership of the real estate assets on the studio lot, making them the landlord to the new company and creating the primary reason for the application of BOMA 2017 (refer to side bar for the BOMA 2017 value proposition). It also meant that, in some cases, employees of both future companies were co-located on the same floor. To visualize these non-compliant situations, we worked with the HR merger team to incorporate each employee’s future state into on-demand floor plan visualizations, which were subsequently used by the real estate team to develop the migration plan for segregating the two companies. As the merger progressed, we updated the IWMS with changes from HR so that the real estate team always had the latest data at their fingertips. By standardizing the entire portfolio in one tool, utilizing industry-wide standards such as BOMA 2017, and partnering with other operational departments on data sharing, we provided our client with accurate on-demand reports and visualizations that streamlined the analysis and planning process, generating additional revenue for years to come.

EASY MONEY Each time BOMA releases a new standard for measuring space in office buildings, there are changes that help clarify how spaces should be measured and calculated. There typically isn’t a big departure from which categories of space are rentable or not, but that wasn’t the case with the 2017 BOMA release. In that release, two significant changes resulted in previously non-rentable space becoming rentable, the biggest of which was the inclusion of the lowest level of vertical penetrations as rentable area. In other words, the level where stairs, elevators and shafts terminate all have a physical floor. In previous standards, those lowest levels were considered part of the vertical penetration and not rentable. Because this floor costs money to build and maintain, however, it makes sense to account for it as rentable area. So, let’s run through a couple of examples.

Example 1: You own and lease a business park that contains five 4-story office buildings. Each building has one elevator bank, two exit stairs, and two vertical shafts. In this case, the footprint of these vertical penetrations is 500 square feet. In BOMA 2017, that 500 square feet is now rentable area, which can generate an additional $15,000 in rent per year per building. That’s $75,000/year for the business park as whole. Example 2: Our client owns a 10-story Class A office building directly adjacent to the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. This is one of the highest rent districts in the United States, demanding $100/square foot in rent. This building has two building cores due to the size of their floorplates, with the lowest level of the stairs, elevators and shafts representing 3,100 square feet. That math results in an additional $310,000 per year in rent, just for one building! Example 3: We assisted our client referred to in the article with a merger by standardizing their space categories across the portfolio. Since the new company was going to be a tenant, it was imperative that we ensure our client maximized their total rentable area before signing the master lease. Calculating the square footage of the lowest level of vertical penetrations across the buildings the new company is going to occupy amounts to 61,000 square feet. At the current rent rate of $54/ square foot, this rentable area will generate $3.3M per year in additional rental revenue.

When discussing these changes with landlords of existing buildings, we must consider the time it will take for all the leases to renew with the new rentable square footage. The increase in rental income is not instant, but with the trend in lease terms dropping to five years on average, it’s not out of the question to be able to reap these benefits in that timeframe. So before you generate a new lease agreement, think about whether you should recalculate your entire building and start working toward fully realizing your additional income.

David Stephenson, CFM, is the Director of Smart Buildings Studio at Little and can be reached at

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Metrics Driven Planning; Breaking down space utilization data to better optimize space

A CASE STUDY CompTIA was growing and looking at additional lease space for their headquarters location. Although staffing numbers suggested they were at capacity, the CEO believed they may have had room to absorb the 15-20 % expected growth. A sensor-based utilization study was conducted, which revealed an average seat utilization of 34%. With a diverse array of functions on site including training, compliance, finance and research, CompTIA opted for a moderately aggressive approach to reallocating seats. Listed below are the study results and how those findings were translated into an actionable plan using the Metrics Driven approach.


Workplace Consulting Think about how often we spend money to save money - insurance, regular car maintenance, warranties on our favorite electronics. Sometimes, it just makes sense. For example, how many of you would spend $3 to avoid spending $700?


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It’s with this mindset that our client, CompTIA, decided to spend $30,000 which ultimately saved them about $700,000 in new lease costs. Expecting a 10 percent growth, CompTIA assumed a larger space would be in its future. After all, it makes sense that additional employees would require more space. Before moving forward with a lease, however, CompTIA reached out to Little. With help from our sensor technology partner Relogix, we conducted a sensor-based study of seat utilization with 300 sensors carefully monitoring exactly how often seats were getting used.

CompTIA’s low utilization rate indicated an opportunity for optimization, but how do you translate the numbers into an actionable plan?

The results were surprising. Data gathered from sensors mounted in offices and workstations revealed an average of 34% seat utilization - about ½ of their 60% target. Little’s strategists then analyzed the utilization data and developed a set of data-driven recommendations for improving space use that not only accommodated immediate growth needs within the current building footprint but also included ideas for accommodating long-term growth. And, on top of it all, these results could all be realized without any space or furniture reconfiguration. If your role includes determining how to best allocate real estate funding, you may want to stop and ask yourself, “Would I spend $3 to avoid spending $700?”

and how those findings were translated into an actionable plan using the Metrics Driven approach.

translate the numbers into an actionable plan?

AUR (average utilization rate)






Seats occupied 0%-5% of the time suggest seats are unoccupied.


Seats occupied 6%-20% of the time can indicate work-fromhome or third-place working.


Seats occupied 21%-60% of the time can indicate internal or external mobility based on job function or personal preference.

seats below 6% AUR


seats below 21% AUR


seats below 61% AUR

(Vacant seats were eliminated)


(Remote seats were reallocated at a 3:1 staff-to-seat ratio)


(Mobile seats were reallocated at a 1.2:1 staff-to-seat ratio)


Seats occupied 61%-100% of the time can indicate job function requires tethers to location, equipment or peers, but can also be a result of management culture or personal preference.



seats above 61% AUR

(Anchored seats remained at a 1:1 ratio)



Total Seats

Total seats planned for the existing staff is 98, providing 29 available seats for growth, and potentially avoids the cost of an additional 2,500sf to 3,000sf of leased space.

Specific utilization rate parameters used above are meant as reasonable markers based on experience. Target parameters for specific programs can change based on industry, organizational readiness for change, and corporate culture and goals. View Contents


THE AUTOMATED WORKPLACE By Carolyn Rickard-Brideau Reprinted: CoreNet Global Hack-A-Thon, Team 4

FIVE IDEAS THAT WILL DRIVE AUTOMATION IN THE WORKPLACE The COVID-19 event will be a catalyst for change and fundamentally alter the way we design and manage the workplace. Looking beyond this crisis, the workplace of the future will leverage technology to provide a safer and smarter workplace while enhancing performance and experience. Automation developed as a response to COVID-19 will leverage existing technologies, result in more rapid adoption of these technologies and spur advances in cellular communication, Smart Building tech, AI and robotics to create safer, higher-performing and more human-centric workplace environments. The Technology Ecosystem that will support our autonomous workplace is made up of three layers, starting with digital interfaces such as mobile apps and sensors that occupants will interact with, to integrated data stores, and culminating in AI. The COVID-19 event will accelerate development and wider adoption of automated tools such as these, increasing the ability to improve the performance, management and customizability of buildings and workspaces while improving the health and convenience of the people using them.

FROM EVOLUTION TO REVOLUTION Although we have seen a migration of disconnected traditional technologies transition to a more converged, modern approach, much technology in the workplace has been limited to mass-market acceptance of tools


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with a lower cost of entry, with many available technologies not widely known about or not adopted for a variety of reasons, including the perceptions of prohibitive cost, and privacy issues. After the events of 9/11 people traded privacy for a greater sense of security. We should expect the severity of C-19 event to affect similar tradeoffs, resulting in the evolution rof new building-integrated and consumer technologies, propelling workplace technologies into a “future state” as people trade hesitations for greater feelings of wellness and security. We anticipate a greater desire for technologies that feature convenience to users while delivering performance and management metrics to building owners. Additionally, automation will play a significant role in improving resilience, both for the users by increasing levels of wellness, lowering stress and building greater immunity, and for buildings and spaces by integrating cascading levels of information, enabling the mitigation of harmful events and more effective management and building controls. With all this in mind, we propose five ideas that will drive workplace automation: IDEA 1: “In the Palm of My Hand” – Mobile First The hallmark of the automated experience will be the convenience of marshaling and directing all this technology from your hand, whether via a mobile phone or through biohacking, where access and control will lie literally in the hand of the user. Calendar and location services will provide on-demand recommendations for work settings, whether a conference room or quiet area based on the type of work being done, or the need to collaborate with people who may be in the office or remote.

In addition to increasing employee engagement by communicating events and providing real-time reminders, phones will provide access to important employee documents, and deploy surveys on workspaces, new work initiatives, on-boarding, training and social activities to enhance interpersonal connection in the workplace. Last, no more badges, access cards or codes. Users will access spaces by deploying near-field communication (NFC), a contact-less technology designed to work across short distances, on their phones, or by scanning QR codes for facilities services, ad-hoc conference room reservations, and tech manuals for equipment. IDEA 2: “At My Beck and Call” – Automated Convenience A highly desirable feature of these technologies is the ability to expand the automated universe through intuitive design features for the user, making ease of use convenient and second-nature. Applets that integrate disparate devices will create a more seamless and holistic experience, all but eliminating the lack of continuity in workflows and other operations. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning will continuously improve performance by updating algorithms as they process information. Functions will be integrated using technologies that are similar to real-time traffic routing technologies, allowing people to reserve a spot in an elevator (a choke point post-COVID-19) and reminding them when it’s time to leave to catch it. The convenience of palm-controlled automation will enable access to location-aware services for real-time campus info, like finding available parking and then dropping cars off at a fully automated parking deck. This will increase security for users by eliminating the need

to walk through dark parking decks and controlling access to the automobiles. Without the need for two-way traffic in the deck, its footprint can be reduced to a third of a traditional parking deck, conserving both land and cost. IDEA 3: "Whatever/Whenever I Want” – Personalization and Wellness Automation in the workplace will enable mass customization and personalization of spatial and environmental qualities. The sensor rich environment will push data to occupants’ mobile devices, revealing the health of their immediate workspace and providing options based on lighting, temperature, sound and CO2 levels, not only in the suite but in the immediate workspace. Workspace elements will play a part in individual wellness monitoring and recommendations. Chairs will reflect current biometric readings, like blood pressure, resting heartbeat and pulse-ox levels, and recommend a quick breathing break or a walk around the block to mitigate stress. Occupant preferences will be carried throughout the workplace, automating everything from desired morning coffee ingredients, to the setup of a workstation – complete with family photos displayed in electronic frames and preference for seat angle and sit/stand desk height – to lunch option suggestions based on personal health goals. Technology will also support the occupant even when their personal choice is to work remotely. Remote workers will have robots that operate as physical proxies on site. Augmented Reality (A/R) and Virtual Reality (V/R) tools will allow these employees to interact with coworkers as if they were in the same room. Telepresence robots may roam the floors, providing the employee on the other end with serendipitous coworker interactions that drive collaboration. The transition between in-office and remote work will be seamless. IDEA 4: "Protect the House” – Optimization and Sustainability Building-integrated technologies provide the opportunity to gather even more granular data about the building performance which will drive future automation and further refine the user and owner experience. HVAC optimization and predictive maintenance will become more precise,

with sensors on every building system capable of detecting vibrations, temperature or viral anomalies and alerting maintenance before system failure. Cleaning programs will be driven by data, with occupancy levels identifying high-risk areas that need immediate attention. Robots will clean easy to maintain areas, freeing up human staff to clean more critical or complex areas. At night, these same robots will perform security sweeps, ensuring doors are secure and occupants are safe. A/R will allow offsite maintenance experts to “see” what field technicians “see”, directing them to virtual manuals or virtually marking areas that need service. With a touch of the A/R screen, past service histories of the asset will appear on screen. Cybersecurity requirements will continue to advance by requiring data encryption and automatic patching of the full technology stack of solutions, lifting the burden from RE&F staff who are not traditionally trained to address security concerns. Instead, this time can be invested into understanding the metrics that new autonomous buildings will be providing, supporting data driven operation while making commercial real estate a less attractive target for cyber criminals. IDEA 5: "Position Me for the Future” – Predictive Analytics The longest-term benefit of building and user-integrated automation is the ability for predictive analytics through multiple nested systems of use. Immediate convenience benefits are available for the user and building owner, certainly, but the most significant benefit is at the highest level – where a space/building/city block plugs into a civic module to enable large swaths of smart cities to develop. Our sensor rich environment will better inform both occupants and building managers like never before and will usher in a democratization of information. AI will suggest in real time the best place to work based on individual historical preferences, actions and calendar entries. Building management systems will predict the optimum time to start cooling or heating the building based on employee arrival and departure trends and building characteristics. Digital Twins will allow building managers to optimize their buildings across the portfolio with what-if scenarios over-

laid on real-time data. Machine Learning (ML) will deliver insights by analyzing the vast volumes of data in a way that cannot be done by humans. Occupants can gain additional insights by creating personalized, customized dashboards of information and extracting ad-hoc reports from a diverse set of data sets.

A VIEW TO THE FUTURE Robots and AI sound very sci-fi but the future isn't all that far away. Our lives will become increasingly automated so we must be mindful of how we opt-in and apply automated capabilities. The importance of ethical data access and transparency is critical to building a trusting relationship between the employee and the employer. The threshold will be when an employee opts-in in the recognition that they are receiving greater benefits, convenience and transparency about their employer and the operations of the company.

The workplace of the future will leverage technology to provide a safer and smarter workplace while enhancing performance and experience. Team 4 Members: Carolyn Rickard-Brideau, Little David Stephenson, Little Clark Picktett, IA Francisco Ruiz, Oracle Elizabeth von Goeler, Sasaki Rachel Hewitt, Scott Rice Office

Carolyn Rickard-Brideau, AIA, LEED BD+C, WELL AP (provisional), is a Partner and Corporate President at Little and can be reached at

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HVAC COVID GUIDANCE By Jeff Roman We’ve all read and watched a lot of information lately about how you can improve your HVAC system to prevent the spread of diseases and viruses, especially SARS-CoV-2. Some of it accurate, and some not so much. We pulled together a panel of our experts at Little to get their insights and recommendations on how to improve existing HVAC systems, and what to consider when designing new systems.



If you are looking to kill over 99% of all diseases and viruses in one pass, we recommend adding high-intensity UV-C energy that is emitted from Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) lamps. These lamps can be added in a variety of places within the HVAC system, but we recommend placement just downstream from the coil in the main air handling units, between the coil and the fan. Placing the lamp in this location will kill the viruses in the air that passes through, and provide an added benefit of cleaning the coil and the drain pan. This typically is the easiest and quickest installation, as long as there is room in the unit. We’ve seen most vendors provide a magnetic clip for the lamp. The UVGI lamp will need its own power supply, and safety cutoff switch to turn off the bulb when the access panel is opened. If there are any exposed wires or rubber or plastic components, protect them with metal shielding so they don’t deteriorate from the UV light.

In-Duct Air Disinfection System

If there isn’t room in the air handler, an alternate location would be in the ductwork, though this may require additional labor and cost. Just make sure the duct is not lined. The galvanized metal does a great job reflecting the UV light. Pricing for this should be reasonable and economies of scale from larger projects should bring that down. Required maintenance is changing the bulb once per year (they are rated for 9,000 hours of continuous runtime, or about 375 days) for less than $100. You could add a control point to the Building Management System (BMS) for runtime hours for the lamp to alert you when it’s time to order replacement bulbs. One thing to consider in adding UV-C lamps is who controls the air handling units, you, the tenant, or the building owner/manager? You may have to get permission to add them, and then discuss who is paying for and changing the bulbs.



The purpose of adding fresh outside air is to try to dilute “bad stuff” out of the interior circulating air as much as possible. But outside air is the “most expensive” air since we need to condition it. This is why the energy code requires us to have Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) to monitor carbon dioxide in the densely populated space and only allow in outside air when needed, saving energy. However, during this time of concern about COVID-19, ASHRAE recommends temporarily reducing or disabling DCV to further dilute the air, with the trade-off being increased energy costs. It should be fairly simple for a technician to adjust the programming. Just remember to eventually turn it back on.



Our recommendation would be to increase the outside air and add the UV-C. The UV-C removes bacteria and viruses, and the outside air mixing handles the rest. So until we get back to “normal” add more outside air for a healthier environment. Please note that there is a direct correlation between the percentage of Outdoor Air (OA) and the supply air temperature; notably in the cooling season, as the outdoor air percentage is increased so does the supply air temperature. There may be comfort issues with the maximum OA ratios during the cooling seasons.

AHU Air Disinfection System

Ultraviolet Light


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MERV 13 is the recommended minimum for filters. It’s the standard we design to, and aligns with LEED and WELL certification requirements. Normal areas of hospitals, including most patient rooms, use MERV 13. We like to have a MERV 8 filter to catch the big stuff, and the MERV 13 to catch the small stuff. The higher the MERV number, the smaller the particles that are filtered. MERV goes up to 20 (17-20 overlap with HEPA) and then you get into HEPA filters with special racks found in laboratories and critical areas of hospitals. MERV 13 filters will capture more of the smaller particles, including viruses, but its not the only improvement to make to address COVID-19 concerns.

MERV RATING CHART Standard 52.5 Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value

Dust Spot Efficiency


Typical Controlled Contaminant

Typical Applications and Limitations




.30-1.0 pm Particle Size

General Surgery

All Bacteria

Hospital Inpatient Care

























Most Tobacco Smoke Droplet Nuceli (Sneeze) 1.0-3.0 pm Particle Size Legionella Humidifier Dust Lead Dust Milled Flour Auto Emissions Welding Fumes 3.0-10.0 pm Particle Size

Smoking Lounges Superior Commercial Buildings Superior Residential Better Commercial Buildings Hospital Laboratories

Commercial Buildings

Typical Air Filter/Cleaner Type Bag Filter- Non supported microfine fiberglass or synthetic media, 12-36 in. deep, 6-12 pockets. Box Filter- Rigid Style Cartridge Filters 6 to 12” deep may use lofted or paper media. Bag Filter- Nonsupported microfine fiberglass or synthetic media, 12-36 in. deep, 6-12 pockets. Box Filter- Rigid Style Cartridge Filters 6 to 12” deep may use lofted or paper media.



A temporary option might be a free-standing UV air cleaner, if you have the floor space, a place to plug it in, don’t mind how it looks, and don’t mind spending at least $1,000. Direct humidity control is another option, but only for new construction or complete renovations. ASHRAE studies suggest if you can maintain 40%-60% relative humidity in a space, your body is more resistant to viruses, and the virus particles drop out of the air faster. Usually this is only found in hospitals or clean rooms. It would take a lot of work to retrofit a system, as it requires adding a water line and a drain line, possibly needing to purify the water, and possibly reworking ductwork. It would add to energy costs, and it would add a lot to maintenance. Our best guess on cost is $20,000-$30,000 per office floor. Baseline specifications should always call for anti-microbial ductwork, but due to the cost it’s almost always replaced with standard ductwork. Virus concerns may change that going forward.



We believe the jury is still out, at least in terms of the effectiveness of this technology with removing viruses. The basics of the process is particles receive a charge as they go through the HVAC units and when they get out into the open space, they find the “bad particles” in the air, clump together, and drop out of the air.

Pleated FiltersDisposable, extended surface area, thick with cotton-polyester blend media, cardboard frame. Cartridge Filters- Graded density viscous coated cube or pocket filters, synthetic media. Throwaway- Disposable synthetic panel filter.

Most HVAC systems will take an upgrade to a MERV 13 filter, though we recommend having a mechanical engineer review the system and see if an analysis needs to be done to prevent any pressure drop issues. A deeper filter rack might be needed – a small one-time cost. The filters may also have to be replaced more often, if the HVAC system becomes less tolerant of clogged filters, which would slightly increase maintenance costs. Making the change at the big air handling units would be fairly straightforward. In order to switch to HEPA level filters, fan filter units and different housing racks would be needed, and would be significantly more costly than a switch to MERV 13 filters. If the system has a lot of smaller fan coil units, water source heat pumps, VRF units, it would be more costly to upgrade filters. Adding a ceiling-mounted HEPA filtration system would be another expensive option, and we only see these used in extreme situations.

Coil Cleaning

ASHRAE is not backing it for the purposes of killing airborne aerosols or microbes, LEED and WELL are not accepting the technology either. We believe it’s due to the larger particulates that fall out of the air and become surface contamination, rather than simply eliminating it from the air in the first place (like filters or UV-C lights would do.) LEED used to accept it to allow for the reduction of outside air, but not any more. There are situations where this technology can be beneficial, such as if you need to remove VOCs or odors, but not for the purposes of virus removal. Jeff Roman, P.E., LEED AP, is a Partner and Engineering Practice Leader at Little and can be reached at

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UV-C is short-wave electromagnetic radiation (most effective UV wavelength for germicidal control). UV-C disrupts the DNA of microorganisms, making them harmless. These lamps are used in air ducts and air handling units to reduce the transmission of contaminants

Kills 99% of all disease and viruses using UV-C light

Additional energy costs due to increased air temperature and electricity from the light may be associated, but are minimal.


Reduces amount of recirculated air and introduces additional fresh air from outside, diluting the amount of air that has already been exposed to occupants.

Increased outside air recommended by ASHRAE

Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) monitors carbon dioxide in the space and only allows more than code minimum outside air when needed. Temporarily disabling DCV will increase energy costs but further dilute the internal air by bringing in more outside air.


MERV filters range from up to 20, the higher the MERV the more efficient at capturing airborne particulate

MERV 8 prefilter and MERV 13 final filter are recommended minimum and is Little’s standard BOD

Minimal additional energy costs may occur from the HVAC system working slightly harder to pull air through higher filters.

Recommend changing filters when loaded, quarterly at most.

Generally increased filter efficiency = increased pressure drop

Little to no increased cost to HVAC, as the system would only run as needed being tied to the controls.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV), a rating system for filtration.

Additional Resources

High Efficiency Particula Air (HEPA) filters are more efficient than MERV 16. HEPA filters, while better at capturing small particles usually require specialized systems and not normally used outside of surgical and clean room laboratories.



Helps occupant immune response and limits airborne virus’ ability to travel via air by maintaining space relative humidity between 40-60%

Increased immune response of occupants


Self-contained humidifer that operates similar to the AHU (air handling unit) mounted humidifer.

Increased immune response of occupants


Self-contained UV-C lamp that operates similarly to AHU/duct mounted unit.


Creates oxygen ions to react with airborne organic compounds, causing the particulate to aggregate and fall out of the air

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Decreased travel by viral particulates

Decreased travel by viral particulates


Can investigate feasibility of deeper filters as they have more surface area and can reduce pressure drop.

Potential for wasted energy, as system not connected to main controls or AHU system

Potential for health issues if water basin is not cleaned and maintained. Kills 99% of all disease and viruses using UV-C light

Minimal additional energy costs from running the unit







» Simple retrofit for existing systems. » Recommended placement: downstream from the coil in the main air handling units in a metallic section to avoid damage to other components » Alternate placement: in duct systems as standalone unit (increases installation cost)



» Replace lamps annually or as recommended by manufacturer » Read more:


» Technician to adjust programming for DCV » HVAC tech to adjust outside air damper if not controllable



» Cost is mostly due to increased energy conditioning outside air. During shoulder seasons when conditions are favorable, cost increase is minimal. In extreme conditions, cost may be higher.


» Potential for retrofit but could lead to installation of deeper filter rack to offset pressure drop



» May have to change filters more often, as HVAC system may be more sensitive to airflow restrictions from higher filters that are collecting more particulate matter » Ensure system can handle filter upgrades » Most HVAC systems will take an upgrade to a MERV 13 filter, though we recommend having a mechanical engineer review the system and see if an analysis needs to be done to prevent any pressure drop issues.

Increased use of potable water

Requires domestic water, sanitary sewer, electrical, and controls connections.



» Most critical in winter, when air is dry and further dried out by heating systems. » Requires retrofit of controls to operate humidifier.



Potential for small spaces



» May not be pleasing to the eye » Loss of floor space

Not recommended for removing virus contaminants



» Has the potential to create larger particulates that fall out of the air and become surface contamination. » Potential to react with cleaning products, creating harmful compounds like formaldehyde » Not compliant with LEED and WELL » Better application would be if you have VOCs or odor issues, not for removing particulates in the air » Some systems may emit excess ozone

Increased use of potable water


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LEED Silver Certified, focusing on the environment and occupant wellbeing Located just outside of uptown Charlotte, Canopy Realtor Association’s 56,000 sf headquarters was strategically conceived to be a centralized, convenient destination for members. Incorporating a parking deck and retail space, the workspace serves as a "front door" to the community and offers a large outdoor balcony to promote a connection with the outdoors, state-of-the-art technology and walkability to near-by parks and public transportation.

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Beyond Workplace II


an outdoorsy and appropriately naive teenager, I was determined that I would never have a desk job. My desire to spend more time outside led to some fantastic, if not profitable, early work experiences, and ultimately to becoming a landscape architect. While I now log quite a few hours at a desk, I spend that time trying to draw others’ outdoors through the spaces I design. What I felt intuitively in my youth is now backed up by significant research in several fields, broadly coalesced under biophilia, which continues to show the benefits to our health, productivity and happiness when we have a greater connection to the outdoors. Armed with this understanding of these tangible benefits to employees and employers, we must expand our conception of the work environment to a more holistic view that is not bound by the office walls. Our current health crisis has added an urgency to envisioning our workplaces not only as buildings, but as buildings engaged with the landscape. Some of the best spaces to gather with our co-workers are outdoor spaces, so investing in them now will be essential to maintaining workplace culture and continuing to provide tangible benefits to employee health, happiness and productivity once the pandemic is under control. Employers can emerge with new outdoor rooms and a flexible work culture in which employees move from inside to outside throughout the day. The character of outdoor work is ultimately site specific. In the urban core, you may look at creating or upgrading elevated patios and rooftop spaces. In suburban or rural sites, the office needs to be re-imagined as a campus, with underused or overlooked spaces being activated much like a park or a plaza. The most easily programmable spaces will provide much of the infrastructure and amenities of indoor spaces and will resemble open air pavilions. If we can provide shade, cover from rain, power, network access and the all-important water and coffee station, a business will have a reliable outdoor space where employees can schedule meetings without checking the weather report. These spaces can be created as permanent campus amenities, but there are also opportunities for temporary spaces that can serve as extra capacity for the short term and allow for site experimentation. A successful campus strategy may include open air pavilions, but it should also identify a range of outdoor niches to create more choice and flexibility. People have environmental preferences and comfort levels that vary across regions, cultures and categories. Some people will feel comfortable or even find it desirable to work on a bench at the edge of the campus with a power outlet and available Wi-Fi, while others will never leave the pavilion. Like any animal, humans have preferred habitats and our preferences will change throughout the day and the seasons. Movable café tables and modular furniture that can scale up and down as needed will allow the greatest flexibility and adaptability. Now and in the future, employees will be more satisfied if they can choose where they work throughout the day or week. Design Principal Jim Thompson recently described the current opportunity when he said, “People have grown accustomed to working in their gardens, and when they get back to the office, they will be asking ‘where is the garden?’”. We need to recognize that our workplaces exist in landscapes that may be more significant and beneficial than the built environment alone. The more we connect to natural settings and adapt them for varied purposes, the more our workspaces become bigger and more flexible, with benefits in the near term and beyond.

Ryan Ives, is a Senior Landscape Designer at Little and can be reached at

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Crafting a truly differentiated workplace experience Little’s multi-disciplinary team collaborated to re-imagine this iconic but aging 1973 building. Respecting the simplicity of the original design, our team made significant, strategic design interventions to re-position this property to command Class A office leasing rates. The landscape included renovating a large concrete plaza into a 90,000 sf green roof that stitches together the park like campus. In addition, a large oak bosque with outdoor work areas and an exercise space creates new spaces for future tenants.


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Logo Design

Print and Digital Communication


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Shade structures incorporated into light wells

Active Zone

Passive Zone

Artificial Turf Bocce Court (approx: 10' x 70')



Adaptive re-use of existing raised planter, and/or, at-grade plant bed (Sedums)




Breaks in planter/beds for access and overlooks

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s nature responds organically to its environment, architecture can adapt to its context and programmatic needs while fueling memorable experiences that energize the human senses. Today more than ever, the ideas of transformation and movement can strengthen our work patterns and provide flexibility, adaptability, and resilience in the workplace through the movement of architectural elements.

Problem solving for a variety of program types and uses through movable and adaptable architecture was evident before COVID-19 and our new normal. Several excellent examples range from James Sterling’s Olivetti Training Center with its occupant-regulated, sliding balcony roofs, to REX – OMA’s AT&T Performing Arts Center Dee & Charles Wyly Theater with sectionally rotating stage configurations that unlock creativity and endless possibilities for different stage settings. Today’s workplace needs to become an ever changing stage of inventive inspiration and endless possibilities while fueling creativity and innovation


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through these movable design solutions. Adjacent parking lots can become pop-up community gathering spaces, offices can become workshops and plazas can become outdoor stadiums. The natural human need to control surroundings allows users to feel empowered by the ability to manipulate their settings to respond to individual needs. Like the best examples in nature, these transformations expand and reconfigure to provide instinctual experiences of prospect – the ability to view the situation and engage with nearby activity – and refuge – the ability to withdraw to a quiet, more protected place. The modern workplace has created flexible work settings to respond to the immediate needs of workers based on the task that they’re engaged in, and the COVID-19 pandemic gives us yet another reason for these changeable spaces. Kinetic - or kinetic - solutions can bridge the gap between how we used to work and how we will need to work post COVID-19. As the office remains the preferred location for people to work, allowing for a variety of uses in spaces can minimize the amount of real estate needed while meeting the anticipated new requirements of social distancing and staggered workforce reentry. Often underutilized entry lobbies can become multi-functional, allowing the office trip to accommodate the home and work life balance as a new kind of work setting. Operable doors to entry plazas can add another dimension of wellness to the experience by exposing workers to nature and the positive benefits of a biophilic ‘bump’, reducing stress hormones and blood pressure, and further extending the workplace. Finding new uses for conventional space will maximize utilization: circulation within an office layout can widen and accommodate ‘plug and work’ touch down spaces creating distanced collaboration pockets. With work shifts happening, the need for a centralized hub of large equipment to support a smaller work from home setting can strengthen this dynamic. Printer / copy / supply rooms can be redesigned as workspace, with equipment folding into walls through movable millwork. Operable wall panels can continue to provide flexibility for large spaces, while spacing of workstations can be changed through sliding stations on floor tracks, reconfiguring the number of personal workspaces and the distance between them.

A. B. C. D. E.

James Sterling’s Olivetti Training Center REX – OMA’s AT&T Performing Arts Center Dee & Charles Wyly Theater Air Portable Popup Park Concept Little's Charlotte Office Finastra Corporate Headquarters

With technology at the forefront of our new normal, kinetic architecture and its direct connection to the human experience can provide a much-needed balance. The workplace is moving toward informality and adaptability, and mechanically activated building elements will play an integral role in adapting architecture to its environment. Building facades will advance their responses to the movement of the sun with automated precision, building skins will filter out environmental contaminants, and interior environments will allow the reconfigure of their proportion and attributes to changing needs and a culture thirsty for inspiration and meaning. The very fabric of architecture, once static and immobile, is becoming a transformative mechanism of responsive adaptation. As the environment and our new normal changes, so too does architecture and its impact on its inhabitants.

Enzo Marfella, AIA, is a Design Principal in the Workplace Practice at Little and can be reached at

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Mixing industrial design with progressive workplaces, engaging retail and destination amenities This second phase of Smoky Hollow will feature Class A office space, structured parking, The Line downtown apartments and an engaging pedestrian promenade encompassed by 40,000 sf of streetlevel restaurants and retail.


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AUTOMATED FEASIBILITY By Marcus Acheson As developers search for opportunities to create maximum return at minimum cost on a project, numerous studies need to be prepared to analyze the yield and suitability of the proposed site. During the early stages of any development process, over 70% of initial costs lay in design fees which are often unfinanced dollars used at the developer’s risk, challenging both the developer and the design team. The most efficient way to do this is to compare multiple site options with minimal effort through a concept called 4D - Data Driven Due Diligence. The industry trend is clear - the most efficient way to do it is through the use of electronic tools leveraging scripting software and parametric modeling which quickly automate the tasks and uncover opportunity through multiple studies. Although some designers see their design instincts replaced by logarithmic intelligence, the iterations generated allow the architect to select the best solution quickly, utilizing their design experience as the basis for and the assignment of the parameters that generate design. As with most due diligence efforts, the initial study starts with parking requirements, both code-prescribed and broker-promoted. Typically, hand sketched iterations on trace-overlays examine these relationships, each with their own specific constraint that must be remembered on each version, but this electronic version allows images to change with each stroke of the pen. The relationships of occupancies to zoning regulations, building code and construction practices makes for easy automation as one can program ‘scripted’ links between variables (total SF desired, garage module width, number of units) and fixed (height limits, site SF, etc.). Given the rise of Mixed-Use projects and the complexity of each proforma, this tool is an enormous benefit to both developer and architect.


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Images: Nic Chandrasurin and Jackie Tomlin

Computational design, as it is called, can take design parameters and generate forms and shapes at lightning speed. It can quickly arrange unit types for apartment building planning. Codes, life safety parameters and BOMA calculations can be programmed into the software making them automatic for every plan drawn. And while it is a useful tool in analysis it can also enhance the construction document process, automating repetitive tasks, or for use in design efforts that take advantage of custom fabrication processes, optimizing construction. The 4D process enables a developer to quickly determine the precise exterior skinto-footprint relationship to more accurately predict cost and comply with the proforma. As a space planning tool, scripts can create room layouts that immediately respond to a shifted wall, or a moved chair. For the developer, this data driven efficiency stands to increase profitability. More precise analysis of the project’s yield and

future value increases the chance that the project will continue, giving confidence to the financier and building the relationship with the design team. For the Architect, efficient workflows reduce the cost of effort by decreasing time spent and accelerating the iterative process as it presents the most opportunities for comparison. But there are obstacles. Change is often the result of an Unknown provoking a Known to improve, and it’s hard to apply cost to Unknowns. Innovation requires change. Tackling the mindset that the architectural design process is a custom operation is formidable, as it touches on the relevance of the service in a quickly changing world. Determining the viability of a project more efficiently, and creating solutions that hit or exceed proforma targets make the architect an indispensable part of the development process. And yet, the likelihood that a developer would change is high if it results in increased profitability and returns.




















Marcus Acheson, AIA, LEED BD+C, is a Studio Principal in the Workplace Practice at Little and can be reached at

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Combining the old with the new, this mixed-use building stands as a true landmark Located in the center of downtown Durham, NC's historic district, this new high-rise combines the mixed uses of retail, office, and a 22-story residential tower, offering a dynamic and lively architectural element to the city’s skyline. Developed in conjunction with the City of Durham, the project was designed with the intent of reinvigorating the daily street life of the local downtown area, while simultaneously respecting the design and scale of nearby historic buildings. Little was able to incorporate the preservation of five historic structures adjacent to the site, while also implementing linkage to the city’s nearby plaza for communityoriented events; ensuring a continuous flow of vitality into the area for years to come.


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WHAT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC CAN TEACH US ABOUT DEALING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE By Scott Brideau Five or ten years from now, 2020 may well be viewed as a critical tipping point in our collective struggles with climate change. When we look at the layers of impact that the COVID-19 pandemic crisis has imposed upon public health, the economy, resilience and other related systems, we should acknowledge the parallels this global pandemic has to what is expected as the impact curve of climate change steepens.


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Pandemic issues such as scarcity of medical supplies, loss of jobs and too many deaths from a general level of unpreparedness aren't too far removed from climate change issues like scarcity of food and water, more frequent and more intense weather events costing lives, jobs and property loss, and mass migrations from soon-to-be uninhabitable locations putting pressure on neighboring countries. In the midst of today’s trying times there lies an opportunity to see our role in these systems through a different lens. What will we learn about all the systems the coronavirus has disrupted and how they respond? Will we learn about the things we need to survive, or better yet, eliminate the next round? This line of questioning can be applied across may facets of our current society – from healthcare to the economy, to our social customs and totems. When these questions are aimed at the workplace, you can find a convergence of many related factors and begin to extrapolate the necessary changes in our processes and behaviors that can help prevent history from repeating itself. It’s harder to imagine us reverting to the old “normal” than it is to imagine a vastly different workplace where 70% or more of our work is efficiently completed from home. Extend that a bit further and there’s a parallel to the issues and threats that climate change presents us today. Medical experts saw the potential of this pandemic event years before it actually hit us. They urged governments to prepare for the worst and to develop contingency plans to minimize and mitigate the impact. Because of the complexities of planning and financing the unknown, only a few listened and the results have been nearly catastrophic in terms of lives and economic value lost. Simple efforts like stockpiling masks and ventilators or better consensus on quarantine guidelines might well have saved tens, or hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, as well as softened the economic hardships so many now face. Now think about what looms in our future if we do little to curtail the human impacts of climate change. The vast majority of the scientific community reached consensus years ago and began making recommendations to avert the worst impacts. We see more frequent weather events, like super hurricanes, mass flooding and droughts, strain local, state and regional economies and cost far more to rebuild from than the initial costs for the preventative measures that might have preserved communities and saved lives. If things continue in the wrong direction, predictions of extreme weather events become extreme weather trends such that many of our most fertile and densely populated areas will be too harsh to sustain human life. Mass migration to escape these areas will highlight general inequity and test our capacity for humanitarian compassion. Are we destined to repeat our mistakes? Not necessarily. But we do need to learn from this crisis and adapt our processes and behaviors to a more symbiotic relationship with nature and the world. Here are 5 potential takeaways from our current experience:

1. There is plenty to learn if we’re paying close attention. As the overall economy resets, we’ll have the chance to invest in the next round of recovery. We can simply repair the systems the pandemic broke or we can adapt those systems to be more resilient and equitable for the next big existential challenge. Retraining the unemployed in tech and renewable energy sectors can pay huge dividends and increase value by better protecting what we invest in from devastation.

2. Science doesn’t lie. While we occasionally misinterpret outcomes, we should trust consensus within the scientific community. Iterative modeling showed us how to flatten the pandemic curve and those countries who took decisive action were able to stem the worst of it, relieving pressure on their healthcare systems and altering the steepness of economic downturn. Climate modeling is showing us how close to a precipice we are and what we specifically can do to keep from crossing a point of no return.

3. The development community is a potential center of influence. Real estate professionals, developers and corporations will be in the spotlight as we move forward. The old ways will have to give way to innovative thinking about what our built environment needs to be and how it can integrate with our environment, instead of trying to overpower it. In that equation, nature will always win out.

4. A penny saved isn’t always a penny earned. At a national or global scale, money spent in thoughtful preparation saves many times over in reactionary spending during a crisis. Collectively we have to plan for the future and understand how we fit into the bigger picture. This will surely lead to new definitions of value, resilience and sustainability.

5. In order to avoid the next catastrophe, we need to change our current processes and behaviors. Clearly, many of our current practices are the root of the problem, whether it’s poor design, poor performance or other needless waste, we must change our processes to help facilitate a larger change in our behaviors, and by extension, our values, so that we are able to put our collective survival ahead of our immediate desires. As we rethink the live, work, play equation in a post-COVID world, we can leverage a deeper look at the connective web of systems and design a built environment that takes less toll on the natural one. The knowledge is there and a path has been laid out. We just need the will to follow it.

Scott Brideau, LEED AP, CDT, is the Studio Principal in the Workplace Practice at Little and can be reached at

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A new future for a popular North Carolina mall This redevelopment of Crabtree Valley Mall into a large mixeduse destination includes retail, office space and a hotel in a 30-story tower. The project aims to bring people and activity to Crabtree and ensure that the mall stays relevant in the new retail landscape.

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Upper Level

Plaza Level

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WHEN THE DUST SETTLES We are at an inflection point. The COVID-19 crisis has given us a tremendous opportunity to stop and realize we need to lead in a different way. We now see that workplaces must not only attract the best and brightest but, in order to retain employees, they should also reflect awareness of the impact they have on human lives regarding health, community, equity, productivity and resilience. While we don’t yet know how the pandemic will resolve itself and the lasting impact it will have on the workplace, we do know that we will be in a different place when the dust settles. While it’s likely that some workplaces will become virtual – at least in part – there is a human need for community that won’t disappear and an increased value in face-to-face collaboration…the workplace will continue to be an environment that provides both.

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