Last month RNL hosted a Project Pipeline workshop for a group of 12 middle school students from a number of Denver Public Schools, along with their Denver Kids mentors, to explore the idea that they can each be a voice for change in their own communities by starting to think about the spaces and places in their neighborhoods, and how they are influenced by design. 

Day 9: Walking the Talk of Workplace Change

Knoll, a modern furniture company for commercial and residential spaces, recently gave a presentation to one of our clients regarding work place change:

Workplace change can be difficult for employees, and fear of the unknown is common among most people. Employees should be involved in the discussions from the beginning stages to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Preparing our clients for the huge adjustment ahead of time is an important role as Interior Designers and Architects. Below is some of the research and graphics that Knoll has combined through their own work place research and case studies, as well as examples of our first-hand experience with work place change. Well, the time has come for our own office reconfiguration, and one might ask; how does it feel to be given a dose of our own medicine?

RNL Denver office at Curtis & 16th Street Mall.

RNL Denver office at Curtis & 16th Street Mall.

The RNL Denver office is located on the 16th street mall in downtown Denver, Colorado at Independence Plaza. Initially, RNL leased 43,350 square feet; however, during the recession we relinquished 14,350 square feet to the landlord and had to tighten the proverbial belt. 2016 sees RNL stronger than ever and growing. While skilled in preparing our clients for workplace change, our ability to walk the talk was recently put to test as the RNL Denver office started a significant renovation and reconfiguration of work spaces, common areas and conference rooms. In order to make room for roughly 25 new hires, and give the office a much needed facelift, as we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we needed to reduce the area of every workspace from roughly 9’-0” x 7’-0” stations to 9’-0”x 5’-0”.

Thanks to some innovative thinking by our Interiors team, we were able to do this with minimal change to our existing workstation furniture components, saving on resources, money, and minimizing the environmental impact of the project. We simply removed a return work surface and switched components around, reducing the footprint of our typical U-shaped configurations and changing them to L-shaped. The removed work surfaces then became parts and pieces of the additional desks for new hires. Most work was done during normal business hours, with minimal effect on overall office productivity.


Take The Leap

Change management requires support from leadership and communication through letting people know what’s going to happen, why changes are being made, and how they will be affected. Communication is essential to building credibility on the part of the designers, and acceptance on the part of the client. This communication has to be open, and it has to go both ways.
It is critical to ask people for input, to address concerns as they arise, to identify the influencers within employee groups through engaging them in your efforts, and to recognize that different people will adjust at different rates. - Knoll

This last concern was a significant factor in the planning of our office renovation - RNL is currently celebrating our 60th anniversary, and some employees have been with the company well over 35 years. Although we have not been in our current space the entire time, many of our employees have sat in their same desks at this location for over seven years! Recognizing that some RNL’ers would adjust at different rates than others, and some would be more open to the idea of their work spaces shrinking than others, the project was phased. With one pod of workstations reconfigured at a time, and spaced out over about 6 weeks, some RNL’ers had the chance to see the new layout, and get used to the idea before it was their turn.

Renovation of RNL conference rooms.

Renovation of RNL conference rooms.

RNL’s Baby Barker in the middle of the moving chaos.

RNL’s Baby Barker in the middle of the moving chaos.


It is important to remember that workplace change is a process, not a onetime check box event. It takes time and focus, but does not need to be scary. There is no one right way. Navigating the waters of a workplace change can be an intimidating endeavor, but by having a vision and overarching plan, you can reduce resistance to the changes your organization is implementing. - Knoll

Our reconfiguration is a phased process; it took the installers one day per pod of 8-10 workstations. After actually seeing the new work space layouts, they are surprisingly more spacious than previously thought. At the same time we are getting an “office refresh”, new lobby and conference room ceilings, updated mill work, a fresh coat of paint, and refinishing of our existing cork flooring.  We are adapting quickly, despite the hesitancy of some to bite the bullet, and take precious time away from their work day, to fully unpack and move into their new digs.



Goals of Supporting Workplace Change

  • Ease anxieties of people affected by the change.
  • Reinforce behaviors & practices desired in the new environment.
  • Resolve conflicts in habits, attitudes and organizational culture.
  • Accelerate the adjustment process & minimizing disruption to normal workflow.
  • Maximize the return of physical investments.

The water is fine.

Undergoing a workplace change can seem daunting, but by having a vision, plan, and taking simple steps to communicate and engage your employees, you can lessen opposition to the changes your organization is implementing. Supporting workplace change doesn’t need to be overly complicated or overwhelming. And the results can be very successful for not only the overall business, but also for the people within the organization. - Knoll

The overall reaction so far has been extremely positive. We can’t wait to see our fresh and updated space when it is all said and done. It was definitely an awkward feeling to be faced with shrinking workstations of our own, opposed to designing smaller workstations for our clients, but it was a well needed lesson on “practicing what you preach”. Through constant communication from the Interiors team members who coordinated the renovation, RNL has adapted quickly and shown a positive, receptive attitude towards change.

Article By:
Christie Ellender, Associate IIDA, 

Interior Designer, RNL Associate

Rachel Bannon-Godfrey, Associate AIA, LEED AP BD+C, B Corp Ambassador
Director of Sustainability, RNL Associate


Day 4: Brighton Boulevard

By Andrew Irvine, UDLA

Bringing the public back into the public realm.

RNL has been working to help the City and County of Denver transform Brighton Boulevard from a post-industrial corridor into a vibrant and eclectic street which includes new residential areas, pioneering retail and commercial uses such as The Source and Industry. Improvements within the street include attractive and functional pedestrian elements including: generous tree plantings, sidewalks, arts oriented furniture, dedicated bicycle path, transit stops and safe intersection crossings.

Improvements include: landscaping with 400+ trees, bike lanes and 2.6 miles of added sidewalk.  - City & County of Denver

Improvements include: landscaping with 400+ trees, bike lanes and 2.6 miles of added sidewalk. - City & County of Denver

Integrated within this framework will be a state of the art stormwater management and filtration system. RNL has worked with Urban Drainage and Denver Forestry to pioneer new design solutions to be integrated into the urban streetscape that will now be adopted broadly across the City and County of Denver.

The design process included extensive stakeholder consultation. By working with the neighborhood and community members, the team found a strong desire to accommodate a multi-modal street with dedicated bike paths, controlled turn lanes and better pedestrian thoroughfares.

“Brighton Boulevard Corridor Redevelopment is a transformational project that provides an opportunity to create an inviting gateway to and from downtown Denver. It encourages innovative development that mixes the new with the old, and offers a genuinely unique experience for all.” - Mayor Michael Hancock

RNL is proud to be involved in projects that have such a significant impact on our cities and create people oriented places.


Day Three: Designing for One Water

 By Tony J. Thornton, AIA, LEED AP BD+C 

“This is something we simply must do…”

…Echoed Denver Water (DW), as they first sat down with RNL to review the One Water goals that the team had been contemplating jointly. One Water is a quintessential sustainability strategy for DW’s new Operations Complex Redevelopment project (OCR); a campus project Intent on exhibiting DW’s aspirations of being the “number one water utility” in the nation and a paragon of environmental stewardship within the community.

Rather than Net-Zero Water, which relies on relatively inefficient, cost exorbitant and potentially unsafe 100% onsite water collection and reuse, the aim of One Water is to be a more reliable and replicable model where: 

  • Each water source is the most appropriate for each use.
  • Potable water use is specifically avoided for non-potable purposes.
  • Potable water demand use is minimized through conservation.
  • Potable water discharge to the environment is minimized through resource recovery and reuse.
  • Efficient & safe potable supply is delivered via the local water utility, where the strictest standards for health are upheld and routinely tested by experts using the best technologies available.

Specifically for Denver Water’s OCR, this approach incorporates familiar and progressive water sustainability concepts such as:

  • Low flow and low use plumbing fixtures.
  • Low water demand, drought resistant landscaping and porous paving.
  • Large volume rainwater harvesting for irrigation through augmentation.
  • Treated clean water overflow directly to the Platte River, avoiding wasteful, redundant re-treatment through the city’s wastewater system.
  • A small scale Onsite Wastewater Treatment Facility (eco-machine) capable of reconditioning discharge grey and black water into reusable sources for toilet flushing and additional irrigation stores.
Denver Water’s future administration building is a part of their $195M  campus redevelopment .

Denver Water’s future administration building is a part of their $195M campus redevelopment.

Within Colorado, the difficulty does not lie in creating a comprehensively sustainable model, but rather working with convoluted state and local laws and water rights. Fortunately, One Water as a public utility integrated approach is also the key to solving the Colorado’s regulatory water reuse riddle. By applying intelligent processes and technology, RNL is leveraging DW’s water law knowledge, access to the regional water supply and ability to help influence future amendments to water reuse laws in order to mold One Water’s design parameters to operate completely within the existing and projected structure.  

The time is now.

As water needs will eventually outpace Colorado’s available supply, new systems for smart water management are imperative. With One Water at the heart of its underlying model, Denver Water’s OCR is poised become the catalyst for Denver’s own, citywide approach to responsible water use and reuse on a large scale.


Day One: ‘B’-ing Green (and Supporting Carbon Neutrality)

Carbon Neutrality is the first of the 12 Design Principles and the first day of our 12 Days of Earth Day.

To be carbon neutral means eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel related to all human activities. In the built environment, this is a big challenge. It means considering the emissions related to activities at all scales and interactions – from the manufacture of materials to building construction and life cycle operations, from transportation to infrastructure, landscape to city planning. 

RNL's new bike share program makes it look easy ‘B’-ing green. 

RNL's new bike share program makes it look easy ‘B’-ing green. 

As a company, we’re also looking at what we’re doing internally to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

So we decided to strap on our bike helmets and hit the road in some shiny new RNL-branded B-cycles. Today, RNL announced the launch of a new bike share program at the Denver office. Rob Ollett, Project Architect at RNL Denver and a big cycling enthusiast, is spearheading the pilot program.

“Denver is growing quickly, and biking as a mode of transportation will enable better connections to our community and help reduce traffic and pollution,” Rob said. “We take our responsibility as architects, designers and planners seriously, and we’re committed to building a world with a brighter, greener future.”

The $100 million of public funding is comprised from two main sources: federal dollars for multi-modal transportation projects and support from Great Outdoors Colorado. No financial support is from the Colorado General Fund. -   Bicycle Colorado

The $100 million of public funding is comprised from two main sources: federal dollars for multi-modal transportation projects and support from Great Outdoors Colorado. No financial support is from the Colorado General Fund. - Bicycle Colorado

Slowly but surely, Colorado is becoming a more bike-friendly state. Denver B-cycle reported last year that riders covered an estimated 803,490 miles in 2014 - up from 560,424 in 2013. And last September, Governor Hickenlooper announced that $100 million would be prioritized for bike projects over the next four years. According to advocacy organization Bicycle Colorado, the Colorado Pedals Project is a multi-million dollar initiative combining public and private funding to make Colorado the best state in the nation to ride a bike.

So look out for those RNL-branded B-cycles on the roads, Denverites.