Because Three R’s Are So Old School

“Are buildings in danger of becoming just another consumer good in our disposable society?"

Given how difficult it (still) is to convince clients to look at long term cost benefits instead of initial costs, it certainly seems like most of today’s buildings are the fast food of the built environment. A recent RIBA article describes a series of approaches to building design and construction that helps them see the 3R’s of waste management and raises them another 3 as a shift to the circular economy:








The figure above summarizes circular economy principles specifically for buildings, found in the RIBA Publishing book,  Building Revolutions .

The figure above summarizes circular economy principles specifically for buildings, found in the RIBA Publishing book, Building Revolutions.

design principles mentioned:

Build in layers.
Design without waste.
Design more adaptable buildings.
Design for disassembly.
Carefully select building materials & products.

"Creating buildings that people love & value is a proven way to ensure longevity."

Another principle is to move away from the linear economy model of purchasing products. Instead, consumers can become users, with ownership replaced by stewardship. Customers purchase performance instead of products, which encourages manufacturers to take a vested interest in designing products that can be maintained, upgraded or recycled. This approach also helps secure a future supply of components and materials.
Applying circular economy principles to buildings uses fewer resources, enables adaptation for different uses and can even provide healthier environments for people to live and work in. But they also create an opportunity to design buildings that are not simply consumable goods, leaving a positive legacy for future generations. - RIBA Journal

*Speaking of waste. Here is a sobering thought:
The amount of plastic wastes on the planet today is enough to cover the planet with plastic.

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


LA Metro Cuts the Ribbon on LEED Gold Division 13

Photos by  Chang Kim & Devin J. Dilmore.

Photos by Chang Kim & Devin J. Dilmore.

Earlier today, Los Angeles Metro held a ribbon cutting for the newly completed Division 13. A $120 million bus operations & maintenance facility project sized at 540,000 square feet.

The three-level complex includes a maintenance facility with 19 service bays for the operation and maintenance of Metro's growing fleet, and 382 employee parking spaces. At capacity, the facility will be able to support approximately 525 employees and 200 buses. Sustainable design features include:

  • Rooftop and façade-mounted photovoltaic panels to generate up to 10 percent of the building's electrical needs.
  • Skylights and white-colored interiors to reflect light, reducing electricity needs.
  • Shade structures and natural ventilation to reduce energy needs.
  • An integrated 275,000-gallon cistern and system of pumps/filters to reuse rainwater for bus washing.
  • A green roof that serves as an employee amenity, and addresses storm water run-off and urban heat island effect.

"RNL believes sustainable design considers the wellbeing of the people who use a space as much as the materials and energy consumed," said Will Todd, project architect with RNL. "Using this holistic approach as a guiding principle on Division 13, RNL worked with Metro to drive building efficiencies, make smart siting choices and create a healthier work environment for Metro employees at the facility."

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley cutting the ribbon. Photo by: Gary Leonard for Metro

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley cutting the ribbon. Photo by: Gary Leonard for Metro

From Metro's new release:

Division 13 is a model of energy efficiency and design and will serve as an example for other transportation agencies world-wide,” said LA Metro Board member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich. “This necessary investment in our transportation infrastructure ensures safe and reliable travel options to meet the needs of today’s riders as well as for future generations. – The Source

The Power of Sustainable Public Transit Design

Considering the bigger picture of global, regional & local ecosystems as design professionals. 

Earlier this month, President Obama signed off on a 1,300 page piece of legislation that will provide $305 billion for the country’s roads, bridges and mass transit over the next 5 years. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act will be a large step to improve the longer-term  planning and stability of transportation projects.

The execution of these state and federal public transportation projects will rely heavily the effort to produce sustainable infrastructures. But the idea of sustainability comes with different connotations and preconceptions that may make us feel warm and fuzzy or be worrisome due to the unavoidable economic effects.

Sustainability should be an idea that crosses party, gender, racial and socioeconomic lines.

A recent article written by RNL’s Ken Anderson and Merlin Maley explores the idea of sustainability and it’s necessity in the planning and design of public transportation:

While sustainability can mean many different things to different people, the common theme is considering the future—the unknown—while at the same time caring for the present. The beauty of sustainability is that it can be understood and utilized as a unifying idea by communities, agencies or individuals in a multitude of ways, any number of which can fit their larger ideas about life and society in general. Sustainability should be an idea that crosses party, gender, racial and socioeconomic lines.So why are public transit systems such an important part of a sustainable future for communities worldwide? - Passenger Transport

Sustainable Apparel Brands

For those of you who would like to reduce your personal foot print even more…

The average American throws away 68 lbs of clothing every year, yet 99% of used clothing is recyclable. It takes 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton t-shirt, the same amount of water the average person uses per day including household uses like dish washing and laundry. A whole day’s worth of water, for one t-shirt.  We all have some clothing items that should never see the light of day again for various reasons, whether we accept to believe it or not, but there will always be some thrift store shopper who can rock any retro fashion mistakes. Reuse is one thing, but smarter purchasing is another. So next time you need feel the need to go shopping for clothes that aren’t covered by Patagonia’s catalogue, consider a brand that is committed to sustainable materials and practices:

7 Sustainable Apparel Brands

Image Courtesy of Victor Athletics


(no, you don’t want an image of this…)

The headline wrote itself… Poop jokes aside, a professor at Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, has created a mixture containing bacteria that, when exposed to water, produces calcium carbonate that fills micro-cracks in concrete. This self-healing concrete has the potential to extend the life span of concrete structures by 30%, reducing the labor, cost, waste and material production associated with cement production. In addition to the technology, this article is interesting for the reminder to think life-cycle instead of first costs. While pointing out the cost is about 50% more per cubic meter of conventional concrete, the Professor adds:

“…concrete is only about 1% of total construction cost, so contractors can highlight the long-term cost reductions to building owners, who will recoup the initial premium in three to four years through reduced labor costs”


Last week mirrored buildings were all the rage, this week the word on the virtual street was all about movable, dynamic facades. Here is one of my favorites:

Olson Kunding Architect’s Tacoma Art Museum extension façade of movable, hand-cranked screens to protect the artworks from natural light. 

photo credit: Benjamin Benschneider

photo credit: Benjamin Benschneider


New Buildings Institute has released a guide describing a prescriptive path to meet the current 2030 Challenge goal. The guide offers various options depending on the needs of your project and the optimum strategies to reach varying levels of stringency depending on the local code. 

And a shout out to BoCO with this added piece of information:

‘The Guide has also been adopted as the basis for the prescriptive path for complying with the energy code in the City of Boulder, Colorado, currently the most stringent in the country’

UCD School of Business | RNL Design

UCD School of Business | RNL Design