Hot trends involve reusing existing buildings and going green.
Architect wannabe George Constanza, aka Art Vandelay, could relate to one aspect of today's commercial design trends.
They emphasize a simple approach: reusing old buildings. And though the neurotic "Seinfeld" character might claim he did the redesign on the Lazarus building downtown and add, "It really didn't take that long," it's not that simple.
Still, what's old is new again as architects, designers and developers deal with an economy gone wrong and a changing American culture that wants its construction "green."
Bob Loversidge, president and CEO of Schooley Caldwell Associates, not George Constanza, is the man behind the Lazarus building makeover Downtown. (Schooley Caldwell was chosen as architect of record for the project.)
"The biggest trend we're seeing is buildings are more environmentally friendly," Loversidge says. "There's more emphasis on material selection ... to reduce the carbon footprint."
The results don't have a particular "look," he says, but the trend makes sense.
"Look at the energy imbedded in [older] buildings," Loversidge says. "You can calculate that. It took so many barrels of oil to build that. [Renovation] is better than throwing barrels of oil in a landfill. The Europeans have been doing for this for centuries. ... We're not very good at it. Energy is so cheap. That's the problem in this country."
But government mandates and the market are making adjustments.
Green considerations are not just lip service, Loversidge says. "You can't go to a meeting on design without hearing about sustainability in the first five minutes," he says.
Referring to Schooley Caldwell's work on the Statehouse restoration, which was completed in 1997, Loversidge tipped his hat to its builders in the 1850s that collected recycled wash water to flush toilets there.
That idea was recycled for the Lazarus project. "We need to be more cognizant about our use of resources," he says.
Keepin' It Green
"If you think about how bridge building has occurred over the last century and a half, suspension bridges of the past required less material, [but] the form of the bridge was more exciting. We'll see some of that with buildings," says Mike Bongiorno, a project designer for the DesignGroup.
Jonathan Barnes, principal at Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design, says his company is best known for urban renovation projects such as the Brunson Building on High Street between Long and Spring streets downtown.
Barnes sees sustainability as the major trend. "That can mean all kinds of things from interest in using existing buildings and infrastructure to using environmentally friendly materials," he says. It's all about better use of energy, Barnes says, including design, and energy systems.
"Green buildings incorporate new materials that are interesting-new types of glass that are exciting," Bongiorno says. "There are a lot of ways to approach sustainability that have not yet been seen."
Builders will explore how projects are put together, he says, perhaps including more modular and prefabricated options. There will be more digital fabrication, using computer technology to manufacture components, Bongiorno adds.
The dramatic increase both in interest and availability of green options, Barnes says, is catalyzed both by cost savings and a desire to use fewer resources.
In addition, tenants-whether multifamily, office or retail-are looking for that edge created by an increased understanding and expectations for sustainable design and buildings, he says.
The market is hip to the environment. We want our future green.
"The upcoming generations making decisions about office space are generations that have grown up with this and have a sensitivity to it and more of an expectation," Barnes says.
That sort of demand didn't exist in the past, he says, but attracting tenants now happens in a different way.
"It's a trend we're seeing nationally and in Columbus," Barnes says. "The Lazarus building downtown is a shining example in the country, being as big as it is." He calls it one of the largest sustainable LEED projects.
LEED, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, is the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council's industry-accepted measuring stick for green building and development practices.
Barnes has a LEED project in the works: the renovation of Cunz Hall at Ohio State University, for its College of Public Health.
"Reusing existing buildings is the best thing you can do," he says. "There are a lot of reasons for that. You're not manufacturing all new materials and transporting them. You're using what's already there."
Projects such as the Lazarus rebuild aren't about historic preservation, Loversidge says.
"It makes sense to use existing walls and floors," he says. You see more automatic, ‘Of course we're going to reuse that rather than throw it away.' "
The Lazarus building was 1 million square feet of retail that hadn't been needed for a long time, Loversidge says. "If it had come up 30 years ago, it would have been about a 10-minute decision to tear it down," he says. "It turned out to be a wonderful building for adaptive use, essentially for state offices with art and retail space which helps enliven the street, which is what downtown buildings should do," Loversidge says. (Tenants now include the Columbus Chamber, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio State University Urban Arts Space, among others.)
"All we did was open up the windows, which had been closed in," he says. "The building looked very much as it does now. Somewhere along the line people decided natural light was evil."
Of course, "a whole lot of other things were done," Loversidge concedes.
"It's a very environmentally friendly building, he says, noting it received the LEED Gold rating in 2007. Only platinum ranks higher.
One example of that environmental friendliness is harvesting all rain water from that building, Loversidge says. That gray water goes into the big "L" water tower atop the building and is used to flush its toilets.
In addition, there are waterless urinals which save thousands of dollars, he says.
A "green" roof, featuring a garden, is used to irrigate plants there and reduces water runoff. The building also uses the latest lighting and electrical systems, which are smaller and more efficient, he says. Buildingwide controls and sensors turn off systems when they are not used, Loversidge says.
"These are little measures, not high tech," he says. "The most important thing we can do is use common sense."
That's why much of the flooring and other materials were sorted and recycled, Loversidge says. "Tons of debris were recycled, and we used a lot of recycled materials to put the building back together," he says. "The terrazzo is recycled glass instead of marble. We used [recycled] plastic bottles for the bathroom partitions."
"For so long, you could pick up a catalog and find the latest and greatest materials," Loversidge adds. "You didn't pay attention to where things were coming from. Suppose you need a widget from Dayton or California, you didn't pay too much attention in the past. Now, it takes less energy to bring it from Dayton."
The sustainable trend includes two subsets, Barnes says.
People are more cautious about how they spend their money, so there is less new construction and more renovation.
That means existing buildings bring work back from the exurbs and suburbs into the city and inner-ring suburbs such as Grandview and Worthington.
That inner-ring focus means a new lease on life for Ohio's cornfields.
"One of the things that might be happening this year, with a lot of existing buildings sitting unused, is I imagine there's going to be reinvestment in building stock ... to fit other purposes," Bongiorno says. "An office building could be turned into a hotel, or a hotel could become residential or an apartment building."
Renewed interest and projects, particularly green, inside I-270 had to happen, says Curt Moody, president and CEO of Moody• Nolan.
"How much further are you going to extend utilities?" he says. "Developers had to think about how much raw farm land they acquired. LEED really discourages acquiring virgin farm land. You get points for building on previously built-on sites, reutilizing structures if at all possible."
Moody•Nolan has been busy at Gowdy Field on Olentangy River Road near Grandview's up-and-coming Grandview Yard development.
There's new life at what was once the Columbus Division of Police's helicopter pad and a former landfill. It is now home to the Time Warner's local headquarters. Plans call for a healthcare center for Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center and an outpatient clinic for OSU's Medical Center. Plus, Moody says, "We're doing [the shell and core of] an office building for the Daimler Group, which is the developer."
"That wasn't undisturbed property," Moody says. "There had to be remediation of that site. The trend to do renovation is up and will continue to be a driver of what you do ... because of the economy. We're seeing more additions, renovations as well."
"I think the university saw value in how quickly they could get into that space ... compared to the traditional process," he adds. "It's faster and less expensive if you go private side."
Past laws prohibited that kind of relationship, Moody says, but now have been loosened to allow more public institutions to use the design-build approach, which combines the construction and design work into one competitive bid instead of two.
"We will build to suit what you need with an option to lease until they can buy," he says.
Another trend will be more local developments by local architects, he says.
"We've seen a lot of architects come into town," Bongiorno says. "I see a lot more refocus on local talent. Cost is a consideration and so is the realization that there's a lot of talent in town."
Local talent is a better way to keep dollars in the community, he says.
"You'll still see a mix," Bongiorno adds. "Some of the national firms' work is drying up internationally, so they're out there competing with us."
Keeping things local is good for travel, he says, as in keeping costs down. It's a more sustainable (read: green) approach, and builders know their local firm is here in town when they need them.
Look for the types of projects to change, Bongiorno says.
There will be more civic, government, health-care and higher-education work on large and small scales, a variety of architects agree.
Universities, in particular, will invest in research-related facilities as well as student housing. "So you'll see innovation in those categories," Bongiorno says. "You'll see innovative building materials. You may see simpler buildings with more complex skins [exteriors] on them.
"On the flip side, they will be structurally more expressive, but more efficient, doing more with less," he says.
Sustainability is the biggest thing at Karlsberger, which works almost exclusively in health-care design, interior designer Char Hawkins says.
"More and more clients are trying to get LEED certified and market that," she says. "It's drastically impacted what we do and augmented our vision."
The other trend is the economy, she adds, noting clients are much more careful with their money. Consequently, Karlsberger is emphasizing lean design, Hawkins says. "How do we do more with less?"
In Karlsberger's health-care specific world, the market wants more free-standing emergency departments and outpatient surgery clinics.
The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center Liberty Campus facility is an example that Hawkins cites. It has three floors with an emergency department on the first floor, in-and-out surgeries on the second floor and clinics on the third floor.
"I think with the economy, we'll see more renovation, but most have been new builds in the last five years," she says.
"LEED drives a lot of the appearance, as do clients' identification and brand," Hawkins says.
The resulting look is modern and neat, she says.
"Buildings need to look familiar and welcoming, less institutional," Hawkins says. Children's facilities will become "more whimsical," and adult centers more upscale, more hotel-like and less institutional.
Mike Milligan, principal of JMM Architects, says his firm has one focus: senior living, from active seniors through hospice.
"We're looking more at what the client wants. There are more choices."
Most senior facilities were built in the 1970s and 1980s, Milligan says, noting the industry has moved a long way since then. "There wasn't even assisted living then," he says. "A lot of buildings are due for replacement."
That means bigger units that promote autonomous and not shared living. The 400-square-foot room of the '70s and '80s has given way to apartments as big as 1,800 square feet.
"It's more market driven," he says. "People have higher expectations."
One example is Friendship Village of Dublin's north wing, with high-end apartments, a wellness center and pool, exercise area and multiple dining menus, Milligan says.
JMM's West View Manor in Wooster, Birchhaven in Findlay, Avon Towne Center in Avon Lake and Chesterwood Village in West Chester feature glass enclosed, tall, big spaces, Milligan says.
"They have Disney-like Main streets and indoor parks," he says.
Into the Future
Cutting edge design is happening elsewhere in the nation.
"There are two diverging things in terms of the looks of buildings," Bongiorno says. "One is simple shapes with innovative skins. Two is more efficient structural solutions."
Carbon fibers, ceramics, resins and high-performance plastic are getting consideration as skins, replacing the traditional brick and glass seen in such places as the Arena District, he says.
"I think we'll see the introduction of more exploratory and innovative, but not any less durable, materials. LEED gives structure to the tracking of design with its rules and checklist on how to make buildings green," Bongiorno says. "And it's constantly improving it."
Martin Rozenman is a freelance writer.
Reprinted from the March 2010 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.