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5 Ways to Improve Workplace Health with the WELL Building Standard

With the start of a new year, it’s natural to focus on health and wellness. While many of us set goals for a balanced diet and working out, we often overlook improving a large component of our day – the workplace.

The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) was founded on the belief that improving the quality of a building can help people work, live and perform at their best. Studies, like one from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) back up their assertions. It found that companies who earned high marks on its HERO Health and Well-Being Best Practices Scorecard, which was done in collaboration with Mercer©, outperformed the 500 largest U.S. companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over a six-year period.

To improve health in work environments, IWBI released the WELL Building Standard in October of 2014. They cover seven, core concepts of health: air, nourishment, fitness, mind, water, light, comfort and innovation. Alissa Wehmueller, Principal at Helix Architecture + Design, saw how the program could benefit our clients and decided to pursue and ultimately, achieved her WELL AP designation.  

“We’ve been encouraging clients to implement many of these strategies for a while. However, this program goes a step further, providing measurable metrics, as well as a breadth of data, to support these ideas,” said Wehmueller.  

Like LEED, WELL’s tenets can be incorporated into spaces whether or not a company is pursuing full certification. The program covers 105 elements, or features, giving buildings and organizations a number of ways to make their work environment healthier.

“With so many initiatives to choose from, knowing where to start can be daunting. If you’re ready to make some changes, start by talking to your associates first. Find out the biggest concerns in the office, along with which ideas associates are most excited about and work to address those,” said Wehmueller.

WELL accounts for the entire workplace experience, covering everything from air quality to an employee’s physical comfort. Here, Wehmueller shares five strategies that can improve workplace health using the standard as a guide.

  1. Support mental health.

    There are number of ways that a well-designed office can improve an employee’s mental health from encouraging healthy sleep habits to providing connections and access to nature. Flexibility is another important element. Research has shown a connection between job satisfaction, as well as a group’s cohesiveness, to the presence of varied spaces that support different workstyles. The WELL Standard says work environments should offer spaces to work, focus, collaborate and rest. This means providing a combination of quiet zones, collaborative spaces and multi-functional workstations for team members.

  2. Reevaluate lighting.

    Effective lighting design, offering access to daylight for our bodies’ circadian rhythms, workstations positioned to reduce glare and daylight modeling are just a few of the thirteen ways the WELL Standard addresses light. Natural daylight and access to views of nature are critical components of supporting employees’ overall well-being and healthy sleep habits.

  3. Reduce distractions.

    Internal noise can lead to decreased productivity, particularly in open offices where distractions and interruptions are frequent. However, there are a large number of acoustic solutions and design practices companies can use to ensure each employee has a comfortable place to focus. Impact reducing flooring, sound barriers, sound masking and sound reducing surfaces can help companies enhance their teams’ performance and ability to focus.  

  4. Foster healthy nutrition.

    Eating habits are often influenced and reinforced through cues in our environment. Currently, only 8 percent of people consume the recommended four servings of fruit per day, and 6 percent consume the recommended five servings of vegetables per day. Providing access to healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables and communal cooking areas can foster healthier decision making. WELL also suggests the reconfiguration of dining environments to increase the appeal and visibility of nutritious foods. Providing convenient bottle refilling stations with filtered water and signage to encourage drinking water reminds associates to stay hydrated.

  5. Start moving.

    Encourage employees to take the stairs by making stairwells open and accessible. Another method to incentivize movement is to add physical activity spaces or make changes to the building’s exterior, such as designing cyclist and pedestrian-friendly environments. Organizations can also supplement gym memberships and fitness programs to encourage an active lifestyle outside the office.

Organizations with healthier employees can not only increase productivity and retention, but also reduce health insurance costs for individuals, as well as their businesses. With a variety of elements to choose from, there are multiple ways to reap the benefits of the WELL Standard. Discover which features are the best fit for your organization by contacting us at info@helixkc.com to schedule a space evaluation.


Local Entrepreneurs Build Lasting Relationships and New Headquarters through HEMP Connection

When Duey Williams joined the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP) over 15 years ago, he was new to Kansas City and working to make the business he had just purchased, Skyline E3, a success. It was in this organization he met Jay Tomlinson, founding principal of Helix Architecture + Design. The three-year program, which offers mentoring and connections with fellow entrepreneurs, is known for helping set the foundation for lasting relationships.  

Williams credits long-term relationships, like those made through HEMP, for Skyline’s success. In fact, he said support from entrepreneurs helped the organization grow during those difficult years.

“HEMP is not a soliciting organization. However, entrepreneurs in the program support one another. People want to do business with people they know and trust, and HEMPers recommended my work outside of their own organizations. These connections were an important contributor to Skyline’s growth.”

Skyline E3’s revenue is now seven times what it was when Williams purchased the business in 2000. With their expanding size and market reach, they needed a physical space that could better accommodate their personnel and client growth, while showcasing their products and company values. When it came to finding an architect that could bring his vision to life, Williams looked to his HEMP connections. Skyline E3 hired Helix Architecture + Design to create a new, 53,000-square-foot headquarters that would provide a state-of-the-art showroom for clients and a modern workplace for employees.

“I like to do business with people I know and always wanted to work with Jay,” said Williams.  

In the design of their new headquarters, Skyline wanted to invigorate company culture, create a sales area for clients and have room for growth. Helix worked closely with the company’s leadership to define their goals and unique amenities they wanted to incorporate for clients and staff. An impressive entrance and lobby, community space and conference rooms which operated as show rooms were key aspects of their vision.

The showroom and office space within their new headquarters provides an open and relaxed sales environment for clients with ample room for the company’s large display options. The open office environment offers flexibility and encourages collaboration among Skyline E3’s growing team. Bright pops of color, branded graphics and a conference table that converts into a ping pong table convey the energy and values of the company. The warehouse storage that comprises half of their building provides ample room for growth as the company continues to expand.

Key spaces were designed to accommodate the company’s desire to expand client and community outreach. The prep and staging area allows Skyline to showcase work to clients visiting their facility. A seminar room is used for team meetings and is also available to other area businesses.

“It’s important to our company to support entrepreneurs. We offer seminars at our new headquarters that are designed to help businesses improve their ROI at tradeshows. It’s one of the ways we give back to the community for its continued support. Having a newly designed facility helps make these initiatives possible,” said Williams.

Continuing to foster local entrepreneurs has been important to both Williams and Tomlinson throughout their careers. Since graduating from the HEMP class of 2001, Tomlinson has remained active in the organization and currently serves as a HEMP fellow.

“HEMP is a key component of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Tomlinson. “The program offers an objective sounding board for firm leaders that is invaluable.”  

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner interested in learning more about how you can benefit from the program, visit the HEMP KC website.

Photography by Bob Greenspan and event photos courtesy of Skyline E3


18 December, 2017 | Awards, Design, Recognition

Helix & UMKC Announce 2017 Bud Prize Competition Winner

Bud Prize finalists, left to right: Lauren Uhls, Tania Chavez and Rachel Baier.

Each Fall, Helix Architecture + Design teams up with the UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning & Design for the Bud Prize – a design competition and scholarship grant awarded to students attending UMKC. The annual scholarship was created in honor of the late Bud Persons, who was a Senior Interior Architect with Helix when he unexpectedly passed away in 2002. The award recognizes the his vibrant life and work by promoting the study and knowledge of architecture and design.

This year, in honor of the eclipse, ten second-year students were challenged to design a new (fictional) building for the UMKC Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, complete with a planetarium and an observatory. Students developed drawings and models for their design concept, which they presented to the jury for feedback last Thursday afternoon.

Helix principal Doug Stockman served on the jury this year, alongside:

Joy Swallow – UMKC AUP+D, Chair
David Oliver – UMKC AUP+D Advisory Board
Aaron Schump – KSU Dept. of Architecture, Professor
Mark Brodwin – UMKC Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Astronomy Professor
Derek Moore – SOM, KCI Airport Team

There were so many exceptional projects that the jury decided to share First Prize between Tania Chavez and Lauren Uhls, and awarded Honorable Mention to Rachel Baier.

Each year the student presentations and celebration reception are open to the public so follow AUPD on Facebook for updates on future competitions.


6 December, 2017 | Design, New Construction, Workplace

Building Culture & Value Through Cohesive Real Estate Design

Olsson Associates

When Helix principal Erika Moody started working with Olsson Associates (Olsson) five years ago, the growing company was on track to reach a new milestone – 1,000 employees. With continued growth anticipated, they wanted to create a workplace environment that reinforced their culture in a cohesive manner as they charted their course forward.

Today, Olsson has more than exceeded those expectations. With offices across the Midwest and Southwest, they are continuing to expand their team and diversify their engineering services. Throughout this expansion, Erika has been a strategic partner to the firm overseeing the design of each of their offices.

The first project completed was the design of Olsson’s headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska’s historic Haymarket District. The new 80,000-square-feet office building wraps around a central courtyard that provides daylight and views throughout the building, creating layers of interest both inside and out. The scope of work included programming, core and shell design, as well as interior architecture, furniture selection/procurement and custom furniture design.

Since that time, Helix has partnered with Olsson on the design of fourteen additional office projects. The goal has been to showcase their brand and the unique identity of each office, while standardizing workstations, meeting places and gathering spaces. Olsson CEO Brad Strittmatter shared, “We return to Helix because they really understand how to create great spaces where our employees thrive. They keep our offices on the forefront of our industry – while diligently maintaining our project budget.”

Olsson Associates

In each new office, there are a few commonalities. To make the greeting consistent from place to place, visitors encounter a simplified reception. The green from the Olsson logo is always incorporated in a small, but prominent way, and workstations have been streamlined throughout. As locations are updated, break rooms are also being transformed into inviting cafés.

To make these additions more seamless, the Helix team created a process for procuring furniture, implemented furniture and finish packages and aligned Olsson with vendors who can supply products to multiple offices. These practices have helped Olsson buy items at a discounted rate through corporate contracts, as opposed to purchasing pieces one-off at a premium.

Although Olsson was looking for a unified identity, they continue to value the uniqueness of each office. Furniture and finish packages provide a range of choices to office leaders, and each location includes personalized elements, like a feature wall and custom artwork. These details allow local leadership to personalize their space without sacrificing efficiency.

While standards are in place, the design team continues to bring forward new ideas and test concepts, like taller work tables or customized storage for large drawings, at a single location. This allows both parties to see how items perform on a smaller scale before rolling it out to each of their offices.

Establishing an internal representative and single design firm to lead every project has resulted in time and cost savings for Olsson. Designers can quickly supply critical items, like floor plans and finish schedules, while Olsson’s representative ensures projects are aligned with the budget and design standards. With less time spent managing each effort and ensuring an exceptional design for their spaces, Olsson Associates can focus on what matters most – providing great design experiences for their clients.

Photography by Michael Robinson.


Historic Farmhouse Transformed into Children’s Center for Synergy Services

What began with the donation of a nearly 100-year-old farmhouse on a wooded six-acre site by Judge Stephen Pratt is now a safe, welcoming space that allows Synergy Services to double the number of children they serve.

Synergy Services is a Kansas City non-profit that helps victims of family violence find the safety, support, strength and skills needed to change their lives. They were forced to turn away 300 children from their SafeHaven women’s shelter last year due to lack of space. The donation from Judge Pratt allowed Synergy to create a dedicated space for children that feels warm, welcoming and avoids the institutional feel that most temporary foster facilities have.

The nearly 100-year-old farmhouse was repurposed to house counseling rooms, a therapeutic art room and a living room space and a 7,500 sq. ft. addition includes a dining room, bathrooms, bedrooms and a large open multi-purpose playroom with adjacent playground. The design of the addition builds off the wooded site to create an environment that is reminiscent of a camp or cabin. An abundance of natural light and views to the surrounding woods were integrated to draw the outdoor environment into the interior. Natural pine wood was used inside and out to further this concept and add a warmth to the overall space. 

In addition to creating an environment where children feel at home in a safe, healing place, the design team also wanted to make sure that the children felt at ease that this was a place they could play and enjoy. Details, such as the Charlie Harper wallpaper filled with animals in the dining room and durable walls and floors made of reclaimed wood from a gym floor in the playroom clearly communicate that this is a special place designed especially for them. Vibrant color was used playfully in key spaces but sparingly in others to allow the building to be a canvas for the children and their own art and personality.

The new building has been an overwhelming success for Synergy; executive director Dennis Meier shared, “Everybody that comes here just falls in love with it.”

As a non-profit, Synergy Services had a limited budget that the design team was conscious of in developing the overall concept and selection of low-maintenance materials, finishes and systems that would reduce operational costs long-term. Helix worked closely with JE Dunn Construction to deliver a building that is as efficient and functional as it is beautiful.

Helix principal Erika Moody has worked with Synergy Services for over 10 years. After working with them on the design of Synergy Services Youth Resiliency Center she was so inspired by the work they do that she joined their board. “Synergy is the last lifeline for so many in our community,” said Erika Moody. “The trauma that many of these children have experienced is unimaginable. I am proud to help them create a space that supports their mission and enables them to positively impact even more kids.”

The project has already been honored with numerous awards, including a Capstone Award from the Kansas City Business Journal in the Community Impact category and a silver award at the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Mid America Design Awards.

Photography by Michael Robinson.


Historic Warehouse Converted into Luxury, Boutique Apartments

Helix recently completed design of the adaptive reuse of 1509 Walnut, a historic warehouse in the heart of the Crossroads district. Built in 1902, the five-story, brick building was designed by James Oliver Hogg and was home to several businesses for over 100 years, including Grand Avenue Storage Company and Atlas Storage and Warehouse.

This historic building has Romanesque Revival elements, and the exterior had remained largely untouched other than alterations to the first story facade in 1958.

The original architect for the building, J.O. Hogg, was born in Wisconsin around 1858 and arrived in Kansas City in 1886. Throughout the course of his career, he designed mostly commercial and storage buildings. Some of his work included the Advance Thresher Company building at 1300 Liberty Avenue, the Harry Abernathy residence at 3600 Madison Street and the Daniel Dyer residence near the Blue Valley Industrial District, which was destroyed in 1940.

The building retained the majority of its historic integrity over the years, and with little opportunities to add parking, the space remained untouched after Berlau vacated. Jeff Krum, CEO of Boulevard Brewing Company, along with Sunflower Development Group and Helix Architecture + Design, determined the building could be converted into boutique-style apartments, if a parking deck was placed over an adjacent lot. With that decision, the team began work on the design of Atlas, which began leasing in May.

The 32,000-square-foot building now includes 16, one- and two-bedroom luxury apartments. Residents occupy floors one through five in apartment units that include large unique floor plans, high-end finishes, lots of storage and private balconies. The penthouse units feature spiral staircases, leading to rooftop patios with extraordinary views of the downtown skyline. Some of the other amenities include solariums, a wine cellar in the basement, fitness room and dedicated parking. Two street-level retail spaces occupy the street frontage.

While the interior has been completely updated, the design team worked to preserve the building’s past. The façade has been fully restored, and each apartment is designed to showcase the historic components, including exposed brick walls, original concrete floors, heavy timber beams and even an old loading dock and door in one unit. This adaptive reuse project was designed in accordance with National Park Service guidelines and qualified for federal and state historic tax credits.

The design team partnered with Carpenter Collective on the branding of the new development, creating external signage and wayfinding throughout the building.

We’re proud to continually restore historic buildings in the Crossroads, adding to the ongoing revitalization of downtown Kansas City. Congratulations to our development partners and the entire design team!

Photography by Bob Greenspan. Furniture provided by Plus Modern Design.


26 April, 2017 | Awards, Design, Recognition

Four Helix Projects Take Home Honors at Mid America Design Awards

Four, very different projects were recognized at the Mid America Design Awards ceremony last Friday. This biennial event honors interior design work within the Kansas City and Wichita areas based on innovation, functionality and implementation of overall design intent and brand.

MADA Celebration

Although the projects couldn’t be more diverse – a brewery, non-profit, workplace and university library, they share several similarities. To begin, all four feature the adaptive reuse of a historic building, blending original elements with each new owner’s aesthetic. But perhaps more importantly, all four were designed with the end-user in mind. Whether welcoming more guests or offering new services, the completed projects are helping each client better serve their community.


Boulevard

Boulevard Brewing Company

TOURS & RECREATION CENTER: GOLD, HOSPITALITY

Boulevard Brewing Company had outgrown their original tasting room, causing them to frequently turn away guests. To accommodate the increasing crowds, they purchased a historic, 1920’s, brick building adjacent to the brewery with the goal of transforming it into an expanded destination. The completed space provides an immersive learning experience, including playful exhibits that share the history of beer making and the origins of Boulevard. Their renovated building is full of handcrafted, artisanal touches – just like Boulevard’s beer. Since opening, they’ve been able to double the number of tours and visitors they can accommodate every day, and the beer hall has become a hub for community events, like yoga classes, charity events and presentations from brewers.


Creamery

The Creamery Building (3D Development)

GOLD, CORPORATE MEDIUM

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Creamery Building had been vacant for years despite its prime location in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. It was renovated to serve the needs of smaller, office tenants and entrepreneurs, who weren’t represented in the marketplace. The design team leveraged the constraints and character of the historic structure to create a flexible series of suites with corresponding amenities that would attract small, yet discerning tenants. The interior finishes in the shared spaces draw upon the existing architecture and industrial history of the building. The raw palette is carried into the suites, allowing tenants to move in without requiring a large investment. The resulting design provides an elevated brand identity beyond average small office suites.


Synergy

Synergy Services

JENNIFER & JAMIE CHILDREN’S CENTER: SILVER, CORPORATE SMALL

Synergy Services was forced to turn away 300 children from their SafeHaven women’s shelter last year due to lack of space. Through a generous donation, the organization received a 2,500-square-feet, nearly 100-year-old farmhouse on a wooded, six-acre site. The home itself was not large enough to address their full programming needs, so we created a plan to renovate the house and build an addition that was safe and welcoming for children of all ages. Drawing inspiration from the site, the design team created a concept reminiscent of a camp or cabin. The finished space feels warm and welcoming with wood finishes and many connections to the surrounding acreage, unlike traditional temporary foster shelters. With the new center, Synergy has been able to serve twice the number of children they did in the past. 


Norrington

Park University

NORRINGTON CENTER: SILVER, HIGHER EDUCATION/RESEARCH

Built in 1908, Norrington Hall originally served as the campus library until those services were relocated in the 1980’s. At that time the interior was converted into a patchwork of office and classroom spaces. In 2015, Park University initiated a renovation to return it to its original roots as a state-of-the-art library and academic commons. The design concept celebrates the historic aspects of the building, while inserting fresh uses and a modern feel to the spaces. The primary design drivers pivot on the notion that the new Norrington Center is not a 20th century library stacked with books and dust, but a 21st century student center filled with learning activities of all types, from individual study, one-on-one tutoring, group work and technologically advanced classroom learning. As Park University had hoped, the Norrington Center has quickly become an asset to students and faculty, providing a welcoming space for gathering, learning, and celebrating with Pirate pride.

Congratulations to our interior design team and our clients who allowed us the pleasure of creating these spaces for your organizations. Successful projects are only achieved through strong relationships across all team members and these awards belong to all of you.

Photos of Boulevard, The Creamery and Norrington Center by Michael Robinson. Photos of the Children’s Center provided by JE Dunn.


5 January, 2017 | Academic, Design, Recognition

UMKC + Helix Announce 2016 Bud Prize Scholarship Winners

header_image_bud_prizeThe UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning & Design teams up with Helix each fall semester for the Bud Prize – a design competition and scholarship grant awarded to students attending UMKC. The annual scholarship was created in honor of the late Bud Persons, who was a Senior Interior Architect with Helix when he unexpectedly passed away in 2002. The award recognizes the his vibrant life and work by promoting the study and knowledge of architecture and design.

This year, eleven second-year students were challenged to create a book store, cafe, gallery, owner’s residence and a guest apartment in an existing property at the corner of 39th and Mercier.

2016-jury-768x504Helix principal Trevor Hoiland, served on the jury this year, alongside:

  • Bill Bruning, The Bruning Company
  • Patricia O’Dell, Writer & UMKC Communication Coordinator
  • Jay Siebenmorgen, Kansas State University Dept. of Architecture  
  • Joy Swallow, UMKC Dept. of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design

The jury selected Calistro Reyes for the first place award; honorable mentions were awarded to Samantha Davis and Tayvia Navy.

bud-prize-projects_4“Calistro created a strong diagram that was developed into a very believable concept. There was consistent development throughout the project and he had complete drawings and a well-crafted model. His presentation was very articulate and complete,” Hoiland said about the first place project.

Congratulations to all the UMKC students on their hard work and for carrying on Bud’s legacy through your efforts in design. To read more about the winning projects, check out UMKC’s blog post about this year’s Bud Prize.


21 November, 2016 | Academic, Awards, Design

Kansas City University Academic Center Receives “Honor Award” at AIA Kansas City’s 2016 Design Excellence Awards

As a firm that focuses on people-centered design, we measure our success on the impact a building has on the people it serves – how it functions and the experience it creates. At Helix, we are perpetually in search of these opportunities to go beyond the functional need of a space and create an exceptional environment and experience.

One of our projects that exemplifies this approach, the  Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences (KCU) Academic Center was recently recognized with an “Honor Award” in the Interior Architecture category at AIA Kansas City’s annual Design Excellence awards

HelixKCUMB-2_134_LR

The KCU Academic Center renovation transformed an underutilized, 1,500-seat auditorium into a state-of-the-art learning facility that features two auditoriums along with ancillary classrooms and study space. The design team developed the innovative concept of stacking the two lecture halls within the footprint of the existing auditorium. This resourceful solution saved nearly a third of what it might otherwise cost to build a new lecture facility and achieved LEED Silver Certification.

As Tim Saxe, KCU’s Director of Capital Projects shared, “The project deserves to be recognized not only for the exceptional space it creates for our students – both functionally and aesthetically – but also for the architect’s creative reuse of an underutilized building to address a critical campus need. The response from all stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive. A building that was once largely empty is now a hub of student activity, and our faculty has recognized it as one of the best spaces they have taught in.”

HelixKCUMB_6625_LR

The 2016 AIA Kansas City Design Award jury was comprised of nationally recognized designers, including Luis Bernardo, principal with Design Collective, Inc.; Luanne Greene, president of Ayers Saint Gross and Steve Ziger, partner with Ziger/Snead Architects.

Very few projects were as simple and pure as this one was. The notion of literally this found space they took one theatre and then created a classroom within that theatre made the building so much better, very sustainable idea… It literally doubled the square footage and the functions within the structure. The other thing that we appreciated was that given the new restraint in terms of what you had left in terms with volume and size was the use of color, they essentially just used one color, this color red and then a little bit of wood to add texture, everything else was white. And so we thought that was very powerful and a really nice way of bringing the strength of the idea through; nothing got lost. It was a very simple move and we appreciated it because of that.”

-Luis Bernardo, FAIA
, principal with Design Collective, Inc.

You can watch the full video of jury comments here:
kcu-video-screen-capture

The project also received a Merit Award for Interior Architecture at AIA Central States 2015 Design Excellence Awards.

Congratulations to our clients at Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences, our construction partners at McCownGordon Construction, our engineering partners and all of our Helix design team members. Successful projects are only achieved through strong relationships across all team members and these awards truly belong to all of you.


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