How nontraditional partnerships can benefit your next project

When the University of South Carolina at Beaufort (USCB) looked to form a new culinary program, Hilton Head Island had an ingenious idea.

Struggling with workforce issues for some time, Hilton Head approached USCB realizing it could help solve USCB’s problem. USCB brought the program to the island, and Hilton Head financed the project. They found an additional strategic partner in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which lacked meeting spaces.

As opposed to just serving the immediate client, USCB’s project will bring a new synergy to Hilton Head, offering a more frequenly used building with new special event spaces for the island and instructional spaces for multiple tenants. Even before its completion, the building is said to be where the island’s marathons begin and end.

Mark Olson, principal at Bialosky Cleveland, says this is just one example of how collaborating across the private and public sectors leads to solutions with a deeper impact. As an architect, he finds this true again and again, especially where the hospitality and culinary industry intersects with higher education and the greater community.

“It has to do with stepping outside the confines of a specific project’s focus and scope to develop a solution that responds not only to a singular program or client, but also the community as a whole,” Olson says. “To truly have an engaging and successful project, I encourage clients to imagine opportunities for their project beyond the confines of their immediate program.”

Smart Business spoke with Olson about such mutually-beneficial partnerships.

What are examples of synergy or value-add with respect to hospitality and culinary schools?
These partnerships often start when the space standards are being developed, but it goes far beyond that. Montana State University is developing a culinary program that will cross-pollinate with the agriculture program. There’s a common denominator through a food science laboratory that could be shared by both programs.

It is about looking past the limited scope of a program. A state-of-the-art kitchen lab that is only used twice a week may be the perfect candidate for a mutually-beneficial partnership to share in its use. When a new program is looked at broadly, the solution typically results in building less, and serving multiple entities.

The University of Denver’s culinary program creates win-win relationships between it, the business school and the community. Local refugees are trained by culinary students, who teach what they’re learning, which reinforces their studies.

In turn, disenfranchised refugees learn valuable job skills and also gain a stronger connection to the community. Within the university, culinary students engage with the business school to learn about pro formas or developing an event, while business students create business plans and financial prospectuses for projects like food fairs. Such collaborations prompt real-world applications for students.

How does this work in the private sector?
Projects that have public-private partnerships often work better, and might not have been possible any other way. Kent State University used a developer-based design-build model to realize new facilities for its campus with a state-approved private partnership. The typical way to finance these projects through state funding has become much harder to secure, costs more and takes longer.

How do you recommend business leaders develop this kind of thinking?
These connections can happen a number of ways, but it starts with the realization that there are opportunities outside their internal organizations and typical networks.

Just like business owners take advantage of historic or new market tax credits when looking to develop a project, there are community aspects and partnerships that could enhance their business. It does not need to be a physical partnership by sharing a space; it could be a business partnership.

No one works on an island — bringing diverse voices and talents together as a team, more often than not, leads to the most creative and efficient solutions.

Insights Architecture & Design is brought to you by Bialosky Cleveland

How the design of your space can impact the bottom line

Companies like Google, Pandora and Apple sport colorful, hip headquarters that capture who they are and what they do. Now more than ever, business owners of companies of all sizes and sectors are grappling with the changing workplace.

“The way we work is changing, heavily influenced by the freedom technology provides and younger generations that are looking for something else,” says Tracy Sciano Vajskop, associate principal and senior interior designer at Bialosky Cleveland.

“Giving employees choice and control of where to work empowers them and increases engagement. The key to balanced workplace design is a variety of spaces for group work with individual spaces for concentration and thought.”

Smart Business spoke with Sciano Vajskop about the impact your workplace can have on your employees and your brand.

What is programming? How can employers, real estate brokers and advisers benefit?
Programming is a process architects and interior designers use to assess a company’s space needs and goals. It involves data-gathering with surveys, interviews, visioning sessions, workshops and on-site observation.

These tools shed light on how the company and its departments operate, the relationship of internal teams and departments, current space standards, company culture, business goals and challenges.

Programming also addresses the challenges around shrinking, growing, merging and acquiring, which inherently alters a company’s DNA. It offers a framework for what the new space hopes to achieve, and a strategy for how real estate can support those goals.

For instance, if a company has trouble attracting fresh talent, it can be helpful to provide spaces to easily collaborate with co-workers, work cafés for staff to recharge, and quieter, private spaces for individual and small group work.

How can improved space impact companies?
A company’s real estate needs to support the work being done. When anticipating a move, renovation or limited facelift, if leaders self-examine their company culture, processes and protocols, they can be informed and strategic about decisions.

The first inclination may be new carpet, paint and minor reorganization, but if looked at as an opportunity for transformation, then looking beyond the cosmetic can be a turning point for your business.

When Bialosky moved to its new space, the benefits were apparent almost instantly. The old space had been appended over time and was full of divided hallways, locked doors and studios with different vibes and culture. Collaboration space was limited.

The new location is open and everyone sits together on one floor. Efficiency increased and communication among the team happens more naturally. With various ways to meet and gather, collaboration is easier and the culture has been unified.

When making a workplace change, how should the switch be managed?
It is critical to maintain communication with your team. With any change, the more you keep people informed, the easier the process will be. Identify the change agents within your company to help spread the message and support the change.

Give employees the opportunity to voice their opinion, even in the form of a five-question survey. Owners do not have to appease every request, but this can generate ideas, raise lesser known concerns and allows employees to have a voice.

With major changes, such as transitioning to open workstations or a ‘free address system’ where no one ‘owns’ their space, make the business case for change. Explain how it will help processes, efficiencies and ultimately profitability.

What else would you tell those considering changes to their workspace?
No matter the size of the project, you can never start this process too early. Even if your move is a few years away, analyze and set goals upfront. Then, when it is time to look for space and put pen to paper, you already know your needs.

We spend more time awake at work than at home. Working in a space that is visually intriguing, comfortable, functional and reflective of the company’s brand/values contributes to employee engagement. The power of a physical environment influences employee happiness, the ability to attract and retain top talent, and earn new clients.

Insights Architecture & Design is brought to you by Bialosky Cleveland