Thoughts: Holabird Blog

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Blending Art and Science

Blending science and architectural design with conceptual graphics is challenging for a designer with a fine arts background. Over the last thirteen years, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with one of our most valued clients in Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory or simply, Fermilab.  Ranging from renderings, to signage, to even hardhat labels, the pieces required are always changing and require varied design skills. 

The team working on Fermilab projects is comprised of architects, engineers, science experts, and graphic designers, who soon realized the individual projects were morphing into a larger and holistic plan of their campus.  Each project is given the same amount of thought and design in order to create a reflection of the campus itself.  Every building design, collaboration monument, land sculpture, master plan document, or poster presentation supports and reflects not only Fermilab, but our design team as well.  To be able to complete this, one must understand what makes Fermilab unique, thus enabling us to communicate with the ultimate client: the general public.

An inclusive process is key to integrating an artist with a scientific process. On a regular basis, I confer with our client team to discuss the information that needs to be conveyed. Everyone at the table understands and respects the role of others. Without having all of the scientists, engineers, and architects at the table, we would end up with a design that is not as comprehensive. Without a graphic designer at the table, the scientists may not understand how key elements such as color, font, and balance can reflect their core values.

Working together and respecting each other’s unique abilities has led to a great partnership and thoughtfully designed solutions.

Submitted by December Gladden

Sustainability: Is LEED Enough?

When explaining sustainability, we often use the definition created by the Brundtland Commission in 1987:

“Sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

Hmmmm, that’s nice, although a little esoteric.  What does it look like?

Recently at Holabird & Root, we’ve been exploring what this means to us as architects. We typically take a prescriptive path to sustainability, which includes a third party certification.  Our clients understand and request this type of approach, specifically Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification.  The LEED process includes counting points on a checklist of predetermined sustainable elements focused on site selection, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design.  The owner, designer, and contractor must cooperate to achieve the sustainable goals. These goals are easy to understand and because LEED has been around for over 10 years, it has a proven track record.

For more on LEED, visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site:

Historically, Holabird & Root has taken a sustainable approach to design, so our transition to meet LEED requirements was simple. We actually backed into our first LEED project.  At the conclusion of the design phase, the owner asked us what it would take to meet the LEED Certified level.  After comparing our design to the LEED checklist, we were already there.  Since that time, we have completed 10 buildings that have received LEED certification, covering the entire spectrum ― from Certified to Platinum.

Changing the world one building at a time

So, that’s where we are now, but where do we want to be?  We keep asking ourselves, what’s beyond LEED?  A better question might be:  How do we stay competitive in this ever-changing field?  Do we design towards net zero, creating buildings that generate zero net energy consumption and carbon emissions annually?  Should we develop a sustainability department to publish papers and a company journal? Or is it something else we have not yet conceived? 

For the time being, we are focused on educating our staff and monitoring the latest that LEED has to offer. We strive to provide our clients with the best services possible, while keeping sustainability concepts fresh in our designs and incorporating cutting-edge technologies.  Towards this end, we created a sustainability committee that meets weekly and provides quarterly updates to the staff focused on sustainable topics.  Our first meeting took place in February 2013 and was devoted to LEED 3.0.  Our presentation can be viewed here.

Some future topics we plan to cover include:

• Tools used to inform sustainable decision-making.
• How does LEED measure up?  Post-occupancy surveys of existing projects.
• Re-imagining LEED:  Brainstorming strategies to minimize our carbon footprint.

Submitted by Greg Marinelli, AIA, LEED AP


Last Fridays Allow Learning to Continue

Every month, Holabird & Root holds a Last Friday Seminar for all our staff as an opportunity for education, discussion, and fun. These events center around projects, ideas, or issues within the architectural and engineering world. 

For the Last Friday Seminar in January, Tom Palazzolo, a distinguished Chicago artist, presented and led a discussion regarding his own work. Palazzolo holds a Masters Degree from the Art Institute of Chicago and is best known for his short films and documentaries which have been featured at The Cannes film festival, The Chicago Art Institute Modern Wing, The Chicago Historical Society, Facets Multimedia in Chicago, The New York Film Festival, and The Robert Flaherty International Film Seminar in Boston. In addition, his films have led to one man shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.  For Palazzolo’s presentation at Holabird & Root, he screened several of his short films including one on the late photographer Vivian Maier. In addition, he presented slides of his paintings and photos, many of which highlight the City of Chicago and the beauty of things forgotten, bizarre, and humorous.

St.o6  photo

The Results Are In

An interesting article proves what Holabird & Root has known for some time now – creating connections between the inside and outside of a laboratory can enhance the overall student experience. The article, authored by David Van Wylen and Mary Walczak, provides data on the impact the St. Olaf College’s new Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences has had on students. Designed by Holabird & Root, the LEED Platinum certified Regents Hall is designed to create visual connections to spaces outside the laboratory, either interior or outdoor spaces.  The article includes the results of student surveys that indicate students in Regents Hall enjoy coming to the laboratory more, are better able to stay focused, and are less anxious to leave the laboratory at the end of the lab session.

Check out the article for more information.