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Let’s talk.

About performance. 

About the environment. 

About resilience.

About who we are and how we operate as hospitals, schools, workplaces, research centers, athletic facilities…


About all the spaces that help us live our lives.


With a Side of Design.

Side of Design is a design-thinking discussion for people obsessed about organizational and facility performance. Twice a month, we’ll be exploring topics and issues affecting how we heal, learn, work, research, play, and pray with those whose passion and expertise centers on the spaces that enable us to do all of that.

Join us on this conversational journey.

2021 BWBR Scholarship Blog Feature Image

In this episode, Michael Meehan, AIA, LEED AP, discusses the future of equitable and diverse design with the winners of BWBR’s first-annual equity scholarships: Allison Loth and Freeland Livingston. Each award is designed to support equity in the built environment by providing a $1,000 prize to a student of architecture, interior design, or graphic design. Applicants submitted both a personal statement and a sample design project, resulting in a truly impressive caliber of submissions for these inaugural awards. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Stefnee Trzpuc and a design research student intern discuss a collaborative research paper.

Design can be a powerful tool to create change and impact organizations and communities. However, it is important that we are striving to understand through research exactly how the design of the built environment impacts our everyday lives. BWBR recognizes the value of research in practice and seeks research collaboration opportunities through academic and student partnerships, such as the University of Minnesota School of Architecture’s Research Consortium and the Masters of Science and Research Practices program (MSRP program). In this episode, BWBR Principal and Design Researcher Stefnee Trzpuc, CID, EDAC, LEED AP, connects with MSRP Program Director Professor Malini Srivastava, AIA, DDes (School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota), as well as former MSRP student Lucas Glissendorf (BWBR). Click here to read a summary of the episode.

BWBR+ Advisory Services Logo

Architects are often asked to do more than just design buildings, with clients turning to them for support outside of traditional project scopes and timelines. To meet this need, BWBR created BWBR+, a collection of services focused on human performance and building performance that bridges the gap between architecture and traditional business consulting. Coral Digatono takes a deeper dive into BWBR+ Advisory Services with BWBR’s Brandon King, AIA, MBA and Jason Nordling, AIA. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

BWBR+ Advisory Services Logo

Coral Digatono discusses Advisory Services with BWBR’s Brandon King, AIA, MBA. Together they take a high level look at a few Advisory Service offerings and why they are important to building owners. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Work cafe with comfortable seating options and refreshment area.

During part two of the Side of Design podcast conversation with Jennifer Stukenberg, NCIDQ, LEED AP, WELL AP, she shared more about what to expect with the hybrid work model. But first, she imparted some insights on how the remote environment has helped employees and businesses thrive in some areas while other aspects of traditional work have taken a hit. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Securian Financial Asset Management Office Renovation

In part one of this two part series, Jennifer Stukenberg, NCIDQ, LEED AP, WELL AP, joins Coral Digatono to discuss how to successfully plan and execute the return to work with a hybrid work model. This episode also considers pitfalls to avoid and how to prepare for an equitable environment. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Students in corridor collaboration spaces outside of conference room.

Egress challenges and fire safety codes are common issues that can have a big impact on architectural project design and success, whether new construction or renovation. The existing components of a building used for one purpose might simply not be up to code for another. Telgian Engineering & Consulting’s April Musser, PE, CFPS, and BWBR’s Roger “Lars” Larson, AIA, discuss why egress and fire codes are so vital to a building’s safety, as well as solutions that performance-based code approaches can offer to make designs more flexible and valuable. In the end, a successful performance-based egress solution will strike a balance between safety and fidelity within an architectural design. Click here to read a summary of the episode.


Since 2013, Hanna Kuehl, Steve Berg, and the BWBR team have addressed a specific design challenge: to reimagine the special education environment and what it means for students, families, and staff. Based on research, case studies, and evidence-based reports, BWBR uncovered the elements of an ideal special education environment, which provided an opportunity to help set a new design standard for this student population’s unique learning needs. By utilizing simple, yet effective, design strategies, the team reduced a large amount of environmental stimuli and helped to improve the daily lives and educational growth of students in these specialized settings. As students have attested to over the years, the therapeutic learning environment is about more than adaptability and safety — it’s about belonging. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

American flag for Memorial Day

This Memorial Day Holiday we take time to honor our military service members who’ve made the greatest sacrifice in service to our country and we celebrate by inviting our staff to share with you, some thoughts and traditions. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Interior classroom entry with colorful animal wall mural to welcome young children.

On Minneapolis’s Lake Street, there is a vibrant and eclectic mix of locally owned businesses and diverse people. It’s also a neighborhood that faces challenges, often defined by housing for those with low incomes, absentee landlords, and lack of investment. Then last year, the area was literally set on fire in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Only a mile and a half away, though, a new beacon of hope is rising on the corner of Bloomington Avenue and Lake Street: The Family Partnership’s new social services headquarters building. Molly Greenman, President and CEO of The Family Partnership, gives a tour of the new facility and opens the doors to how community members can find help, treatment, and hope for the future. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

The past two decades, there has been a real focus on sustainability aimed at reducing our impact on the environment and improving our air and water quality. However, like all systems in America, this focus has often times overlooked how equitable the movement is. The past year has demonstrated why this critique is important. In those communities where pollution is so prevalent and the urban canopy sparse, COVID-19 infection rates are 40 percent higher than in other communities and mortality rates are 19 percent higher. Even before the pandemic, urban and rural zip codes bounded by traffic corridors and located near industrial areas exhibited the lowest life expectancies by several years. In this episode, BWBR’s James Nutt and Sara Goenner Curlee join the U.S. Green Building Council’s Stephanie Leonard to discuss sustainability through the lens of equity and the role design can play in rectifying these inequities in livability and health. Click here to read a summary of the episode.


April 22 is the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. When the day was created, the global economy was releasing just short of 15 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. In 2019, that figure was north of 35 billion metric tons. Buildings generate 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and by 2060, it’s predicted we’ll add another 2.5 trillion square feet of building stock to accommodate a population of 10 billion people. All of this at a time when 2020 tied 2016 as the warmest year on modern record. There’s an imperative for us to raise our performance baselines and sustainability goals. Jesse Turck and Tom Hanley discuss that imperative and how the Framework for Design Excellence opens a path for raising those baselines and elevating communities through the built environment.  Click here to read a summary of the episode.

A staff break area with floor to ceiling windows and shared amenities.

It goes without saying the past year has been traumatic, whether we’ve known someone die from COVID-19 or not.  For those who work in healthcare, the pandemic has pushed many of them to the point of exhaustion, both mentally and physically. It is reflected in the rising rates of suicide, depression, and anxiety that staff report they are experiencing. In this episode, we address the question, how can we do better supporting the resiliency of care staff to help individuals avoid feelings of depression, exhaustion, and, in some cases, isolation? Devan Swiontkowski, a medical planner and health care designer, and Danielle Ostertag, a senior interior designer, discuss the issue of staff resiliency and how small steps can be large leaps to supporting those charged with taking care of us. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Securian Financial Human Resources HR Lobby Reception Renovation

For many organizations, this month marks a full year since they closed traditional offices in response to the pandemic.  While technological advances have always presented a looming promise of work-from-anywhere, the actual practice this past year has shown that we can be productive, we want the flexibility, but we also can feel isolated and lonely and drained from non-stop video calls and emails. As energy builds to re-open offices with rising rates of vaccinations, the question becomes, what should we come back to that works for people? BWBR’s Jennifer Stukenberg and Tina Fisher explore the opportunities in seeing work more as an ecosystem of support and empowerment that goes beyond the traditional office. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

UnityPoint Health - Meriter Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Program Expansion and Renovation

Mental health has been a vexing problem in America, for many reason but not the least of which has been the stigma surrounding it. The good news is there’s progress, but more than increasing access to treatment, there’s the challenge of providing the proper space for treatment. While efforts focus on making spaces safe from patients doing harm to themselves, only in the past few years has research shifted to look at how evidence-grounded stress-reducing features could possibly reduce incidents of aggression overall in psychiatric facilities. BWBR’s Scott Holmes and Melanie Baumhover spotlight this human-centered approach and how it’s changing the way we see mental health care. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Scenario Planning Overall with Key

Traditionally, a master planning process guided project developments, driven by both vision and an assumption that the future would reflect more of a normal operational environment. The pandemic upended any sort of normality, and it also showed where that traditional process failed to help organizations navigate through deviations from normal. Scenario Planning evolves that approach, looking at an organization’s operations through various lenses to create options that promote resiliency through various events. BWBR’s Sophia Skemp, Mike Boldenow, and David Voller explore Scenario Planning and its benefits.  Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Rarely in modern times has the United States faced such a massive disruption to our lives and routines. The past year has revealed massive gaps that we’ve often ignored to the way we work, learn, and access services for health and wellness. It’s challenging us to rethink how we structure our physical environments and policies that influence individual lives and organizational performance. BWBR’s Pete Smith, Nan Langevin, and Craig Peterson discuss the spectrum of opportunities this period presents. Click here to read a summary of the entire episode.

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