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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 with organizational and facility performance. Every month, we’ll be exploring topics and issues affecting how we heal, learn, work, research, play, and pray.

Join us on this conversational journey!

Students and a teacher walk toward a classroom entry that features an abstract hawk and sunset themed wall mural

Once you start seeing graphic design work in the spaces around you, you won’t be able to unsee it. Window films to wall coverings, acrylic panels, signage, lettering, wayfinding messages…the list goes on.

Click here to read a summary of the episode.

BWBR student interns celebrate the start of summer at CEO Stephanie McDaniel's house.

Once you start seeing graphic design work in the spaces around you, you won’t be able to unsee it. Window films to wall coverings, acrylic panels, signage, lettering, wayfinding messages…the list goes on.

Click here to read a summary of the episode.

An exterior rendering showing the new Cascade Medical Center facility from the east.

Critical Access Hospitals, tasked with providing vital hospital services to their rural populations, face unique challenges while serving their sprawling communities within the confines of budget, space, and oftentimes aging facilities. Strategic healthcare design can be a secret weapon in enhancing patient outcomes and staff wellbeing within these limitations.

Click here to read a summary of the episode.

People work together on design concepts in BWBR's Saint Paul office space.

You’ve heard the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the broth.” Do too many stakeholders in the planning room spoil the design? That depends on how you approach the challenge.

Click here to read a summary of the episode.

People utilize the community space in the Maple Lane facility.

By creating an environment that promotes safety and flexibility, putting appropriate levels of control back into the patient’s hands, mental health care facilities can help foster healing and recovery. Intentional design can make a real difference in the lives of people in treatment for mental illness and encourage positive outcomes after discharge.

Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Front head-on view of the new Waukesha City Hall.

Designers bridge very different worlds — creative, technical, and consultative — and there can be an air of mystery about the process and the various roles within it. Each navigates a combination of client-facing tasks, collaboration with design teams, and behind-the-scenes work on functionality and regulatory requirements.

Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Avera Merrill Pioneer Community Hospital Replacement Critical Access Hospital

There are different types of Critical Access Hospitals, each with their own unique needs based on their capabilities, requirements, locations, and the communities they serve. It takes a lot of ingenuity and partnership to address these unique challenges and opportunities, and BWBR has a long history of doing just that. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Open seating for dining and access to the meditation space, surrounded by indoor plants.

The job of an interior designer is to consider the unique needs, priorities, and preferences of an individual client, and reconcile those with budgets, building codes, supply chain availability, material durability, space restrictions, environmental factors, the architecture team, and about a million other considerations. They might make it seem effortless, with seamless results, but there’s a huge volume of practice and effort put in behind the scenes. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Surgeons work inside the robotic OR in the MMC Ashland Surgery Center. A surgery robot is stored inside a small "garage" on the side of the room

When you think about healthcare, you might think about doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who work tirelessly to save and improve lives. You also might think about all the equipment involved — MRI and X-ray machines, CAT scanners, high-tech hospital beds, heart monitors, etc. But what about how it all fits together and flows in space? What about how things look and feel when you’re a patient? That’s what healthcare planners think about every day. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

A graphite colored header image that says "2022 Scholarship Winners" with the BWBR logo.

We’re so excited to recognize the achievements and talent of the recipients of BWBR’s second annual equity scholarships. We had the chance to sit down with our recipients for a conversation about their backgrounds, their winning projects, and their vision for the future of architecture and design. It was a fascinating conversation that gives us even more hope for the future of our industry. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Interior view of the dry room with viewing windows for a tour route.

Interior design and architecture are often described as perfectly blending art, science, and technology. Part of the beauty of that blend is being able to craft spaces that look aesthetically pleasing and yet also have a lot going on behind the scenes, with every element meticulously planned to optimize efficiency and effectiveness. Perhaps nowhere else does that blend matter more than when designing spaces specifically for the science and technology sector. Chris Fischer and Kat Lauer talk about their work servicing BWBR’s science and technology clients. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

waukesha city hall

When you say the word “design” to 100 people, they’ll likely picture 100 different things. Design is deeply subjective and personal. Still, we can get a sense of what design looks like by asking the people who live it every day. For our most recent episode, we sat down with 13 BWBR team members to ask them: How did you know you wanted to be in the design field?  Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Wood framed pocket alcoves with comfortable leather couches and green walls create places of respite for people on the Mayo Clinic Rochester campus

High-quality design demands a unique blend of art and science — plus a constant, renewable source of inspiration. Without inspiration, the outcomes are rote, derivative, and dull. Put another way, how can you expect to create spaces that inspire without being inspired yourself? For our latest podcast we sat down with a diverse group of employees from BWBR and asked each of them the same question: Where do you find inspiration for your work? Click here to read a summary of the episode.

People collaborate and work in the Securian lounge with a fireplace

Hybrid and remote work are now the norm across a wide range of industries, and while the shift was a long time coming, it was clearly accelerated by the pandemic. But what happens when you work in an industry where place is everything? At BWBR, we literally design spaces for people to connect and collaborate. How do we reconcile that with our own work policies? BWBR project manager and architect Jarett Anderson hosted a conversation with senior project manager Mallory Furlong and principal and operations director Stefnee Trzpuc to talk about it. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

A group of 2022 BWBR student summer interns on a gray graphic background

There’s an assumption that summer internship programs are primarily for the benefit of the students who participate, but what about the amazing contributions they make to the organizations they’re working for? We recently sat down for a discussion with four of BWBR’s 2022 summer interns to learn more about their experiences and show some appreciation for everything they’ve done. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Project Manager Anna Pratt smiles as she holds a meeting with other Omaha employees and project team members

Project management is not a small job. A project manager should provide overall team leadership and coordination. Project managers are accountable for the success of their projects, and to that end, they plan the work, organize the team, get ahead of issues, and serve as the primary contact for clients. To more fully explore the impact of project management on a design or build, as well as dive into what makes project management at BWBR unique, we assembled a team of in-house pros — Andrea Cecelia, Jarett AndersonAnna Prattand Charles Orton — for an informal conversation about their work and what makes great project management so rewarding. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Break the bias. Women's international day 8th march. Group of people with different skin color cross their arms in protest. Women's Movement against discrimination, stereotypes. Horizontal banner.

The close of Women’s History Month – as with any designated time period to honor a specific community – is bittersweet. On one hand, we’ve just been immersed in myriad, under-told stories highlighting people and causes that more than deserve time in the spotlight. On the other hand, the close of the designated time means, typically, that things go right back to “normal” – a normal, that is, that continues the imbalance. We’re committed to continuing to tell stories and continuing to spotlight inequities. BWBR President and CEO Stephanie McDaniel sat down with BWBR head of interior design Nan Langevin, current principal Terri Ulrick, and retired principal Katherine Leonidas. The mission: discuss the fields of architecture and design through the experiences of women – pioneers, really. What have we accomplished? What’s still missing? And what happens next? Click here to read a summary of the episode.

A creative illustration of green buildings overlooking clouds and various sustainable energy sources

While ESG has been a hot topic in Europe for quite some time, more and more business leaders are starting to tune in here in the United States. ESG, which stands for  “Environmental, Social, Governance,”  represents a lens that investors are using to examine business health and risk management as they make decisions about where to invest. Joining us to dig into this important topic are Kelly Worden from the US Green Building Council, and Phillipe Bernier, Vice President of Strategy, Operations, and Sustainability for JLL Canada. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

A colored map graphically showing a summary of the number and percentage of Buzzsprout listens for BWBR's Side of Design podcast in 2021.

Twenty episodes. One year.  That’s a lot of content. We’ve been incredibly privileged to have so many guests willing to be generous with their time and insights, and we packed everything we could into the first season of Side of Design. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

BWBR then and now

Two big milestones are quickly approaching for BWBR. After an incredible 35-year tenure, current president and CEO Pete Smith, FAIA will retire at the end of 2021, handing the reigns to Stephanie McDaniel, AIA, LEED AP just as the firm heads into its 100-year anniversary celebration. In this episode, Coral Digatono talks with Pete and Stephanie about the lessons in the company’s past as well as the opportunities yet to come. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

Inclusive restroom design in the Anytime Fitness corporate headquarters facility, including bright lighting and floor to ceiling enclosed restrooms.

Design plays a critical role in making people feel welcome and safe. From accessibility to gender inclusivity, design is about more than who can enter a space – it also sends a strong message about who is warmly invited to enter a space, just as they are. In this episode of Side of Design, BWBR Interior Designer Sophia Good speaks with special guest Dr. Kathryn Anthony, a national spokesperson on gender issues in design and the author of several books on inclusive design. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

The main gathering space and nurse station in the EmPATH unit, with color changing lights in the ceiling.

In this episode of Side of Design, we discuss the EmPATH (emergency psychiatric assessment, treatment, and healing) model of emergency health services with Ryan Johansen, AIA, and Dr. Lewis Zeidner, PhD. Together, the speakers define what it means to experience a mental health crisis, review the clinical and operational outcomes of EmPATH services, and suggest how we can continue to improve the patient experience. Click here to read a summary of the episode.

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.

A child following graphic footsteps to the Wolf Classroom.

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.