It has been 49 years since our first Earth Day in 1970.
Forty-nine years is quite a run. The passion and awareness ignited during those inaugural events in 1970 have driven significant positive change in our relationship with the natural environment. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and many will undoubtedly hoist up that number proudly.
This year, however, let’s focus on a different number: 11.
According to a report released in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we must halve our emissions by 2030 to avoid a future defined by catastrophic climate change. That deadline is just 11 years away.
CannonDesign knows we must bring critical focus in this short span of time. Nearly ten years ago we signed onto the AIA 2030 commitment. In it, we pledged that all new buildings, developments, and major renovations we design will be carbon neutral – requiring no fossil fuel or GHG-emitting energy for operations. Instead, we’d rely on clean energy to power our built environment.
We knew then this would be a massive challenge, but one worth striving toward. Like many decades-long plans, when our commitment was signed we had the benefit of time. Today, we do not – but we do now have a few resources almost as valuable.
Our firm and industry have made great strides in advocating for low carbon building solutions. In doing so, we’ve educated ourselves, learning how to best monitor our progress and promote our most important and innovative ideas.
Ten years ago, building energy use was quantifiable by a small percentage of engineers and an even smaller percentage of architects. Technology was available but was not widely used or known.
Today, thanks to our industry’s continued leadership through the American Institute of Architects, Architecture 2030, and with help from incredible partners in the software community, we have sophisticated tools that are both accessible and integrated into our workflows.
We are fast approaching the year 2030. While we have had many successes, the transition to carbon neutrality needs to accelerate significantly. Time is not on our side, but we can use that reality to motivate us.
Of course, Earth Day, environmental awareness, and sustainability are about more than just building energy consumption. We must also think about how we’ll take action related to embodied carbon, material health, and resilience among other issues key to the building industry. While more generally, plastic pollution, air/water quality, and forest protection loom larger than ever. There are many ways we can individually recognize Earth Day 2019.
Our planet faces rapid, perilous and unprecedented threats from climate change. It has become the greatest challenge of our time. We have what it takes to meet this challenge, but we will need courage, commitment and sincere urgency to help us achieve our 2030 goals.
Time may not be on our side. But, Earth Day is a chance to look around and recognize the millions of people who do stand with us. Around the world, companies, institutions, cities, states, and nations are stepping up their commitments and demanding better. We are lucky to work with some of these organizations as they clear paths for others to follow.
We all have an impact on this planet and therefore a chance to ensure that is a positive one. This is our hope, inspiration, and potential – that together we can honor the vision of those who launched Earth Day 49 years ago, and preserve this planet as we know it for the generations to follow.
The Micro City: A New Model for Workplace Design
“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.”
Close your eyes and imagine your favorite city. New York. Paris. Istanbul. These cities, or any great city, invite a stroll, inspire new ideas, and offer a romantic serendipity of experiences in art, music, and conversation. Loud, exciting, active streets and plazas are balanced with quiet parks, cafes, and libraries. Taste their food, meet new people, see their sites, feel the energy. Would you ever think of a healthcare workplace this way? For increased productivity, workplace wellness, and employee retention, you should.
We know the quality of the workplace can have an enormous effect on the health and happiness of employees. The power of brand and culture play an important part in this as well, but for the larger workplace stacked over many floors, brand can become repetitive and culture fragmented. Data shows that workers on different floors might as well be in a different building. To increase collaboration and communication, employers need to create offices that inspire movement and creativity. So why not think of the workplace as a city all its own?
Conceptual representation of how workplaces can find inspiration from destinations found in cities
Here are five design strategies borrowed from great cities that can create workplaces—whether healthcare spaces or commercial offices—that innovate and inspire.
Encourage Circulation and Movement
We know that in the modern workplace—even if you have a traditionally sedentary job like an accountant—you should be mobile. Walking is good for the mind and the metabolism. Not only is it incredibly unhealthy to stand or sit in one place all day, lack of motion is a productivity killer and a deterrent to good health.
City planning begins with streets and how people and goods move through the city. The experience navigating through the city defines what the city is. In a great city there are multiple pathways that lead to the same location, and each provides its own distinct experience.
The design of the micro-city workplace makes it easy to wander and work on different floors with different people in different settings. If the workplace doesn’t have good circulation, people will be less likely to collaborate and more susceptible to distraction. To enable movement, each floor of the workplace should have unique features and pathways easily connecting them. Larger openings linking floors spatially are essential.
When designing the new Brunswick Headquarters, a leader in the fitness, marine and billiards industries, our design team created extra-wide pathways of varying distances throughout the workplace. Walking meetings were encouraged and the design of the space itself oozed motion. Physical activity is promoted as the pathways connect “neighborhoods” and a wide array of collaborative spaces. The clearly defined pathways added the benefit of minimizing distraction by pulling circulation away from desks.
Build a Town Square and They Will Come
Every great city has town squares and plazas—open areas designed for large gatherings, festivals, and events typically surrounded by shops, restaurants and other places to congregate. Town squares are the very heart of the city.
We know great ideas happen and problems are solved more quickly when people work together. More so, research shows that productivity skyrockets when friends work on projects together compared to when they work with mere acquaintances. Although most workplaces offer a hub providing coffee and encouraging community, often, these places are used less than intended. Typically, this is the result of the lack of tools needed for meaningful collaboration through access to power and technology.
One way to create widely used destinations is to design a town square within the workplace with large and small open and enclosed meeting areas adjacent to each other. These town halls can often be several stories tall with a variety of welcoming spaces—think food, coffee, collaborative space. In these spaces, staff from different disciplines want to meet and spend time together—and based on my experience, the town square ends up being one of the greatest investments an organization can make.
Strategically placed coffee hubs line the town square in Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
In Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, large communal spaces organize the design; a three-story entrance plaza operates as a knuckle between the existing campus to the north and a new campus expansion to the west. The plaza leads to a town hall inside in the form of a four-story atrium with labs and workspaces intertwined and unassigned collaborative spaces for greater social integration. The circulation between labs and workplace operate like a gallery and collaboration zone. Within this town square environment, everyone will be aware of the work other teams are doing, and whenever something interesting happens or a celebration is planned, everyone will know where to go.
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Zoning for Variety and Choice
Cities are zoned with different areas set aside for different types of activities: commercial, retail, industrial, arts, and residential, for example. When people move from one area to another, they know where to find bustling streets, great restaurants and bars or quiet neighborhoods. People move based on what they want to do and experience; each zone has different characteristics for different activities. That’s the way workplaces should be.
The hobgoblin of workplace design is the open office. You cannot browse the web without seeing an article vilifying the open office and promoting the need for more privacy. The reality is that choice is essential to meeting the needs of a workforce with varying needs. People excel in different work settings and a one-size-fits-all approach to workplace design is ineffective. Many workers are exhilarated by energy and a social atmosphere and need only a pair of headphones to concentrate while others require absolute quiet and solitude to get work done. Well-planned workplace zones for energy or quiet (and the many other states in between) create a balanced work environment catered to work styles across the spectrum.
When we designed the new headquarters for CA Ventures, we designed it much like a collegiate campus with diagonal cuts across the environment that evoke the feeling of a campus quad while zoning the space into different functions for teaming and collaboration. Much like you’d find on a campus, we even included a green zone featuring a living wall that anchors both the reception area and main staff quad.
Let the Only Constant Be Change
If there’s one certain about cities, it’s change. Businesses recede and others emerge, restaurants open and close, homes are rebuilt, buildings are repurposed with new uses. The transformation of cities includes seasons and even the transition from day to night. They are living, breathing entities with tremendous variability, which keeps them fresh and exciting to those who call them home.
Likewise, the workplace should include variety and flexibility; studies show that creativity is increased with changes in environment. Successful workplaces inherently include floors with unique spatial and material palette experiences that offer choice to the mobile worker. Customizable lighting accentuating quiet mornings and busy middays to the casual collaboration in the early evening makes the workplace even more comfortable and effective. As cities change over time, adaptability to change is essential for the micro-city workplace. For example, shapeshifting spaces that easily transform from dedicated team rooms to quiet independent work areas allow for changes in workflow. Simpler table-based workstations allow teams to reconfigure their work settings based on mood and project needs. If something is not working, just change it.
Michigan Plaza Pop Up and Lounge
Be cosmopolitan: Mix people and purpose
Cities are at their best when people from different cultures and backgrounds mix, generating new ideas and experiences. A micro-city workplace can have the same benefits. For example, co-working spaces have become revolutionary because they give people a place to go that allows diverse talent and ideas to mix. Similarly, companies must recognize the potential of including related partners in their micro-city work environments.
Whether it be the addition of a software startup or an external marketing team, creating a culture of a comingled workplace will lessen the downside of silos and generate new ideas and experiences. Add to this mix a rotating pop-up strategy of new food or drink options, art installations, or even new fitness programs, and workplaces can present different perspectives and opportunities that motivate, stimulate, and enable productivity.
Just like great cities, the micro-city workplace creates places that are desired and even dreamt about. By pulling in ideas from city design, we can create bustling workplaces filled with spaces and strategies that make them connected, healthy, inspiring and productive.
Here’s a look at some of the sources that inspired this piece:
- “Delirious New York: a Retroactive Manifesto For Manhattan,” Rem Koolhaas, Monacelli Press, 1978
- “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs, Random House, 1961
- “Invisible Cities,” Italo Calvino; Translated by William Weaver, Secker and Warburg, 1974
- “The Image of the City,” Kevin Lynch, The MIT press, 1960
- “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” Sandy Pentland, Harvard Business Review, 2012
- “Cultural Borders and Mental Barriers: The Relationship Between Living Abroad and Creativity,” William W. Maddux, PhD, Adam D. Galinsky, PhD; Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 96, No. 5
- “The Organization and Architecture of Innovation,” Thomas Allen and Gunter Henn, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006
Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic, analytical and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Today is International Women’s Day — a day when we celebrate the achievements of women and focus the world’s attention on the need to challenge bias. The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter, which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world. Women have made significant strides asking for and creating better gender balance in the workplace and beyond, and we should all be proud of that. We’ve done this not by conforming, but by embracing and expressing what we are: female.
As I have been thinking about what #BalanceforBetter means to me, I’m reminded of a book I read recently called the “Athena Doctrine.” Written by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, the book gave me an alternative perspective on feminine traits and why these traits can help balance our leadership styles and make us more successful. So, to commemorate International Women’s Day, I want to explore this idea a little bit and hopefully leave all of you — men and women — with the inspiration to embrace your feminine side!
Enter the Athena Doctrine…
“Grace is when your kindness and your character are radiant through your actions.”
– Athena, Goddess of War
After noticing that many successful leaders in today’s modern world were leading differently than those in the past, Gerzema and D’Antonio hypothesized that people, in general, are placing more value on the feminine side of human nature than they ever have. Not the attributes that historically constitute gender, but rather the aspects of human behavior that are traditionally labeled as feminine like nurturing, supportive and expressive (and to be clear, these traits can be shared by women AND men).
To test this theory, they surveyed over 65,000 people from 13 countries. They asked a myriad of questions, and in the end, their findings showed that two-thirds of people (66%) felt the world would be a better place if men thought more like women (men, I am only the messenger here, although I did make the statement bold….). And interestingly, this perspective was shared regardless of sex, age, income or nation; 63% of men felt this way!
My interest was piqued. Like many women, I’ve had moments in my career where I’ve tried to emulate the masculine traits traditionally associated with some successful male leaders: dominance, assertiveness, control and the other behaviors that come to mind when you hear the phrase “man up!” But, when I reflect and consider how I have found my own success, it is largely defined by when I fully embraced the feminine characteristics that come naturally to me. This is when I became my authentic self.
As part of the survey, respondents were asked to classify 125 characteristic traits as either masculine, feminine or neither. Here’s how participants responded.
And when survey respondents were asked to identify the top ten qualities they want in the ideal modern leader, eight were characteristics traditionally considered feminine. My mom was right all these years!
This data tells us what most of us already know: the world is changing in front of our eyes, and today’s global society is increasingly social, interdependent, personal and transparent. And in this world, the values and traits most often associated with women are ascending. Here’s a few of the classically feminine traits that really resonate with me, as well as some thoughts on ways to make them work for you and provide #BalanceforBetter in your leadership styles:
- Connectedness – Build and maintain meaningful networks. Work on your network every day. Meet the person sitting next to you everywhere you go and listen to them, for real.
- Humility – Approach life and relationships through listening, learning from others, and sharing the credit when credit is due, ALWAYS, no exceptions.
- Candor – Speak with your colleagues openly and honestly and without degradation. They deserve straight talk along with compassion.
- Patience – Recognize that sometimes the right solutions emerge slowly and keep at it until the right one is discovered.
- Empathy – Be sensitive to the position of others and endeavor to understand it. This understanding will breed better ideas and ultimately better decisions.
- Trustworthiness – Build a track record of doing what you promise. Strength in character will inspire confidence in yourself and your decisions along with the people who look to you for leadership.
- Openness – Be receptive to all ideas and all people. Again, this approach will help you make better decisions and gain respect from your colleagues. And who knows, with an open mind, the most unexpected things can happen.
- Flexibility – Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to change your mind; it is not a sign of weakness! Be prepared to shift directions and adapt. As you apply other traits like openness and empathy, you may find that pivoting is the best form of team building.
- Balance – Have a well-rounded sense of purpose. Believe in it. Share it.
- Vulnerability – Have the courage to be a human being behind the scenes and out in front. Being human is an amazing gift. We shouldn’t pretend to be anything else.
So, as you read this today on International Women’s Day, I hope you can find some inspiration to become better leaders, build stronger relationships, and leave the world a better place than we found it. You all have a #badass feminine side inside of you, go find her!
p.s. I also want to leave you with this quote from a woman who has always embraced her feminine side, Dolly Parton: “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”
Preach it Dolly.