Collaborative Workspace Design

What is the correlation between providing the appropriate percentage of collaborative workspaces to the effectiveness and well-being of a workplace environment?

I sit in a corner of an open office environment with natural light surrounding me on all sides. My project designer is situated about five feet away from me, only separated by a low partition but often times, she, a millennial, wants the separation between us to dissipate. I know she would gladly squeeze into what little counter space I have left to enhance our connections of working together. This demonstrates her willingness to give up her “I” space to create “we” space.

Collaborative workspaces should not merely be defined as open area work stations but as a gathering place to initiate creativeness, engaging with people on a one-on-one basis, and fostering meaningful communications. Some diverse forms of collaborative environments may include:

  • Soft seating groups for informal interactions, could also function as a no technology zone (people express themselves more freely when they feel comfortable).
  • Social areas where integration of technology provides real time information and the ability to remote access in (natural progressions of being flexible and opening up communications): indoor/outdoor spaces, staff break rooms and various types of video conferencing to join the interactions.
  • Develop pods of locations of varying adjustable chairs and tables.
  • Provide benching style workstations for customization of personal space.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage a company should calculate for collaborative workspaces, whether it’s new construction or an interior renovation. As each firm varies from size to the nature of their business, it is best to consider the following when developing the program:

  • Think of collaborative workspaces as intimate spaces to foster and develop innovation
  • Promote “we” spaces
  • Evaluate the percentage of Millennials, as they will drive and initiate the evolution of the workplace

Change is not easy to embrace, but a better way of living in the workplace is, and any initiative to incorporate intimate space will have long lasting results in the overall effectiveness and wellness of the workplace.


Chung Gobell is the Director of Interior Design at Heath Design Group, Inc.

Lighting Design & Perception

As architects an4215_78395969420_5693135_nd designers, we are tasked with creating functional spaces.  The primary focus is on the tangible, built form of walls, floors, and enclosures.  This is a necessary beginning, but much more can be incorporated into the design of the space.  Lighting is an important element in design, not only from a functional point of view, but also from an experiential perspective.  The same space can be perceived in many different ways, simply by using lighting to change the perception of the static built environment.

As a stage performer (and an architect), I have the opportunity to witness the affects of various lighting techniques in the theater.  The dramatic changes that can be made to a simple stage space using different colors, different focus, and different amounts of light can be a source of inspiration for the way we light our everyday spaces.

The use of “luminous ceilings” and the high level of general lighting that has been prevalent in office design can have a numbing, uninspiring effect on the users of the space.  Simply providing some variety, such as the use of lower ambient lighting combined with task lighting at work spaces and accent lighting in the common areas, can help make the space more interesting and keep users energized.

The combination of new energy use codes and new types of light sources has given architects a wider variety of options to use in lighting spaces.  Smaller, more efficient luminaires combined with new fixture designs to house them provide a better quality of light in the space, as well as visual interest in the lighting instruments themselves. The ability to precisely control the output of light sources and to change the intensity and color provides the opportunity to create stage-set lighting effects in the everyday world.  Putting the right amount of light in the right location also helps to make spaces more functional as a result of bringing focus to the area desired without distraction from surrounding areas. For example, using special highlighting in a museum gallery to accent a particular exhibit helps to make it a destination as visitors are approaching the space through a background lit corridor.  Lighting controls can also aid in varying the lighting schemes, as it is possible to create and store different scenes , making it easier to adjust the entire lighting palette, much as it is done in the theater.


James Knost is an Architect at Heath Design Group, Inc.  James is also an avid runner and a long time stage performer.

Heath Design Group Awarded Remington Row Interiors Project

Heath Design Group has been selected as the Interior Designer for Remington Row in northern Baltimore.  Heath will team with Hord Coplan Macht to provide interior design services for the lobby, leasing office and building common amenity areas.  Heath Design Group will also be responsible for the selection and specification of all freestanding furniture, accessories, artwork and window treatments.

Remington Row is Seawall Development’s latest mixed use project featuring 15,000 square feet of retail space, 108 apartments and 30,000 square feet of office space in Phase I.  The project is being designed for LEED Silver certification.


Heath Design Group Hires New Project Designers

Design TeamAlan Kirkwood and Dwayne Lawrence join the firm to assist with the design of numerous restaurants and cafes throughout Maryland, DC and Virginia.  Alan and Dwayne will also assist with base building drawings for Westfield’s Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland.  Alan holds a Master’s in Architecture from Southern Illinois University.  Dwayne is a graduate of Howard University with a Bachelor’s of Architecture.

Amanda Bomberger will be working with the interior design team on a variety of projects including senior living, multifamily, high end healthcare and corporate office interiors.  Amanda is a graduate of High Point University – a CIDA-accredited interior design university in High Point, North Carolina.

Jennifer Hensel will be focusing on corporate office, healthcare and new construction projects at Heath Design Group.  Jennifer has a background in both interior design and architecture with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Interior Design from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and a Master’s in Architecture from the University of Houston.


Heath Design Group Honored With Three Awards At NAIOP-MD Awards Of Excellence Gala

Heath Design Group IMG_0928_2-225x300was the recipient of three awards at NAIOP-Maryland’s 2014 Awards of Excellence Gala.

Heath Design Group brought home an award in the “Best Industrial Rehab” category for the design of MEC² new offices & warehouse in Catonsville, Maryland. This 42,000 square foot vacant warehouse building (which was once utilized as a Pepsi Bottling Facility) was renovated to include offices, an indoor athletic training center and warehouse space.

The PromptCare in Perry Hall, Maryland was the winner of the “Best Interior Medical” award. Heath Design Group worked closely with the client on this project to create design standards which were representative of the MedStar brand. The final design of the center presents a soothing, yet elegant feel, recognizing that the nature of the business requires durable and easily cleanable finishes.

Finally, Heath Design Group was presented with the “Service Provider of the Year” award which is given to an individual or company that has consistently provided a high-level of service to the commercial real estate industry.

“We are extremely honored to be the recipient of three distinct awards in one evening” explained Brian Laug, Principal of Heath Design Group. “This is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our entire team and we are proud that our commitment to quality design is being recognized in such a public forum.”

Chung Gobell Joins Heath Design Group as Senior Interior Designer

SPSHeath Design Group, a full-service architecture, interior architecture and interior design firm in Baltimore, has selected Chung Gobell as Senior Interior Designer.

Gobell started her career as a design intern for Heath Design Group in 1997 after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She then went on to work for both BSA+A and CSD Architects. For the past eight years, Gobell has been working on her own and collaborating with firms such as Marks, Thomas Architects, Hord Coplan Macht, and of course, Heath Design Group.

With over 15 years of experience, Gobell has been instrumental in the success of numerous projects in the Baltimore region; including the renovation ofTessco Technologies corporate headquarters in Timonium, Maryland and the new McHenry Row development in South Baltimore.

“Chung is recognized throughout the industry as an incredibly talented and creative designer,” explained Brian Laug, Principal of Heath Design Group. “Chung’s diverse background, her body of work and her ability to actively listen to a client’s needs will bring value and innovation to our future projects.”

Heath Design Group provides architecture and interior design solutions for the corporate office,retail, healthcare & senior living markets. The firm handles pre-design, design and project implementation assignments throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. For additional information, please visit

Are You “Wimpy” When it Comes to ADA Compliance?

Wellington Wimpy was a character in the long running comic strip Popeye. For those of us old enough to remember the Popeye cartoons, you will recall that Wimpy, as he was known, was famous for the line “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” For some commercial building owners, this phrase may apply to them relating to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance in their buildings.

For the uninitiated or new building owners who may not fully understand what the ADA is, here is some background.  President George H. W. Bush signed the legislation in 1990 designating it “the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities.”  The 1991 ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) set the standard for what makes a facility accessible and the law became effective in 1992.  The ADAAG requires businesses to remove architectural barriers in existing buildings and to ensure that new construction and alterations are built to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

What does that mean to you as a business owner?  Immediately upon implementation of the ADA in 1992, all business facilities (common areas and tenant spaces) were required to remove architectural barriers as soon as it became “readily achievable” to do so.  Readily achievable is defined as “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.”  Unfortunately, what is considered “easily accomplishable” is not specifically defined, but parameters have been set over time by federal court rulings.  Because of the ambiguity in the law initially, many business owners decided to wait.  They thought it was enough to provide an alternate solution (such as providing curbside assistance or directing people to a secondary entrance) or they waited until a major renovation was necessary.  Unfortunately, neither approach could stop someone from filing a lawsuit which could become much more expensive than fixing the problem in the first place.  Taking a proactive approach and addressing what you can as soon as you can, will save you money in the long run rather than gambling on a lawsuit.

The courts have provided guidance by setting priorities for readily achievable barrier removal – starting with the path of travel from parking lots & public sidewalks to building entrances, then moving on to restroom & water fountain accessibility, and so on as you make your way through the facility.

The ADAAG, which is the basis the courts use to determine compliance with the law, provides text with diagrams showing its intent.  Many people familiar with the ADAAG consider it to be similar to a building code.  It is very important to note that the ADAAG is NOT a code.  Building codes are constantly evolving with revisions that are published on three year cycles.  Unlike building codes, the ADAAG remained unchanged from 1992 until 2010 when the U.S. Department of Justice adopted new standards.  Since the adoption of the ADA, many of the building code organizations, recognizing the challenges of enforcing standards that they had no control over, incorporated accessibility criteria into their documents that could be enforced.  Consequently, the 2010 ADAAG sought to harmonize the standards with the building codes and other industry guidelines.  However, the 2010 ADAAG is still NOT a code and can only be enforced through the federal court system by federal judges.

It is also important to note that “grandfather provisions” typically found in building codes do not apply to ADA compliance for businesses or building owners.  All buildings are required to be ADA compliant; however, a “safe harbor” does exist for buildings that currently comply with the 1991 ADAAG.  All elements that are currently in compliance with the 1991 standards are still considered compliant even if they do not meet the 2010 standards.

However, there are circumstances where this may not be true.  If you plan on making modifications to primary function areas within the building, you must also consider the path of travel to those areas.  If the path of travel was compliant with the 1991 ADAAG, but is not in compliance with the 2010 version, you must upgrade those areas as well.

These days it is easy to comply with the ADA if you are building a new facility.  It becomes more complicated when the building predates the issuance of the ADAAG.  For buildings that predate 2010, it is a good idea to have a full evaluation of ADA compliance.  The evaluation should identify compliance with each version of ADAAG and contain a plan to remedy non-compliance issues.

The bottom line is that ADA compliance can be very complicated in a single use facility.  But it gets even more complicated when you introduce multiple tenants or mixed uses into a facility.  Well intentioned modifications made by businesses or building owners without the guidance of professionals who work with the guidelines regularly can come back to bite you.  Just like the bite that Wimpy takes from the burger he promised to pay for next Tuesday.  Hoping to put off expenses for alterations to business facilities in the hope that you will never be sued can make that hamburger very expensive and hard to swallow!


Don Kemp Jr. is a Senior Architect at Heath Design Group, Inc. and serves on the Board of Directors at Mount Saint Joseph. Don is also a LEED Accredited Professional.

Heath Design Mall Renovation Design Build Project

Lakeforest Mall today announced it is implementing a $1.2 million renovation plan to improve the overall aesthetic and functionality of the interior areas of the mall. Improvements include a complete reconfiguration of Center Court, a new and improved children’s play area, and new furniture for the Cafés in the Forest Food Court.

“This investment speaks volumes to our continued commitment to enhancing the shopping and dining experience at Lakeforest Mall and we are confident the end result will be very appealing to our customers and the greater community. The renovations will allow us to expand our existing events, add additional community events, enhance the food court experience and provide a dedicated area for families to enjoy the new play area,” said Susan Davis, Marketing Director, Lakeforest Mall.

Construction is commencing on the Center Court area in August and includes removing the original seating and fountains to level the entire area. The new 5,245 SF one-level space will be ideally suited to host popular community events such as the Lunar New Year Celebration, Summer Camp Expo, and holiday promotions. The Center Court elevator will also be modernized to more efficiently transport shoppers between the upper and lower levels of the mall. The Center Court renovation is being designed and managed by Heath Design Group of Baltimore, MD and is expected to be completed by early November.

The old children’s play area located in Center Court was removed and a brand new play area, Adventure In The Forest, was created in the courtyard area near JCPenney. The new location allows the mall to keep the play area open during events in Center Court, a benefit that previously was not possible. The new play area opened on July 30th and features an Oak tree, jeep, helicopter and canoe among a Maryland woodland backdrop of Black-eyed Susan flowers, terrapin turtle and a Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly. The concept is a combination of transportation pieces
interspersed with a Maryland theme, and includes built-in seating and cubbies for shoes.

In addition to the new play area, the 365-seat Cafés in the Forest Food Court recently received new furniture including larger tables and complementary styled seating to create a refreshed and inviting environment.

These renovations are all part of a comprehensive plan to reposition Lakeforest Mall as the preferred destination in the community for shopping and dining. In 2013, Lakeforest Mall launched a new kids club, Adventure Kids, and welcomed several new tenants including national retailer rue21, local chocolatier SPAGnVOLA, and J.Marie, a new full service restaurant featuring American Cajun Creole cuisine that is scheduled to open in late August.Lakeforest Mall_Updated

Silver Tsunami – A Wave of Design Challenges

There were 17 earthquakes in Oklahoma this past month. SEVENTEEN in 31 DAYS. Do the math on that one! This is an ominous expression of Mother Nature’s voice, and analogous to what we will face in our population tipping point in our near future. The Elder Earthquake or The Silver Tsunami… either disaster, is our environment prepared?

An estimated one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. The aging of nearly 77 million baby boomers will have an impact on all aspects of business, including health care, finance, real estate, education and the workforce. This is the Silver Tsunami. Twenty years from now, those aged 60 and older will account for 25% of Maryland’s population. What will the impact be on our communities? How will the paths that we navigate every day need to change to serve the vast numbers of our aging population? What will the demands be on the public built environment? What will the impact be on our senior living communities?

Not all of these questions can be easily answered today, but they will urge an evolution of change in our everyday world. From a built environment perspective, public environments will need to be more supportive of an aging population that is eager to stay involved with the local community. Creating walkable communities with easy and safe access to public transportation is a good start. General design for pedestrian navigation might be reconsidered – currently crosswalks at stoplights are designed to .6 meters/second, however the natural walking cadence for someone over the age of 87 is not nearly that fast. Additionally, access to public transportation requires stamina beyond an elder’s ability and needs to be convenient – will transportation systems bend or will specialized mobility transport need to be increased?

The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) advocates designing “complete streets” which are safe and comfortable for everyone (whether travelling by foot, bike or car). The concept includes wider sidewalks, bus stops with shelter benches and well maintained crosswalks. Other activists propose repurposing vacant big box stores into senior community centers combined with children’s programs to encourage multi-generational interaction and activity.

While the majority of seniors today prefer to “age in place” and move to long term care facilities only when necessary, senior living communities which encourage an active, engaged lifestyle are still important. Creating intimate living spaces, decentralized staff work areas and numerous amenities (such as fitness & theater rooms and dining areas that are less like dining halls and more like your local neighborhood restaurant) is key. Long corridors of rooms for long term care is a design of the past, replaced by small homelike settings with rooms radiating off of central activity areas for social gathering and dining.

Regarding design to meet ADA in both our intimate interior environments and public spaces, there may be good reason to make adjustments to meet the increase in this aging population – 25% of the population 65+ will be added to the general population already needing accommodations. Will there be an increase in the number of facilities needed to support more elders in an accessible manner? For instance, the number of ADA toilet rooms may need to proportionately increase to maintain pace with the aging population.

These are all issues our design professionals will have to address, whether it’s multipurpose rooms for social events in senior living communities or more appropriately timed crosswalks at stoplights. If you have an opportunity to observe an elder navigating their world, pay attention – their obstacles may very well be what you will have to advocate to correct to support the wave of seniors on their path to a safe and healthy third age.