By Marc Margulies and Joe Finn

“Housing First” is a proven strategy in the nationwide fight to solve the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness. People are assisted to locate housing first, without preconditions around compliance, and then are engaged to address other issues in their lives once they have the stability of a home.

For “Housing First” to work, however, there must be a sufficient stock of housing for people with very low incomes. Though the causes of homelessness are myriad, one of the major propellants has been gentrification of low-cost housing and the virtual elimination of “flophouses” – places where those in need of shelter could stay inexpensively without long-term commitment.

While many individuals who are homeless long term may have disabling conditions such as mental health issues or substance use disorder, the overarching issue for all people experiencing homelessness is they do not have adequate financial resources to afford housing. It is almost impossible to provide support for them with stabilizing their lives if they do not have a safe, affordable and respectful place to live.

A Modern Successor to Triple-Deckers

Enter the concept of modular micro-housing units in the program that the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance (MHSA) calls “A Place to Live.” Working with a variety of agencies, most notably the South Middlesex Opportunity Council in Worcester, MHSA has advocated for the construction of buildings of 18 to24 units that are purpose-built for adults who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

The “A Place to Live” building looks much like traditional triple-deckers or the contextual architectural equivalent. These small, efficient buildings can fit onto vacant lots available throughout urban areas, allowing new residents to become reintegrated into their neighborhoods close to public transportation, near support services and convenient to shopping and education.

These micro-units, usually about 250 square feet, can be designed to meet all current code and accessibility requirements of the municipal, state and federal funding agencies. The best part for residents is the units are full-size studios with a kitchenette, private bathroom and sleeping space – the kind of spaces that people with lived experiences of homelessness say they prefer over old-style rooming houses. The buildings also contain spaces for private and group counseling, common laundry and bike storage facilities.

Comparative cost analysis of modular versus traditional construction clearly shows that for this type of project, the modular approach costs 30 percent less and takes half as much time to build.

Overcoming Hurdles to Construction

Modular micro-units are becoming more common elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world. Given the clear case for them, why haven’t we seen a proliferation of these micro-units around Massachusetts? There are several reasons that point to challenges to be overcome:

Zoning policies for multifamily residential buildings almost always require providing a large number of parking spaces, which drives up the cost and limits the use of available land for housing. As few of the target homeless residents have cars, and the sites are selected for their adjacency to public transportation, the parking requirement becomes an unnecessary burden.

Public funding agencies are challenged to approve non-traditional procurement processes. Collaboration with modular manufacturers is essential to these projects; each factory has its own technologies and systems that allow it to be most efficient. These partnerships with manufacturers need to be put in place early, often before funds are awarded. The old “Design-Bid-Build” approach is not the best way to take advantage of modern or innovative modular construction processes.

Purchasing land for the construction of housing for people who are homeless is fraught with challenges. The timeframe for securing an agreement to buy the land, applying for and receiving funding, obtaining neighborhood approval (or surviving neighborhood opposition), and finally closing on the purchase of the land often takes years. Few property owners want to sell their land to an agency that may or may not be able to close for several years. Clearly, we need a better way to identify and obtain ownership of appropriate sites than battling restrictive land-use barriers and a tight real estate development market.

Homelessness has become a national crisis, and we have a moral imperative to come up with solutions. Modular micro-units are one solution that meets this urgent need and makes economic sense. Let’s address the barriers in order to create such housing now. There is a place for everyone to participate and support the “A Place to Live” concept to help our most needy neighbors without housing.

Marc Margulies is a principal at architectural and interior design firm Margulies Perruzzi and Joe Finn is president and executive director of the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance.

This article was featured in Banker & Tradesman. 

By Janet Morra, AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Partner at Margulies Perruzzi

The shape of future office environments will be largely determined by three factors: the ability of company leaders to direct and manage change; the subsequent development of organization-wide policies concerning remote work, safety, and occupancy; and the financial implications of those policies on facility decisions.

A successful transition from the peak pandemic work-from-home scenario to a return-to-office scenario will require a spectrum of expertise and depend heavily on corporate agility and flexibility.

Margulies Perruzzi’s report, Volume 4: Post-COVID Workplace, presents four workplace models that corporate leaders can adapt to their own company’s unique blueprint. They are traditional, flexible, balanced, and lean, and range in 25% increments from 100% of the workforce returning to the office in the traditional model, to 25% in the lean model. Each model comes with its own financial and logistical considerations, especially if more space is needed to accommodate social distancing.

Long a staple in certain high-tech industries and made possible through advancements in digital technology, COVID-19 has pushed the hybrid work environment model to the mainstream. Now, as the world grapples with the omicron variant and new facts about its transmissibility to and by the vaccinated, Margulies Perruzzi’s Volume 5 Workplace Strategy Report: Embracing the Hybrid Workspace affirms the logic of transitioning from a traditional to hybrid model. A survey of 8,600 people across multiple business sectors revealed that 44% of workers plan on being in the office three days a week, and 25% plan on two days. Only 9% responded that they would return to a pre-pandemic office presence.

Corporate leaders are becoming more receptive to the idea that work environments must embrace change as a constant and evolve in response. Catalysts include an increase in workplace utilization rates and safety protocols; restoration of employee engagement and culture; continuation of remote work and subsequent management of a reduced in-person population; and an increased need for collaboration technology and training.

Article featured in Boston Real Estate Times.

By Daniel P. Perruzzi, Jr., AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Senior Partner at Margulies Perruzzi

Predicting the future in real estate is tricky in the best of times. The continuing uncertainty posed by the pandemic makes any prediction that much more difficult. However, we have learned a lot about how real estate and the real estate industry will respond, based on emerging trends.

Workspace

You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube, just like you cannot make everyone recommit to five days in the office any longer. For many industries, some tasks can be performed better in remote mode. Teamwork and higher quality collaboration tools will be the reasons for maintaining office space, but the hybrid model is here to stay. That does not mean the office goes away. On the contrary, companies will continue to assess their current workspace and upgrade it to meet the higher demand for voice/video calls and meetings that can integrate those who are remote with those present in the office.

Labs

According to a recent industry panel, there is a regional demand for six million square feet of new lab space. Even if that’s wrong by 50 percent, it is still a staggering number. Look for office-to-lab conversions to continue to pick up speed, especially amongst newer, but less fully occupied, office buildings.

GMP space, where the drugs and therapeutics are manufactured, is also at a premium. Because of their demand for services and high-bay space, these will compete for suburban space with industrial uses as that market looks to expand its “last-mile” portfolio.

Environmental Design

While we were all distracted by the pandemic, alarms have been raised on the accelerating deterioration of the environment. All of us in this industry have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future. Buildings account for nearly 70 percent of the emissions in urban centers. Boston is embarking on an ambitious plan to convert buildings to full electrification. Look for other cities and towns in the region to follow suit.

At the same time, a renewed emphasis on health and well-being will mean new challenges in building design.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The pandemic has exposed the economic and social inequities that afflict our society, including our industry. All the stakeholders in the real estate sector – contractors, engineers, architects, brokers, designers, project managers – have to reevaluate how they source staff, who they choose to work with, and how they procure products. The industry has already begun that effort and must continue in a positive direction. Real estate can provide tremendous, long-term economic opportunity. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure all sectors of our community can reap the benefits.

Will there be curveballs and unexpected challenges? Of course. Look no further than the current supply chain crisis and the impact it is having on construction costs. Very few saw that coming. Inflation also is a problem today that few predicted. If supply chain issues extend well into 2022 and if inflation does not abate soon, we could be in for an easing of this growth period.

Article featured in High Profile Monthly.

 

By Imran Khan, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal and Director of Science at Margulies Perruzzi

One of our clients recently asked which scientific processes must be performed in a lab versus what can be performed in office space. This question is a game changer when it comes to making space allocation decisions.

According to CBRE in their 2020 U.S. Life Sciences report, Boston / Cambridge, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego represent the country’s top three regions for life sciences clusters. Growth in this market sector has been steady for the past five years, but COVID-19 has pushed it to new heights. As a result, the demand for lab space has intensified concurrently with an increase in available office space, leading to a wave of office to lab conversions.

More recently in a July 27, 2021 article in the New York Times, more than 20% of the laboratory spaces being built within the top six U.S. markets are conversions from offices. It is a lucrative business trend for the commercial real estate industry, with rents for lab space up by 60% since Q1 2016, versus a 15% to 30% rise in office rents for the same period. In a report by Newmark, they cite new construction (ground-up and conversions) as getting even higher pricing and driving rental rates upward, with rent premiums on new space in mature life science markets being “20-40% above current asking rents.”

Laboratory environments are considerably more expensive to build, operate, and maintain. They require specialized air conditioning and exhaust systems, a higher level of energy use (lighting, plug loads, equipment), and robust finishes that can withstand chemical use and frequent aggressive cleaning. With the average tenant-improvement cost to create lab space roughly quadruple the cost of an office fit out, the ratio of lab to office space has cost consequences over the life of a lease.

As to the question of which processes could be performed in an office environment, there is no specific industry guide or code that answers it fully. In general, however, any activities that can be considered hazardous, require safety equipment, are regulated, or have environmental criteria above and beyond a standard office environment, should be performed in a lab to facilitate controlled conditions.

Most experiments, procedures, and commonly used equipment are easy for owners, designers, and specialty lab consultants to assign to a space type, thanks to well-established industry best practices and Environmental Health and Safety guidelines. Equipment manufacturers also reinforce the process by stipulating environmental and safety criteria and providing guidance on the use and operation of their products.

How a prospective tenant chooses to allocate its science space will have a profound effect on many factors that must be considered before signing a lease. Among them are site selection, building systems infrastructure, floor-to-ceiling heights, floor load capacity, space allocation, regulatory requirements, building codes, and local ordinances.

With the help of an architect and/or a lab planner, the tenant will gain a distinct advantage in finding a building that will truly meet their immediate scientific and future operational and budgetary needs, by spending time at the onset of a project, to analyze their current space use and consider moving appropriate science activities to less expensive office space.

MP Lab vs. Office Flow Chart

Article featured in High Profile Monthly.

By Monica Moreira Audette, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Partner and Senior Project Manager at Margulies Perruzzi

A lot more goes into renovating an older Class B building into a Class A than just adding a coffee bar or flat screen TV in the lobby. If it were that easy, all Class B building owners would upgrade. A big part of the decision to renovate a Class B building is the owner’s appetite for risk and how far they are willing to go to achieve a higher rate of return on their property.

It is not a decision any owner can make quickly. Owners will have to methodically weigh the pros and cons of trading the safety and stability of a Class B building for the cachet of Class A. The indicators are nearly endless – tenant demand, the economic forecast, sector growth, businesses that are expanding and/or contracting, emerging space trends (open floor plans, high-end amenities), and changing work styles that require more flexible space.

Office, industrial, retail, warehouse and biotech space have different conditions and variables that cannot be compared across the board. For instance, renovating warehouse space in one region makes sense to accommodate the demand from large retail tenants like Amazon that have specific needs, while in another market it would be a poor investment. The same goes for biotech space – upgrading buildings in a bullet-proof market like Cambridge is a no-brainer but biotech tenants have very specific needs that make renovating a building a costly endeavor.

What to Weigh

Given that the conditions can vary so dramatically from market to market, owners need to look closely at both the micro and macro conditions before considering future renovation plans. They should avoid basing their decisions on what their neighbors are doing given that the building condition, access to capital and the type of tenant improvements will differ.

Converting Class B buildings to A in fail-proof or constrained markets reduces risk. Property owners and managers should pay close attention to market research for leasing trends and supply and demand. The vacancy rate of a property is a crucial factor in the decision-making process for owners who may want to stagger improvements.

Class B buildings in markets where there are high vacancy rates may have a better chance at adding value by making minor changes like upgrading mechanical and operating systems to increase their building’s efficiency rather than a full-scale renovation. If the building is in a market where there is weak demand for Class A space, staying put in Class B until there is a shift could be the best strategy.

Property owners whose buildings have not been properly maintained or have fallen into disrepair are unlikely to be able to justify retrofitting buildings with touchless, digital technology that will play a big role in landing a tenant. Property owners who are planning to retain assets for the long-term have more financial cushion to make investments that will pay off in the future, increasing rents and elevating the class of the property. Those in the game for the short-term who do not have access to capital will favor less costly facelifts over renovation, leaving the new owners the opportunity to add value.

Building owners and managers should enlist a team of experts who can assist in determining the best course in repositioning office buildings. Evaluating the real estate market, comparable properties, and tenant demand will provide a solid starting point to formulate a plan for repositioning a commercial property.

A Medical Makeover in West End

When asset manager DWS Group decided to renovate 50, 60, and 62 Staniford Street in Boston’s West End neighborhood to transform the 70’s era complex into a first-class medical office building they hired Margulies Perruzzi to outline the process from navigating construction with tenants in the building to the Boston planning process.

DWS’ goal was to improve the tenant experience, increase access and add high-quality building features near medical/research institutions such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, and Mass. Eye & Ear to attract new tenants.

We evaluated every detail and devised a design scheme that included reducing disruption to tenants to securing city approvals to increasing the building’s Planned Development Area.

Our strategy included connecting 50 and 60 Staniford Streets which increased the ground floor and first floor by 20,000 SF. It also created new space for medical office, dry research, and retail tenants.

The Staniford complex now features a 10-story medical office tower and a new, two-story medical office building with space for retail tenants. The investment by DWS created a premier medical/office space, increasing the value of the complex, and improved access to high-quality space ideal for medical office/retail users.

Article featured in Banker & Tradesman.

By Janet Morra, AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Partner at Margulies Perruzzi

Launched in July 2020 by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the WELL Health-Safety Rating is a concept whose time has come, especially as businesses, institutions and organizations strive to return to an updated version of pre-pandemic normalcy.

IWBI defines the WELL Health-Safety Rating as “an evidence-based, third-party verified rating focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols and emergency plans to address a post-COVID-19 environment now and broader health and safety-related issues into the future.”

The idea was forged during the pandemic’s first wave, one of the earliest results of IWBI’s Task Force on COVID-19. According to IWBI, “nearly 600 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders, architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals” participated.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating contains a subset of relevant features from the WELL Building Standard that were adapted for a facilities and operations focus. It promotes indoor safety by providing a means to guide, validate, recognize, and scale management of health and safety issues in shared spaces. IWBI states that “third-party review ensures integrity and consistency, and results in a WELL Health-Safety seal for buildings and spaces that meet the rating’s requirements, communicating leadership and a commitment to the health and well-being of the people who frequent the space.”

At Margulies Peruzzi, we believe that this rating system is to health and safety what LEED is to sustainable design, and that it will gain the same traction among design professionals and owners. Directed towards facility operations and management, the rating is applicable to all new and existing building and facility types across an array of markets and large and small organizations alike. IWBI cites some recognizable names among those that have achieved the rating: Prudential Center, Fairfax County Public Schools, Yankee Stadium, Empire State Realty Trust, JPMorgan Chase, T-Mobile, Four Seasons, Citi, and Brookfield Properties.

IWBI recounts numerous advantages to owners: attracting and retaining employees, clients, and investors; building brand equity through leadership and innovation; and promoting employee health and well-being and in doing so, maximizing productivity.

Program Features

The rating system examines more than 20 features across six main themes – Cleaning and Sanitization Procedures, Emergency Preparedness Programs, Health Service Resources, Air and Water Quality Management, Stakeholder Engagement and Communication, and Innovation. For a facility to earn a WELL Health-Safety seal, a minimum of 15 criteria must be met, including as many as three submissions under Innovation. IWBI provides collateral material, a detailed online guide, and an extensive checklist to help participants through the process. Like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED project certification, there is a cost attached to earning this rating. It ranges from a low of $2,730 for a small business at a single location to a capped high of $166,000 for a company with up to to 10,000 locations.

In another similarity to LEED, Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI) in collaboration with IWBI developed a rigorous process for individual accreditation. Becoming a WELL AP (accredited professional) signifies advanced knowledge in human health and wellness in the built environment, and specialization in the WELL Building Standard.

As part of our firm’s commitment to workplace health and safety for our clients, Margulies Peruzzi supported interior designer Alison Buckley, Associate IIDA, in her successful quest to earn the WELL AP certification.

Workplace Research in the Time of COVID

The workspace is an important physical asset within which a high degree of ingenuity and productivity is enabled. Thus inspired, we launched our first workplace strategy research in 2016, drawing on more than two decades of working with countless companies to help them create optimal work environments. Research continued, and in early 2020 when the world as we knew it changed, we shifted our focus—much like IWBI’s task force—to examining the ramifications of COVID-19 on physical work environments and their occupants.

Kicking off a series of five reports that share current thought leadership on the nature of work and how it and office environments are evolving during this health crisis was Volume 1: COVID-19 and the Future of the Workplace, published in May 2020. It presents the results of a survey we conducted of thousands of industry professionals to gain an understanding of the virus’s impact on the physical office environment. We received more than 500 responses to several fundamental questions:

  • When asked what most excited them about the prospect of returning to their workplace, 90% of respondents cited collaborating in person again and reuniting with colleagues. Coming in second was accessing office resources and equipment (64%), followed by returning to a well-designed, ergonomic workspace (58%), and working in environment that allows them to focus (47%).
  • Regarding their concerns, 80% cited safety in common spaces, followed by social distancing in meeting and collaboration space (70%); work environment cleanliness (68%); interaction with the public, visitors, and vendors (66%); workspace density (60%); and air quality (38%).
  • Working from home provided valuable lessons learned. “Space to concentrate is important” garnered 87% agreement. Other feedback acknowledged the desirability of face-to-face interaction (83%); value of engagement with company culture and mission (82%); ability to be productive remotely (82%); importance of ergonomics (75%); and ability to manage teams remotely (73%).

The report features a 10-page section, “Re-Thinking Office Building & Workplace Design,” that contains product reviews and explores various options that align with WELL Health-Safety Rating features under Air and Water Quality Management, Stakeholder Engagement & Communication, and Innovation. These include MEP improvements; UV lighting for treatment of air and surfaces; screening devices and sensors; information technology; wellness standards that go beyond FitWel, LEED and WELL Building; social changes; furniture solutions; antimicrobial surfaces; infection control risk assessment; and HR strategies for remote and hybrid work.

Volume 2: Reshaping the Workplace was published in August 2020. It asks the key question, “What does the future of office design look like?” in a post-COVID future, and explores impacts on real estate, space metrics and ratios, new concepts in space design, and technologies for space management. Among the challenges that owners and facility managers can look forward to are increases in workplace utilization rates, safety protocols, and need of technology for collaboration; management of a reduced in-person population due to continued remote work; and restoration of employee engagement and culture. It was around this time that the concept of a hybrid work model began to emerge, which intersects with features under four of the six WELL Health-Safety Rating themes.

Rethinking the Corporate Office Building

With a total inventory of over 5.5 billion square feet of office space leased or available for lease in the United States at the end of June 2021, landlords are in the vanguard of building owners who must adapt their assets to support the health and safety of current and prospective tenants. Margulies Peruzzi’s Volume 3: Building Design Reimagined/How Will COVID-19 Affect Building Design? published in September 2020, provides practical guidance to landlords specific to market challenges, tenant needs, building improvements, and space management. The primary logistical and financial challenges we foresaw as tenants returned were the ability to comply with social distancing in common areas, the need to increase security and safety protocols, improving HVAC performance and outside air intake, providing hands-free options, and reductions in public transportation and on-site employees.

Predicting that tenants would have many questions of landlords, the report provided a substantial list that included “What WELL/LEED standards do you have in place?” We forecast that traditional building amenities such as serveries and fitness centers would take on new forms and procedures, and that other innovations such as refrigerated marketplaces and moving conference areas close to lobbies to reduce foot traffic through office spaces would become more common. Presented in two categories (existing and new buildings), the report contains recommendations for potential improvements to parking and building entrances; building lobbies and security desks; elevator lobbies; elevator technology; restroom layout and design; grab-n-go, cafes, and food pickup; markets; fitness centers; HVAC systems and the energy code; and building control systems.

The Path Forward

The shape of future office environments will be largely determined by three factors: the ability of company leaders to direct and manage change; the subsequent development of organization-wide policies concerning remote work, safety, and occupancy; and the financial implications of those policies on facility decisions. A successful transition from the peak pandemic work-from-home scenario to a return-to-office scenario will require a spectrum of expertise and depend heavily on corporate agility and flexibility. Features of the WELL Health-Safety Rating’s Emergency Preparedness Programs theme, in particular the development of emergency, business continuity, and healthy re-entry plans, have a direct bearing on future space planning and allocation.

Margulies Perruzzi’s January 2021 report, Volume 4: Post-COVID Workplace presents four workplace models that corporate leaders can adapt to their own company’s unique blueprint. They are traditional, flexible, balanced, and lean, and range in 25% increments from 100% of the workforce returning to the office in the traditional model, to 25% in the lean model. Each model comes with its own financial and logistical considerations, especially if more space is needed to accommodate social distancing. The graphic below demonstrates how the models compare in terms of cost and space.

How much space do you need?

The New Hybrid Environment

Long a staple in certain high-tech industries and made possible through advancements in digital technology, COVID-19 has pushed the hybrid work environment model to the mainstream. Now, as the world grapples with the delta variant and new facts about its transmissibility to and by the vaccinated, Margulies Perruzzi’s just-released Volume 5 Workplace Strategy Report: Embracing the Hybrid Workspace affirms the logic of transitioning from a traditional to hybrid model. A survey of 8,600 people across multiple business sectors revealed that 44% of workers plan on being in the office three days a week, and 25% plan on two days. Only 9% responded that they would return to a pre-pandemic office presence.

How many days per week do people intend to work in the office?

Corporate leaders are becoming more receptive to the idea that work environments must embrace change as a constant and evolve in response. Catalysts include an increase in workplace utilization rates and safety protocols; restoration of employee engagement and culture; continuation of remote work and subsequent management of a reduced in-person population; and an increased need for collaboration technology and training.

Planning a return to the physical office under ever-changing conditions and advisories from the CDC is yet one more challenge for C-suite executives, facility managers, and employees. The numbers are significant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2021, there were 153.6 million people aged 16 and over in America’s workforce, of which 82.2 million are office based. Of those, 13.2% of full-time workers in all industries engaged in remote work. Although this is down from a high of 35.4% in May 2020, it nevertheless represents more than 10 million workers. That’s a lot of people, square footage, furniture, equipment, and associated costs to consider while simultaneously prioritizing health and safety.

Managing Change

Change is difficult, but meaningful change cannot happen in a vacuum or without confident leadership. Approaching it in an analytical and positive manner can diminish fear of the unknown and promote inclusivity. Informed corporate leaders are adopting sequential steps for creating a practical, sustainable strategy for their companies, the first one being the creation of a framework that identifies employee type profiles and their correlative space needs.

How many assigned and unassigned seats do you need?

Once the framework has been established, the next steps are to:

  1. Determine corporate willingness to change and how to build consensus around change.
  2. Set guidelines for remote work and HR policies.
  3. Confirm the financial implications.
  4. Introduce property technology to manage space utilization on an ongoing basis.
  5. Develop architectural, design, and engineering principles.
  6. Form an implementation plan.

There are many different options available for implementing a safe return to the office, but there is no “one size fits all” solution. The most successful solution will be that which is uniquely tailored to a company’s business model, strategic plan, and corporate culture. Flexibility of both thought and design are the keys to cultivating a successful hybrid work environment.

Drawing a final correlation to LEED, many companies opt to have their facilities designed to various LEED certification levels without pursuing registration. The same approach can be taken with the WELL Health-Safety Rating. Although we advocate participation in both programs, only an owner can weigh the value of either investment against their project goals and budget.

Health & Safety Efforts Backed by Science

Program participants are in excellent company. According to IWBI, globally there are 20,950+ assets enrolled totaling 1.8 billion square feet, with 13,340+ and 1.3 billion square feet rated. At the end of the process, the WELL Health-Safety seal is a tangible and visible reminder that your building’s health and safety efforts are backed by science and validated by a third party. Seeing the seal outside tells employees, visitors, clients, and customers that they will be safe inside.

Article featured in gb&dPRO.

A recent project shows the value of designing to maximize daylighting in a space.

Southern Maine Health Care, in partnership with Maine Behavioral Healthcare, engaged Margulies Perruzzi and Array Architects to renovate a 24,000 SF unit, creating 40 new beds across two floors, and to design a five-bed Emergency Department Acute Psychiatric (EDAP) unit. This project triples the number of short stay behavioral healthcare beds available in York County, Maine.

The design team focused on incorporating as much access to daylight and nature as possible to leverage its clinical benefits. The team collaborated to situate activity rooms and common areas along the exterior walls of the building to bring in natural light and views of the Maine landscape for both patient and staff areas. Windows were maintained at patient areas while safety glass and borrowed light concepts were used to bring daylight deeper into the building. Art highlighting nature is incorporated at various seating areas throughout the unit to bring nature inside the building.

“The design team did a great job of listening to how we care for our patients and how we would be using the space. The new units will allow us to deliver a higher level of care to behavioral health patients,” said Diane Mankus, RN, senior director of behavioral health services at Southern Maine Health Care.

Read the full article featured in Building Operating Management.

Planning a return to the physical office under ever-changing conditions and advisories from the CDC is yet one more challenge for C-suite executives, facility managers, and employees.

The numbers are significant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2021, there were 153.6 million people aged 16 and over in America’s workforce, of which 82.2 million are office based. Of those, 13.2% of full-time workers in all industries engaged in remote work. Although this is down from a high of 35.4% in May 2020, it nevertheless represents more than 10 million workers. That’s a lot of square footage, furniture, equipment, and associated costs to consider.

Long a staple in certain high-tech industries and made possible through advancements in digital technology, COVID-19 has pushed the hybrid work environment model to the mainstream. Now, as the world grapples with increased outbreaks caused by the delta variant and new facts about its transmissibility to and by the vaccinated, Margulies Perruzzi’s just-released “Workplace Strategy Report: Embracing the Hybrid Workspace” affirms the logic of transitioning from a traditional to hybrid model. The company’s survey of 8,600 people across multiple business sectors revealed that 44% of workers plan on being in the office three days a week, and 25% plan on two days. Only 9% responded that they would return to a pre-pandemic office presence.

Read the full article featured in High Profile Monthly.

Margulies Perruzzi (MP), one of New England’s most innovative architectural and interior design firms, announced today that it has completed renovations and a two-story addition at 69 A Street in South Boston, creating a five-story 45,000 SF building that is the first “cross-laminated timber” (CLT) addition to an existing building in downtown Boston

The notable design accomplishment is that the building expansion would not have been feasible without the innovative use of CLT.  This lightweight (and highly sustainable) structural system enabled the addition to be added to the 1920s era brick and beam former Rivet factory without replacing the existing foundations or columns, which would have been impossible with a standard steel or concrete structure. The exterior skin of the new levels is a metal panel rainscreen system installed with exposed metal fasteners that speak to its original use. Leaving the CLT exposed on the upper floors creates a much more appealing wood interior than standard steel construction. As the existing building is constructed directly on the lot line, Margulies Perruzzi arranged for setbacks to allow for additional light on the South side.

A new entrance mid- building is accessed via a landscaped courtyard, allowing generously enlarged windows on A Street.  All the windows were replaced, but the existing building’s windows are distinguished from the new windows on the upper floors by being multi-light, which is consistent with the originals.  An open-air terrace directly off the fifth floor looks west toward the Boston skyline.

A major part of this project was the zoning approval process, including coordination with the BPDA and the community before any construction could begin, and regular communication with the abutters throughout the construction period. DBI Projects, a top project management and real estate advisory firm with a diverse range of clients, was the owner’s representative for the project and successfully shepherded the project team through its successful completion.

With the building core and shell complete, it is now ready to be occupied by the next generation of tenants to be attracted to the revitalization of this part of South Boston.

The project team for 69 A Street includes:

  • Architect: Margulies Perruzzi
  • Construction Manager: Commodore Builders
  • Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) Engineer: WB Engineers
  • Structural Engineer: McNamara Salva
  • Owner’s Project Manager: DBI Projects

By John Fowler, AIA, EDAC, LEED AP, Associate Principal and Associate Partner at Margulies Perruzzi

The Margulies Perruzzi Healthcare Studio is seeing the impacts of COVID-19 on space planning and design that will continue post- pandemic in several areas. In addition to considerations for being better prepared for a future pandemic, clients are evaluating the use of practices and workflows that were born out of necessity over the past year. The rapid adaptation of telehealth is one example that can lead to better healthcare delivery and patient satisfaction while also providing an operational advantage to healthcare organizations in certain circumstances.

According to the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition Survey, Massachusetts saw a staggering 9000% increase in telehealth visits from September 2019 to September 2020 and 60% of physicians surveyed stated that telehealth improved the health of their patients, 50% stated it will improve the financial health of their practice and 55% that it improved the satisfaction of their work. Even as we return to the new normal, patients will expect more virtual care options.

Anecdotally we are hearing that healthcare organizations expect 20-40% of their patient visits will be conducted virtually depending on the specialty, as certain visit types will have a greater need for physical evaluation or testing for the foreseeable future. The two biggest potential obstacles to virtual visits when deemed appropriate are reimbursement and patient’s access to technology. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services granted waivers during the pandemic that allowed for the increased use of virtual visits at the same reimbursement as in-person visits. The rules and reimbursement rates for those visits will play a large role in the extent of its utilization going forward. During the spike in use of telehealth visits, the majority of providers were conducting some from their own homes. In the future, those visits may not be allowed outside of a licensed clinic or hospital or may be reimbursed at a lower rate, due to the decreased costs to the providers.

The patient’s access to technology can vary dramatically by region and demographics and ensuring equitable access is a key consideration. Meg Barron, the AMA’s vice president of digital health, outlined four key areas that need attention: device access, connectivity, digital literacy, and design relevance. Expanding broadband access and creating ways for those with audio, visual or motor impairment to have better access to telehealth are among the specific needs that must be addressed.

When evaluating the impact of telehealth on space planning needs, we are considering several operational scenarios. If physician at-home visits are allowed and reimbursement is financially viable, will they be able to schedule visits for certain days of the week that are virtual only? If physicians are on site at a clinic or hospital, do they need to be in the same area as their in-person visits or can they utilize space that is more remote from the highly valuable patient care zones? And if physicians do not have a dedicated office appropriate for virtual visits, is it advantageous to create virtual visit exam rooms that require less space and infrastructure then a traditional exam? With each of these scenarios we see opportunities for our clients to increase their patient volume capacity or lower the real estate footprint required due to the decreased number of traditional exam rooms required.

Although there may still be more questions than answers regarding telehealth, there appears to be a consensus that it is here to stay and will continue to provide patients with a more convenient option for their healthcare while creating flexibility for their providers to better deliver care.