Rethinking Our Spaces

A decade ago, retrofit’s staff worked together on other publications in an office space in Chicago’s northern suburbs. Life pulled Publisher John Riester to North Carolina and, after a year away from Illinois, he realized paying rent for the suburban Chicago office was unnecessary. John let those of us in Illinois take our equipment home and told us he didn’t care when we worked as long as we met our deadlines. At the time, I recall explaining my work situation to others quite often. Strictly working from home was unusual—even if publishing already was an entirely digital process back then.

Today, as I write this column from my home office in the city of Chicago, it’s much more common to know many people who regularly or only work from home. You may be one of those people. Technology has changed the way we work and expanded the ways we communicate with one another. Consequently, these variations in how and where we work are also changing the way we think about the traditional office space.

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. General Services Administration, the nation’s largest landlord, has been thinking about the way people work in its buildings for some time. Today, it has an explicit goal of making its current portfolio more efficient and modern-day worker friendly. Lance Davis, AIA, LEED AP, program manager for Design Excellence Architecture + Sustainability with the GSA Public Buildings Service Office of Design and Construction, shares many of the strategies and renovation goals GSA is implementing in our cover story. Consequently, these alternative workspace arrangements are helping GSA streamline its vast portfolio, ultimately saving American taxpayers money.

Speaking of money, economic-development incentives long have provided motivation to develop new and existing property, but they have been plagued by controversy. A USA Today article in late October 2012 criticizes LEED’s connection to such incentives. However, Nathan M. Gillette, AIA, LEED AP, CEM, vice president and director of Energy Finance Analytics LLC, Grand Rapids, Mich., points out economic-development incentives tied to LEED have resulted in retrofit projects that have revitalized neighborhoods in some tough districts that otherwise probably wouldn’t have been improved. Check out his thoughts on the subject in our first “Business Op-Ed.” Then, share your opinions after the article in the web page’s comment box.

One of my favorite articles this issue is a “Residential” Q&A with Kirk Noyes of Gloucester Development Team Inc., Gloucester, Mass. Noyes was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War but wanted to fulfill his obligation in a manner compatible with his architectural education and social conscience. He has made his life’s work renovating abandoned schools for residential use, ultimately preserving memories for communities. Noyes told me it’s not unusual for a former student or teacher to now live within the school they once attended or taught in, respectively.

When Noyes spoke about his renovation of Lynchburg High School, Lynchburg, Va., into a housing project for the Virginia Housing Development Authority, I contacted an industry friend, Paul Seufer, general manager, Machinery, for Lynchburg-based N.B. Handy, to learn about the transformation from a local’s perspective. Seufer shared the memories of his 92-year-old mother-in-law, Margaret Christian, a 1937 graduate, and brother-in-law, Bruce Christian, Class of 1965, who attended the school while it was being integrated. (To read about their memories, see my blog, “School Days.”) I think it’s wonderful that Noyes’ work allows the Christians to show Seufer the actual building in which their school experiences took place while providing the building’s current residents the opportunity to make new memories in the space.

Learning about and sharing these unique stories about our existing buildings is one of my favorite aspects of writing for retrofit. Another favorite? The fact that my home office’s winter dress code is flannel pants and sweatshirts.

Happy New Year! We, at retrofit, wish you a prosperous 2013!

Help Sandy Victims

    Our own Dan Burke lost his Monmouth Beach, N.J., home and his car during Superstorm Sandy, which hit the Northeast in late October 2012. Fortunately, Dan and his beloved dog, Buddy, have found housing and are doing well. However, there still are many victims of the storm that need our help. Please consider donating to one of the following organizations that are helping those impacted by Sandy’s destruction:

    Dan’s Recommendation

    • Donate to one fund that helps many organizations serving the areas hardest hit by the storm: The Robin Hood Relief Fund, www.robinhood.org/rhsandy

    Additional Options

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

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