Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Importance of Interior Design

 How much time does the average American spend indoors during a typical week?  Studies show on average, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors.   With spending such a significant number of hours in doors there has been a number of counter studies.  These counter studies evaluate how the built environment affects an individual’s overall health and well-being in a variety of different sectors of interiors spaces.  With this information employers and building owners are becoming increasingly aware how this can affect the bottom line.  There has been a substantial amount of research related to proper design improving student performance, contribution to quicker recovery time in hospitals, higher sales in retail markets, and more productivity in the working environment.  The focus of proper design in these spaces and how it affects the general public is an important aspect to create healthy functional spaces for the present and future population.
Registered interior designers specialize in creating these indoor environments.  An interior designer may focus their ability in a specific field including residential, commercial, sustainable design, healthcare, retail, education, hospitality, federal, historical, or assisted living; just to name a few.  Designers work with local and federal jurisdiction to establish the level of code compliance, product and interior build-out features, furniture, and equipment needed in order to pass code established by these jurisdictions. Designers work closely with the client to establish a design aesthetic layout the function and programming requirements of the space.  Interior designers coordinate with the architects, engineers, product vendors, and contractors to keep projects on schedule and within budget.  The coordination and communication between client, designer, architect and contractor assists with a smooth and successful project build-out.
Aesthetics play a major role in a successful design; professionals must be knowledgeable in design theories in order to create an aesthetically pleasing space.  Harmony and balance of patterns and architectural elements only a practiced designer can accomplish in an environment which has not been built yet. Designers are able to anticipate how people will feel in and move through an indoor environment and therefore effectively function in the environment.  Many use a systematic and coordinated methodology that involves the integration of research, analysis and knowledge into the creative process.  In addition to the design theories interior designers use within the built environment, they also have a keen understanding of product manufacture process and chemical make-up of interior basis products and substrates.  Specific indoor environments require different levels of needs as it pertains to maintenance, acoustics, and longevity, anti-microbial, cost, fast-tracked, or chemical resistant’s.  All of these items are taken into consideration when making selections for an indoor environment and a registered interior designer is well versed in all of these aspects of design.
In truth, a building can be built without an interior designer but an environment cannot be created without one.  With so many studies showing the pros and positive outcomes of hiring a professional interior designer one could see were the payoff would be.  Historically speaking an interior designer role first emerged in France around the Renaissance in order to coordinate all of the interior finishes.  The idea still stays the same but with the specialty needs of many areas and the technology of product changes every day it is a designer's job to achieve the following goals: 
  • Work with jurisdiction and understand life and safety goals of the building as well as the classification of the product needed for the particular build out. 
  • Have a knowledge base of the building function and the level of maintenance, proper product placement and location.
  • Work with the client on the vision and function in which the space is to make. 
  • Find and selection product which will meet and exceed all items stated above. 
  • Lastly, have knowledge based in all related fields such as architecture, landscape, electrical, and mechanical so communication can happen smoothly to have a coordinated and well defined design.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Discovering the Origin of Bananas - Urban Agriculture Reconnects Our Community to the Food that Sustains Us

By: Edward J. Barry Jr. • Principal and Jeff Martin • Landscape Architectural Manager

In celebration of National Peace Corps Day several moons ago, I made a presentation to a delightfully rambunctious bunch of elementary school children in Kewanee, Illinois. Naturally, I waxed fondly and passionately on the importance of serving one’s fellow man, and on the value of experiencing the rich cultures outside the boundaries of our American shores. Toward the end of my presentation, I held up a banana (which had been a staple food in all its many forms in East Africa’s Uganda where I had served), and asked if anyone knew where this delightful and nutritious fruit came from. Without skipping a beat, a particularly earnest young man rose to his feet and firmly stated that “Bananas come from Wal-Mart!”

This experience has stayed with me through the intervening years. The earnest young man in that classroom was no doubt trying to be clever and just a bit snarky, too. But he was also revealing the fact that beyond the modern-day grocery store where most of us in the developed world purchase our daily sustenance, he had no idea about the origin of bananas, or their rich botanical history and complexity.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014: Safety IS a Priority

contributed by Monica Washington, Safety Coordinator, Farnsworth Group
Safety at Farnsworth Group is something that is taking top priority and is beginning to impact the culture…and our bottom line. One way our company is making this happen is through a strategy of implementing Four Keys of Safety: Awareness, Training, Accountability and Recognition.

AWARENESS of safety is something that our company has always maintained, but with renewed focus we are elevating the importance of keeping employees safe. We are learning from our past, the good things we are doing and identifying opportunities to improve. We are enhancing the good to make it great and implementing improvements to strengthen any programs. As part of the key to awareness, each manager meets monthly with their group to focus on safety and how it relates to their team and their job duties. The managers are getting more involved with safety and they are engaging their teams with safety in a positive approach.

TRAINING, the second key to our strategy focuses on understanding the risks and providing training to minimize those hazards to keep our employees safe. Safety training at Farnsworth Group takes many forms from classroom training to online to on the job training. Over 65% of our staff has taken the OSHA 10-Hour Construction Industry Training. Other trainings include special industry training as well as general safety training. Our training style and methods are evolving allowing us to incorporate training into our every day job responsibilities.

Awareness and training support the third key of safety which is ACCOUNTABILITY. Employees are held accountable to work safe each day, complete training in a timely manner and wear personal protective equipment.  Looking out for coworkers as well as their own wellbeing is critical to building a culture of safety. The requirement to report incidents and address near misses helps us to be proactive in our approach to safety.

Finally, RECOGNITION encompasses all the other keys of safety by celebrating accomplishments and rewarding staff for safe behavior. We are in our infancy developing strong recognitions around safety but plan to flush out and continue to make this a strong focus in 2014.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Art Matters. Architecture Matters.

Bringing Two Creative Endeavors Together at Peoria’s New North Branch Library
by Edward J. Barry Jr., Principal, Farnsworth Group

“Art matters. It is not simply a leisure activity for the privileged or a hobby for the eccentric. It is a practical good for the world. The work of the artist is an expression of hope - it is homage to the value of human life, and it is vital to society. Art is a sacred expression of human creativity that shares the same ontological ground as all human work. Art, along with all work is the ordering of creation toward the intention of the creator.” - Michael Gungor

These words, by singer-songwriter and author Michael Gungor, summarize beautifully the intrinsic value of art in our world. A value that can oftentimes be sidestepped or forgotten in favor of more pressing or pragmatic societal priorities. Curiously, the word “art” in Mr. Gungor’s sentiments could be readily replaced by the word “architecture” to create an equally powerful message. Architecture, like art, is an essential element of a dynamic and progressive civilization, providing an equally powerful expression of the human creative impulse. It then brings to the table the added dimension of functionality, offering purposeful shelter for all manner of human activity.

When these two prized endeavors – art and architecture – work in unison under the same roof, the result can be particularly rewarding for both of them. The opportunity for such creative collaboration presented itself at the recently completed North Branch Library located in Peoria, IL. Designed to gently find its place amidst the surrounding native prairie grasses, this all-new facility is intended to embody the highest and best principles of environmental and cultural sustainability.

Monday, September 16, 2013

if ENERGY took the spotlight...

Photo courtesy of Arkansas Electric Energy Law
Did you know that at Farnsworth Group we have an entire team dedicated to energy?  We have Energy Engineers, Certified Energy Managers, Certified Energy Auditors and even a spare International Groundsource Heat Pump Association member or two.  [In fact we’re looking to hire a new team member. Our commissioning agents perform energy audits, and retro-commissioning is often about ensuring that energy usage is in-line with expectations.
Not to get all statistical, but there are some interesting statistics about energy:
  • 40% of total U.S. energy consumption in 2012 was consumed in residential and commercial buildings, or about 40 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu).1
  • In 2010, the United States’ primary energy consumption was nearly 98 quadrillion Btu, nearly 19% of world total primary energy consumption.2 
  • The amount of energy Americans use doubles every 20 years.3
Maybe these statistics indicate that energy usage requires some careful consideration.

Recently we combined with a team from Atkins to complete Sustainable Infrastructure Assessments on nine installations for the U.S. Air Force.  Our team is tasked with conducting assessments of the current buildings and energy usage and produce lists of project-ready recommendations for smarter energy consumption.  The project is taking the expertise of a large internal team to conduct the site visits, calculations, evaluations and report writing necessary to ensure that the Air Force can make some informed decisions about changes.
We have also recently worked with Los Alamos County to conduct energy audits of 16 buildings within the county’s portfolio.  Our team identified more than $99,148 in annual savings through identified Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs).

Farnsworth Group has also served on several General Services Administration projects to help identify energy savings.  Sometimes we even team with local energy providers to help “energy hogs” identify smarter ways to use energy.  This can mean infrastructure upgrades (systems or HVAC units), but often it’s the application of smart technology and heating and cooling a facility only when it’s needed.
What Can You Do
There isn’t anything easier than turning off the light when you’re not using it; but the projects above point to simple lessons in your personal energy usage.  One of the things you can do is set back your thermostat when you’re not at home.  Additionally, your energy provider may have some tips on conserving energy at home and at work.  Consider searching your provider’s website right now.  Rebate programs are abundant – maybe you want to put some money back in your pocket and make a difference – one Btu at a time.

Here are a few more random facts about energy!
Cited Sources
1          U.S Energy Information Administration, What is Energy:  Energy Basics,, September 2013.
2          U.S Energy Information Administration, What is Energy:  Energy Basics,, September 2013.
3          Royston, Angela. 2009. Sustainable Energy. Mankato, MN: Arcturus Publishing Limited via

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From Revit to Project Reviews, Summer Intern Ready for the Real World

Farnsworth Group always looks forward to the opportunity to hire interns for the summer.  It’s an occasion to give these students a chance to apply in the real world what they’ve been learning in the classroom.  Plus, there’s always the chance we might learn a little something new, too!

We asked a few of our summer interns to blog about their experience with us during their summer. 
Tiffany Wernsman attended Southern Illinois University where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Studies and just completed her Masters of Architecture from SIU.
It was an absolute pleasure being a part of the Farnsworth Group team! 

At first, I had no idea what I was really getting myself into, but everyone involved in the company played a role in making my transition from student to intern much more comfortable than I could have ever imagined.  Each and every day provided me with an opportunity to learn a new lesson from professionals amongst various disciplines in a unique atmosphere.

The first day of employment I went through basic orientation and later was taken out to lunch with the entire architecture department.  It was in that moment that I learned of the strong relationships and collaborative methods that have been developed amongst my peers at Farnsworth Group.
As the weeks went by, I had the opportunity to get real hands-on experience and took part in a multitude of different projects.  I was given the chance to attend work load projection meetings, monthly center staff meetings, safety training programs, monthly Revit webinars, architecture group meetings, visited project sites, attended lunch and learn sessions, attended a group golf outing, and developed documentation for numerous projects.

These events gave me a real sense of belonging, making me feel like I was part of not only the architectural group, but the entire Farnsworth Group team.  From meeting people who had just begun their careers, to consulting with corporate individuals, project managers, and principals, everyone that I encountered was a pleasure to work with and made me feel at ease.
The very first project that I had in depth involvement in was the Heritage Enterprises Evergreen Senior Living renovation competition.  I had the opportunity to set up existing, demolition, and proposed plans, as well as construct a Revit model, 3D views, and renderings all while collaborating with our Interior Design department.
I really value the learning opportunity that Farnsworth Group has provided me throughout the duration of my summer internship.  Although I am progressing towards the finish line for my time here at Farnsworth, my mentors here have given me the courage and professional advice necessary to succeed in my future endeavors and for that I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What it's like to intern at Farnsworth Group...

Farnsworth Group always looks forward to the opportunity to hire interns for the summer.  It’s an occasion to give these students a chance to apply in the real world what they’ve been learning in the classroom.  Plus, there’s always the chance we might learn a little something new, too!

We asked a few of our summer interns to blog about their experience with us during their summer. 
Josh Brown is a Civil Engineering major entering his senior year at Bradley University.
When I accepted my job as a municipal intern with Farnsworth Group, I was excited to see how what I was learning in the classroom could be applied to the experience I would have at Farnsworth Group.
My first week swept by getting acquainted with the office, along with training in preparation of going out in the field. Once my first week was complete, I was suddenly getting involved in more projects than I can even begin to count.
In my first summer, I experienced everything from design work to construction inspection.  Not only was I able to apply what I had been learning in the classroom, but I learned more than I could ever imagine. I worked under two Professional Engineers who were always able to give me direction and guide me along the way.
Some of my first projects included drafting currently built projects. I spent my time using field notes to make as-built drawings of the projects we had just completed. These projects included water main, storm sewer, sanitary sewer and water pump stations.  By the end of my summer, I was able to see much of our hard work come full circle through design, bidding, and construction.
What really made my experience at Farnsworth Group great was having the chance to experience every aspect of a project - from seeing the design of the project on paper to witnessing the project actually being constructed. The tools I have now from my experience here will help me excel in this industry as I move forward.