NeoCon 2018

NeoCon brings together nearly 500 companies and 50,000 design professionals, providing 100 CEUs and showroom tours highlighting new products. We were honored to attend “the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation” at the 50th Annual NeoCon.

Similar to a project launch, our trip began with familiarizing ourselves with the site (Chicago) and networking with ten other Boston designers who comprised our team for the week. The icebreaker event at BeSpoke Cuisine divided the group into smaller task forces, each completing one course of the meal. We were excited to work together to make something wonderful, appreciating the unique skills and perspective everyone brought to the table!

The following morning, we headed to the Focal Point factory, which graciously sponsored our trip to Chicago with Boston Light Source. Familiar with the Focal Point, we were excited to delve into their design and development, manufacturing processes, and operational strategies. We were given the opportunity to weigh in on some of their newest product developments like the Skydome Edge Acoustic, an acoustical ceiling solution that compliments their Skydome LED pendant. We are already brainstorming ways we can utilize these innovations in one of our next projects!

Chicago’s architecture has an amazing blend of Neoclassical juxtaposed against the sleek lines of modern design. This contrast of old and new is also apparent in the sculptural art found in the city—for instance Buckingham Fountain with its Rococo-influenced intricacies in comparison to the simplicity of Cloud Gate. And for the record, we Bostonians agree… it’s most certainly a bean, not a cloud.

Over the past few years, we’ve started seeing a shift in healthcare design to take inspiration from other sectors of design, in particular hospitality and residential, and this year’s product introductions at the Merchandise Mart only reinforced this trend. Comfort and flexibility impact the user experience and we’re starting to see waiting spaces evolve. A combination of soft seating, usable work areas (such as a high-top counter), and areas for privacy versus family space are all considerations when designing these healthcare waiting environments. As designers, we are responsible for considering the needs of a wide range of users to make our designs as inclusive and comforting as possible.

The Merchandise Mart also featured a few finish showrooms such as Tarkett, where we saw new releases in both the resilient (Johnsonite) and carpet (Tandus) industries. Bold shapes and tile formats left us brainstorming fresh ways to look at flooring for future projects.

We kept our eye out for unique alternatives for products as our industry continues to look at other markets for inspiration. Carnegie, Buzzispace, and 3form all had great new concepts for combating acoustics, without sacrificing form for function. Incorporating decorative techniques to address acoustics could impact hospitals, specifically regarding HCAHP scores on the “Quietness of Hospital Environment”.

    

The Barbican showroom featured their NeoCon Gold-winning WEV collection and a new concept for ceiling design—a 3D fiberglass printed mesh grid system which could be accented in a variety of colors while allowing lighting, sprinklers, sound, and security systems to live above the tiles. This product lends itself to a particular type of installation where the ceiling plays a more influential role, but if specified in the right application, it could introduce color and pattern in an unexpected way.

A few more product highlights:

  • KI featured their new desking series Tattoo, which won a NeoCon Gold award. This series embodied flexibility with options from sliding privacy screens, height adjustable worksurfaces, and hybrid storage and seating options.

   

  • Doug Mockett had rows and rows of hardware and accessories. This was interesting to see firsthand as these details sometimes come as an afterthought. We’re always keeping an eye out for innovative design.
  • Sherwin Williams highlighted color trends for the upcoming year. To combat the stereotype of hospitals being white and sterile, it’s important to incorporate fresh and engaging schemes. Paint is an inexpensive way to refresh a space.

Gerflor flooring’s European product designers were the masterminds behind the latest Gerflor launch—a terrazzo inspired sheet product with vibrant color options. This product would be perfect in bright colors for a pediatric environment but could also be used in neutral colors for a lobby space looking for a terrazzo visual for a fraction of the price. We’re seeing a growing interest in resilient flooring (rubber, sheet goods, and luxury vinyl tile) because of cleanability, comfort under foot, and acoustics.

NeoCon offered plenty of inspiration for us. We’re looking forward to applying these innovative products to our projects.

Breakthrough in Autism Research

An exciting breakthrough in autism research was recently published in the highly reputable academic journal, Nature. Scientists have observed brain enlargement in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A retrospective analysis of head circumference and longitudinal brain volume studies in two to four-year-olds indicate increased brain volume may be an early indicator of ASD. These findings suggest an earlier diagnosis may be possible, helping those with ASD and their caregivers better respond to challenges associated with the disorder.

In any given year, 1 in 68 Americans is diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jacques Black, AIA, a partner in our New York City office, has completed several projects for the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain in White Plains, NY. Together with Cathy Lord, a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, he has published and presented on the unique dynamics of the built environment and individuals with ASD.  For example, when designing for autistic patients it is important to acknowledge and address their sensitivities to noise, color, and texture.

We are excited about the potential this research has for young families across the world and will continue to seek to better understand how to design spaces which address the unique needs of patients with ASD.

Food in Healthcare

seedlings-rows

There is a growing trend in healthcare to make hospitals more hospitable. One element of this trend involves hospitals cooking up food that doesn’t taste like ‘hospital food’, but instead restaurant quality fare.

Many restaurants across the country have embraced the ‘localvore’ movement (cooking with locally sourced ingredients). Chefs find that the practice is healthier (requiring fewer preservatives and processing to the foods), more sustainable (necessitating less travel distances and decreased carbon footprint) and more neighborly (purchasing directly from nearby farms and companies).  Hospitals are taking note and have begun to look local for food sourcing.

This trend is not new to The University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM Medical Center). Through our ongoing relationship with the health network, both as architects and as patients (many of our employees utilize the UVM Health Network for care), we have come to appreciate firsthand the benefits of delicious locally sourced food. As part of their sustainability initiative, the University was one of the first to sign the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge in 2006, dedicating itself to, “providing local, nutritious and sustainable food”. As well as supporting local farmers, it maintains a roof garden which supplies the cafeteria with fresh blueberries, kiwi and assorted vegetables, when in season.

E4H has worked with UVM Medical Center to support multiple sustainability initiatives, during our recent design of the Robert E. and Holly D. Miller Building  at UVM Medical Center, representatives from Nutritional Services were a part of the design team, contributing input on how to best address the nutritional needs of patients in the acute care setting. We have also worked with department leaders to achieve LEED Gold Certification for the  newly renovated Mother Baby Unit and Clinical Research Center.

It is also interesting to note that Hospitals & Health Networks recently reported Connecticut’s New Milford Hospital saw its patient satisfaction scores rise from the 30th percentile to the 95th percentile after implementation of its Plow to Plate local food sourcing movement. Serving tasty local food may also be good business.

We are happy to partner with forward thinking companies like The University of Vermont Medical Center and are excited to see the trend of locally sourcing food to spread across the country.