Thursday, June 14, 2018

Centric Design Studio's Staff Summary of Last Week's AIA Webinar on Finding Money for Sustainable Funding

On June 4, Nakita Reed, an architect with Encore Sustainable Design, and Mark James, a developer with Urban Green, gave a webinar discussing how to receive sustainable funding for an architecture project. As an architect, it is imperative to know at what point funding will cease before getting underway. In many cases, a project will only have enough funding to reach the creation of construction documents and not proceed any further. Also, an architect should know the different avenues he/she can help the project receive funding through, and there are four main sources: (1) historic tax credits, (2) grants, (3) rebates, and (4) C-PACE. The extent of any architectural project is completely dependent on the extent of funding dedicated to that project.

Historic tax credits can provide a significant amount of funding for a project. The program promotes for the rehabilitation of buildings that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to be "certified historic structures (CHS)." If a building is declared as a CHS, a 20% income tax credit is available for its rehabilitation from the federal government. However, many states also offer state and local historic tax credits up to 20% as well, meaning that a CHS rehabilitation project in one of these states offering these programs could receive up to 60% funding for the project, 20% coming from each level (federal, local, state).

Grants, rebates, and C-PACE are other supplemental forms of funding that can help further proceed a project. Grants for sustainable design can be found from sources such as DSIRE, Foundation Center, and Reconnecting America, yet they can take a substantial amount of time to receive and possibly set back any target dates. Rebates tend to be fairly minute individually, but many rebates can add up to provide a good chunk of money towards the project. The architect, however, must provide the money up front and then receive the rebate money after the fact, which may not be possible in some cases. Finally C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) is a growing company through Connecticut Green Bank that provides financing solutions that allows for green energy upgrades to be paid for over time. As C-PACE expands, it can provide a very viable solution for the implementation of sustainable design on a larger scale.

Although there are other sources of sustainable funding or "green money," there are many challenges it faces, such as a limited pool of investors, false perceptions of risk analysis, scarce and competitive funds, and the fact that most funding programs are for rehab projects such as the historic tax credit program. Sustainable funding will generally only provide about 5% of a projects funding, therefore the project must be considered feasible without this funding. Sustainable funding can come from programs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Energy, state and city housing agencies, and the Department of Transportation.

There are a few strategies an architect can use to increase his/her chances of receiving green money. Keeping in mind the fact that most funds come after project completion as a rebate, the architect must show a measurable impact from the sustainable upgrades that were implemented to receive any funding. The architect should also have a green outcome strategy, coupled with a design for that strategy, and furthermore share this strategy with funders and stakeholders who can evaluate
and see a significant impact resulting from the green technologies. Finally, the architect should be able to explain how green investments from these different parties can produce the expected outcomes that have been stated.

In summary, funding for green design is becoming ever more prevalent as society moves towards a sustainable future. Many more sources are becoming accessible for architects, owners, and contractors in order to proceed with their projects, but the burden is placed on these groups to sort through the different options. Sustainable funding will always be in supplement to other sources of funding, but it can very well provide the extra necessary finances to move a project along on its course to completion.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Chronicle 39: Remarkable 2018 Student Intern

My name is Kayla Autrey and I am currently enrolled at Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies My school is very focused and centered on art and design. All juniors must complete a senior practicum. The purpose for the practicum is to gain experience and knowledge in the field we want to pursue a career in. I wanted to dive deeper into the process of Graphic Design because of how much it is integrated in today’s world and society. It can be found everywhere from the image on a coffee mug to a billboard overlooking the highway. Not only is graphic design seen everywhere but it comes in so many different ways and forms all unique to the person who designed it. I want to be able to put out my own voice through design.

I started my internship with Centric Design Studio in March and thoroughly enjoyed each day. Something new happened almost every day walking into the office. Everyone was welcoming and made the office a very pleasant place to be in. The first week of my interning, Vivian and I had very similar looking coats. This caused there to be some confusion every now and then where she would almost leave with my coat. We would all laugh and return coats to their rightful owners. I immediately knew that this was going to be an enjoyable and fun experience.

The first project I worked on was making a Facebook promotion for Centric Design Studio about them being first place in 2018 Detroit Homes Design Award. This was my first time ever making a promo for something and I was a bit nervous at first. Luckily, they had already had a basic layout for me to edit and make my own. This made it easier for me to transition into the future promotions and other design layouts I had the chance to work on.

The biggest thing I have worked on was a book for one of their clients.

Kayla working in Adobe InDesign
on community development project
What I did was help come up with some ideas as to the layout of the sub chapter pages and some of the layout of the inside text. This was a really fun experience because I thought “Wow, this project will eventually turn into an actual book and I will get to say ‘I helped’.” This also taught me about the amount of revisions it takes to reach an end result that was way better than the first.Teamwork and collaboration is a big part of the design which is something I never knew before.

I also learned a lot about the process of design and the tools used to design. One of the biggest things was learning how to use different programs. At Centric Design Studios I mostly used Adobe Illustrator, I program I had little familiarity with. Now, I have way more experience with this program and others such as Photoshop and can use them confidently. Overall, I had an amazing time working with everyone here at Centric Design Studios. I feel like I have personally gained experienced on not just design, but how the workplace runs that I can apply to a future career.
Kayla's last day after a very successful completion
of her practicum program

Monday, November 27, 2017

Chronicle 38: Honored To Be Recipients of Two Design Excellence Awards

On October 14, 2017 in Houston Texas, Centric Design Studio (CDS) was presented with two design awards, during the 45th Annual National Organization of Minority Architect's (NOMA) Professional Design Awards of the National Exposition. These two awards meant a lot to CDS Partners, Saundra Little, AIA and Damon Thomas, LEED AP whose corporate vision is not only to design buildings, but also to design more equitable, economically viable, and sustainable cities.

Little, and Thomas were honored to receive a design award in the Historic Preservation Restoration & Renovation Category for their work on Techtown Detroit's First Floor Renovation. There was much competition for this $1.5 million, 20,000 square-foot first floor renovation project. The TechTown building originally designed by renowned architect, Albert Kahn in 1927, is now the longest operating business innovation hub, helping entrepreneurs in all stages of development  to connect with the right resources, at the right time.

The pair were equally as honored as they took the stage to receive a second Design Excellence award in NOMA's first ever Small Project category for their work on the David Klein Art Gallery. The redesign of the David Klein Gallery, was also featured in a book by Michael Arnaud titled, Detroit The Dream is Now, a photographic journal about "The Design, Art, And Resurgence of An American City," reminiscent of the gallery owner's, dream of bringing a national presence to Detroit's design community, when Centric Design Studio was hired to design and adapt this space for his second art gallery in the burgeoning downtown area of Detroit, MI.

When it comes to adapting older urban buildings for new purposes Centric Design Studio has found a perfect balance for planning and designing spaces that allow natural lighting to flow through. While honoring the integrity of the original structure and design, they add new energy efficiency technology enhancing the building's beauty and functionality.

About the National Organization of Minority Architects, (NOMA): NOMA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. NOMA consists of volunteer members who contribute their time and resources to champion diversity within the design professions by promoting the excellence, community engagement, and professional development of its members.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Chronicle 37: Centric Design Studio receives 2017 Michigan's Salute to Diversity Award

Centric Design Studio was honored to receive Michigan's Salute to Diversity Award on October 26, 2017. According to Everything Business Corp, an online magazine, a Diversity Business Leader is an individual who is a diversity role model or top officer of a minority-owned business (read article).

Centric Design Studio's Architect and Principal Saundra Little and Design Director Damon Thomas are not only exceptional Diversity Business Leader's and role models, but also Diversity Champions. 

Centric Design Studio invests in the future of minority and underrepresented students in the architecture field by providing internships and mentorship opportunities. Additionally, the partners volunteer their time to the planning and development of projects designed to expose a diverse group of people to the significant architectural achievements of past generations of African American Architects, hoping to increase the interest for future generations of minorities to consider architecture as a potential career choice.

By: Vivian White

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chronicle 36: Designing Healthier Office Spaces


Sustainable design also means healthier design - and healthier processes. Most of us spend over 1/3 of our lives inside office buildings. This makes the design of buildings and office space very important to our environment and our health. Creating healthier workplaces is a central part of Centric Design Studio's sustainable design strategy. The ways in which we use energy, and our choices of materials and processes, are the most effective way to reduce fossil fuel emissions and contaminants released from materials and processes.

Case Study for SpaceLab, Detroit, MI
Take a look inside one of our recent design projects. SpaceLab Detroit opened their doors for their first public grand opening June 8th, 2017. SpaceLab Detroit is a co-working office space in downtown Detroit area, conceived by husband and wife team, Bobby and Karen Burton. It is a state of the art, efficiently designed work space for today's entrepreneurs, architects, engineers, and construction service providers.

Natural Lighting
healthier office space renovationOn this project, the south facing windows maximize the benefits of daylight from both the morning and evening sun. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D and is critical for facilitating vision and our bodies' ability to regulate hormones, which in turn keeps processes related to alertness, digestion, and sleep functioning properly.

Electric Lighting
Prioritizing around  natural light minimizes electricity usage, the largest source of carbon emissions. In addition, most of the lighting used in the space is LED, which uses energy more efficiently than traditional lighting and emits less heat. Motion sensors cause the lights to turn off when there is no movement in the room. Using less electricity helps us keep our environment healthier and adds up to big financial savings for the owner and tenant. 

Adding to the comfort level and energy efficiency of this space was a switch from steam heat to gas, allowing the occupants more control over temperature. The radiators were kept to maintain the character of the space, however, the duct work was reconfigured to facilitate the new system.

Use of Materials
Acoustical ceiling tiles are used in the offices for noise reduction. Environmentally-friendly materials were used for the carpeting, which also utilizes processes to maintain clean indoor air quality. Designer roller shades will give occupants maximum control over the amount of natural light to allow in, while also providing protection from UV light. 

Located in the heart of Detroit, SpaceLab is a model for the future of design and economic growth. Design challenges within the city's 2030 District consist of a delicate balance between maintaining buildings historical intellect while deploying healthy, sustainable, aesthetically pleasing key elements. All of this adds up to a reduction in fossil fuel energy use and costs. LED lighting also qualified the business owners for a sizable rebate from DTE Energy.  What is not to like about implementing sustainable design?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Chronicle 35:Making Big Changes One Global Footprint at a Time

Why is SUSTAINABLE DESIGN important to 
property owners and managers, developers, and building professionals?

It is because the buildings we occupy daily make up over 40% of the global demand for energy and materials that produce carbon emissions.
Due to the continuous high demand for material and energy consumption, as building professionals, our decisions have a big impact on our environment. Making our impact a positive one will require a conscious effort.


Thinking sustainable design, doesn't mean knowing everything about sustainability. It does mean that we make a conscious decision to try.

Commitment to Reduce Carbon Emission

Centric Design Studio - along with our partners, employees, and vendors - have made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emitting energy, as part of our design process. We encourage other building professionals to join with us, in making the decision and commitment to replace fossil fuel energy consumption with carbon neutral energy consumption. There are numerous rewards to implementing sustainable design and processes. Mainly, by reducing fossil fuel emission, we will reduce - and may even reverse - climate change. Building professionals have the greatest potential to make a big impact.

The 2030 District is committed to reducing carbon emission to zero fossil fuel energy consumption by the year 2030. This sounds like a lofty goal but it is possible, one global footprint at a time.

As a Founding Partner in the 2030 District, along with the 2030 District Network, Centric Design Studio will continue to be a valuable resource for businesses in the city of Detroit. We help organizations and businesses by providing them with the information and tools they need to visualize and implement their plans and become more sustainable by design.

Centric Design Studio Commits as a Founding Partner
Centric Design Studio Commits as a Founding Partner

Friday, August 4, 2017

Chronicle 34: Congrats to Shanita Rutland of Centric Design Studio

Shanita Rutland, Visualization Design Leader
Congratulations to Shanita Rutland!

Centric Design Studio wishes you on the best in the Class of 2018, AIA Detroit Christopher Kelley Leadership Program (CKLDP)