Go “Off the Rails” with the Urban Lab

Andy.jpgAndy Madrick

Sustainability Associate, Landscape Architecture


On Friday, October 7, the Urban Lab will select the winner of its “Off the Rails” competition. This juried competition challenges innovators to envision the revitalization of a busy, neglected strip in downtown Fort Collins, Colorado—one that is currently limited by the conflict between an active railroad and the adjoining public streetscape. “Off the Rails” garnered submissions from around the globe. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of the future of Fort Collins.

When: Friday, October 7, 6-9 PM during Fort Collins’ First Friday Art Walk

Where: Galvanize, 242 Linden Street, Fort Collins, CO

The Urban Lab is proud to announce that it has attracted a national panel of esteemed jurors, an international submission pool, and a high level of community engagement and sponsorship.

International Applicants

“Off the Rails” entrants include students and professionals, from Fort Collins to as far away as China, who contributed ideas as diverse as their backgrounds. This international perspective will lead to a more colorful vision of what the city could become in the near future.

National Jury

“Off the Rails” attracted a national panel of judges:

Mayor Wade Troxell—Mayor of Fort Collins since April 2015, Troxell’s top priorities are: 1) Fort Collins as an innovation community and 2) Civic leadership for youth and young adults.

Hansy Better Barraza—As both a practitioner and an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, Hansy is an expert in design methods that embrace social responsibility.

Walter Hood—Hood teaches landscape architecture and environmental design at the University of California, Berkeley. His studio practice, Hood Design, focuses on architectural commissions, urban design, art installations, and research.

Ed Goodman—Goodman’s diverse background includes more than 30 years of interdisciplinary problem solving with experience in entertainment, engineering, community design, marketing, branding, technology, organizational ecology, dreamscaping, experience design, and more.

Local Sponsorship

The Urban Lab garnered an outstanding amount of sponsorship for “Off the Rails” from local businesses along the Mason Corridor, demonstrating the community’s investment in the long-term future of the built environment. With community support, the Urban Lab believes that this competition will set the stage for a more vibrant, more engaging public space along Mason Street.

UniverCity Urban Lab is hosting “Off the Rails” in partnership with the City of Fort Collins and the Downtown Development Authority.

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Upcoming Event! The LENSES Framework

lenses2The LENSES Framework
Presented by
The Institute for the Built Environment, CLEAR, USGBC & Alliance for Sustainable Colorado

Monday, February 22, 2016 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Leaders in green building design and construction and sustainable development are looking to push beyond current practices into “regenerative design” and “living” built environments. This different way of thinking shifts away from a “less bad” approach to the built environment and toward a wholly positive, benefit-creation process — one that we call “regenerative development.”

LensesAt the leading edge of this transition is LENSES, or Living Environments in Natural, Social, and Economic Systems. LENSES is an open source framework that guides project teams and communities toward regenerative solutions for their development needs. The LENSES approach has already sparked “way-outside-the-box” discussions and innovations in leadership retreats, community workshops, and college courses. The outcome? Living environments that foster and celebrate happier people, a healthier planet, and financial comfort.

Join us on February 22 to learn about regenerative development and LENSES from the creators of LENSES. See how you can use this framework to affect positive change in the sustainable development space, including achieving LEED Platinum, the Living Building Challenge, and other high-performance goals.

This event will qualify as a GBCI credit. Just make sure to sign in at the door to ensure you receive it!

5:30 – 6:00 pm: Networking

6:00 – 6:45 pm: LENSES presentation

6:45 – 7:15 pm: Hands-on LENSES activity

7:15 – 7:30 pm: Wrap up and Q&A

Please register here!

The 5 Principles of Innovative Teams

Projects Manager
Building design and construction is incredibly complex.  Countless perspectives and disciplines—from users to engineers, architects, contractors, craftsmen, and financiers—are required to collaborate in order to design a multitude of building systems that will work in harmony, while also being functional and beautiful.  The process we use to bring together these individuals is called integrative design (ID).
Why integrative design? 
To many, this simply means getting more people in the room. But is more people and more meetings really what it takes to develop meaningful solutions?
The Integrative Design Process is the arguably largest determinant of the success and efficiency of a building. Along with the advancement of building technologies, this process is a critical tool in reducing the environmental impact of buildings and supporting the health of those who inhabit them. So it’s really important we get this right.
But with so many people involved, how can we come to better decisions faster?
Most design teams would agree that the Integrative Process is meaningful, but they are often overwhelmed with the number of people that should be at the table and the time required to make decisions in large groups.  They often ask, how can we come to better decisions faster?
IBE: Taking research to practice
In 2009, the Institute for the Built Environment, Dr. Jeni Cross and additional CSU researchers began evaluating what differentiates the best integrative design projects from those that struggled.  From this research, we discovered that team structure was one of the primary indicators of success in the ID process.
We used social network analysis to visualize teams and illustrate the people, relationships, and structure of teams.  These diagrams showed that although diverse team membership is necessary, this is not all that is required to support collaboration and innovation.  Instead, it is the communication patterns and relationships between people that distinguishes successful integrative design teams.
So, how do we create successful integrative design teams?

Through this research, we identified five key principles of Integrative Design.  By using these principles, teams can build a network with the capacity to make better decisions faster.

1. A Facilitator Guides the Team

A trained facilitator is necessary to moderate the interactions on a team and build trust. Facilitators also develops willingness to take risks and openness to learning within the team, while encouraging equal participation.

Every Team Needs a Cat Herder 

2. The Team Establishes Rules of Interaction

Teams must establish ground rules to guide their interaction.  These ground rules most often resemble:
-Everyone knows everyone
-We all have an equal voice & an expectation to contribute
-Decisions are informed by whole group input
-We are all learning and don’t individually have all the answers

3. The Team has Diverse and Inclusive Membership

Innovation doesn’t happen in a team with people who all think the same or have the same perspectives and opinion. Diversity is required in order to bring the unique data, perspectives, and specialized expertise which are necessary for innovation.

4. The Team has a Core-Periphery Structure

The core team is dense and everyone is very connected (everyone knows everyone), but this team reaches out to a periphery of resources to bring in new ideas and information to the group.

5. The Team Utilizes Integrative Decision Making

The team utilizes a process of generating major decisions as a group, vetting them with appropriate individuals, making sure they align with project vision and goals, and refining decisions as a team.

To learn more about optimal team structure, why it is critical to success, and how to create it download the new white paper, the Social Network of Integrative Design.
At IBE, our mission is to advance the development of healthy thriving built environments, and we do this by taking research to practice.  So, take advantage of the other white papers, presentations, and publications in our research library to advance your knowledge and your work.