2016 Summer MiAPPA Conference

Martin Ruiter, from our Lansing office, and Betsy Wagner, from our Ann Arbor office, both share their takeaways from the Summer 2016 MiAPPA Conference.


MiAPPA Overview By Martin Ruiter

Once again the Summer MiAPPA conference this year was a great experience, thank you to Eastern Michigan University and its staff for hosting such an awesome event at Boyne Highlands and continuing to maintain the high standards that we’ve all become accustomed to; our MiAPPA organization is truly amazing! 

I found the Breakout Session “Modern Impacts of Societal Change in Design, Construction, Maintenance & Operation of College Facilities” to be very engaging and informative, especially the impact of societal change on our college and university partners and their mission to provide clean, safe and effective environments that enhance the learning experience for all. 

The University of Colorado’s joint use toilet room design, private toilet rooms with a common hand washing station, was an interesting solution to the traditional, separate,  Men’s, Women’s, unisex approach to providing equal, yet accessible, restroom facilities for all users.

Finally, for those of you who have not had the opportunity to experience dinner theater with the Young Americans, it is worth the trip to Boyne just for the non-stop 120 minute show that rivals some of the best production numbers that my wife and I have ever seen. They are a non-profit performance and educational organization that produces over 400 shows in more than thirty countries and have a 39 year affiliation with Boyne Highlands which makes them the second longest running dinner theater in America. 



Technology Integration in Learning By Betsy Wagner

The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Tracy Wilen, gave an interesting discussion on how technology is changing learning and infiltrating everything we do. She stated that many people are visual learners, with Millennials in particular, having been raised on tablets and learning through videos. This is a big trend with the new generation of students. 

Dr. Wilen also spoke about Adaptive Learning, especially Augmented Reality which included the video below that I thought was quite interesting. The video demonstrates virtual glasses that are worn while  fixing a car which give step by step instructions on how to fix an engine.

current research project at BMW

I think the biggest takeaway for me was the need to embrace technology in our building designs and consider how we can integrate it thoughtfully in our projects.

 For more on Dr. Wilen, please visit her blog:


Environments For Aging Conference

April 9-12, 2016: Austin, Texas

With over 50 sessions to choose from, there was a lot going on in Austin, besides the BBQ and live music. Tom Dillenbeck, AIA and Betsy Wagner, IIDA were both representing the Senior Living studio from Hobbs+Black. Here are just a few take-aways from what they learned.

Plan for Movement, not for Objects – Too often designers and planners are focused on providing an efficient floor plan and design around the pieces of furniture that inhabit a space – such as beds, wardrobes and sinks. However, in Assisted Living the goal is for people to be up moving about, not lying in a bed all day. With the mobility aids required by the aging population, adequate consideration should be given for maneuvering through a space. 

Non-Visual Building Elements – The opening keynote speaker, Chris Downey, said that to the visually-impaired “the hardware on the front door is the handshake of the building.” A falling-apart door knob would give one a taste of the type of treatment that may be experienced inside. As designers, we ought to consider the points of touch throughout the building as well as the audible experience. Appropriate acoustical materials should be considered in lobbies and areas where voice recognition may be difficult due to reverberation from hard surfaces.

Creative Courtyards – Many Senior Living projects have a courtyard of some type, but are we making the most of them? Depending on the type of residents, courtyards can be designed to provide for many different needs. Some residents need the therapeutic nature of an active planting garden, while others are looking for solitude in a healing garden. Providing a variety of spaces, shade, seating and good connection between indoor/outdoor help promote greater use of courtyards for a variety of activities. A well designed space helps improve a resident’s mobility, motor functions and pleasure.

Lighting Effects – The typical human eye receives 1/3 of the amount of light by the age of 60. Most of the senior residents are living with some form of low vision impairment. Designers can do several things to help overcome low-vision issues:

  • Light the walls, hide the source – providing vertical illumination to help navigation
  • Provide contrast in baseboards, handrails and edges of courtyard walking paths
  • Select materials which will reduce glare, both inside and out
  • Provide lighting controls that work with the natural circadian biological clock