Our methods help us get under the surface so we can think "just like a client" and move forward as a team with common language and experiences.

Our clients are leaders who expect us to have a deep understanding
of their worlds.

We use a number of methods to foster dialogue, define goals and design options.  We employ specific tools to relate business and facility factors that inform investment decisions. We engage techniques to tease out the subtlety of values and purpose that affect perception, culture and effectiveness.

These methods help us build communication and trust in an environment where discovery and innovation take root.

Community Engagement

Tapping into the “collective wisdom”

The community affected by a decision has a right to be informed. It should also be allowed to influence that decision.

That is why we believe in engaging those impacted by a project in the initial stages of planning and design. Empowering the community with a voice allows legitimate concerns to surface and community-enriching ideas to take root.

The “collective intelligence” of engaged individuals, facilitators and community leaders can be incalculably beneficial in defining a challenge, eliciting transformative ideas and developing enduring solutions.

Steps to Successful Community Engagement:

Define the community – understand how the community defines itself - by its people, location, shared interest or common concern. Diverse communities require multiple engagement strategies.

Define the challenge – define the purpose and goals of the engagement to keep the community focused on specifics.

Create the proper environment – be open to the potential for transformative ideas to come from the engagement.

Listen, record and synthesize – demonstrate that the community is being heard and taken seriously. Synthesize data into strong common themes.

Welcome change and re-evaluation – anticipate changes to the engagement by a newly empowered community or individual champion.

Build long-term relationships - successful transformation takes time and requires a long-term commitment.

Community Charrette

We know that plans succeed when community stakeholders join together to explore options and articulate the project’s vision.  Our master plan for the Grand Center Great Streets urban district came to life in a series of public charrettes.

Voice of the Customer

Examining needs from every angle

People tend to look for evidence that supports what they already think. Psychologists call it "confirmation bias."

To strive for design that makes a difference, we need more accurate ways of listening and documenting findings. We employ a variety of tools that allow you to explore your vision and discover opportunities to transform.

Focus Groups allow users with a common goal to fine tune concepts and requirements that a proposed project should meet.

Day-in-the-Life studies shadow real people as they interact with a physical setting or set of circumstances to gauge and define perceptions that may inform design decisions.

Archetypal Characters present a story narrative to demonstrate how different users interact with an environment in order to build our understanding of the specific qualities sought.

Customer Surveys, using web-based tools, help broaden the inquiry to uncover deficiencies, validate concepts, or confirm opinions.

Sure Start

Process for “Setting the Dials”

Getting to Aha! faster

Planning and design are processes that demand synthesis of a great deal of interrelated data.  With Sure Start, we organize an intensive, “all-hands-on-deck process” that aligns project aspirations with project concepts right from the start.

We bring together client representatives, architectural and engineering experts in a rapid sequence of meetings that “set the dials” for the project as a whole.  Feedback is immediate and results are quickly tested to inform the next set of decisions.  In this integrated fashion, we consider and address critical factors:  functional demands, design and site options, building systems and operations, phasing and cost.

Once the dials are properly set, in -depth design work proceeds based on a solid foundation of clarity and insight.


Knowing the competitive field is foundational to clients seeking transformation

In today’s competitive environment, assuring good utilization of space is essential. Christner helps clients understand the competitive benchmarks that affect the deployment and allocation of space. We help construct “best of class” comparisons with peers in order to establish goals for high performance spaces that support transformation.

Creative Visioning

Aesthetic Visioning

Envisioning the completed project

Visualizing what you want your finished project to look like is hard.

We help you express your preferences about design without learning a whole new vocabulary. And to make sure we understand your vision, we employ visual tools and blink exercises to help us summarize your style preferences be they traditional or contemporary, formal or informal.

Then, using illustrative tools, we assess a continuum of architectural styles or interior aesthetics to help you reach consensus on your design preferences and make choices that reflect them. Sharing a common viewpoint for the design direction gets architect and client talking the same language, right from the start.

Simulation Modeling

3D Visualization

Experiencing design in real time

Seeing is believing. That's one reason we employ advanced 3D visualization tools like Building Information Modeling, which allows us to create multiple interior and exterior views of a project using the architectural drawings at hand.

The photorealism of our renderings and animations bring our design ideas to life, enabling you to envision and experience your project at every stage of design. These tools make us better designers, too. We use them to solve complex design issues, improve communication, and streamline decision-making.  It's a difference you'll be able to see for yourself.


Answering the question, "What if?"

Sometimes, it only seems like an expansion program is the best solution to your long-range strategic needs.  In reality, there may be operational opportunities that could help achieve your goals.

Our proprietary dashboard tools help you to better understand the current state and to consider “what if” scenarios that help define true needs. Through interactive work sessions, we can help you understand the operational implications of everything from increasing market share to adding new energy-efficient systems.  Our dashboard tools use real time data analysis to decipher which development options deliver the best return on investment, while still meeting your operational and facility needs.

Mock Ups

Prototype design is often the best way to fine-tune design

We find that full-scale mock-ups are a great way to evaluate design prototypes when rooms will be constructed in multiples or when rooms will house new and untried processes.  Particularly in healthcare design, staff input into the size, proportion and optimization of space for special procedures is invaluable.  Staff members test a true-to-life mock-up and record their opinions.  We collate their preferences and integrate them into the final design.

Simulation Modeling Tools

Simulation modeling helps user groups “see” how design affects efficiency

We use FlexSim Healthcare to measure the efficiency of design options. This 3D modeling tool demonstrates the interaction between plan arrangements and factors such as staffing time and patient through-put. By simulating months of operations in minutes and tracking data points such as waiting time and bed utilization, we can help user groups understand the implications of various design choices.

Process Integration

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Creating a virtual building

We build every building twice. The first time is in the computer.

You may be familiar with Building Information Modeling (BIM) and its ability to simulate a proposed building's appearance or to generate construction documents. But for us it does much more. Our combination of Revit BIM software and NavisWorks coordination software allows us to collaborate with design/construction team members by creating a virtual building prior to actual construction. This allows us to ask and answer many more questions, and to confirm the implications of critical design decisions.

Having used BIM for many years, we are now linking seamlessly with contractors in “virtual design and construction,” where we hand our model to the construction team for further detail and refinement. The opportunities for optimizing choices and reducing conflicts in the field are significant.

Integrated Project Delivery

Lean processes eliminate duplication and waste

We embrace the opportunity to apply Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) methods when clients are looking for joint design and construction leadership.  Using this contractual method, we lead the team in collective problem-solving; highly informed, high-value decision-making; on-going cost-estimating; and fully shared responsibility for project scheduling.

Integrated Project Delivery is proving to be valuable to clients interested in the intersection of design and process improvement.

Tom VanLandingham