The 3 R’s of Transforming Aging Properties for Tomorrow

The 3 R’s of Transforming Aging Properties for Tomorrow

In order to unlock hidden value in aging buildings and to avoid functional obsolescence, it is imperative to consider a different set of R’s to accommodate the needs of 21st century companies: Refresh, Re-Image and Redevelop.

For many, the mention of the “Three R’s” will conjure up an association with “Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic”. Teaching standards have evolved considerably from the last century due to the influence of technology but also from an understanding that subject learning in isolation is insufficient. In today’s global economy, critical thinking and collaboration are vital to success in virtually every field.

A similar fundamental shift is occurring in how buildings are evolving to accommodate the needs of 21st century companies and their largest expense, the employees. The workplace in the era of Mad Men’s Don Draper was over 500sf per employee. Today, the standard is 60% less. Yesterday’s workplace was walled-off, rigid, single-use spaces tethered to equipment and files. Today’s workplace is open, flexible, multi-functional spaces that can pivot and adjust to the demands of both individuals and teams. Yesterday’s workplace showed little concern for environmental health and utilized energy-intensive building systems. Today’s workplace is conscious of the impact of off-gassing in carpets and paints and recognizes the effects natural daylighting can have on energy use, employee wellness and company productivity.

In order to unlock hidden value in aging buildings and to avoid functional obsolescence, it is imperative to consider a different set of R’s: Refresh, Re-Image and Redevelop.


Many older properties can be dramatically improved by simple changes to existing finishes. Depending on the scope of work and choice of materials, such “refreshes” may well be considered base building repairs rather than capital improvements or alterations. Primary benefits:

  • Lower cost
  • Minimal disruption to existing users and core business

An example of such an approach was a WD project for a utility company. WD was enlisted to refresh an existing mid-century building at a multi-building regional service facility. Our approach was to incorporate elements from the company’s branding (color, typography, logo) to create a refreshed look for the dated architecture that improved the company’s visibility to the community.

Orange County Renovation


While some properties can take advantage of a simple “Refresh”, the majority of older properties require a greater level of consideration to “Re-Image”. Buildings constructed prior to 1990’s American Disabilities Act should be evaluated for deficiencies and establish appropriate measures needed to achieve compliance. Property owners should be aware that accessibility requirements extend beyond common components of the building (e.g. restrooms) and includes elements such as signage graphics and pedestrian site circulation.

For projects in California, another critical consideration is Title-24 and CalGreen standards. Thresholds exist for additions and alterations in both square footage and construction permit valuation that can trigger compliance requirements with current energy code standards. One small example: altering as little as 10% of existing luminaires triggers the need for dimming controls and occupancy sensors.

WD was recently involved with Re-Imaging a circa 1970, 4-story office building by noted California architect Craig Ellwood. Iconic in outward appearance, the building is sub-par by today’s Class-A workplace standards with 14,000sf floorplates, 8’-9” ceilings, ADA non-compliant restrooms and a 120’ long corridor as the main lobby.

WD analyzed structural, mechanical and life safety elements in order to create open ceilings up to 12’ clear with exposed structure at typical floor tenant spaces. New high performance window films were employed to improve thermal performance while reducing glare and improving interior daylighting. The building core was analyzed to make use of underutilized space to create ADA-compliant restrooms.

The most visible change greets building occupants and visitors alike the minute they walk in the building: the existing hallway “lobby” expanded to create a shared building amenity space featuring huddle booths, coffee bar with lounge seating and informal wifi-enabled interaction areas.

Orange County Tenant Improvement


Buildings that can literally no longer support their original purpose are candidates for Redevelopment. Properties may have fallen into disrepair from deferred maintenance or are sitting vacant or underutilized because of economic conditions. Asset components and systems must be evaluated to establish re-use or alteration potential, with careful consideration given to environmental mitigation that may be necessary. Redevelopment of former industrial properties into mixed-use occupancies generally requires close coordination with community zoning and traffic constraints. Successfully executed, Redevelopment of obsolete properties can create immense value and significantly improve the communities around them.

WD created a Redevelopment plan for a derelict, 361,000sf LA Times newspaper production facility in Costa Mesa, CA. Careful analysis of the existing facility, accompanying 21-acre site, and city zoning codes resulted in a vibrant, adaptive-reuse vision for the existing structure, while unlocking site potential for new office and residential components totaling an additional 420,000sf. To support the higher density use, structured parking was employed to minimize existing hardscape and create a 1.6-acre linear park amenity. Project sustainability measures include a 1.4-megawatt high-efficiency, rooftop solar array that offsets energy consumption within the adaptive-reuse building by 36%, as well as a site solution that employs drought-tolerant landscaping, grey-water irrigation systems and onsite storm water management.

Orange County Redevelopment

At Westgroup Designs, we apply the fundamentals of the 3 R’s every day to help clients maximize the performance and value of their existing properties.


Ken O_small


Rethinking the Traditional College Campus

Rethinking the Traditional College Campus

In July, Orange County was graced by the presence of the Dalai Lama for the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Over the course of several days, he led a series of discussions covering a range of topics including an education roundtable with academics, professionals in business and technology, and students.  The panelists’ conversation revealed a remarkable confluence between 2,000 years of Buddhist thought, as manifested by the Dalai Lama, and emerging trends in higher education.

The Tibetan tradition of education is premised on the training of the mind in order to cultivate compassion.  In modern parlance, we could substitute for compassion the words connectedness, empathy, understanding, or community.  It was noted that too often contemporary education has emphasized development of a clever brain to the exclusion of a compassionate heart.  Panelist Jerry Cohan, Director of Google Ideas, characterized the typical university as an ambitious, Type-A ecosystem that places a greater premium on titles and distinctions than on content and connection.  It was suggested that to develop compassion – or community or connection – as a reflexive attitude, the “mental diet” of students and educators must be richer.  Learning needs to move beyond the conceptual or theoretical into the experiential.

Such a perspective highlights the paucity of a strictly utilitarian response to the challenge of providing education in an era of diminished resources that is frequently espoused by critics who allege that colleges and universities are spending on everything but the classroom.  However, more or better labs and classrooms are, by themselves, insufficient, and the promised economies and efficacy of on-line learning have to date been demonstrated to be largely illusory.  Neither addresses the experiential component of educating the complete student – or the complete education of any student.  Thus the so-called academic “fluff” decried by those same critics – “luxurious” on-campus housing, dining halls, student centers, student unions, recreation facilities, and attractive open spaces – can be seen as essential components in support of the idea of the entire campus as the classroom.  If we accept that learning is fundamentally social, then the experiential value of all the spaces outside of the academic classroom per se – those spaces and places that support social interaction, chance encounters, and interdisciplinary collaboration; that contribute to recruitment, retention, and persistence; and that form the basis for long-lasting memories and alumni commitment – is self-evident.  It’s where the lessons from the academic classroom, real or virtual, are integrated into a student’s being.  Which is why, as a complement to the growing presence of MOOCs and on-line degrees, well-designed physical campus environments remain relevant, most especially to an already technologically-connected millennial and post-millennial cohort, in creating more compassionate, more connected graduates and more engaged citizens.

And this was the final take-away from the Dalai Lama on education: wisdom and compassion alone are meaningless unless they result in action.  Post-graduate engagement matters.  In this regard, the charter of Arizona State University, a leader in both on-line education and enlightened campus development, is especially resonant.  ASU aims to be a university measured “not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed”, with its measure of success characterized by “research and discovery of public value… [that demonstrate] responsibility for the economic, social, cultural, and overall health of the communities it serves.”  Sounds like a commitment to which the Dalai Lama could subscribe.


John Coons

John A. Coons, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Canstruction 2015: 51,000 Meals for Families in Need

Canstruction 2015: 51,000 Meals for Families in Need

Westgroup Designs and Snyder Langston teamed up last Friday to support Canstruction and the Orange County Food Bank. This year the teams who participated collected 82,000 cans of food, or 51,000 meals for the families in need in our local community.

Deft hands carefully steadied cans of tuna, baked beans and chicken inside Anaheim’s large transit station.

The collection of preserved food slowly took shape into a regal lion rising more than seven feet tall.

The public art piece and four other colossal canned food structures crafted by local architecture and engineering firms will be displayed through Sept. 27 at the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center as part of an effort to feed the poor.

View the original article from Orange County Register


Long Beach Unified School District Celebrates the Opening of Newcomb Academy

Long Beach Unified School District Celebrates the Opening of Newcomb Academy

WD’s design creates a modern, state-of-the-art multi-building campus featuring student quads and an open, pedestrian experience.

Students and faculty at Newcomb Academy in Long Beach will return to class Wednesday to a renovated campus with new features.

Newcomb Academy is the first K-8 school rebuilt as part of the Long Beach Unified School District’s Measure K bond program. The bond program has already created three new schools aside from significant infrastructure updates at different schools sites within the district.

View the original article from the Press Telegram


WD Helps District Secure $40 Million in AB 300 Funds

WD Helps District Secure $40 Million in AB 300 Funds

On June 30, Garden Grove USD secured $40 million in AB 300 funds for two high school campuses. Westgroup Designs completed the design of 210,000 SF at both sites with tier 1 and tier 2 DSA/OPSC approvals in less than nine months.

“I am thrilled and relieved that the State Allocation Board has provided facility hardship approvals under the Seismic Mitigation Program for La Quinta and Pacifica High Schools,” said Margaret Brown, Garden Grove USD’s Director of Facilities. “The State’s multi agency process for approving the plans and specifications is both demanding and complex. We need the best consultants working collaboratively to get the design right while meeting strict deadlines. Westgroup Designs led the team and was able to build consensus for a new design. These rebuilt schools will serve students and staff, as well as parents and the community, for decades to come.”

As part of Garden Grove USD’s facilities improvement efforts, Westgroup fast-track designed a total of 18 new buildings and six modernized existing buildings at La Quinta and Pacifica High Schools in order to meet the bi-annual deadline to secure AB 300 funds. In addition, the projects’ designs are strategically phased in construction as to not interrupt the day-to-day education activities of each campus.

In addition to their work with Garden Grove USD, Westgroup Designs is currently finishing construction of the $42 million Newcomb Academy from Long Beach USD that utilized $18 million of AB 300 funds.

Keys to the Success in Securing and Maximizing AB 300 Funds

1. DSA/OPSC Approvals – Successful approvals hinge on three core elements: trust relations, technical knowledge and funding knowledge. An architecture firm must have deep familiarity with government agencies, and a combination of both technical and funding knowledge enables the firm to effectively strategize the design process in order to maximize funding. With these three strengths, Westgroup’s in-house experts were able to negotiate with OPSC about funding concerns and strategically calculate the funds in accordance with the design.

2. Creative Design Solutions – Complex projects in need of fresh and modernized design elements must undergo strategic planning so as to expedite agency approvals. In order to fully aid Garden Grove USD, Westgroup created solutions that honed in on cost efficient design—not simplified design—in order to maximize the space of the campuses with the funding at hand.

3. Timing – Time is money, and transferring students to a different school or renting interim classrooms while facilities undergo construction is expensive and disruptive for educational delivery. Westgroup’s solution concentrated on a strategic, fast-track and complex phasing to rid the need of interim housing altogether, thereby allowing for day-to-day classroom activities to continue undisturbed.


Paul A_small

Paul Andersen, Ed.D

Say Hello to Our Newest Family Members!

Say Hello to Our Newest Family Members!

Westgroup Designs welcomes three new faces to our family: John Coons, Principal and Higher Education Market Leader (center); Renee Rose Andrade, Director of Strategy (right); and Rilla Peng, Marketing Communications Manager (left).

John is bringing additional senior leadership power to the team!

John is joining WD with over 30 years of experience in planning, design, project management and business development. His inclusive, interdisciplinary approach has resulted in projects notable for their contextual sensitivity, programmatic responsiveness, economy, commitment to sustainability and award-winning design quality. In his spare time, he and his wife enjoy traveling, attending music concerts and sipping on wine.

Renee is on board to trim our sails to the wind!

Renee brings a holistic approach to strategy with experience in marketing, brand communications, business development, team leadership and organizational and talent management. She loves unlocking vision, creating direction and providing structure, and then seeing creative teams reap the benefits. Outside of work, Renee is dedicated to her husband and 4-year old daughter, “mini me.” Her bucket list includes visiting Angkor Wat, collaborating with Tony Robbins and space tourism.

Rilla is helping us up the ante in marketing and brand communications!

Rilla is a recent graduate from University of California, Santa Barbara with experience in marketing, social media, public relations and graphic design. She holds an incorrigible passion for creation, whether this means painting images on a canvas or computer screen, illustrating concepts through words or animating ideas via speech and sound. When she isn’t working, Rilla spends time with her family, blasts Electronic Dance Music (EDM), visits new eateries and stares into an abyss of corgi photos.


WD Named One of the 2015 Best Places to Work in Orange County

WD Named One of the 2015 Best Places to Work in Orange County

Westgroup Designs was recently named as one of Orange County Business Journal’s 2015 Best Places to Work in Orange County. The program began in 2009 as a way for the OCBJ and Best Companies Group to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Orange County.

Organizations across the county entered into the two-part evaluation process. The first consisted of evaluating each employer’s workplace policies, practices and demographics worth 25% of the total evaluation. The second part consisted of an employee survey designed to measure the employee experience which was 75% of the total evaluation. Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process and then analyzed the data to determine who the top companies were. The final ranking of the winning organizations will be released via a special section of the OCBJ’s July 27th issue.

Going Beyond Green For Google

Going Beyond Green For Google

A new creative office building becomes the first speculative office building in Southern California to achieve LEED for Core and Shell Platinum certification.

A new creative office building becomes the first speculative office building in Southern California to achieve LEED for Core and Shell Platinum certification.

IN 2012, WESTGROUP Designs had the opportunity to create a new office building for Google at Impac Center in Irvine, California. The existing campus was a collection of office buildings and a freestanding restaurant set around a vehicular approach, which resulted in awkward geometries, limited pedestrian interaction and underutilized spaces

View the original article from Development Magazine

Westgroup Designs Corporate Office Expansion

Westgroup Designs Corporate Office Expansion

Westgroup Designs is excited to announce that our Orange County office is growing once again.

We are currently under construction on our expansion space with renovation on the current office to begin shortly. Our anticipated completion is early March. As part of our community outreach, we were pleased to be able to donate 3,000 sf of ceiling tiles, lighting and air supply and return to the Legal Aid Society of Orange County. Legal Aid provides free and low-cost civil legal services to low-income families and senior citizens throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties.

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