Design for Innovation


17 November 2016 - Todd Boyer

A mission or culture drives an organization. This fact is more evident with our ever changing competitive global marketplace. A clear mission improves strategic alignment, customer engagement, employee loyalty, and can be measured as it evolves. 

An organization’s space should reinforce the mission while absorbing its evolution. A perfect example is the nationally recognized PAST innovation Labs we recently completed for the PAST Foundation, a non-profit organization that connects real world scientific research to teaching and learning. PAST conducts outreach to states, schools and communities, policy makers, business and industry leaders. They use their education model to set the standards and they equally use their education model to challenge them. There is a reason they’re nationally recognized in education: change. Only an open, airy, open for collaboration and flexible for wider purpose space can support evolving programs in which the PAST Innovation Labs support.

The PAST Foundation already had a building in mind when we got involved: an old, cold storage warehouse facility in Clinton Township, just outside The Ohio State University’s territory. The building was in poor shape with minimal natural light, dark spaces, a raised dock, large garage bay doors. It was blank. 


To get started, we began a feasibility study to determine if the building they had in mind would be suitable for their needs and ultimately aid in determining their future. The study found the building’s resiliency and potential for PAST despite any initial hesitancies. It ultimately was a raw, blank slate with properties to be transformed to meet their needs and purpose: Collaborate, innovate, and learn.


The infrastructure was sized for the entire building, which was more space than they planned on using. We were able to separate the building into deliberate sections that aligned with their deep future vision. We incorporated a 4,000-gallon tank that allowed the PAST Foundation to be completely on its own water system. At the end of construction, the building was refinanced and given a higher property value giving them equity for years. We relied on the aptitude of the building and the organization’s valuable city benefits.

Since the PAST Innovation Lab opened, they have had more than 1,800 visitors from across the globe in the first eight months of operation. Growing interest in STEM centers and the future of education has educators and scientists flocking to the PAST Foundation to observe and learn about productive education models. 

Transforming space to a mission is more of a challenge when adapting an existing facility. There isn’t the ability to craft and choreograph the ideal solution. The key is to change the architectural approach and work with the existing building to create a backdrop to the mission. The PAST Foundation’s growth since opening their doors is proof that the building can work for the purpose if we let it.


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