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Advice in the Pursuit of WELL AP™

  
 
Director of Product Education, Vanessa Englert, WELL AP™, LEED®AP, and Director of Sustainability Jarod Brames, LEED Green Associate, WELL AP™ are both associates with a long OFS Brands tenure and a passion for doing things the right way.  They both passed the WELL AP test this March.  We sat down with them to get some advice for anybody out there considering the pursuit of this achievement.  
 
Why was this so important for you personally to get this certification? 
 
Jarod:
As Director of Sustainability I am frequently asked questions regarding the emissions, chemical content data, and overall impact our furniture products have on human health and well-being as well as the impacts to the environment. Pursuing my WELL AP credential was the perfect opportunity for me to take a deeper dive into all aspects that affect human well-being in the built environment. 
 
Vanessa:  
I obtained my LEED®AP in 2008 and with jobs specifying the need for green building expertise, the LEED credential is a clear commitment to professional growth. With a renewed industry focus on occupant wellness in the built environment, I wanted to further my professional commitment to sustainability, health and wellness by obtaining my WELL AP. I believe that in addition to LEED and other established design and construction-focused sustainability rating systems, the WELL Building Standard will continue to evolve into a more prominent standard of focus in the future.
 
Jarod,  What did you find most interesting in your WELL education journey? 
 
Jarod:
I probably found it most interesting that Light and Sound can have such an effect on our overall well-being. We are taught from an early age that we are supposed to eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. We also have natural senses that can tell us if the air is stale or the water tastes funny. I don’t feel that it is as obvious or noticeable when bad lighting or sound reverberation and lack of absorption is impacting our moods, internal rhythms and ability to perform at our best. 
 
Vanessa,  What would you say to others in the industry wishing to pursue WELL accreditation? 
 
Vanessa: 
The WELL Building Standard is very impactful in its ability to put people at the center of design, focusing on the benefits our built environment can have on human health and well-being. When I decided to pursue this credential I had many questions – Where do I start? What should I focus on? How do I ensure I’m prepared to pass on my first attempt? For others who may feel it’s important to join this movement, here are some of my suggestions on becoming a WELL AP: 
  1. Spend an adequate amount of time studying the materials. I spent 2 months reading the materials, reviewing flash cards and quizzes, but dedicated the final week prior to my exam to focusing solely on the WELL test prep. 
  2. Memorization is key! I focused on various memorization techniques suggested in the exam preparation guides that were very helpful. Example – 12-34-45-56-65-76-88 is mentioned in a study guide and denotes the features that serve as the cutoff numbers between preconditions and optimizations of the 7 concepts. I also found or created references to remember certain features I had trouble recalling specific information on. Examples – NiCoLe is MeAn with Aresnic. This represents feature 31 inorganic contaminants, part 1 dissolved metals of nickel, copper, lead, mercury, antimony and arsenic. Once I had the reference to the inorganic contaminants themselves memorized, it became easier to memorize mg/L limits of each. 
  3. Ensure that you feel prepared, but don’t overload yourself with too many resources or references. The amount of materials available online can be overwhelming. My suggestion is to focus heavily on the WELL Building Standard, WELL AP Candidate Handbook, and WELL AP Exam Preparation Guide (must purchase) through IWBI, and additional resources available to purchase through GBES (Green Building Education Services) and GBRI (Green Building Research Institute). 
  4. We should put people first. We spend 90% of our time indoors and the buildings where we live, work, learn and relax have a profound effect on our well-being and how we feel. It’s our responsibility to focus on best practices that create the healthiest indoor environments as possible. This is why I chose to become a WELL AP. 
 
Jarod,  What has changed about the way you view space after this education? 
 
Jarod:  
Before beginning my WELL education I felt I was fairly knowledgeable about how buildings operate and what systems influence occupant health and comfort. After my WELL education, I realized I wasn’t! The WELL Standard does a phenomenal job covering nearly every aspect that could potentially impact the health, comfort and overall well –being of a building’s occupants. It is a standard that provides guidance on how to construct spaces that do much more than providing shelter, work stations and break rooms. It provides guidance on how to construct spaces that are dynamic and truly take care of their occupants.  
 
Apr 06, 2017 BLOG/

OFS Brands featured in Timber Design and Technology Magazine

Our 2016 OFS Brands Magazine featured an article by Jarod Brames on our history and passion for wood and the natural world. This passion inspired the popular log-cut graphic that framed our showroom entry this year. The article and imagery was picked up by Timber Design & Technology and featured their latest magazine. Timber Design & Technology is the first dedicated platform for the wood industry in the Middle East offering news, analysis and in-depth features examining all aspects of the regional timber industry. 
 
Mar 30, 2017 BLOG/Design

OFS Brands' Sherry Mason Brown Joins International Women's Day Panel

 
Sherry Mason Brown joined OFS Brands 3 years ago and has played a key role in our continual effort to be a more customer-centric company.  On March 8, she took the stage with a different agenda though. 
 
Mason Brown and 3 other panelists including Janine Davis, founder of Girl Talk Foundation, came together at Delhaize America on March 8, 2017. The discussion was titled "Be Bold for Change" and addressed worldwide workplace gender gap and focused on strategies for moving forward. “This is something I’m very passionate about. I’m honored to be a part of this discussion and to represent OFS Brands on the stage” said Mason Brown. “We are thrilled that Sherry was selected for this. Workplace diversity and gender equality is a topic of incredible importance to OFS Brands and we are fortunate to have Sherry’s strong and intelligent voice be heard by so many” said Ryan Menke, SVP of Sales Marketing for OFS Brands.
 
About OFS Brands: OFS Brands is headquartered in Huntingburg, Indiana and has been crafting furniture in America’s heartland with neighbors, friends, and family since 1937. Focused on creating experiences, we believe that what we make people feel is as important as the things we make. OFS Brands designs and builds furniture to support what we need as people for the places we work, care, learn and live.
Mar 24, 2017 BLOG/

OFS Brands Announces New CEU: OFS - Well Building Certification

OFS Brands is pleased to announce that we have been approved for CEU-IDCEC credits for the OFS - Well Building Certification presentation.
 
Led by OFS Brand’s VP of Development and Wellbeing, Paul Anderson WELL AP, the presentation ties directly to the exploration and pursuit of the International WELL Building Institute and The Well Building Standard.  It outlines the criteria supporting certification in which 100 performance metrics, design strategies, and policies work harmoniously with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). 
 
The framework of this innovative and extremely relevant standard encompasses seven concepts of wellness: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.   It’s often a slight adjustment or just a focus on a specific concept that can make a tremendous difference to employee health and wellbeing.
  
“This CEU reinforces OFS Brands' commitment to offer the most current and relevant education to our partners, and supports our continued investment in delivering experiences that focus on people,” says Anderson, WELL AP.
 

 

Mar 24, 2017 BLOG/Design

The New Musical Chairs

3rd spaces answer how many seats per person as the music plays.
Written by Nick Blessinger

Think about the last time you played musical chairs. Count the participants, then gather one less chair than the number of persons. The music stops, and the person standing is out. Take away a chair and do it again. In today’s world, the music never stops. Individuals just keep going, tackling their day through meetings, tasks and general interaction. When the music does pause, where are you sitting? Is that space conducive towards the activity at-hand?

Many conversations today revolve around how many seats per person are needed in today’s workplace. Is it one? Maybe three? It depends on the organization, department and the type of work needed to get done; however, when you think about primary, secondary and social spaces at minimum, what is truly needed are choices.

Technically, 1st Place is home and 2nd Place is work. 3rd Place was originally described as places outside of home and work, designations such as cafés, coffee shops and local gathering places. This approach as a community is thoroughly covered by urban sociologist, Ray Oldendburg, author of “The Great Good Place” (1991). Just like there have always been makers (i.e. blacksmiths, cobblers) but now we’re in a maker movement, there have always been third places (i.e. libraries, parks, general stores), and we’re in a third place movement. Today, similar to maker spaces, third spaces benefit in popularity from greater awareness of a connected world and a shift towards right-brained appreciation. And, even more so, the evolution of these movements simply resonates with boomers to digital natives without effort.

Starbucks and establishments of their ilk benefited greatly from the onset of third place. Then, third place, generally reserved outside of home and office, became the “3rd Space” and was planted internally among organizations to benefit from the great atmosphere and interaction these spaces generated. Casual collisions, the bump factor, all became rooted in the reasons to dedicate prime real estate to informal spaces that accommodate individuals and small-to-medium-to-large groups with various levels of public and private applications. Why are organizations doing this? Because it works.

“Clients ask me, ‘what’s this space over here you planned with nobody’s name on it?’ I respond with ‘that is where the most work will get done.’ We purposely plan in 30 to 40% of third space because the research and our experience shows how important it is to productivity and overall culture. They reply, ‘what’s third space?,’” Pam Light, Senior Vice President, HOK Los Angeles, relates.

What is 3rd space? It’s that inviting lounge chair next to a window with tablet and power and some seclusion where you can knock out 45 minutes of work before your next meeting. It’s the small round table with three chairs where your project team can meet for an impromptu meeting. It’s a highback lounge configuration that replaces four walls, yet has all the privacy four colleagues need. Now, add LinkedIn-type networking to an external third space with cool amenities and charge for access...say hello to co-working, another movement that fits the generational blend and evolution of work/home/play.

Technology, more so the untethering of it, combined with transient workforces spawned third space activity as designers recognized that individuals needed only a percent of time in the office or at a dedicated or primary space.

“We coach our clients through a deep-dive assessment of dedicated space. What’s the run-rate on daily office capacity? How mobile is your workforce? The allocation of primary, secondary and third spaces is a measurement. Then, the proximity of the third space is just as important as recognizing that it is needed,” adds Pam Light.

What’s more, just like musical chairs, third spaces create movement and flow by being a destination, just like that last open chair. Individuals remove their bodies from statue-like positions and walk to a new space to work. Movement is well-being. Interaction is well-being. Third spaces done properly will be just like the kitchen at a house party...it’s where everyone ends up.

So, let’s play the new version of musical chairs where everyone has a couple of seats to choose from, depending on what’s playing on the day’s to-do list. The new musical chairs isn’t reserved just for the workplace. Education and healthcare environments dance right along to this tune too!
Mar 13, 2017 BLOG/Design

Another Big Night in NYC for OFS Brands


The OFS, Carolina and Highmark names were called throughout the evening in several categories as honorees with two products earning the coveted bulb award. In the 11 year history of the Best of Year competition, OFS Brands has won 12 Best of Year awards and 13 Best of Year honoree designations.
Best of Year Winners:
OFS Qove designed by Q Design

Carolina Whisper

 
Best of Year Honorees:
OFS Aptos designed by Brian Graham

OFS Preview designed by Tom Newhouse

Highmark Genus designed by Webb Associates 

 
Qualified interior designers and architects selected product design finalists during a two-week period in October via an online vote. 
 
All products are featured in the December issue of Interior Design, dedicated to Best of Year.
 

Winners

   
Qove by OFS                          Whisper by Carolina

 

Honorees

      
Aptos by OFS                         Genus by Highmark                 Preview by OFS
 

 

Dec 15, 2016 BLOG/Awards

An Interview with Linda Porter Bishop

HEALTHCARE OVERSEAS
Changes in the landscape and confusion in today's furniture market.

Linda has been a registered interior designer in Texas for 19 years. She is a professional member of ASID and IIDA and has her LEED-AP certification. She is one of 50 Founding Members of AAHID (2004). She has designed several furniture collections. Along with interior designer Iris Dates, Linda designed the award-winning Embrace Collection for Carolina. She has won local ASID, state IIDA and national and international design awards. She has been part of the editorial review board for HERD Journal since its beginning, one of two interior designers out of 30 worldwide reviewers.
 
What have you been up to since designing the Embrace collection for Carolina?
In 2008, I jumped into an amazing opportunity to live and work in Doha, Qatar. I sold my home, my car, left my grown children (who were wonderfully supportive!) and worked briefly for a U.S. firm there. Then my client, the government-owned healthcare system, hired me. I worked in The Center for Healthcare Improvement at Hamad Medical Center. It was my dream job, and I worked with a wonderful group of people from all over the world.
 
While in Doha, I was asked to design a healthcare product line for the Asia Pacific division of a U.S. furniture company, and I moved to Shanghai in 2012. Another dream job! My commission evolved to overseeing the product development, branding and marketing strategies for the line. As that neared completion, I started consulting with Robarts Spaces in Beijing on their hospital and senior living projects; beautiful work and beautiful people!
 
In 2015, I decided it was time to come home. Air pollution and daily challenges with the Internet just became too much to handle; and I missed family!
 
While you were working overseas, how would you describe the general state of Healthcare to be in those countries?
Qatar and the Middle East are very different from China, and both are very different from the U.S.
 
Qatar is an interesting study of contrasts: they’ve leapfrogged ahead with technology and are slowly developing the infrastructure to support it. It is with the very best of intentions that they build the most modern healthcare facilities. Their challenge is bringing their citizens through the systems to support the facilities without the help of expert oversight.
 
In China, it is another but different contrast: there’s the beautiful tradition of TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, that has sustained the citizens for thousands of years. At the same time, there’s the drive to be recognized globally as a world leader, so there’s been a rush to construct these massive healthcare centers with the latest technology. But as in Qatar, the infrastructure hasn’t caught up, and often the technology is plentiful but unused.
 
How is (or isn’t) that different than Healthcare in the US?
Everything is different.
 
There are very basic things for designers, like learning to convert our Imperial dimensions into metric. The design process is also very different. In Qatar, owners wanted a final rendering at the first meeting, and there was no consideration for any user input. In China, you were required to present “inspiration photos” for your design, and there was no appreciation of creativity.
On the positive side, both countries invested in many tours to the U.S. to tour our well-known facilities. In the case of Qatar, they actively seek partnerships with leading facilities to bring their knowledge and expertise back to Qatar.
 
As far as healthcare furniture, there’s nothing available around the world that is similar to U.S. healthcare furniture. There’s also no appreciation for it; it is often beautiful but totally inappropriate high-end contemporary pieces. There are lots of opportunities for education regarding infection control and patient safety.
 
What do you see as the biggest issues facing Interior Designers in the US that are designing Healthcare spaces?
Technology and Evidence-based Design has changed everything.
 
It’s incumbent on each of us to keep up with the latest research and not to rely on our intuition or what we did on our last project. You have to spend time reading and understanding the implications of the data to your projects.
 
You have to spend time with all segments of the population and observe them in a healthcare setting: what do patients need and then solve the puzzles when designing the environment and when specifying appropriate products.
 
Where do you see Healthcare Interior Design in 10 years?
First, I think we need to think about our work as Health and Care Design. It addresses the unique needs of hospitals and clinics as “care” environments.

From a branding and marketing perspective, it’s only a short hop to senior living — or what I call “healthcare-lite.” That opens up a new market.
With this huge wave of retiring Baby Boomers, we have an opportunity to redefine what those environments will look like. Most of us don’t live in a Chippendale-inspired environment; I’m eagerly awaiting a senior living provider who gets this concept.
 
As each generation of designers enter the market, their preferences have taken over the market and the preferences of the older generation has been phased out. But we have so many people living and working longer, and we need to find a respect for each and a recognition of their individual tastes with our design solutions.

View complete interview here.
Sep 16, 2016 BLOG/Design

OFS Brands Live! - Lively Conversations from Behind the Curtain

by Doug Shapiro

At OFS Brands, we believe that when you put people first, you can do so much more. That's exactly what we did with our very talented design partners this year at NeoCon. We put them front-and-center, so our sales organization could hear first-hand the driving force and points of inspiration that were molded, reworked, scrapped, resurrected and ultimately transformed into the products you experienced in Chicago and going forward.

Through the grandeur of NeoCon, we wanted to get very real and personal so our sales team could relay the stories behind the products to you like it was coming directly from the designers. During our annual sales meeting on the Saturday before the big show, our team got so much more than anticipated and we wanted to share these inspiring, behind-the-curtain conversations with you.

Welcome to OFS Brands Live! Mark Strauss, President Emeritus of Interior Design Magazine, hosted a lively, laughter-filled talk show format where his thoughtful prodding took us down paths of "homefulness" to sneakers; yet, always coming full circle to why it matters to people. Our celebrity guests included Brian Graham, Daniel Korb, Pam Light and John Duffy, and our new VP of Design Development, John Phillips, who all welcomed us into their personalities and how the world has informed them which in turn has informed their product design.

This was the perfect way to kickoff NeoCon and now it's the perfect way to kickoff your day of designing a great space where someone will do great things. As John Phillips says, "We want to inspire forward," and hopefully these videos provide inspiration to you. Enjoy!

Watch NeoCon 2016 Live! Videos

Aug 04, 2016 BLOG/Video

MEET A MAKER - TOM SCHEPERS

A MAKER - There are people who love what they do so unconditionally that they bring depth to topics that seem flat. They strike a curiosity in people they meet that opens up an entirely new world of beauty and perspective. They list fact after fact and tell story after story of their history with their passion.

With over 40 years of wood craftsmanship and hand selecting veneers, one of the first things Tom mentioned was how much he enjoys learning what’s new in the world of veneer. When you talk with those around Tom, you will hear about how incredibly knowledgeable he is.

“I sometimes wonder how we will replace the knowledge Tom possesses. He seems to know more about the veneer business than there is information available to learn,” David Lubbehusen, Director of Design Solutions.

Tom’s humbleness and pursuit to never stop learning speaks directly to the company’s core values. He lives them through the care he takes to ensure the customer gets an exceptionally crafted piece of wood furniture.

“Often the veneer samples come to me at our Veneer Studio for review. When I know we have a project and at times in general, I still like to go to the yard and see the bundle of flitches firsthand so there are no surprises and we get the consistency the customer deserves,” adds Tom.

Tom elaborated that looking at veneers at the yard is similar to discovering that great find like “pickers” do. “During my last visit, I saw this cherry flitch with a unique figure in it. I wasn’t sure what we would create with it, but I knew I needed to buy it. It sold immediately. That customer truly received a one-of-a-kind piece of art. We won’t see that figure again in a piece of wood. That’s the beauty of natural materials.” adds Tom.

“Tom has forgotten more about veneer than most of us can learn in a lifetime. He has the eye of an artist and the hand of a creator. He has a unique ability to see the beauty of the end piece of furniture while selecting veneer in its rawest state,” comments Phil Englert, Director of Sales Operations and Training.

Tom likes to remind our tour groups that trees are exactly like humans. There are no two trees alike in the forest. It’s all Mother Nature and the environment that gives each tree its fingerprint.

“Think about someone with freckles. That’s genetic. They’re unique and add character. That’s exactly what birdseye maple is, freckles on the tree. Or the rarity and beauty of burl wood, too. This prized wood grain is the result of a tree being under stress or a malignancy. It’s simply nature doing what it does.”

Tom honestly admitted that sometimes he can’t identify the species of a tree by its leaves or bark like many people can. “My neighbors and I were discussing what type of tree we had in the backyard that needed to be removed last year. Oak, maple, hickory...we went round and round. Finally I said, ‘Let’s cut this thing down so I can tell you guys what species it is. I just need to see it from the inside.”

I would say that Tom’s perspective on trees goes right along with the adage, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Jun 23, 2016 BLOG/Design

MEET A MAKER - TOMMY OWENS

A MAKER - There are people who love what they do so unconditionally that they bring depth to topics that seem flat. They strike a curiosity in people they meet that opens up an entirely new world of beauty and perspective. They list fact after fact and tell story after story of their history with their passion.

As the door squeaks slightly when entering the seating development area, Rick Rademacher’s head pops up from his computer for a moment. Tommy Owens is over at the table with a rolling cutter, chalk lines meandering with effortless precision as he works on upholstery patterns that will ultimately be cut by a machine. But like all good things, they start by hand.

Rick is a seating engineer, and Tommy is an upholsterer: simple titles for a daily jigsaw puzzle of responsibilities. Yet the puzzle always looks like the pristine image on the front of the box. Rick and Tommy bounce ideas back and forth in the same way an engineered form of mixed materials needs foam and fabric to bring it to life.

This is the start of the game. How can Tommy make the process and patterns consistent and repeatable, so the 1,000th chair that is ordered and produced in the plant mirrors what is sitting on the table in development? That’s the thought process...below are thoughts shared while reviewing samples.
 
“I think the team is going to need an extra pull here to keep this corner taut. Rick, let’s add another Christmas tree (fastener term) along the seam to keep that line consistent.”

“That area gets a lot activity. Let’s use a double stitch for extra durability and a more tailored look. A customer may not notice, but we know...we can do better.”
 
Tommy takes out his tape measure and makes some notes. He disappears through double doors to the manufacturing floor and returns with some foam and fabric. He rolls out the fabric and gets to work with chalk, straight edges, protractors and the rolling cutter in hand. He jumps over to the sewing machine where he taps his foot like a drummer and spindles of yarn unravel like he’s trying to land a blue marlin. He’s a sewing machine (pun intended). Then he raises the spinning/lift table to ergonomic height, and the popcorn starts popping, aka the stapler gun. Pop, pop, pop, it’s taking shape. Like a great friendship, frame, foam and fabric (and few hundred staples) become something greater together than apart.
 
This whole process can be simplified into a few sentences thanks to the meticulousness, creativity and experience that Tommy draws upon to deliver our core values to our customers through his job. There’s an inherent pride that takes shape as well that is never spoken, but is seen in the form of a finely tailored chair. And, Tommy would be the first one to tell you that it is a team effort.
 
“Tommy is our ‘go-to’ when it comes to converting high level design into shop floor productivity. It’s amazing how he has turned countless napkin sketches into functional, beautiful pieces of furniture,” said Jeff Eckert, VP of Manufacturing.
 
Tommy is definitely an artist...a maker.
 
Jun 21, 2016 BLOG/Design

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