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Triangle Associates Creates New Office Interior Environment

Triangle Associates Creates New Office Interior Environment

Triangle Associates has been keeping up operationally with its rapid growth over the last few years. And most recently that meant updating their corporate office interiors.


“Who we are as a company, our values, and our attitudes need to be represented in our workplace. It was time to make our office a more transparent and collaborative space to match our culture,” explains Mitch Watt, President of Triangle Associates.

Triangle has long offered design-build services for their customers and have in-house design, led by architect Aaron Jenks, but wanted interiors help. They called longtime friends and collaborators r.o.i. Design to work with them on interior concepts and finishes.


r.o.i. Design also provided recommendations for material selection that delivered design but offered opportunities for budget savings. Triangle Associates also consults with r.o.i. Design on procurement for their customer projects.

“We were very pleased to work on this team,” says Mary Witte, r.o.i. Design. “Triangle has always been a company with a strong foundation in design. Craig Datema and Mitch Watt are both architects and their leadership has made design one of their core values.”

triangle_dsc_0014Other things to know about Triangle Associates:

  • Triangle Associates is a client-centered construction company that provides construction management, general contracting, design-build, development, and sustainable building/LEED consulting services across a wide variety of market segments.
  • While they have been hiring and training to fill positions that have been created to manage the growth, they managed to already be recognized as a leader. Last December they were named one of the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® in the country for 2015 by the National Association for Business Resources (NABR). For 12 consecutive years, they have been named one of West Michigan’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For by the Michigan Business and Professional Association.
  • Triangle’s newly constructed Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management was recently awarded at the AIA 2016 Honors Awards. Triangle thanked both the AIA Grand Rapids and their partner TowerPinkster for the keen eye towards quality workmanship on their Facebook page October 18, 2016
  • Triangle received a 2016 Excellence In Construction Award for Hudsonville Public High School Project from the Associated Builders & Contractors West Michigan
  • Triangle received a 2016 Excellence In Construction Award for Standard Lifters from the Associated Builders & Contractors West Michigan: New Construction $1 – $5 Million
Wolverine Power Cooperative

Wolverine Power Cooperative

While Michigan has been “rich” with energy for several generations, recently r.o.i. Design has learned more about how communities are powered.

Through the invitation of Richard Skendzel of Architectural Technology in Traverse City, MI we met Wolverine Power Cooperative in Cadillac, MI and were engaged as interior designers for their new 40,000 SF corporate office.  The new facility is being built adjacent to their existing offices on beautiful wooded acreage.

Planning for the housing of this growing team of engineers, planners, project managers and administrators has been the work of Eric Baker, CEO, Dawn Coon, Executive Assistant, and Tim Martin, Manager of Energy Operations.

The facility has been designed to nestle in the landscape, celebrating the Northern Michigan environs. The building sits low in the horizon but the interior spaces feel sky-high.

Some of our favorite features so far are the ceiling clouds, radius walls and specialty lighting. Project completion Winter 2016.

Rendering of Proposed Lobby

Rendering of Proposed Lobby

Floating Bulkhead at Reception

Bulkhead at Reception

Building of Ceiling Cloud in Board room

Building of Ceiling Cloud in Board room


Re-purposing 100 Year Old Spaces

Re-purposing 100 Year Old Spaces

Not that long ago, we showed up at the City of Grand Rapids building department offices and we were greeted by “What old building are you working on now?” How did we get that recognition?

Maybe its because we renovated a 110 year furniture manufacturing building for our own offices, or maybe it’s because we were the designers of the first loft style work environment on the West Side of Grand Rapids more than 20 years ago, “The Grand Rapids Furniture Campus”.

But more recently, the recognition may be for our work with JGR Real Estate and another 100 year old manufacturing company.

JGR Real Estate Offices

JGR Real Estate Offices

Julie Grevengoed, Owner and Broker of JGR Real Estate purchased an vacant store front on the corner of Bridge and Seward in the West Side of Grand Rapids. JGR had to renovate the entire interior and improve the exterior façade to meet her business needs as well as the requirements of the City of Grand Rapids. r.o.i. Design created the space plan, lighting plan and worked with Wolverine Building, Mike Kelly, to help turn this once pawn shop into a contemporary and inviting space.

Currently we are working on another “antique” owned by an international company who is converting an old manufacturing space into a meeting and conference area for their North American operations. Their teams will gather here for training and innovative collaboration on designing new products.  Project is scheduled for January 2016 completion.

It is also possible we are known for the design and re-purposing of old spaces because we have been in the business of delivering a return on investment to our design customers for more than 20 years.

100 Year Old Manufacturing Space Before Renovation

100 Year Old Manufacturing Space Before Renovation

Renovation in Process

Renovation in Process

Renovation in Process

Renovation in Process

COAA Workshop: Construction Owners Association brings National Experts to MI

COAA Workshop: Construction Owners Association brings National Experts to MI

Where do you learn about drones, BIM, Design-Assist? Turns out at the Fall COAA Workshop in Novi, Michigan.

Over 75 construction and design professionals gathered for a day of learning and networking in September 2015. Mary Witte, from r.o.i. Design attended.

The second session of the day was a presentation by three members of COAA, an owner, an architect and an contractor. This was a candid discussion of the process of building the team that determines the design, the cost and the timeline for buildings.

For r.o.i. Design, their comments about pre-qualifying team members through a RFQ (Request for Qualification Process) made a lot of sense and we understand how this step potentially saves the owner/project a considerable amount in fees. The presenters suggested that a large RFP (Request for Proposal) process could involve over 10,000 hours in professional time and still doesn’t guarantee best outcomes. They asked they question, “What can we take from the interviewing and bidding process to add value to the job?” Owners are living with a project long after the architect and contractor are gone, the decision who is on the team has a legacy implication. Start with clear understanding of what is important to the owner and let that drive the process of assembling the best team for the job. (Presenters: Leisa Williams-Swedberg, construction Administrator, Michigan State University, Nick Salowich, Principal, Science & Technology Studio Leader, Smith GroupJJR, Robert LaLonde, LLED AP, Vice President Clark Construction).

r.o.i. Design Pre-Design Rendering

r.o.i. Design Pre-Design Rendering

Target Value Design (IPD-Integrated Product Delivery) was the topic of the third session.

This group of presenters, again from different disciplines, highlighted a process that, in r.o.i. Design’s view, was advocating for integration of the builders & makers into the budget and design process much earlier than the traditional model. (That model being: Concept, Design, Develop Design, Schematic Design, Construction Documentation 75%, 90% etc. ). This group asks the question, why does there need to be value engineering, why not value designing-real time analysis that is meaningful.


Whether designing a building or a table, consider bringing in the makers early in the process.

Whether designing a building or a table, consider bringing in the makers early in the process. Custom conference table designed by r.o.i. Design.

This discussion raised our awareness that designers have an opportunity to serve our clients by promoting a new process: Create 3-D illustrations to describe design intent to such detail that all related trades can begin to work on documents that build the design in a collaborative and integrated way. This also raised the concern on how designers would be compensated for their ideas, which began a discussion on the true nature of team. (Presenters: Anthony Bango, Vie President Project Planning, The Christman Company; Matt Cramer, President, De Cramer Inc; Kevin Kershbaum, HGA Architects)

r.o.i. Design understands that designers bring  the greatest value to owners in two ways- creativity and management. Clearly describe the concept that meets the expectations and needs of the customer, and then manage the process. That doesn’t mean making every decision, drawing every schematic or trying to be the expert.

The final presentation felt like a continuation of the previous discussion, but with more “math”.

Design-Assist is a method of design-to construction that also engages contractors early in the process of planning. The presenters introduced the idea of all participants in a project to consider themselves “partners”. That would mean share the savings, share the profits, and be transparent with the opportunity for improvements. Any conflict over who owns ideas and solutions has no room in a design-assist process. This discussion looked at the opportunity to avoid “waste”: duplication of services, postponing decisions or making half decisions on half the information. This discussion gave us insight into an opportunity to develop respect and trust among team members. We are all conditioned and comfortable with our process, change is hard, but the future of construction has to be LEAN. (Presenters: Victor Sanvido, Senior Vice President, Southland Industries; George Karidis, PE, LEED AP BC+C, vice President, Corprate Engineer for Scince & Technology, SmithGroup JJR)

GVSU Marketplace Designers

GVSU Marketplace Mary Jane Caster, Mary Witte, (Designers) and Carol Cool (GVSU Project Manager)

From Mary Witte: Through the day, I reflected on the r.o.i. Design “Budget, Brand and Beauty” story and was excited that our choice of practice is on track with the trends in our industry. Start with the owners values and interpretation of quality, develop a team, share all the information with the team, create process and structures that are inclusive and helpful, trust your team and ask them to trust you.


COAA_Thumb_logor.o.i. Design has been working with Grand Valley State University since 2009 and through that work we discovered COAA. We have been impressed with the people and the quality of the information presented by and to the membership. It is a national organization with State Chapters. The Michigan Chapter presents two workshops a year, promotes their national training programs and encourages its members to attend the National Convention. We are proud members of COAA. www.coaa.org


Can’t Live with Them, Can’t Live without Them: The Design Team

Can’t Live with Them, Can’t Live without Them: The Design Team

Northern Michigan Pediatric Dentistry-A design build team- r.o.i. Design was the interior designer.

Northern Michigan Pediatric Dentistry. A design build team- r.o.i. Design was the interior designer.

Who is the design team?

The building architect, interior designer, site engineer, landscape architect, structural engineer, civil engineer, casegood designer, furniture designer, and art consultant all make up the design team.

Construction managers are dealing with a variety of team types:

One Stop Shopping

Large architect and engineering firms who offer “one stop shopping”, everything in one company, linear accountability. Convenient but not always transparent. When a design team has a bundle of work with a contractor, it is easier for the GM to negotiate changes since they are funneling a quantity of work to a firm.

The Inn at Harbor Shores, r.o.i. Design was recommended by contractor as an industry specialist.

The Inn at Harbor Shores, r.o.i. Design was recommended by contractor as an industry specialist.

Industry Specialist

A key player (designer or architect) who offers unique experience in a construction type: charter schools, national retail chains, senior care, mid-scale hotels, higher education, specialty medical, etc. , who recommends a group of independents they or the contractor manages to fill out the roster of all the professional design requirements.

GVSU Laker Store, a customer directed design team. r.o.i. Design worked as planners and interior designerds.

GVSU Laker Store, a customer directed design team. r.o.i. Design worked as planners and interior designers.

Customer Team

When there are pre-existing relationships that have to be managed and the contractor works with the customer to fill out the professional needs of the project with a variety of firms.


The “design-build” team is assembled by the contractor and the customer directs all design criteria to the contractor who then works with their choice of professionals to support planning, produce design, architecture, engineering and all it’s documentation.

So what is the ideal “design team”? It’s the one that works best for the project.

Experienced construction professionals understand that they can’t have just one process that will deliver the design on all their projects (unless the contractor only works with one building type). Experienced construction professionals know they have to have a variety of firms in their contact list and stay informed of changes in those firms, understanding their emerging strengths and successes on new projects.


r.o.i. Design works on several teams and team types. We understand the “R’s”: rates, relationships and relevance. We see successful design companies prosper when they can collaborate and adjust to changing criteria. We also see the importance of the construction manager who realizes the need for customers to be connected to the design process and their designers, and still be sure their budget and timeline are prioritized.


Division 09 and the Budget Impact

Division 09 and the Budget Impact

Recently, r.o.i. Design was at a bid opening and after hearing the bids for Division 09, it was clear to all that something was “up”.  We all are seeing a steady increase in the percentage of costs spent in finishes in projects.

r.o.i. Design has been able to balance budgets by applying specialty finishes with discretion in key areas and working with contractors on the design as a whole, before a project goes to bid. Managing customer expectations at the design phase is key in order to deliver the interior the customer requires.

Some of the areas to watch for creeping costs include:

Hard surface flooring

LVT is available in a wide selection of colors and patterns, including those that mimic wood and stone.

LVT is available in a wide selection of colors and patterns, including those that mimic wood and stone.

The old stand by – vinyl composite tile (VCT) – which is affordable at install, but adds cost

every year in maintenance, is loosing ground to other composites that don’t have that ongoing expense. There are VET (vinyl enhanced tiles) and LVT (luxury vinyl tiles) whose retail square foot costs are a minimum of $1 more than VCT.

A larger portion of the flooring in projects are receiving hard surfaces verses carpet.

The love for finished concrete isn’t necessarily a budget saver and it’s popularity has demanded more skilled trades in adapting concrete in order to be considered a finished floor.

Wall panels and specialty wall treatments

Molded cork wall coverings by Murrato

Wall covering manufacturers have been busy coming up with new materials and designs that are gaining interest. r.o.i. Design doesn’t believe we will ever see projects where 100% of the walls are covered with wall covering as was prevalent in the 90’s, but do see a percentage of the walls being given “special” treatment.

Custom wall covering and panel products are becoming more affordable allowing customers to create “branded” and proprietary looks to their interiors. Part of that customization means the finish category is fulfilling more of the signage requirements of a building.


DSC_0052Changes in technology have advanced product design and improved product performance. But the first wave of those innovations come at a higher price. The cycle of new product introduction is more robust, and increased competition will start to impact costs on trendy finishes in a positive direction.