Clever Use of Leftover Space

In almost every project there are bits and pieces of un-utilized space. One of the things we enjoy doing in our designs is to find ways to utilize those bits and pieces in a creative and sometimes unexpected way.  

These design solutions are often some of the favorite parts of projects for our clients.

Here is an example of using the space under a staircase to create a unique storage solution. The drawers open by pushing in on the drawer front which then releases a spring loaded opener.  When the drawers are all closed the wall has a clean appearance of matched boards.

We have found that sometimes it is the simple and unique things that that make all the difference in the satisfaction and delight of the clients we work with.

Miller Bicentennial Hall at Kimball Union Academy: A Signature Academic Building - 3 of 3

Part three concludes our case study of Miller Bicentennial Hall. Learn more about UK Architects’ project here.


Adaptive re-use and energy efficiency

Giving new life to an existing resource is an act of sustainability. An original campus plan called for demolition of the Miller Building. Instead, UK Architects took advantage of the building’s solid foundation and repurposed it, thus retaining the embodied energy of the many lives that flowed through its original doors.

Light and air

UK Architects ensured the building’s energy efficiency by improving the thermal envelope with insulation and paying attention to the elements of light and air within and without the building. New, high-efficiency lighting uses less energy, and lighting controls such as occupancy sensors and daylight monitors allow the building to self-monitor its energy use to a degree. Effective air-sealing allows for optimal energy use, and a mechanical system with an extremely high coefficient of performance saves energy. CO2 monitors help control the introduction of fresh air, creating a space with less waste. Natural light was also taken into consideration, such as in atrium-style library reading room.


Beautiful, impressive and practical

Cynthia Howe, Director of Studies and Academic Support, noticed the great care, thoughtfulness and responsiveness of UK Architects. “We faced an enormous challenge to successfully combine our vision of an accessible thriving academic support center for students with the reality of space limitations,” she says. “At every step in the planning process, Chris Kennedy and his staff listened attentively and offered creative options to meet our needs.” Faculty and students alike enjoy the flexibility and beauty of the space. “What a joy it is to work in a facility where function and form are perfectly matched.”

Mike Schafer, Head of School at Kimball Union, sees UK Architects as valuable partners in the school’s campus master planning process. He expresses that UK Architects skillfully enhanced and repurposed the existing Miller Building to honor its historic heritage, while updating it with 21st century amenities and features. He values UK Architects’ understanding of the important relationship of form and function and their ability to work with various end users including faculty, students and administrators, explaining that UK Architects design designs “are at once beautiful, impressive and practical.”




Miller Bicentennial Hall at Kimball Union Academy: A Signature Academic Building - 2 of 3

This is part two of our case study of Miller Bicentennial Hall. Part three will explore aspects of the design that make it sustainable and energy efficient.


Historic sense of place

Kimball Union Academy was founded in 1813, making it one of the oldest private schools in the United States. The school was originally built to prepare young men for the ministry, and has since become a co-educational institution that upholds the values of concern for others and mastery of both academic and leadership skills. The school is located on a hilltop in the upper Connecticut River Valley, and the 1300-acre campus is surrounded by incredible natural views and lush vegetation. A sense of place and community is paramount to the Kimball Union experience. The campus is populated with unique, historic structures, the oldest being the Daniel Kimball barn built c. 1790. The architectural styles of the campus buildings include Federal, Cape Cod, Greek revival, Colonial revival, and Classical revival. Many of the older structures serve as faculty and student housing.


Solid bones

The original Miller Building was built in an era of quality construction.The straightforward, classically-inspired structure was very well-suited to the various functions it served over its first 50 years. With its current updates, the structure is ready to weather the future. Miller Bicentennial Hall currently serves more than twice the number daily occupants than it did before renovation. It has been expanded by an addition, increasing the total area by 20 percent. The mechanical system was replaced and now includes air conditioning, but the building consumes 30 to 40 percent less energy than it did before the renovations.



UK Architects designed this master closet/dressing room in a Norwich, Vermont residence to fit seamlessly into the minimalist design of the home as a whole. By focusing on small design details, we created a peaceful, private dressing room that makes exceptional use of space and light.

A full-height window with frosted glass lets in ample daylight while providing privacy. The windows throughout the rest of the home do not have curtains, and adding window coverings to the full-length window in the master closet would have been out of place with the clean lines of the residence. The window faces a yard where visitors gather, necessitating frosted glass.


The other window in the dressing room is made of clear glass, allowing for additional natural light and views of the yard and trees. The built-in hanging areas and dressers use the space efficiently, and free the bedroom area of clutter.

Check out our other residential design projects for examples of how we work with clients to create homes that reflect their personalities and facilitate how they want to live.


How We Work With Clients Across Long-Distances

Trust and communication: these principles form the bedrock of doing good work. But how do you create a productive relationship without face-to-face meetings? Here at UK Architects, geographic differences don’t get in the way of exceptional design. By keeping current with available technology, we have ensured that the process goes smoothly, regardless of proximity. The strong relationships we build with clients both near and far allow for fruitful virtual meetings and compelling project collaboration.

Collaborative tools through technology

We take a multi-faceted approach to communication when working with long-distance clients. Beyond the basic phone calls, emails and texting, we also implement web-based meetings. Programs such as GoToMeeting and Skype afford the opportunity to virtually meet face-to-face. We share materials through cloud-based file sharing, such as Google Drive; photo sharing applications, such as Flickr; and content sharing platforms, such as Pinterest boards. We can also install a webcam at a project site so that all parties involved are able keep track of progress.

Focused meetings mean enhanced productivity

Technology plays an important role in the design process. Online meetings allow for direct access to our digital tools, creating the opportunity to share design possibilities in both plan and 3D formats. The immediate accessibility of our drawing software during online meetings allows for spontaneous design changes and brainstorming. We utilize ArchiCad software for creating plans, elevations, sections and 3D models. We also scan our freehand sketches, sometimes editing or annotating them in Photoshop or Skitch. We have found that meeting in the virtual realm often creates more focused discussions and better decision tracking – not to mention cost-savings to the client.

While we find great joy in meeting and collaborating in person, we value being flexible with our work and clients. UK Architects has found success in implementing technology to bridge the virtual gap and work efficiently across distances.

Check out some of our successful past projects here, and contact us today to get started on your own!



Residential Design Visioning: The Four-Part Process

The four-part, intensive process of Residential Design Visioning is an interactive experience offered at a lower cost (typically 2.5 - 3.5 percent of construction costs) than full architectural services. It allows you the chance to be involved in the fun of designing your own home and to experience the excitement of achieving your unique vision.


Collaborative Session 1 (daylong, 6-8 hours):

The UK Architects team conducts a site visit in order to define potential project elements. The team discusses with you how you want to live in your home in order to personalize the design, taking into account the scope of the environment. This includes diagramming of the relationship between the parts of the house, site orientation, and the relationship of interior and exterior spaces.

Architectural Design Magic: Following the first session, UK Architects synthesizes the information and develops two concept designs in plan view to share with you

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Collaborative Session 2 (daylong, 6-8 hours):   

You review concept designs with the design team and make modifications to the designs. Together you develop a preferred concept design in plan view and exterior 3D concepts for the design.

Architectural Design Magic: Following the second session, UK Architects develops a full schematic design of the preferred design concept, including floor plans, exterior elevations and 3D view of the exterior. They send the schematic to you for review and schedule the next session.

Review Meeting 1 (+/- 2 hours):

You meet with the design team either in person or via an online meeting with screen sharing. The team discusses options for modifications and refinements of the schematic design. This is an opportunity to make “live” changes to the drawings and 3D views.

Architectural Design Magic: Following the third session, UK Architects makes appropriate changes to the design scheme. The team shares the revised scheme with you for review and schedule the final session.

Review Meeting 2 (+/- 2 hours):

You meet with the design team either in person or via an online meeting with screen sharing to review the revised design scheme. Minor adjustments following this final meeting are to be expected.

Final Architectural Magic: UK Architects makes the final adjustments to the schematic design and develops the final design package. This package includes: floor plans with basic dimensions, exterior elevations, 3D exterior views from 4 angles, along with window, door and finish schedules.

Next Steps:

Upon completion of the four-part Residential Design Visioning process, your general contractor/builder can review the design package and provide you with a construction cost estimate and then work with you to obtain a building permit. You may choose to further engage UK Architects for additional limited or full design services, but you will have everything you need to get off to a great start with your builder. Shane Carter, owner of Ridgeview Construction in Deerfield, NH, gives a builder’s perspective on the benefits of the Residential Design Visioning service: “My clients received exactly what they needed and we have been able to proceed with our construction process and documents from here. I applaud you for recognizing and creating this design approach that was clearly a void in the market.”

Contact UK Architects today to begin making your dream home a reality.



Productive and Collaborative Office Spaces

A Hybrid Approach to Workspace Design

The oppressive nature of the ubiquitous “cubicle farm” and the noted failures of open office plans beg the question: how can offices retain their collaborative nature yet minimize distractions and preserve privacy? Reverting to traditional closed offices is tempting, but costly. UK Architects finds a more productive, and cost-effective, solution in hybrid office design that balances workplace privacy with a sense of community to foster creativity and collaboration.

A hybrid office space features a diversity of workspaces and offers employees the autonomy to move through the spaces throughout the day depending on their needs. UK Architects focuses on the specific needs of clients, typically including open areas for collaboration, semi-private spaces for smaller groups, and private areas for individual work.

Chris Kennedy, Principal at UK Architects, can relate to the competing demands of a workspace. “There are instances when I need to focus on a task alone,” he explains, “but a lot of the time I want to be aware of what’s happening around me and absorbing information by osmosis.”

Workspace design involves competing elements, such as cost and company culture, that must be balanced. Office spaces typically do not directly generate revenue, so cost is of primary concern in designing and building the space. Open office plans may fit more people per square foot at a lower cost, but employee productivity often decreases without private spaces to independently explore ideas and to hide from the inevitable distractions of the open office. Hybrid offices may have a higher cost per square foot, but the design often has a lower cost per person.

On a recent high-density office space project, UK Architects recommended creating individual, three by five foot office spaces (35 square feet) with three frosted glass panels that could slide partially or fully open, creating the option for visual openness and audio privacy. When the cost of the sliding panels became prohibitive, UK Architects re-imagined the design with one sliding panel and two fixed panels. The new design was more cost-effective for this particular client, but it maintained the element of optional private spaces for the 42 employees in the office.

Given the flexibility of the hybrid office plan, Kennedy finds it is easier for employers to pitch it over a completely open office plan. “In this case, the glass panels really sold it,” he says. “You can tell the staff: the space is still yours, but now it’s really modern and refreshing.” By tailoring the design to the needs of a company’s unique culture, UK Architects creates collaborative spaces that are a major departure from the early days of open office floor plans synonymous with startup companies and Silicon Valley.

According to Kennedy, the shift away from traditional or fully open offices towards hybrid workspaces is exciting. “It’s like moving from the suburbs to the urban center of town.” A hybrid office affords companies the opportunity to implement collaborative, productive spaces that suit the needs of their employees and culture.

Contact UK Architects today to discuss the unique needs of your project.


Material Selection Has Many Steps

For many projects there are numerous steps in the selection of materials.  Even though it seems like it should be pretty straightforward there a a number of things that need to be considered and there are things that can go wrong making the process more complicated.

Here is an example of how we selected brick and mortar colors for a project that is currently under construction.  This specific project is a 4 story office building with 3 1/2 stories of brick on the facade.  There are 3 colors of brick and 2 colors of mortar that were chosen for the project, and on top of that, there are a handful of other materials that make up the rest of the exterior facades.  These other materials include precast concrete lintels and trim, fiberglass windows, aluminum doors & frames, caulking, stucco and colored metal trim.

STEP 1 - Develop a building design

In this project we determined that we wanted the base of the building to feel heavier, so we chose to make this a darker color.  The middle 2 floors are also brick and we chose a lighter color.  To make the building feel progressively lighter in weight as it grows up, we chose to make the top level the lightest color.  In order to enhance the window openings in the building, we chose a 3rd color of brick, the lightest color of the the 3, to create large panels that give the sense of the windows being larger element in the design. 

STEP 2 - Visit a masonry supply showroom and select a variety of potential brick samples

STEP 3 - Narrow down the selection for client review and comment

STEP 4 - Make sure that there is an on site mockup for final review and approval

UK Architects Does Some "Old School" Sketching

Chris Kennedy volunteered last weekend to participate in the "Franklin for a Lifetime" Charette in Franklin, NH.  The Charette was organized by Plan New Hampshire, the Citizen's Institute for Rural Design and the UNH Cooperative Extension.  

The sketch was one of the ideas to help revitalize Central Street in Franklin, by creating a 3 season parklet as a "Front Porch" for Central Street.  A parklet is typically a micro park constructed in the footprint of 2 or 3 parking spaces along a street.  It is a "pop up" park concept.  Parcels can be temporary (seasonal) or permanent.

Very Cool Time Lapse Video of One of Our Projects Being Constructed

Check out this video of Phases 2 & 3 of Miller Bicentennial Hall at Kimball Union Academy being constructed over the winter.  This project included a new Library, Learning Center, and Classrooms for Kimball Union Academy.  In fact this building is the only example we know of that integrates all the 21 Humanities Classrooms with the Campus Library and Learning Center all into one great facility.