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Inspiring Entrepreneurism in The Built Environment at RoundhouseOne

RoundhouseOne and MKThink are delighted to welcome Kayla, Marley and Sam, three talented interns who are joining us this summer in participation with Haverford College’s prestigious Whitehead Internship Program.

Haverford College

Haverford College in Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of Wikipedia (

The Whitehead Internship Program, sponsored by Haverford alumni and honoring John C. Whitehead ’43, fosters hands-on education and experience that supports students’ interests in entrepreneurism. Haverford alum and MKThink founder Mark Miller inspires and lives the entrepreneurial spirit. Having founded three companies, he brings innovation and entrepreneurism into the traditional practice of architecture. Mark says, “The undergraduates at Haverford College are well known for their ability to successfully participate with and achieve results as researchers at a level commensurate with graduate students.  We are grateful that the Whitehead program provides the opportunity for these talented students to extend their efforts to the professional domain – in our case, to explore practical applications through hands on experience with applied technologies in the built environment that will reduce energy and other natural resource demands while improving health.”

Marley Using a Rangefinder

Using a range finder, Marley verifies classroom measurements for the classroom inventory dataset.

Sam, Kayla and Marley will be living the startup life as part of RoundhouseOne’s data analytics team this summer. The interns are spearheading an Integrated Assessment Study for the Haverford campus. The Integrated Assessment is an evaluation of data from an organization’s architectural, environmental, and cultural dimensions to identify efficiency and performance improvement opportunities. The team will be conducting a utilization and occupancy study with a focus on instructional spaces, a Cultural Cartography evaluation, and environmental data collection.

Splitting time between doing field collection in Haverford and data analytics in our San Francisco office, the interns will gain valuable hands-on professional experience as well insights into how data can improve campus life for students and faculty in their own school.

RH1's Haverford Interns 2014

From left to right: Sam, Marley, and Kayla, the 2014 Haverford College Whitehead Interns.

Meet the Interns:

A spark of interest was ignited in History major Sam Callon during a class called Cultural Landscapes of American Empire. It was during that class that Sam became interested in space and architecture and decided that he would like to work for a company focused on the built environment. Sam has been busy collecting data for the asset inventory database and says, “I have liked working with AutoCAD, going around campus with the rangefinder to get room measurements, and meeting with staff about the project.”

Marley Randazzo, a Growth and Structure of Cities major, is interested in the design of place and ways in which space can be more efficient and effective for users. “So far my favorite part of the project has been speaking with members of the Haverford College community concerning what changes they would make or like to see on Haverford’s campus.  For some, a change as simple as the incorporation of natural light into their workspace would be a huge improvement.” Marley is stimulated by the idea that the built environment can be designed to enhance our daily lives.

Fiction writer and English major Kayla Franceschi has always been interested in the intersection between building design and use and the environment surrounding it. “I grew up in East Harlem and am currently seeing a lot of the buildings near me being repurposed in an effort to attract a different crowd. The neighborhood will certainly undergo changes to match its surroundings, but that has only further cemented the idea that what we build molds a community.” Kayla has found the data collection process interesting and believes it has been a great way to begin interdepartmental conversation about the campus moving forward.

For more information, contact Rachel Posman at

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RoundhouseOne’s Ashley Camps Invited to Speak on Panel at Agrion Disrupt 100

AGRION Disrupt 100 Panel: Using Data Transparency to Optimize Opportunity and ROI

 By Ashley Camps, Lead Marketing Strategist at RoundhouseOne 

 Agrion Disrupt 100

Last week I was selected to participate on a panel titled, “Evaluating Energy Efficiency Investments: Connecting Energy Performance to Valuation in Commercial and High End Residential Buildings- Using Data Transparency to Optimize Opportunity and ROI.” I made my way to the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 W 18th Street to soak in the expertise provided by my peers and share my own insights from the West Coast.

The Agrion Disrupt 100 Conference was a gathering of over 100 innovators and 600 managers of energy companies from around the world. Following a day of sessions and introductions, Mike Rovito (ERS) gave a captivating presentation on “Net Zero and Positive Energy Buildings: A Cost Effective Framework,” which highlighted the value of implementing operational changes to support the physical and financial investments.

These are some of the questions that I discussed with my fellow panelists:

How does the marketplace view sustainability/efficiency investments?

Energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings today is highly valued. It’s not only trendy and creates the perception of being high value and upscale, it can also result in customer retention and generation. Ultimately, though, the primary reason why an organization will work towards energy efficiency is because it saves money.

If it’s about saving money, it’s about saving energy. How do we measure that?

RoundhouseOne was started and incubated architects, strategists and planners who didn’t want to build just for the sake of building, who knew that the best solution for their client’s needs wasn’t always the addition of a new facility to their portfolio. Often, learning to solve for a client’s asset, energy, or operational inefficiency by considering the relationships between the three legs of the stool that Mike had mentioned is the best approach. For example, an organization might try to save money by closing all of the windows in a room to get the highest efficiency from their cooling units.  As a result, they succeed in using less energy to power the cooling unit, but the lack of ventilation results in lower air quality and staff performance suffers.  Does revenue suffer as a result?  This is why it’s important to use a multidimensional approach to analytics when evaluating energy efficient investments.

RoundhouseOne (RH1) is the data-driven technology company that delivers insight to improve an organization’s performance by relating human factors, environmental conditions and physical structures.  Our technology and technologists collect, qualify, correlate, analyze, and communicate data so that our clients can see the full picture and reduce their TCO, avoid capital expenditures, and optimize revenue.

BK CO2 Analysis

C02 concentration vs. occupancy. The grey portion is the level that is known to cause severe impairment to decision-making.


Investments aren’t always fixed. How can we leverage data to identify commissioning opportunities?

RoundhouseOne uses client data, sensor data, and public indices to correlate key metrics against baselines, benchmarks, and help our clients find their KPIs for their organization’s mission, competitor or industry-driven success goals.

How much energy does your organization require to run at your target performance level? Where are the opportunities to save or generate energy? For example, we can look at plug loads, equipment and thermal comfort systems against occupancy and utilization to evaluate opportunities to save. We can look at solar radiation, wind speeds, weather patterns, air temperature and rainfall to evaluate generation opportunities. This only scratches the surface.

Explain the difference between using data to reduce risk in Statistics vs. Engineering. 

The collection and analysis of data removes emotions and assumptions from decision-making. Our clients use RH1 insights to support planning and capital expenditures: From discovery, assessment and strategy to post occupancy study; from city planning departments to school districts to universities, our clients can use RH1 insights for micro planning to creating building sustainability, air quality and energy efficiency baselines and corporate responsibility standards.

Not only do our clients use RH1 Insights to Optimize Opportunity and ROI and to support business cases, but our proven process and patented technology platform validates, standardizes and hosts cross departmental data and powerful insights to provide Data Transparency.

Explain your Methods and Approach.

It’s important to explain that RH1 does not provide the solutions or strategies to solve for these Energy Efficiency or Environmental Resource problems, but that our technology and insight packages are used to diagnose the key metrics defining these needs. This data then can be used to test scenarios before decision-making and support the business case after implementation.

Agrion Disrupt 100 Main Conference Room Agrion Disrupt 100 Main Conference Room

All in all, it was a unique learning experience. I want to extend a thank you to my fellow panelists for a great discussion:

  • Michael Rovito, ERS
  • Timothy Lezgus, Con Edison
  • Dave Jaros, Noesis Energy
  • Andy Frank, Sealed Homes

I look forward to working with more like-minded individuals and partnerships to create a more sustainable, more energy efficient market for generations to come!


Ashley Camps

For more information, contact Ashley at

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The Diffuse Pollution Reality: Owning Air Pollution

By  Christopher Damien

Cultural Systems Analyst

In the last half of June, smoke and haze from 265 fires in Indonesia blanketed Sumatra, Singapore, Malaysia, and neighboring nations and communities causing air pollution to rise to its worst level in 16 years. The Pollution Standards Index, an air quality monitoring system used by Singapore, hit just over 400 in late June, which is classed as possibly “life threatening to ill and elderly people.” Malaysia temporarily closed around 200 schools as a result.

To make a bad situation worse, authorities have been unable to identify exactly who is responsible for the fires. Knowing that they have been caused by illegal slash and burn land clearance methods on Sumatra, to the west of Singapore and Malaysia, the investigation has been narrowed to 14 farmers and 14 companies engaged in agricultural production of lumber and palm oil. However the diffusion of smoke from so many blazes makes it extremely difficult to focus blame on any one suspect, especially if it is found that they have all been known to utilize these dangerous land clearance methods.

The way in which air pollution can travel hundreds of miles from its source is technically referred to as air transport and is hardly exclusive to this pollution type. The same issue of diffusion occurs with water pollution, pesticide use, and, most popularly, with carbon emissions. However, the extent and seriousness of air pollution problems in developing nations, of which the Sumatran fires are merely a small portion, are of particular concern. The problem is that many quickly developing nations are also pollution hotspots (e.g. China and India). It seems that environmental health concerns pale in comparison to the pressures plaguing economies attempting to grow…like wildfire.

Our work at MKThink seeks to understand the interactions among the environment, people (culture), and buildings/technology in a way that leads to optimization of the interrelated system they comprise. To start with, we use a variety of monitoring technologies to establish the on-site resource quality of air, energy, water, and materials related to site location and cultural context. It’s not just a matter of knowing how much of a resource is being provided. Rather we see the need to go beyond quantity to an understanding of quality of resource related to context.  The challenge posed by diffuse pollution is that such quality measurements are not isolated to property lines or project boundaries. Contaminants can cross boundaries at any time.

One potential solution is to make cooperation a priority. To address similar issues, Japan and South Korea have been conducting plodding talks with China concerning actions to decrease Chinese air pollution transporting to their shores. In this particular case, a significant amount of the transported air pollution is a result of environmental challenges both new and old. History has recorded the occurrence of large-scale sandstorms blowing sands from China’s Gobi Desert to Japan, South Korea, and Eastern Russia for millennia. However, with starkly increasing air pollution and the related desertification plaguing North China as a result of heavy agriculture, the Gobi sandstorms have become a more substantial threat to human health. That is, they have increased in volume, duration, and toxicity. In addition to implementing air quality early warning systems that alert citizens of high pollution levels, South Korea has contributed to preventative measures such as supplementing widespread efforts to plant trees in China’s north. For example, Shanghai Roots & Shoots: The Million Tree Project, a largely volunteer-run effort, endeavors to plant one million trees in inner Mongolia by 2014.

Perhaps gone are the days when neighborly resource disputes ignited over untrimmed hedges trespassing property lines. With data to prove it, now such disputes will include the diffusion of pollutants throughout ecosystems. Of course, the caricature of the discourteous neighbor also fails to account for how much more is at stake in the diffuse pollution reality of today. A report recently published by MIT Department of Economics finds that in recent decades Southern Chinese on average have lived at least five years longer than their northern counterparts because of the destructive health effects of pollution from the widespread use of coal in the north. The study calculates that the 500 million Chinese who live north of the Huai River will lose 2.5 billion years of life expectancy because of outdoor air pollution. Such diffuse pollution, often harming those that had little to nothing to do with its production, is not just a monitoring challenge, but a large-scale threat to human health. That’s to say, we’re no longer dealing with neighbors estranged from their hedge trimmers, but complex negotiations between legislators and commercial interests positioning economic development in opposition to the health of the greater biosphere and the human community inextricably embedded within it. As data relating to health and resource quality continue to challenge the supremacy of economic measures of development in a new ecosystem of knowledge, it remains to be seen how these negotiations will adapt, if at all.


Building As A Teaching Tool Curriculum Resources

by Brandon Baunach AIA

Project Architect

At MKThink, one of our strengths is the ability to explore curricular opportunities in our buildings’ designs for our K-12 private education clients. We’re often asked what is our basis of design and what references do we use for our inspiration when we design a building as a teaching tool. As one might expect, there are too many inspirations to list, but a great place to start this focus is through the following online resources:

Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse


Description: A great repository of lesson plans categorized into four age groups and six areas of study. Many of the lessons include full descriptions on how to implement the lessons, talking points, reference materials, and worksheets


Construction and Trade Lesson Plans


Description: A superb list of links to lesson plans involving buildings and construction. Although the site is not well maintained, the topics covered create a diverse resource of learning opportunities in the areas of carpentry, electricity, general science, plumbing, air conditioning, masonry, and metal fabrication.


National Clearinghouse for Education Facilities – BATT


Description: Although the funding for this website was recently lost, the quality of the resource list is incredible.


NCEF – Outdoor Learning List


Description: Although the funding for this website was recently lost, the quality of the resource list is incredible.


Green Schools Initiative


Description: Resource for creating sustainable schools.


Project Learning Tree


Description: “The Cornerstone for Environmental Education” has a fantastic list of Curricular materials of very high quality.


Engaging Places Teacher Resources


Description: This UK based, environmentally focused, teacher resource is a beautiful and compelling location to start our quest to build a curriculum around your school. Engaging Places not only divide their teacher resources into eight distinct categories, but also offer specific lesson plans and activities to build from.


Sidwell Friends School


Description: The Sidwell Friends School is an exemplary school that integrates environmental stewardship into their curriculum. As well as being a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, Sidwell Friends is a founding member of the Green Schools Alliance.

Waste(d) Space

By Molly Brennan

MKThink Operations

Americans throw out a staggering 2,600 lbs. of waste each year per person. That is equivalent to throwing out a new Honda Civic per person each year. Across a lifetime that means approximately 102 tons of trash per person.[1] And that’s all at our personal discretion.

Current statistics from the EPA show that a measly 2% of our waste is recycled, with an overwhelming majority of waste ending up in landfills. However, that doesn’t need to be the case. The graph below details U.S. landfill waste by type. As you can see, most of the 102 tons of “rubbish” destined for landfills could be reused, recycled, or composted.

Why should we care about our 102 ton waste footprint?


A few reasons:

  • 10% of the world’s oil supply is used to make & transport disposable plastics.
  • 5.6 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year, contributing to serious health repercussions for marine life, with potential for disastrous effects to the marine food chain.
  • 4 million people could be fed annually from the 96 billion pounds of food waste that Americans discard if only 5% were donated to food banks or kitchens.

Invaluable amounts of economically viable materials are buried each year in the U.S. For example, every year landfills receive enough steel to level and restore Manhattan, enough wood to heat 50 million homes for 20 years, and enough aluminum to rebuild the entire commercial air fleet four times over.[2]

Pacific Gyre aka “Pacific Garbage Patch,” a massive collection of plastic in the Pacific Ocean

Taking a quick look in the mirror, [SU1] the 30 employees at MKThink share 17 trash bins, 18 small recycle bins, and 3 compost bins. Most people share a trash and recycle bin with a coworker, while only a few employees have their own.

Looking at the previous paragraph, a few questions naturally emerge: Is this a typical ratio of # of trash/recycle-bins-to-employee within an office environment? Do the waste bins sufficiently limit our penchant to pitch trash, or are they enabling a culture of wastefulness?

We don’t know. There is no centralized database that we’ve seen that adequately quantifies our waste and qualifies the space used for waste related fixtures in U.S. offices. Standard agreements for architectural services do not typically include the programming or design of space used for waste management, and most (if not all) clients do not request it. The fact that waste management is typically less-than-resolved prior to each project’s substantial completion date is reflective of the attitude most Americans have towards waste; we rarely think about it.[3]

How can we change?

A variety of solutions have been proposed to reduce the huge quantities of valuable materials we bury in landfills. These efforts mark significant steps forward in waste diversion; however, widespread benefits to the economy, environment, and energy-use require a cultural shift towards both waste diversion and reduction. A cultural shift cannot occur when people are unaware of the amount of waste they are producing. Simply communicating the statistics of waste is a powerful motivator for change.

Architecture and design firms are positioned to leverage an ever-increasing awareness of waste to guide a wide spectrum of individuals, businesses, schools, and organizations in making optimized solutions around waste reduction and management.

Some easy ideas for starting the conversation:

  • Promote or provide content for conversations and trainings on waste to raise employee awareness and increase individual investment in the cause.[4]
  • Learn about how cities like San Francisco have been successful at decreasing landfill waste by 70%.[5]
  • Collect monthly facilities data and share the statistics on waste collection, diversion, and composting.
  • Program waste management spaces early on with an Architect. Allocating space up front may allow clients to visualize how waste bins occupy valuable real estate. Or go even further and compute the dollar amount per square foot that is taken by waste receptacles.
  • Encourage friendly competition between projects of similar scopes to see who can produce the least amount of waste
  • Design and/or specify attractive three-holed waste receptacles with clear signage to discourage trash volume and encourage recycling & composting.

Here at MKThink we are beginning to incorporate waste optimization into our data services with a goal of achieving smart resource use.  This starts with measuring how much waste the client produces and where it comes from. Then we compare the data to other workplace parameters such as building type, department, activity location, as well as other cultural, architectural, and environmental parameters. Based on the client’s organizational priorities, we create a strategy to optimize their waste stream, moving towards maximum value creation per unit of waste creation.  The answer may not lie in zero-waste, but it definitely lies in achieving smarter resource use.

Innovative Waste Receptacles

As a firm that strives for sustainable practices, it is our responsibility to start the conversation on waste reduction.




 [SU1]Above you’re talking about tons of waste created.  I would either calculate the volume of waste we create, or begin with “Here at MKThink…” or maybe you transition by saying, “Let’s step back from global catastrophe and look at waste in the office environment…”

[2] All listed statistics from: Garbology, Edward Humes, Penguin Group, 2012

[3] “The State of Garbage in America,” a joint study by BioCycle and the Earth Engineering Center of Columbia University, by Rob van Harren, Nickolas Themlis and Nora Goldstein, published in BioCycle, October 2010.