Welcome to “Good, Thoughtful Hosts,”
an insightful new design podcast.

On Good, Thoughtful Hosts, Sarah Steimer explores the built environment on the notion that a designer’s role is to anticipate the needs of their guests. Join us to dig into the ways in which the built world can influence people’s feelings and experiences — and how. Beyond the traditional requisites of form and function, hear firsthand from architects, engineers, planners, and more on how they imbue designs with health, well-being, user experience, and other modern priorities.

Interviews and discussions will include project case studies, profiles of designers, trend reports, and much, much more. Watch the 60-second season 1 teaser now.

“The role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful host, anticipating the needs of his guests.”

–Charles Eames

How To Listen

Beginning June 1, 2022, new episodes will be published every other Wednesday. You can find Good, Thoughtful Hosts on SoundCloud, Stitcher, Apple, Google, Spotify, and Pocket Casts. Or listen to and read transcripts from past episodes in our Episode Log.

Who You’re Hearing

Our moderator, Sarah Steimer, is a Chicago-based writer and editor. She’s collaborated with Cushing Terrell since 2020 and is thrilled to be interviewing CT experts on the Good, Thoughtful Hosts podcast.

Our composer, Sam Clapp, is a musician and audio engineer living in Chicago. He co-directs Cue Shop, a music library and scoring co-op that produces provocative instrumental music for radio and film.

Episode Log

Alan Bronec
Nathan Bronec

In our final episode of the first season of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, we’re focusing on the U.S. energy infrastructure. We’ll speak with engineers Alan and Nathan Bronec about the upgrades needed to bring energy grids into the future as systems age and needs grow. They’ll walk us through the types of modern power solutions available, along with a few examples.

About Our Guests

A 25-year veteran with the firm, Alan Bronec is an electrical engineer and director of Cushing Terrell’s Infrastructure team. His favorite projects involve alternative energy and mission-critical attributes, and he has deep experience designing micro-hydro and combined heat and power generation systems, photovoltaic arrays, data centers, and more.

An electrical engineer in training at Cushing Terrell, Nathan Bronec is a project manager specializing in work related to infrastructure and onsite energy generation. As a child following his dad (Alan) around the office, to interning, to being a five-year-tenured team member, Nathan has spent much of his life around Cushing Terrell.

Nathan and Alan jointly mentor their local FIRST Robotics Competition team after Alan filled the role for many years. They both live in Missoula, Montana. Learn more about the duo here.

Link: Episode Transcript

Jessica Earp
Elna Albano

On this episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, we chat with Cushing Terrell interior designers Jessica Earp and Elna Albano about how the materials used in buildings could be harmful to either the environment or the end user. We discuss the materials library red list, how to be a leader in healthy materials, and more. We delve into the practice of using human-friendly and environmentally-friendly materials, and how this means considering the process by which the items are made and the effects they may have once in our spaces.

Interested in learning more?

About Our Guests

Jessica Earp, NCIDQ, IIDA, LEED Green Associate, an Atlanta native turned Seattleite, was educated in interior design at Valdosta State University and Savannah College of Art and Design. She has amassed broad experience on an array of project types but currently primarily supports commercial and retail projects with a focus on workplace design. As a member of Cushing Terrell’s Green Advocacy Council, Jess is passionate about responsible, sustainable material sourcing and embedding sustainable thought, action, and education in her work.

Elna Albano, a lifelong Idahoan — raised in Island Park, educated in Moscow, and currently living in Boise — is a lover of the outdoors and interior design. On behalf of Cushing Terrell, she has provided design insights to a broad spectrum of client types from healthcare providers to hotels to retailers — to her primary focus, corporate offices. Elna has a passion for sustainability and the environment, and is highly conscientious about the effects of design on human well-being and happiness.

Link: Episode Transcript

In the second of our two-part series on affordable housing with Randy Rhoads, an architect and the Executive Director of Affordable Housing for Cushing Terrell, we’ll discuss the wide-ranging effects of having an affordable place to live. This creates a strong foundation on which to build — in both an individual and a community sense — that touches job opportunities, discretionary spending, fewer evictions, healthier populations, and improved government infrastructure.

But before you listen to Part 2, check out Part 1 of Sarah’s interview with Randy.

About Our Guest
Randy Rhoads has more than three decades of experience in the design of residential, commercial/retail, educational, and governmental/institutional projects. Over the course of his career, Randy has been the lead architect for more than 32 tax credit developments, overseeing the design and construction of over $1 billion in development costs; and has been responsible for leading the design of over 6,000 mixed-income, multi-family, and elderly apartment units in 14 cities across the United States. He is a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kansas State University.

Link: Episode Transcript

We’re chatting with Cushing Terrell Design Director and architect Joel Anderson about how psychology is used in design. We’ll focus on how to incorporate four elements in particular: coherence, complexity, legibility, and mystery — and how when any one of those pieces is missing, it can make the space feel out of sorts. We use environmental cues to move people through a space, but we must also learn about a user’s environmental preferences and respond to them.

About Our Guest

Joel’s design work focuses on sustainability, context, and culture, and his experience spans a variety of building typologies. Currently, he co-leads Cushing Terrell’s R&D program, helping the firm focus on sustainable design goals and actionable progress towards improving the built environment. He regularly guest-teaches and lectures at his alma mater, the Illinois Institute of Technology. Joel’s certifications include AIA, NCARB, and LEED AP BD+C, and he is licensed in seven states.

Link: Episode Transcript

Rather than just walk away from a project once completed, there’s a review process that can occur called a post-occupancy evaluation. These employ both quantitative (hard data) and qualitative (survey) information to allow for a continual state of learning for both the design team and the client. They can help us determine how the space is actually being used, what improvements can be made in future iterations of a design, and how to use these lessons to further knowledge sharing.

Interested in learning more? Check out this Q&A with Raelynn and this brief summary of what to expect from a POE.

About Our Guest

Based in Billings, Montana, mechanical engineer Raelynn Meissner joined Cushing Terrell in 2004 following graduation from the University of Wyoming with an Architectural Engineering degree. She has spent the bulk of her career focusing on sustainable design and high-performance buildings, with specific expertise in building energy studies and analysis, LEED building certifications, and design of a variety of mechanical systems for building types including offices, schools, visitor centers, hospitals, data centers, and more.

Sustainable and energy-efficient design is a passion for Raelynn. A LEED-AP since 2005 and has been involved with 30+ LEED project certifications. Raelynn is also a GBI Guiding Principles Compliance Professional and has worked on projects pursuing smart building strategies, the Living Building Challenge, and Net Zero Energy goals.

Link: Episode Transcript

In the third and final installment of our three-part series on land use and urban sprawl, we’re once again chatting with Keith Walzak, Cushing Terrell’s Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture. We’ll start by talking about what the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act means for climate change and the built environment, as well as the benefits of developing for density — particularly mixed-use development. We’ll also cover the importance of accessibility in land use, particularly how a 15-minute walkable city can benefit ourselves and our environment.

Check out the first two episodes of the series on public perception and financial incentives.

About Our Guest

An urban planner and landscape architect, Keith engages community members and leaders, non-profit organizations, public agencies, and private developers to promote healthy and creative placemaking opportunities for communities of all sizes. He is passionate about addressing complex issues such as resiliency and climate change, equity, housing affordability, homelessness, neighborhood gentrification and community revitalization, and delivery systems affecting sustainable urban infrastructure. Keith has been affiliated with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Congress For New Urbanism, Habitat For Humanity, and many other agencies.

Link: Episode Transcript

In the second of our three-part series on land use with Keith Walzak, Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture at Cushing Terrell, we get into the financial incentives (or disincentives) to urban sprawl. We discuss how local policies, lending practices, and financial risks all shape whether developers choose to build outward or explore greener options. For example, single-family home types are more likely to be subsidized, and local policy sometimes favors the annexation of more land.

We’ll also explore how city plans can provide financial incentives such as tax credits, tax breaks, and other tools to guide developers to consider infill, adaptive reuse, and other more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

But before you begin, be sure to check out the first episode of the series:
#106: Land Use with Keith Walzak, Part 1: Public Perception.

About Our Guest

An urban planner and landscape architect, Keith engages community members and leaders, non-profit organizations, public agencies, and private developers to promote healthy and creative placemaking opportunities for communities of all sizes. He is passionate about addressing complex issues such as resiliency and climate change, equity, housing affordability, homelessness, neighborhood gentrification and community revitalization, and delivery systems affecting sustainable urban infrastructure. Keith has been affiliated with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Congress For New Urbanism, Habitat For Humanity, and many other agencies.

Link: Episode Transcript

No matter what part of the country you live in, you’ve likely seen previously untouched land be developed in the name of a new housing development, school, or shopping center. And while the demand for such facilities may exist, this type of sprawl can be problematic for the environment.

In the first of a three-part series on urban sprawl, we talk with Keith Walzak, Cushing Terrell’s Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture, about how public perceptions play a role in how we develop outward. As Walzak explains, it’s easier to imagine how a factory or other large business may be affecting climate change, but a lot harder for Americans to understand how a new subdivision can also do harm to the environment.

Interested in learning more? Read Keith’s post about compact, vertical, walkable urban neighborhoods: Reduce, Re-use, Re-imagine: How to Slow Climate Change by Slowing Urban Sprawl

About Our Guest

An urban planner and landscape architect, Keith engages community members and leaders, non-profit organizations, public agencies, and private developers to promote healthy and creative placemaking opportunities for communities of all sizes. He is passionate about addressing complex issues such as resiliency and climate change, equity, housing affordability, homelessness, neighborhood gentrification and community revitalization, and delivery systems affecting sustainable urban infrastructure. Keith has been affiliated with the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Congress For New Urbanism, Habitat For Humanity, and many other agencies.

Link: Episode Transcript

Much of Randy Rhoads’s 30-year career has been a reaction to cold, concrete public housing high rises. According to Rhoads, an architect and the Executive Director of Affordable Housing for Cushing Terrell, the affordable housing of yesteryear cut residents off from their communities, often making the most important resources inaccessible.

As the field has worked to correct course, the resulting homes have made major strides in a number of areas — including the health of residents. Now, these affordable housing developments consider what it means to design for inclusivity, personal wellbeing, and the entire community’s physical and mental health. Something as simple as a front porch can connect a resident with their neighbors, the natural environment, and an opportunity to pause.

Interested in reading more? A few additional links from Randy:

About Our Guest
Randy Rhoads has more than three decades of experience in the design of residential, commercial/retail, educational, and governmental/institutional projects. Over the course of his career, Randy has been the lead architect for more than 32 tax credit developments, overseeing the design and construction of over $1 billion in development costs; and has been responsible for leading the design of over 6,000 mixed-income, multi-family, and elderly apartment units in 14 cities across the United States. He is a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism and holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kansas State University.

Link: Episode Transcript

Sandi Rudy
Jennifer Moore

Vibe mapping sounds like a new-age practice, but it’s actually a tool that designers are using to determine where the action happens in a space — and how to better facilitate the tasks at hand. In this episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, interior designers Sandi Rudy and Jennifer Moore describe how this human-centered design approach can create office spaces that transition in a way that’s most beneficial to its workers.

About Our Guests
Sandi Rudy is a native Kansan who moved to Austin after earning a degree in interior design from Kansas State University, with a focus on the behavioral impacts of the built environment. She specializes in designing for commercial and higher education settings, and is an expert in space planning. She joined Cushing Terrell in 2013, serves as the firm’s regional head of interior design, and holds LEED ID+C credentials.

Also from Austin, Jennifer Moore attended the Art Institute of Austin (interior design) and joined Cushing Terrell in 2014. Though she’s amassed broad experience, she has developed a specialty in commercial office interior design. Jennifer is inspired and driven by the opportunity to design space and shape experience.

Link: Episode Transcript

The interaction between an office environment and the outside world isn’t always obvious (or may not exist at all, if there’s no easy access to a window). And while a potted plant on your desk may strike some inspiration, there’s a much bigger opportunity to employ ecological design thinking in the spaces in which we work.

In this episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, we talk with landscape architect Dayton Rush to learn more about the connection between our natural and built environments. Designing office spaces to better use sunlight, views of the outside world, and other natural elements can help teams work to their fullest potential, while also nurturing our individual wellbeing.

About Our Guest
Based in Billings, MT, Dayton Rush is a landscape architect who lives for plants. He has extensive experience with — and loves — roof gardens, greenhouses, living walls, and interior plants. Dayton is also deeply knowledgeable about plant preservation and disease prevention, green infrastructure, and site design. And to round out his plant addiction, he also dabbles with floral arrangement.

Link: Episode Transcript

Probably haven’t thought much about what makes your AC or your refrigerator work, have you? Well, if those systems spring a leak — it’s very bad news. On this episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, we explore what exactly a refrigerant is, how it can be harmful to the environment if it escapes into the atmosphere, and what some eco-friendly options may be.

About Our Guest
Nick is a mechanical engineer who specifies in refrigeration engineering and serves as co-director of Cushing Terrell’s Refrigeration service sector. He’s a graduate of Montana State University and a lifelong resident of Missoula, MT. His expertise spans virtually all market types but is especially applicable in retail settings.

Link: Episode Transcript

In our debut episode, we discuss the concept of reimagining existing and sometimes historic structures, a practice known as adaptive reuse. Ava Alltmont, an architect and project manager who leads Cushing Terrell’s historic preservation team in New Orleans, helps us better understand what adaptive reuse means, who benefits, and how it all works.

About Our Guest
Based in New Orleans, Ava’s background is in mixed-use developments, multi-family, hospitality, retail, and education projects, with extensive experience in historic renovations, adaptive reuse, and historic tax credit projects. She serves on the Louisiana state selection committee for the National Register of Historic Places and is a fierce advocate of advancing women in the AEC industry.

Link: Episode Transcript

How do you build a better school for tomorrow’s leaders? How do you design an office for hybrid work models? How do you combat climate change with a grocery store? Well, if we take a cue from Charles Eames, it’s by thinking of that environment’s users as your guests. The role of the designer, he once said, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, anticipating the needs of their guests.

In a new podcast from Cushing Terrell, moderator Sarah Steimer will be talking with architects, engineers, and planners about how they can anticipate the needs of others in our built environment. From apartment buildings to supermarkets to entire cities, how are designers ensuring accessibility, inclusivity, sustainability, and basic comfort for a modern world? Join us as we explore how to solve for today by welcoming lessons from the past and visions of the future, playing the role of good, thoughtful hosts.

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