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Winter 2016

Rethink Advisors is now using the EcoDistricts Protocol, a standard for district and neighborhood-scale sustainable development developed by EcoDistricts™, to underpin our strategy work. The EcoDistricts approach is a new model of public-private partnership that emphasizes innovation and deployment of district-scale best practices to create the neighborhoods of the future - resilient, vibrant, resource efficient and just. The intent is to deepen and broaden stakeholder engagement while fostering cross sector and inter-jurisdictional cooperation.

We live in an age of city building. Today 3.9 billion people live in cities and by 2050, that number is expected to grow to 6.3 billion. There has never been a more critical time to improve how our cities are designed, developed and built. EcoDistricts Certified provides the inspiration, tools, guidance and rigorous performance requirements to make a demonstrable impact on the vitality of communities and the future of our planet, from the neighborhood up.

EcoDistricts Certified is the most comprehensive sustainability management framework available. Irwin is one of the first planners in the country to achieve the EcoDistricts Accredited Professional (AP) credential marking his expertise using the EcoDistricts Protocol sustainable development framework and EcoDistricts Certified requirements.

Summer 2016

In the summer of 2013, Case Western Reserve University the Cleveland Museum of Art and The Cleveland Foundation held a selective design competition for the space connecting CWRU’s main campus to its developing West Campus. The area of interest included portions of Rockefeller Park, the Fine Arts Garden, and CMA. Sasaki Associates was selected as the winning design firm, and was engaged by CWRU to refine the design concept now called The Nord Family Greenway.

Major investments and planned future investments within and around CWRU and CMA indicated that the time was right to consider a comprehensive vision for the Greenway area. CMA completed a major expansion and renovation in December 2013, while CWRU completed construction on the Tinkham Veale University Center in August 2014 and the first phase of The Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center in September 2015. Future investment planned for CWRU’s West Campus includes the Cleveland Clinic-CWRU Health Education Campus, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2019.

The Nord Family Greenway is major component of CWRU’s 2015 Master Plan 
vision, and also responds to the goals of area stakeholders, including the City 
of Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, University Circle Inc.,
 and Holden Parks Trust. The Greenway is designed to be a premier civic space 
in the heart of University Circle that will link the historic Hough neighborhood to 
the west with educational and cultural institutions such as the Museum of Art, 
the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Botanical Garden and
 Case Western Reserve University. In addition, the Greenway is intended to have 
significant positive social, economic and environmental impacts.

As the Advising University Architect for Case Western Reserve University, Irwin collaborated with the partner institutions to develop and organize the design competition, represented the university in all aspects of the design process, supported the President and development staff on capital fundraising and brokered all local and regional approvals.

Fall 2015

At the end of 2013, Case Western Reserve University released the final version of a five-year strategic plan, “Think Beyond the Possible.” The transformational plan recommitted the university to its core values and focus on interdisciplinary initiatives articulated in the previous plan, and also emphasized innovation in teaching and learning, development of students’ leadership potential, and increased focus on affordability. At the same time, the University launched a once-in-a-decade Campus Master Planning process to develop a vision for the campus based on the themes articulated in the strategic plan.

Now complete, the 2015 Campus Master Plan developed by Sasaki Associates and Buro Happold, has been enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed by the Case Western Reserve University Trustees. Buildings and grounds – even more so, the spaces between buildings – and the operations required to manage and maintain them, were deeply integrated with the University’s mission and the institution has considered strategic, financial and physical planning issues holistically, insuring the renewed academic mission drives the physical environment.

The Campus Master Plan is envisioned as a “framework plan” rather than a definitive picture of the campus in the future. A framework plan implies a structure that will guide change over time but not necessarily a finished product. Changes will occur at different scales, from big ideas for the entire campus and the wider University Circle to detailed studies of key districts, to landscape plans, and building concepts. A framework will allow the University to adhere to principles while remaining flexible, continuing to respond to internal and external forces while insuring decisions are data driven, integrated across colleges and made to achieve the very best outcomes for the university as a whole.

As the Advising University Architect for Case Western Reserve University, Irwin directed and led all aspects of the transformational Campus Master Plan, setting short and long-term goals and a vision focused on a commitment to become a carbon neutral campus by 2050. The City of Cleveland as well as prominent private and community foundations have enthusiastically received the plan.

Fall 2012

Barbara R. Snyder, President of Case Western Reserve University, has appointed Irwin the Advising University Architect of the University, placing Irwin as a trusted advisor to the President and the University Board of Trustees on matters related to planning and design. In this regard, Irwin is currently overseeing the development and implementation of the University’s Campus Master Plan, advising on the planning and design of a $500M Health Education Campus in collaboration with the Cleveland Clinic, a major civic landscape project connecting Case Western Reserve University and the surrounding neighborhoods with the cultural landmarks and institutions in University Circle, and various other community and neighborhood planning and outreach efforts.

Summer 2011

The Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple – Tifereth Israel is the repurposing of a national register historic landmark synagogue as a new multi-disciplinary performing arts center for Case Western Reserve University. The project will lead the further expansion of the University’s West Campus and bring new life to the landmark building. The goal is to establish a technologically robust home for the University’s music, dance and theater departments adding four significant performance venues along with student and academic spaces that promote a network of collaboration and creativity. In a unique partnership with the University, the congregation will continue to use the domed sanctuary after it is converted to a concert hall, for certain holidays and functions.

A visionary and generous grant from the Maltz Family Foundation represents a bold challenge to develop a transformational plan. The gift will enable the renovation of the 110,000 square foot building into a modern performing arts facility fostering culture and creativity in new and innovative ways not only on campus but in the larger community.

The facility will comprise spaces required to support undergraduate and graduate level teaching, rehearsal, and performance, including a large concert and rehearsal hall for music, a proscenium theater for dance as well as drama, a black box theater, and a mix of technology-enhanced, shared classrooms, studios, and support spaces.

Case Western Reserve University engaged ReThink Advisors as the Project Executive to guide all aspects of the project from selection of the consultant team through design, permitting, construction and move-in including managing a diverse team of nationally renowned professionals and multiple constituents. The project is seeking LEED Silver standing from the United States Green Building Council.

Fall 2010

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland has been promoting the well-being of the Jewish community and Jews throughout the world for well over 100 years. In September of 2008, the Federation’s Board of Trustees approved the purchase an existing building in Beachwood, Ohio, to relocate its operations to the heart of Cleveland’s Jewish community. A generous grant from the Mandel Foundation, established by Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel, permitted the acquisition of the 65,000 square foot building and a total renovation of the 30-year old office building into a vibrant, modern work environment.

ReThink Advisors was engaged early on as the Owner’s Project Manager to guide the project from acquisition through design, permitting, construction and move-in. “Irwin was involved in all aspects of our renovation from design, selection of contractor, and construction management”, says Federation Vice President, Harvey Freiman. “He ensured that the building plans were appropriate to meet our needs, helped select specialized vendors, and provided overall construction review and management” he continues.

Prior to construction, ReThink Advisors provided diligent capital budget planning and coordinated the selection of the design team, specialty consultants, vendors and the construction manager. After evaluation of bidding and selection of all sub trades – during the eight intense months of construction – Irwin represented the Federation’s interests at all times, watching over the construction, budget, schedule and managing cash flow. He coordinated the implementation and deployment of all technology within the building including security, voice, network and audio visual and video teleconference infrastructure.

Irwin managed a large and complex team of professionals, contractors, vendors and constituents. The building is seeking LEED Silver standing from the United States Green Building Council. Rapidly renewable materials were utilized throughout the facility and over 90 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

Irwin wrote and submitted two successful applications for government grants totaling over $350,000 to cover a substantial portion of the cost of installing a roof-mounted 76 kW photovoltaic solar array. The solar panel system is estimated to prevent 1,500 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere over twenty five years – the equivalent of planting 54,000 trees. The solar array will reach a positive return on investment in roughly five years and generate power to offset the building’s electricity needs for a generation.

The Federation moved into the renovated facility in the Fall of 2010 on time and the project was completed under budget. “Throughout the design and construction process Irwin provided not only clear administrative management but exceptional insight and judgment regarding everything from contract issues to aesthetic concerns. No issue was too large or too small. I’m sure Irwin resolved many potential problems before most of the team was even aware of them” said Ronald A. Ratner, Chair of the Building Committee.

Fall 2008

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I formed Lowenstein Durante Architects nearly fourteen years ago and I am proud of the work the firm has completed. We have been fortunate to work with remarkable clients on exciting projects, some of the very best general contractors and construction managers and the most professional consulting engineers in Northeast Ohio. I am most proud that the vast majority of the work of the firm has been attributable to repeat clients. I am gratified for the trust placed in the firm and in me.

Over the last year or so, while continuing to serve clients, I have been implementing changes envisioned to reenergize and refocus my career. An ownership transition has been underway at Lowenstein Durante Architects allowing me to focus energy on a new endeavor and to consider new ways to use my skills.

After twenty five years of practice, my mid-career reflection has allowed me to see a need in the construction industry which is in sync with my best skills. While I have worked with many highly professional contractors over the years, there is no denying that there are historic divisions among designers and constructors in the industry at large. By common consensus, many Owners do not get their money’s worth on construction and capital improvement projects. Projects, both large and small, are often plagued by management problems which typically result in cost overruns and schedule delays. It’s time to rethink the process. I firmly believe that effective third party Owners Representation is needed to overcome the inertia of these historic divisions and to encourage project teams to work harmoniously with the Owner’s interests in mind.

Enter ReThink Advisors, a firm dedicated to vigilantly protecting Owners interests during design and construction projects endeavoring to increase the probability of superior results. Take a look at the ReThink Advisors website for a more complete explanation and keep checking back for regular news entries where I will offer further thoughts on the challenges and opportunities we face in building a better, more sustainable, more cost effective built environment.

I will remain a practicing architect serving clients as needed but only where not in conflict with ReThink Advisors. To this end, I will continue to maintain a strategic alliance with Dominick and the firm.

Owners I have worked with know that my passion is achieving superior results for clients on projects — whatever that might mean for each particular client. ReThink Advisors will allow me to continue to pursue this passion and help Owners even more going forward. Owners deserve nothing less.

Enjoy the site and check back soon.