How BSB Design is Changing the Game

June 7, 2017

How does a design firm raise its game in this era of innovation? Our President and CEO, Dan Swift, is driving BSB to be “the firm that creates the future.” Naturally we want to be change agents in the world of housing and architecture, but we aren’t limiting our areas of innovation. Although Dan stresses that breakthrough moments can take place anywhere and at any time, BSB recognized the importance of a physical innovation space to encourage focus and collaboration.


In October of 2015, Dan Swift and Corey Schmidt, BSB’s Director of Innovation and Technology, put a new challenge to all BSB Design employees with the kick-off of Plan Duel. This design competition challenged everyone at BSB to design a physical Innovation Lab space to be built in our corporate headquarters in Des Moines, as well as smaller mini-labs for our 10 other office locations. All 182 employees – not just our architects, planners and designers – were encouraged to form diverse teams of three to six people from anywhere in the company to create a complete plan for the Innovation Lab spaces.  A panel of judges would pick the winning design and first prize was a trip for the entire winning team to Los Angeles with Dan to tour the renowned CBRE Innovation Space and enjoy a dinner at Spago with our innovation consultant, Dr. Robert Cooper.


Each team was required to deliver floor plans, interior elevations, sections, a flooring layout, a reflective ceiling plan and a video detailing the design story behind their plan for the existing space at the corporate office and 5’ x 8’ module spaces to be created in each of BSB’s offices across the country. Designs were encouraged to include collaboration space, a meditation/exercise area, snack/drink bar and various forms of technology to stimulate innovation and collaboration. The space should promote movement, have adaptable furnishings, lots of visuals and signage and most of all… a big wow factor!

Teams gathered inspiration from other innovation and collaboration spaces. Some met with experts to gain insight into the trends for collaboration and work spaces. Many brainstorming sessions were held by each team to determine the best use of the existing space.



Fourteen teams were formed with more than 70 employees participating. This created quite a buzz within the company and the excitement built as the deadline for submissions grew near. Teams coordinated with each other to gather inspiration and research on existing innovation labs as well as envision new and creative solutions. Many teams worked remotely, collaborating virtually with members in other offices. Late night brainstorming sessions were held huddled around meeting tables and half-empty pizza boxes. The Plan Duel was successful in two ways – we gained incredible designs for a physical space, and uncorked an inspired staff ready to adopt an innovative and collaborative mindset.


The passion for design and innovation was evident in each team’s submission. The design solutions were all inspired and unique and it was very apparent the judging panel had a tough job ahead of them. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share with you the top three design submissions for BSB Design’s Innovation Lab, the technology now aiding BSB Nation in daily innovation and culminate with the introduction to our finished space. Stay tuned!