Inside the space of a change agent

"What's this…paper?" Aver's project manager asked as we handed him the sheet of interview questions.  "We don't use much paper here. We have one printer and we hardly use it." Of course he was just giving us a hard time.

Aver Inc. sells a cloud solution, and that's where their own work resides – in the cloud. They're convinced it's better business – faster, mobile and flexible - and it's authentic to who they are. We signed in on an iPad, and our interview room was reserved through it as well; everything is wireless.

We were there to talk about how they are using the space, now that the project is finished. While their office is different than others we've built out, it's how their space reflects their story that really captured our interest and made the project exciting.

Fee-for-value healthcare

Aver is a young technology company whose mission is to "bring honesty and simplicity to healthcare billing." They're trying to solve issues that all of us have faced - knowing what our healthcare will cost upfront and helping providers and insurers implement smarter strategies to make the cost of services consistent from one place to the next.

The term value-based care is starting to show up more and more, and Aver is one of the companies that is making it happen.

Healthcare is one of the only industries where you can't anticipate costs because they are calculated after services are rendered. Costs are tied to how reimbursements are handled, which varies and causes shifts and swings for consumers.

"Aver's goal is to be a change agent and to shift the industry from a fee-for-service mentality to that of fee-for-value," explains one of Aver's employees.

Imagine a system where instead of paying for services rendered, you pay for the experience - for the quality and outcomes. It requires a different kind of payment model, where services are bundled and standardized. Like today's corporate wellness programs, part of the cost would be controlled by the patient. We would be incentivized to follow "doctor's orders." In other words, the quoted price would come with requirements.

Thanks to Aver, this possibility is closer than you think, and it's even becoming reality for many today.

Not your average 9 to 5-ers

Bean bag chairs
The hideout room offers a comfortable place to work.

As we stood in the lobby, they pointed out their logo on the wall. It was made of nails and string, designed and installed by Aver's creative director in his spare time. It is evident talking with Aver's employees that they are there for a reason greater than themselves. They are passionate about what they're doing and dedicated to the company. They have joined the mission of bringing real reform to our healthcare system.

Aver employees' exude enthusiasm in and out of the workplace. Their enthusiasm influences every facet of the business, from their location, who they hire and how they work – to the environment in which they work – and even to their activities outside of work.

Aver attracts bright and creative minds – individuals who are highly-driven and do whatever it takes. They're also nimble and open to change. In fact, people who don't like change, won't thrive at Aver.

That brings us to why we were there - their space.

A place to hang their shingle

Located in the Huntington Center on Capital Square in Columbus, Ohio, Aver's office is unique among the other law firms, insurance companies and traditional office workspaces around them. They wanted a downtown presence in a prominent building because they wanted toreside alongside other stable companies.

But that's where the similarities end. Just as they are seeking to stand out in their market, Aver wanted their physical space to stand out and to reflect who they are.

Aver space before construction
Aver's space before construction

They chose the color Passion (a deep pink) for their brand because no one else is using it. "And that color is really hard to get right," added the project manager, speaking from a facilities perspective.

Walking through the office, it is clear that the decisions about the space are deliberate. The space itself is bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows everywhere – one of the reasons they chose the space. The open concept minimizes walls and allows everyone to have a window view. It is bright and clean, with bold pops of Passion pink, patterned floors and features that allow for a little self expression. The atmosphere is relaxed, with designated areas for brainstorming and collaboration. Yet there is still a structure to it – or zones – that keep employees productive and address the regulatory requirements of the industry they serve.

Creative details, like a coffee house and art themed team rooms, add comfort and warmth and encourage creative exploration. White board walls are filled with notes. "I guarantee it's fresh paint," commented one of their employees. "This is a heavily-used area."

They point out a couple drawings close to the floor, left there by kids the day before. "We wanted our space to be flexible and family-friendly. Our kids come here. We've hosted a Bring Your Kid to Work day, Halloween dress up and Christmas exchange. It's one of the benefits of being small," they share.

Authentic and truly open

Like your comfortable, neighborhood coffee shop, there is no assigned office or assigned seat. The goal is for employees to determine where they sit based on the team they need to sit with that day.

Senior Designer Debra Weaver with Design Collective (DCI), the architect on the project, explained: "Aver is the first company with whom we have worked that really stayed true to an open concept layout. Several of our clients talk free address, but no one has gone to the extent. No one has actually done it. Slowly the walls get re-introduced back into the design."

Aver's project manager shared why, "We knew that if we didn't start there [with an open-concept], we would never go there. We had to be all-in, if we were really going to be committed to this kind of concept."

"For us, it was freeing to take it from concept to complete build-out," commented Debra. "It's one of my favorite projects because it really pushed us, creatively."

Design translation

Aver's space

The space is a product of their entire team and reflects their daily work style. Aver started by crowd-sourcing ideas – through companywide brainstorming sessions. In addition to generating fresh thinking, it also created excitement about the move.

Armed with pages (PDFs) of ideas, it was the architect's responsibility to help Aver translate that into a design.

During the selection process, Aver settled on DCI because amid the traditional cube-land configurations found in offices today, even at Huntington Center, DCI brought in their hospitality division to re-think the design from a service perspective. Aver liked the inspiration they brought from outside the industry.

DCI led the evolution from conceptual themes to actual implementation throughout the space. Of course they couldn't carry out every idea they had, so where there were budget or space limitations, they explored ways of incorporating the themes in other ways.

For example, wellness and fitness are part of their culture, so in the absence of an onsite fitness facility, they added balance boards and other fitness equipment to break up the day and keep people active.

Aver chose to focus the customization in the workspace to improve productivity where employees spend most of their time. The office layout is based on the ergonomics of productivity - of people flow and workflow. Instead of opting for the building standard, the lighting is custom designed for both an aesthetic appeal and to enhance employees' focus when looking at a computer screen all day. They left other spaces, like public restrooms, designed to building standards. For now. As they continue to grow it will be exciting to see how their space evolves and becomes completely their own.

A company to watch

Aver's space is a blend of both need and innovation. It's different, and it's a reflection of who they are. With the goal of switching up the game for healthcare, their space is designed to promote that kind of thinking and working. It takes a company that thinks differently to make a difference. It was an honor to work with them, and I look forward to seeing where they take us.

Click here to learn more about how we worked through some of the decisions and challenges that brought Aver's vision to life.

About the Author

David Huston
Project Executive

With 19 years of experience in the construction industry, David's experience includes both sides of the contract - owner and contractor – and a range of project types.  Notable clients include Nationwide Realty Investors, OhioHealth, Bing Cancer Center, The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital. His workplace experience totals more than one million square feet and includes core/shell, multiple class A tenant improvement projects and medical office space, as well as mixed use developments.

David holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a minor in industrial engineering from Geneva College. He is involved in his community as a member of the Darby Township Board of Zoning Appeals and a ruling elder and trustee for his church.

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