At our firm’s Fall Symposium in November, BNIMers joined together to focus on generating momentum for the future and the initiatives we can take as a firm, and within our industry, to positively shape design. BNIM Principal Kevin Nordmeyer led our firm through a powerful presentation on inclusive and gracious design in the built environment, embracing and enhancing the human experience for all people.

As we move toward the beginning of a new year, we are inspired and motivated to listen, innovate, and design with grace in mind. This means being intentional in our approach to creating inclusive and gracious spaces that demonstrate accessibility and equity as building blocks of the built environment; broadening our understanding of the full spectrum of human needs; and helping redefine industry metrics and standards for sustainability and resiliency through a human-purposed lens.

Working with the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement in the design of their new home on Drake University campus has continued to inform and expand BNIM’s approach to inclusive, equitable, and gracious built environments. We are honored to support the Harkin Institute’s mission through this new facility and excited share this project as an example of inclusive and gracious design at work.


The Tom and Ruth Harkin Center

The new Tom and Ruth Harkin Center establishes an inclusive and welcoming environment that serves as a new dedicated office, research space, and center for community engagement on Drake University campus, seeking to connect the global community in a dialogue of equity and empathy. The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement was founded to help improve the lives of all Americans by giving policymakers access to high-quality information and engaging citizens as active participants in the formation of public policy. The Harkin Institute’s values emphasize inclusion, education, respect, accessibility, and opportunity, and they are dedicated continuing and promoting the work of retired Senator Tom Harkin. Among Sen. Harkin's historic work is his legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which has protected the civil rights of individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, and telecommunications in the U.S. for over three decades.

With the goal to promote The Harkin Institute’s mission, the BNIM team set out to design a building that would help set a new standard in inclusive design and exceed the baseline provided by ADA. BNIM’s team worked closely with The Harkin Institute and their disability advisory committee to understand needs that were not being met in the built environment, posing a key question which guided the direction of the design process — “What barriers still exist today?” The answers that emerged from these important discussions, policy meetings, and research gave way to deeper understanding of enhancing the human experience for all individuals.

The Tom and Ruth Harkin Center now serves as a model for BNIM’s future projects and creates a foundation from which we are working to develop a new unified approach and guide to designing inclusive environments. 

In 2022, we will continue to build momentum for a collective pursuit of deep and sustained change in design thinking within our profession, shaped by a spirit of generosity and inclusivity. BNIM looks forward to the new year ahead of design rooted in our core purpose "to deliver beautiful, integrated living environments that inspire change and enhance the human condition"  for all.