Transforming an old warehouse into vibrant work spaces


ASP Capital Masterplan and FD&C asked Design Plus to assess the needs of ten different departments moving from two district campuses. The variety of services provided and staff sizes were diverse and each required different infrastructure needs. We assessed and developed a renovation approach to house these departments in an existing building as the cost of a new facility would have required twice the amount of available funding.

Relocation of APS Central Kitchen from Lincoln campus offered a unique opportunity to relocate these departments into Building ‘M’ (using 65K sq.ft. of existing warehouse and 35K sq.ft. of new warehouse addition), re-imagining a warehouse and defunct central kitchen space as a collaborative work environment. 

We conducted several visits with each department and reviewed their current and future space needs. We also reviewed the types of tasks (desk work, site visits, training, material requisition, storage and distribution). We assessed these tasks with respect to space needs and created “sets” of spaces and functions that could be shared between various end-users, or that could be delegated to other departments.The resulting design concept includes a series of flexible, collaborative work spaces, both open and private, supported by shared common resources such as “huddle” areas, break-out rooms, conference rooms, workrooms and staff lounges. 


Building M Break Room

Warehouse Before Renovation

Flexible Work Space After Renovation

APS Music and Arts Library

Creating an open and flexible student resource center


Design Plus, in collaboration with Gould Evans Phoenix, was selected to design a new student resource center for CNM’s Westside campus. Taking cues from the site, which is located on Albuquerque’s west mesa, the building frames expansive views of the Rio Grande valley and the Sandia Mountains to the east while embedding itself into the high desert landscape. The third building on the site, it serves as a ‘hub’ for the campus providing support systems for students and a backdrop for student activities.

Learning happens when the students are comfortable, when opportunities for interaction between peers and mentors are seamlessly embedded in casual movement through spaces and when physical and status quo barriers are removed. To achieve this, we removed all the corridors from the design.  All circulation spaces are also study, meeting, hang-out, contemplative spaces.  This palette of space was further expanded by organizing this split-level building around a central, sheltered courtyard and wide patio / balcony with a variety of seating options. Main circulation flow of the building at intermediate level goes through the open LRC and café.  


Exterior Courtyard

Main Hallway



This openness in organization is further enhanced by a mostly-transparent exterior envelope which provides visual connection to the outdoors and other parts of the building. An exterior layer of perforated metal screen provides privacy and reduces the heat load from the high desert sun by approximately 30% while constantly changing to reflect the dramatic light and landscape variations throughout the day. The building incorporates a geo-thermal well system as well as roof-mounted solar PV system. Carefully modulated acoustic consideration provides a quiet but lively ambiance to this open plan organization. 


Transparent Building Envelope

Developing innovative design solutions for Special Education


Design Plus served as a specialized design consultant to Westwork Architects on The Aztec Special Education Complex. It is the first of its type in the nation with more than 65,000 square feet of intensive special needs space for students pre-kindergarten to age 22 who are medically fragile, or who have autism or other special needs. The $22 million facility provides core resources and ancillary space to serve more than half of the state’s students who have the most severe special needs and their families. The school was designed and built using the most current technology, research and best practices. Classrooms support teachers and students for optimal learning experiences with right-sized equipment such as adjustable desks, chairs on wheels, and low tables. Outside are two accessible playgrounds. The cafeteria promotes Life Skills lessons such as cooking, serving and cleaning. Design Plus developed several innovative design solutions through this project.


Special Education Classroom


Quiet / Personal Sensory Rooms – An intimately sized room adjacent to each learning area allows easy access for staff to provide a quiet, safe zone for the student when needed without leaving the learning area. Color changing LED light fixtures are used to provide an environment where students can control their own light levels, if desired, and is used to calm a student who is having a challenging time. Its successful implementation has led to the inclusion of the sensory room as a part of the regular learning day and students have a place to further control their own intimate environment by manipulating other sensory features such as sound and music; to include preferred objects such as books, toys, games, etc.; and by manipulating their personal built environment by including preferred seating and enclosures.


Personal Sensory Room Located off Main Classroom

Main Classrooms


Group Sensory Learning Rooms – A larger learning space, this room incorporates a variety of lighting options: daylight spectrum LED, color changing LED, natural daylight and black light, as well as audio / visual systems. Each room is typically conceived as an oval shaped space without sharp corners and is generally left open and free of built-in furniture or obstacles. The intent is to provide a tool for teachers and therapists to modulate the physical environment to suit a child’s sensory, therapeutic, and learning needs.


Main Sensory Exploration Room


Staff Oasis – Adults working with children with severe conditions and special needs also experience a high level of stress and ‘burn-out’. There are high turnover rates within these types of caregiver professions, and a significant shortage of trained personnel. Therefore, it is extremely important to address the well-being of these professionals who are entrusted with the care of our most vulnerable children. The built environment can support this by providing an easily accessible “oasis” for short breaks or longer respites. The oasis is conceived as a therapeutic lounge with soft seating, natural diffused light, direct access to a quiet, private outdoor garden and courtyard, small private spaces for phone calls or meditation, and a ‘café’ style open kitchenette and dining area.


Staff Oasis

Building a flagship facility for students with special needs


This new 28,000 SF stand alone facility is designed to meet the special needs of the large Intensive Support Program, the School Nurse and School Based Health Clinic at Rio Grande Highschool. The ISP population includes severely medically fragile students, students with a variety of Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other developmental disorders. The new location on campus for the SBHC makes this resource easier for the school community and their families to access services and provides more privacy for students who seek medical and health assistance.

The building program was changed from a remodel of an existing, 50 year old building into creating a unique flagship facility in the Southwest for students with special needs. Design Plus was able to successfully meet difficult program requirements, a difficult schedule, and site limitations with an innovative design solution.The project received LEED Silver Certification. 


Main Hallway

Special Education Classrooms

Building Exterior

Building Exterior