The Vision of Great Minds

Great Minds is a public benefit corporation that writes and publishes high quality, rigorous math, language arts and science curricula for schools nationwide.

The company had a clear vision for their office expansion in Washington, DC. The new office would serve as a destination workplace that would express their value to foster the inherent curiosity.

Bognet Construction led the build for Great Minds with Fultz & Singh Architects. The upgraded office showcases a mid-century modern design with elements to support the modern worker.


Branded Experience

Richmond-based architecture firm, Fultz & Singh, designed the client’s Richmond headquarters in 2020. Transformed from an old warehouse into a vibrant working office, the space has a unique mid-century modern and industrial aesthetic.  

Great Minds Director of Corporate Services, Barbara Rust, and Director of Brand Experience, Peter Fraser, worked with the design team to bring Great Minds’ vision to life. They wanted to ensure the two offices had a strong connection to Great Minds’ brand and culture.

“We were deliberate in our contractor selection, interviewing several well-respected companies in the area. Our considerations were quality, transparency, and strong relationship. A sophisticated design requires collaboration and innovative thought from all parties, and Bognet was best suited to meet our needs,” said Fraser.


Strategic Design

The space stands out from traditionally conservative commercial interior projects of Capitol Hill.

“Every detail was meticulously selected,” said Kylie Heald, Architectural Designer for Fultz & Singh.

A mix of bold colors, natural tones, specialty fabrics, custom fixtures and furniture, local art, and reclaimed materials brought depth to the space. Heart pine wood found in Great Minds’ historic Richmond building was reclaimed and featured throughout the DC renovation.

The variations from a standard build-out were handled with precision by Bognet.

 “This was one of the most detail focused commercial projects I’ve worked on,” said David Piraino, Project Executive for Bognet Construction.

Millwork on the ceilings, a kitchen with high-quality domestic wood veneer, expanses of stone across counters and in kitchen coves, and double curved ceiling detail in the dining area added complexity to the build. Bognet worked through the complicated framing and drywalling to create a seamless finish for these eye-catching details.

“We went through multiple rounds of budgeting to make sure we had a good grasp of costs – especially with the highly detailed elements. The site visit to Great Minds’ Richmond headquarters was critical. It helped us to understand the design language and translate it into construction terms.” said Piraino.

Custom installations required careful vetting of subcontractors. Bognet helped the architect and client select local subcontractors that could fulfill the intent of the high-end space. “This required a lot of coordination,” said Jason Moon, Project Manager for Bognet.

“Attention to detail was key. It was a fluid process to take the design on paper and construct it in the field.”


Perfecting Performance

The vision extended into the programming of the office. To ensure the space was a fit, the client and design team commuted from Richmond to DC each week to meet with Bognet and its partners.

“During the discovery phase the team examined how much of the floor Great Minds would occupy, how to distribute branches, and ways to make the space alluring to those returning to a physical workplace,” said Heald.

The plans included an expansion from 5,355 sq. ft. to 14,500 sq. ft which included more private offices, conference rooms, and phone booths to give a mix of privacy and collaboration.

Isabell Shoptaw, Assistant Project Manager for Bognet, noted how the client prioritized the comfort of their workers in the new space, “Great Minds made positive changes for their staff like increasing sound masking for privacy.”

The team brought in WSP, a leading engineering and professional services firm, to optimize acoustical performance. The acoustic consultant reviewed the space with extra attention to wall assemblies, penetrations, connection details, ceiling type and insulation, door seals, and mechanical equipment. Each recommendation reduced sound transfer for enhanced privacy.


A Proactive Pivot

Achieving the desired acoustics led to surprise discoveries. 

The existing demountable walls would not meet the acoustical requirements of the project and had to be replaced with an alternative.  In addition, the team discovered leveling issues in the existing building as they set new glass walls and a telescoping glass door in the Board room. Bognet Construction was able to level the space by grinding the slab, applying a leveling agent, resealing, and readying the space for further building.

Lighting was another area important to Great Minds. A lighting designer was engaged from the start of the project. This team ran lighting calculations, composed the RCPs, assembled the lighting schedule, and managed the lighting controls design process.  A custom light array with 66 individually mounted recessed pendants was designed by FSA to light the boardroom.  


Sparking Curiosity

The new space welcomed staff and visitors in September 2023.

The overall reaction to the space was ‘Wow, this is fantastic,’” said Moon. Heald agreed with the positive feedback and added the team continues working to optimize the space for Great Minds’ staff.

“A hallmark of Great Minds is quality — of process, product and experience. Our office is a tangible expression of that relentless commitment. The project team was integral to its success and the rigorous process of design and construction was a challenge met well by Bognet and each subcontractor on the site,” praised Fraser.

Overall, Great Minds achieved its vision to produce a space that embodies the uniqueness of its brand.

“The result brought together this collection of curiosities into a curated experience” reflected Heald.