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Have you heard of “locavores?” These folks are interested in eating food that is produced within a 100-mile radius of their home. The idea is to minimize fossil fuels from shipping and nutrition lost from farm to table.

We like to consider ourselves a small part of the locavore movement. We started three years back with a few tomato plants, and our garden has grown gradually each year.

Produce now includes cantaloupe, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and more. We keep a box of these fresh vegetables on the kitchen table so folks can take what they need for their families.

It only seemed natural that our next step should be fruit.

Last week, we planted peach, plum, pear, apple and fig trees along our drive, just above our woodworking barn. As they mature, the trees will make our entry a little nicer and provide additional fresh treats for our team, our neighbors and visitors.

As for being local, the origin on these trees is just that. We were glad to team with Maple Valley Nursery, a Birmingham original with values similar to our own, to source our trees.

What are you doing to make your life more localized? Do you partner with local businesses like your own? We’ve found the benefits ripe for our picking.

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email
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When we built our corporate campus a few years back, we were thinking about how to create a better workplace for our folks.

Our goal was to create an environment  to promote teamwork, break down cylinders and be fun. To accomplish this, I considered multiple designs:

–minimum walls and many open work areas, our customer CKP has found successful

–many workstations for management and support staff as well

–only one wall separating desks from each other, with the remaining space open to a common area

We ended up building the perfect space for us. Our offices do have walls, but there is glass across the front to keep them open. We placed our focus on common areas, like our huge work station where we all meet up to look at plans.

With all that research done our end, it was interesting to run across a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, “Designs to Make you Work Harder.”  How others approach the subject of workplace design?

Four design firms were challenged to create the ideal 15×15 ft mid-level executive’s office with no budget restraints. In the process, they learned a lot about workplace trends.

What’s in:

  • glass–shows openness and lets people see the executive at work
  • separate work zones–separates tasks and encourages collaboration
  • integration of technology–wireless friendly

What’s out:

  • status symbol executive desks
  • “ego walls” filled with trophies/awards
  • tons of storage space (paperless trends have eliminated the need)

Interestingly, these thoughts seem to fall right in line with green building and LEED guidelines–more light, openness and sustainability. I had to feel proud that even though our LEED certified place was concepted a few years back, it seems right on point with what’s happening today. What has worked for your team?

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email