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Natural Pod™ LIVE Episode Six is available to watch!

If you are in any way connected to educational architecture, design or planning, this episode with Kate Mraw, Design Director at LPA Design Studios (LPA), is an absolute must watch! Kate shares so much insight around how to keep whole school sustainability at the forefront of the design journey, why it matters and how to keep stakeholders engaged in the process.

LPA has always done incredibly meaningful work, living their mission of ‘Changing lives by design.’  In recognition of all they achieve they’ve recently been awarded California firm of the year by AIA, 2021. Kate explained that LPA’s success comes not only from direct projects, but also the extent of their professional development, their foundation and research work, and how lessons learned are shared with all their clients from one project to the next. LPA is an exceptional company in that they are a fully-integrated firm of architects, engineers, interior designers and landscape architects and it’s fantastic they have been recognized for the impact they have through this prestigious award. Kate and Bridgitte went on to unpacked some fascinating parts of Kate’s professional development journey and the part LPA plays in that. 

The conversation expanded into the main topic as Bridgitte asked Kate, “what does ‘whole school sustainability’ mean to you?

“It’s an environment that encompasses all things from organizational, cultural and an educational program that really utilizes the facility or physical space and supports students in finding their voice of impact.” – Kate Mraw

Here is where it got really interesting for anyone who is in planning, as Kate dove into the journey of what makes a successful school design project from the outset to the very end through the lens of integrated sustainability. She shared,

“It starts from the beginning with the team themselves, and sustainability has to be something the whole team wants to maximize. That way the administrators of the project, the school district and the designers can co-author the process by setting the objectives and goals together, thereby holding each other accountable to stay in a place of considering sustainability at every decision.” – Kate Mraw

Kate continued that a big part of accessing the success of a project is achieved by looking past the end of each project into the post occupancy process and analyzing the results there, then sharing those outcomes and connecting clients with each other, leading to a deeper understanding of both issues and solutions.

Another area important to both LPA and Natural Pod is the effect the built environment has on educators, and how they so often get left behind in the conversation. There has been much progress around including student voice and designing for the needs of students, but educators have yet to gain the same consideration. As Kate explained, by giving educators co-authorship over their environment it gives them agency and voice as to how their work spaces could be, how they can best collaborate with their peers, and the wellness pieces they need for themselves to be inspired to hold space for the learners in their care.

Kate then shared an amazing example of a project that started from the problem of overcrowding. The priority that came to the table was, ‘we need more classrooms’ but as LPA took them through their process asking “have we explored all the opportunities of all the voices that could be at the table?” different perspectives opened up. All of this deep dive work work was conducted through all-day workshops, live drawing studies and industry and community members sharing the local opportunities for students. This process informed the final result of the campus, and as Kate explained, in the end the educators became the designers and LPA became the instigators. 

There is so much more in this interview from unpacking the details to looking ahead to the future of education design and how that can be shared around the world. We deeply thank Kate for sharing her time, consideration and expert knowledge. Kick your feet up over lunch, relax, and get inspired by watching the whole interview to dive into the topic of whole school sustainability, what it means, and how to achieve it.


About Kate Mraw, Design Director at LPA Design Studios

As an interior designer, Kate Mraw brings more than fifteen years of K-12 educational design experience and knowledge to each project. She provides thought leadership in the process of planning, programming and design for next generation educational environments through an alignment of pedagogy, people and place. She leads the design process from envisioning sessions all the way through construction administration. Her guidance and leadership have resulted in numerous design awards.

Kate has made research-based design part of the integrated approach, focusing on understanding spatial impacts to the learner. The experience she brings to the team creates an authentic and effective educational design process resulting in innovative design solutions for tomorrow’s students.

Her curiosity and desire to create a cultural shift in the learning experience have contributed to Kate’s lifelong learning mission. Her dedication to the study of technology and sustainability in educational spaces provides for the development of high-performance, 21st century learning environments. Kate’s responsibilities include analysis of interior functional needs, execution of the interior concepts from construction to client occupancy.

About LPA Design Studios

LPA is a fully-integrated firm of architects, engineers, interior designers and landscape architects, all working as one team. LPA designs innovative environments that work better, do more with less and improve people’s lives.

LPA is a different type of design firm. Founded in 1965, with offices throughout California and Texas, they have a nationwide reputation for innovation and sustainable design, including one of the largest portfolios of LEED Platinum and Gold-certified projects in the country.

On a fundamental level, LPA tackles projects differently than other firms. Their approach emphasizes collaboration, communication and research to find the best answers for clients.

About Bridgitte Alomes, CEO of Natural Pod

Bridgitte Alomes is a thought leader dedicated to better environments for play, learning and collaboration using sustainable furniture. In her work with Natural Pod, she has helped create over 15,000 learning environments throughout the world. She’s engaged over 40,000 educators through her workshops and presentations and has been dedicated to creating play-based pedagogy and sharing the importance of the learning environment design. Bridgitte also serves as President on the board of the Green Schools National Network, creating broad-based initiatives and successful strategies aimed at fostering healthy, sustainable K-12 schools across the United States.

About Natural Pod™ LIVE

Natural Pod™ LIVE has been created for, and by, our incredible community of educators, students, architects and anyone with a stake in creating better learning spaces and experiences. It’s an online streaming talk show where we interview education leaders who share their personal stories behind the challenges and opportunities of creating exceptional learning environments. Join us as we explore the new approaches for what’s possible in the future of education with the people who are making it happen. This is your opportunity to learn directly from them about the challenges and successes and how they are approaching this work.

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