The Collaborative Inc.

A Multi-Disciplinary Business Inspiring Innovation

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Michelle Wallace

Michelle Wallace

Mike Rutschilling

Mike Rutschilling

Claire Caryer

Claire Caryer


The University of Toledo

The University of Toledo


Joe Cooper

Joe Cooper

Global Goals

6. Clean Water and Sanitation 7. Affordable and Clean Energy 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 17. Partnerships for the Goals

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The Collaborative, Inc is a multidisciplinary architectural and design firm located in Toledo, OH. Their business model is aimed at helping other businesses and organizations embed their corporate vision and culture into the infrastructure of their buildings and landscapes using high quality innovative technologies that maximize operational efficiency.


In 2014, the Lenawee Intermediate School District Center for a Sustainable Future was unveiled. A LEED certified Platinum building designed to have net zero energy usage. All energy inputs are offset by energy outputs. To do this, they utilized a re-circulating geo-thermal heating and cooling system combined with photo-voltaic solar panels. In addition, other innovative technologies were incorporated such as rainwater capture to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape.

"Clients who want to incorporate sustainable innovative technologies need no convincing. It is much harder to convince clients whose goals do not have a sustainable focus to make choices that benefit the environment and society. For example, it is easy to convince a client to choose LED lights. Their cost has gone down, they last a long time, and they save organizations money in the long run. Companies understand the impact long term maintenance costs make on an organization." (Daniel Ebert, Architect, The Collaborative)

For many of their clients, it doesn’t make economic sense to pay extra to become a LEED certified building. That doesn’t mean those companies aren’t interested in making good environmental choices. It does mean that the choices they make must have a positive economic benefit for the company.

More recently in 2016, The Andersons, a large agricultural corporation headquartered in Maumee, OH unveiled their new corporate headquarters. According to Ebert, The Anderson’s CEO reported a 40% reduction in operating costs with the new building which has a 40% larger footprint than their previous headquarters. Ebert explained that building codes continue to get stricter every year as new technology becomes available in the industry. The Andersons were required to contain all on-site water run-off from their property. To do this, The Collaborative designed planted swales that capture the run off from the parking lot and all excess water is directed to an underground bio-retention pond.

Sometimes the project setting, client’s vision for the building, and the architects goal of ensuring a quality result are in conflict. This was the case with Gannon University’s Recreation Center Addition and Renovation. The entrance to the building faced full south. The client wanted the front of the building to be flanked with glass. It was also the only logical place to utilize glass to create the desired look and feel of the building. South facing glass however, presents a challenge, in Ebert’s words, “It’s kind of a big no no. But that’s what the client wanted and it made sense for the site.” While in the winter glass absorbs additional heat and reduces heating costs, in the summer the absorbed heat more than offsets any energy savings gained in the winter. The building must be cooled or it becomes uncomfortably warm.

"We had to find ways to mitigate that, and deal with all the heat that would be coming into the building. We utilized three different strategies. Sun shades were the first one. We placed mechanical shades in the building that you could raise or lower. We then added solar shades on the outside of the building placed along the mullions. They are a system of fins that come out and radiate with the curve of the building to help block the sun from coming in. Usually you try and design them so they block the sun at a steep angle and then let the sun in at a shallower angle because the summer sun is higher in the sky and you want to let the winter sun in. The third strategy that we used is what’s called fritted glass. A frit is a ceramic coating that is baked onto the glass during the manufacturing process. In that building we used a dot frit. So, if you just look at the glass it will look like a regular pattern of dots. The top ten feet of glass had a 50% dot on the glass, the next ten feet had a 25% dot on the glass, and the last few feet had no dot at all. The funny thing about the way people’s eyes work is that you just don’t see it. Especially when it is so high up." (Daniel Ebert, Architect, The Collaborative)

While this building isn’t monitored to measure impacts of inputs and outputs, the owners would not have been satisfied with the result if The Collaborative had done nothing to mitigate the greenhouse effect inside the building. Instead, the installed innovations help regulate temperatures and reduce the need to compensate using cooling methods to maintain a comfortable indoor atmosphere in the summer.

A Multi-Disciplinary Business Inspiring Innovation


The Collaborative, is a large multi-disciplinary architecture and design firm comprised of forty employees located in downtown Toledo, OH. It is a business that helps other businesses and organizations implement innovative solutions. Their mission is to work with their clients to identify and realize their client’s vision and needs by embedding quality into everything they do.

Overall impact

The Collaborative is an example of a business making a big impact by helping other business and organizations achieve their goals. They do this by educating their clients on the ways they can reduce their operating costs without compromising their construction budget or quality while simultaneously incorporating innovative solutions. It is clear, that as building technologies improve and building code requirements become stricter, the bar for designing and implementing energy efficient and sustainable buildings will increase, giving us hope for achieving a more sustainable future.

Only 1% of the world’s fresh water is available for consumption. It is important to protect and manage it when it falls to the earth, so that it remains available for drinking. As our population grows, this valuable resource becomes scarce. The Collaborative, has incorporated several features to address Goal: 6 Clean Water and Sanitation to preserve water to reduce the negative impact development has on the planet. The Lewanee Center for a Sustainable future is just one example of many buildings they designed using a green roof system to capture rainwater then using plants to clean and remove the pollutants (Nitrogen). Excess water not taken up by the plants is collected in gutters and diverted to an underground 10,000 gallon tank which is used to flush toilets, water greenhouse plants, and irrigate the outdoor production beds maintained by high school students at the center.

The roof top plants on the building also helps address Goal 7: Clean Energy. The plants insulate the roof in the winter and cool it in the summer to reduce energy needs. This however is just the beginning, solar panels, solar tubes, LED lights with automated sensors, geo-thermal HVAC all controlled by a central computer system combine with a tightly wrapped insulated building are among the innovations included in the Lewanee Center for a Sustainable Future. While not all the buildings The Collaborative designs take advantage of every available innovation, they design all their buildings to reduce operational energy waste and maximize efficiency.

The Collaborative’s business model addresses Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, & Infrastructure, in their mission to help businesses, government, and non-profit clients meet their sustainable goals. Their business does not just address their client’s universal desire to reduce operational expenses. The Collaborative creates work environments that foster positive social interactions among employees, students, and the public within the places that they create.

The Collaborative is involved in meeting Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Buildings and landscapes are integrated to address issues such as stormwater management. The Andersons, is just one example of a project where The Collaborative addressed the need to clean on-site stormwater of pollutants within the parking lot through the incorporation of planted swales and an underground bio-retention pond to prevent the pollutants from entering the watershed.

The Collaborative’s mission and business model are focused on addressing their client’s needs. In their effort to better serve their clients, they become partners in meeting sustainable Goal 17. Together, The Collaborative and their clients create and implement a vision. While cost is a factor that inhibits many of their client’s ability to incorporate every available sustainable innovation, all The Collaborative's buildings are embedded with quality and thoughtful design to maximize efficiency without compromising value and aesthetics.

Business benefit

The Collaborative is a customer focused business with a strong mission to help other businesses meet their goals using an interactive design process that capitalizes on the brain power and creative talents of all the members of the firm. Their clients identify them as an architecture firm interested in working together to create a united vision for their property that serves as an inspiration to employees, shareholders, and community. They live and work by their principle of embedding quality and excellence into everything they do. A principle that has helped them build the reputations of their clients while strengthening their own brand.

Social and environmental benefit

So much in our world is perishable and taken for granted. Since many people dislike change, many would prefer the elements that define their world, the places they live, explore, and work to be created to last forever with a goal of becoming timeless.

Buildings and landscapes require maintenance. The aging process of the places we create begins immediately. The larger the footprint of a building the more hardscape surface is needed for parking and the greater potential for negative environmental impact. To mitigate those effects, they can be addressed in the design process so their impact is reduced. Well-designed buildings and landscapes are united to create seamless life experiences that address societies need to congregate in places where we work, live, shop, study, grow food, and interact with nature. A do no harm approach is not enough to entice our society to make good environmental decisions. That is why it is important to aim towards higher standards with goals of achieving outstanding quality and experience. The Collaborative is an example of an architectural firm driven to creating timeless design with consideration towards user experience while helping their clients make decisions that reduce energy consumption and waste water pollution for everyone’s benefit.


Daniel Ebert, Architect

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Business information

The Collaborative Inc.

The Collaborative Inc.

Toledo, OH, US
Year Founded: 1973
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
The Collaborative, INC is a for-profit multi-disciplinary design firm established in 1973 and dedicated to solving problems using an interactive design process to ensure high quality and excellence while working to fulfill the client’s goals. While The Collaborative’s projects are unique, components of each of their innovative solutions can be replicated, scaled, and applied to other projects facing similar problems.