4  FM quick reads on interiors

1. Balancing Innovation With Practicality in Green Interiors


As sustainable interior choices continue to mature, facility managers are faced with an ever widening array of possibilities in everything from paints to furniture, wall coverings to carpeting. Just about everywhere you look, a green choice is an option. And designers love to play with new toys, which leaves facility managers to balance out how to pursue higher functionality and performance with the realities of running a facilities management department.

Here is what Peter Strazdas associate vice president, facilities management at Western Michigan University, has to say on the matter of balancing green innovation with practical considerations. First of all, whatever product is selected requires training the staff on how to use it and maintain it. And then, "if you keep adding new stuff, the operating folks become less efficient, because now they have to stock more," he says. "Your maintenance stock is going to be inefficient. So the more new stuff you get on a campus, the more variety that you have, designers love it and maintenance people hate it."

More variety equals less efficiency in maintaining stock. Which is not to say stick with the same old same old just for the sake of inventory management. At Western Michigan, they have a maintenance storeroom with $1million worth of product. If they had one of everything, that would be an inefficient storeroom, Strazdas says. On the other hand, he adds, only one light bulb type for the whole campus would be inefficient.

"You have to introduce the new stuff in a smart way to have a reasonable shot at maintaining a balance for the operating side of the budget," he says.


2.  How to Use LEED-CI

Today's tip is about the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating system. If you manage tenant space, now is a good time to take a look at LEED-CI before the rating system changes next June.

One of the more surprising things about LEED-CI is that you can get up to 37 points for energy efficiency strategies in tenant space. Tenants often assume there isn't much that can be done about energy use in their space, but LEED-CI provides a good blueprint for ways to be efficient — including lighting power, lighting controls, enhanced commissioning, and buying green power. Like most LEED-CI strategies, at the very least, the energy efficiency category provides a good opportunity to have a conversation with the owner, landlord and property managers about what can be done to reduce energy.

The next most points-rich category is sustainable sites, which again seems a bit illogical, since tenants are more or less locked into their sites. But this category provides points for strategies like access to public transportation - which means, if tenants have LEED-CI certification in their future plans, it behooves them to pick a building near such public transportation. But tenants also earn points for bicycle storage and changing rooms and parking availability.

Using sustainable materials and resources, including materials that enhance indoor air quality, in the tenant build-out is also a key way to earn LEED-CI points. Use certified wood, materials with recycled content, and paints, adhesives, flooring systems and systems furniture that meet acceptable levels of low-VOC emissions.

Ultimately, success or failure with LEED-CI comes down to a careful cooperation between the tenant, its occupants and landlords and property managers. But securing a sustainable tenant space can be a good way, as studies are increasingly showing, to attracting and retaining the top talent.

3.  Collaboration A More Important Element Of Office Design

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is that as collaboration becomes more important in the workplace, office design has to account for it.

Some types of work naturally lend themselves to collaboration to encourage communication, idea sharing and flexibility. Students work in open spaces beginning at a young age, having just enough space to claim a desk or locker as their own. Newsrooms are typically open areas where reporters and editors can easily communicate without walking from office to office or cubicle to cubicle. A portion of the work that Congress conducts is in large, wide-open chambers.

The idea of designing a workplace to encourage collaboration clearly isn't new. And when it comes to fostering teamwork, there's no one template that applies across all organizations. But more and more companies are pushing harder and harder to encourage open communication and spontaneous idea sharing. Organizations that already have open-plan workspaces are trying new approaches to maximize collaboration. And even those whose work involves client confidentiality and privacy are turning to open office space that encourages collaboration.

The team approach to collaboration not only occurs inside and outside an organization, it also happens in a variety of locations. The individuals could be at a table in the same room, they could be in the same building but in different workspaces, or they could be in different cities on a conference call.

Having greater collaboration, including taking a more team-oriented approach, also involves generational changes, demographic shifts and evolving cultures. Employees in their 20s and 30s worked with their classmates to solve problems beginning as early as kindergarten and extending into college. For some of them, taking that approach into their career is a natural transition.

4.  Functionality Important in Office Furniture Selection

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is that while furniture selection is increasingly being driven by sustainability, it still needs to be functional.

Many organizations are taking sustainability into account when purchasing furniture. Of course, the most sustainable product is the one you have. The longer its useful life, the less its impact on the environment.

In general, office furniture tends to be fairly durable. As a result, office furniture is more likely to look dated long before it's truly unusable. For instance, the trend recently has been to greater use of white, along with brighter colors, and perhaps a few pieces in a stronger color.

Choosing furniture that can be easily updated with a new covering can extend the length of time the furniture is used. That saves money and reduces the product's impact on the environment.

This is key because the trends influencing furniture today are likely to change. For instance, while many companies are moving to a heavier emphasis on collaborative work environments, most employees need some amount of privacy in order to concentrate on "heads down" work. This could prompt to a shift in office and furniture design down the road.

Still, even as workplace and design trends change, the objective of the furniture doesn't. Aesthetics and sustainability are nice, but they don't do any good if the furniture doesn't support how the employees work.


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