The Truth about High-Performance Interiors

05/01/2008 | By Linda Monroe

What's the inside scoop on high-performance interiors?

Linda Monroe

As the key decision-makers in the commercial and institutional buildings market, Buildings readers are continually seeking solutions to maximize building performance. With respect to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems, that might mean lowering operating costs through effective energy-management methods, reducing equipment breakdown/extending equipment life via ongoing preventive maintenance, seeking out products and practices that address regulatory and code issues, etc. For exteriors, fire- and life-safety, and security systems, performance is often characterized in similar terms—plus a slew of others. When it comes to interiors, however, the definition of building performance "as a goal" is an entirely different animal.

Why? Because so much of how the industry celebrates successful interiors is based upon aesthetics—and we know how subjective that can be. Yet, a beautiful office environment can help maximize building performance, particularly when combined with optimal acoustics; a space plan and furniture that accommodate both individual and team objectives; good indoor air quality; comfortable, controllable temperatures; well-planned lighting schemes; and more. Productivity will always suffer if a space is overly hot and stuffy, or when an individual is distracted by conversations between adjacent colleagues. In these cases, the most dramatic color palette or funky public seating won't help (even though they won't hurt when all other systems are in place).

But, beauty fades—particularly if it's not kept in pristine condition. That's another important focus of building performance for interiors: extending the life-cycle of products and systems so they appear to be almost "new" (whether they are or not). When selecting interior products, the ease and effectiveness of maintaining them is essential - a particularly important factor emphasized in this month's cover story ("Your Interiors Questions Answered"), authored by Senior Associate Editor Leah B. Garris. You may not completely know the longevity of a particular color trend, furniture style, or fabric choice, but nothing looks more obsolete than uglied-out carpet, stained ceiling tiles, or pieced-together partitions.

This is your challenge as facilities professionals: to truly understand the truth about high-performance interiors. Aesthetics, as a performance goal, is a given (and don't let anyone tell you that building owners and facilities managers don't care about aesthetics, because that's just not true). Clearly, though, your success will be measured by how you seek out solutions that transcend mere aesthetics. Are you up to the task?

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