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 August 1, 1999

HOW TO CHOOSE A COMMERCIAL ARCHITECT

Designing a building in which a company conducts its business is not what it used to be. Over the past 20 years, the marketplace has changed dramatically: Business values of rock-solid permanence and strength have melted into what is nimble, flexible and ready for modification.

Moreover, people are working differently than they did in the past, when separate offices with doors were the norm. Doors have come down in response to an increasing emphasis on interaction among employees, which, according to current wisdom, leads to greater productivity.

As a result of these significant changes, choosing an architect or an architectural firm for a commercial project begins with locating a firm with demonstrated experience in completing work that is on time and within budget. The savvy planner will seek out an architect who understands the concepts of a design/build approach to project delivery, sustainable design and modern systems.

Design/build approach

The design/build approach to a commercial project is different from the approach in which the design is created and then sent out for bids from contractors. The design/build approach provides a turnkey service to the owner and begins with a collaboration of the owner, architect and contractor.

As the design evolves, the architect and contractor can consider value-engineering ideas and choices of materials. In addition, in the course of planning the design, the contractor is able to price materials so that at the end of the process, the owner will have in hand a design, a delivery date and a cost.

More now, less later

The concept of sustainable design involves the creation of an interior design that can accommodate a variety of uses over time. The building’s exterior serves as an attractive shell or skin for an interior that is wholly flexible. This concept is important because what the builder might have thought would be a long-term investment might turn out to be a short-term one. Sustainable design allows building for an unforeseen future.

Sustainable design also takes into account the long-term maintenance costs of the building. High-efficiency heating, cooling and lighting systems may cost more initially but will provide long-term savings. The only downside of spending more money up-front is that those expenditures may result in higher property taxes.

Efficiency, productivity

A commercial architect should have a thorough knowledge of modern systems for interior arrangements. The first generation of modular interiors, the Dilbert-style cubicle, is being transformed into systems furnishings that are tailored for individual use.

The arrangement of cubicles also is changing from acres of anonymous squares to highly efficient podlike groupings. These “pods” allow for individual temperature control and “task” lighting set within a lower level of general lighting. Day lighting also can be used to good effect for cutting down on energy costs.

While the solid look in building interiors has given way to flexibility, the need to consider the aesthetic appeal of a building has not changed. There is ample evidence that a well-designed, well-proportioned space fosters subconscious feelings of well-being, thereby increasing employee productivity and customer comfort.

The American Institute of Architects, with the Colorado North Chapter representing Boulder County and much of the Front Range, is another excellent source of information. Each year the AIA recognizes innovative new designs — including both residential and commercial projects — as well as historic renovations, and you may want to review which architectural firms have been honored for their past work. For information on the AIA, call (303) 446-2266.

Designing a building in which a company conducts its business is not what it used to be. Over the past 20 years, the marketplace has changed dramatically: Business values of rock-solid permanence and strength have melted into what is nimble, flexible and ready for modification.

Moreover, people are working differently than they did in the past, when separate offices with doors were the norm. Doors have come down in response to an increasing emphasis on interaction among employees, which, according to current wisdom, leads to greater productivity.

As a result of these…

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