October 27, 2003

Design group does more than decorate rooms

Barbara Stark is communications coordinator for Facilities Management.

Management studies have proven that the most expensive items in any building are the people occupying the space. It follows that, to capitalize on this investment, work environments and equipment should be appropriate to the work being performed for employees to function at their best.

From space analysis to ergonomics, floor coverings to artwork, to designing program-specific furniture for classrooms, the Campus Planning Interior Design Team provides services in-house that help create healthy, productive working and learning environments.

This team, a relatively new creation of Facilities Manage-ment, provides interior design services to most of the Emory campus. Originally the department was established to work on capital projects—to monitor aesthetics and specify furnishings for new buildings—but the daily needs of the Emory community have made the department a much-needed and valued resource.

The Interior Design Team holds itself to high environmental standards and is an active participant in the U.S. Green Building Council, having worked on more LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects than most interior groups see in a whole career. The group has shared its experience and expertise with other professional groups within the field at conferences and seminars.

Environmentally, the interiors group specifies low VOC (volatile organic compound)-emitting materials whenever possible. It constantly searches the market for products that are truly sustainable and not just marketed "greenwash," which means a product made with all natural materials. With many new environmental products like "cornhusk doors" and "wheat walls," it is important to make sure the materials used in Emory’s buildings are durable. Green products only go so far; Emory can’t have students walk into their classroom one morning and find that it has biodegraded into a pile of dust. Our buildings are designed to last for a very long time.

Recently, the interiors group worked on such projects as the Miller-Ward Alumni House (for which it received the award for outstanding interior design from the American Society of Interior Designers); the Candler Library renovation; the Math & Science Center; the new Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing; the Autism Center; the Clifton School’s Clairmont location; the Whitehead Research Building (certified LEED Silver); the Winship Cancer Institute; and smaller renovation projects such as the Cox Hall Computing Center and the Oxford admissions office.

The diversity of style in these laboratory and classroom spaces, from traditional to contemporary, show the broad capabilities of this team, which consists of three interior designers: Patricia Quaile, Lindsay Cross and Melissa Brown. All have degrees in interior design.

Department Manager Elizabeth Royals has developed a mock-up area used in capital projects, which is the exact size of a "typical" new faculty office. Finishes of a new building are applied and the actual furniture being planned for the office is installed in order to provide future occupants the opportunity to "kick the tires" and make comments prior to purchase.

This mock-up office has proven a valuable tool; it has saved the University tens of thousands of dollars by evaluating products prior to procurement and eliminating those that do not perform to Emory’s standards and expectations—if a carpet can’t pass the simple "coffee test," it’s not going to last on campus for 10 years. Many peer institutions have visited and acknowledged that such model demonstrations would be viable on their campuses, as well.

The design group also has assisted numerous Emory programs with small requests and strives to remain a valuable resource to the main campus as well as to Oxford and Grady Hospital. For more information or to contact the Interior Design Group, call 404-727-7783.