Trends in Interior Environments

In response to the current construction boom occurring across the country, there are several trends that have come to the forefront of interior planning and furnishing. The following categories of construction projects and some of their associated concerns are requiring new approaches from the facility designers and manufacturers of product solutions.

Residential living: Apartment-style living is taking precedence over the barracks-style of housing options traditionally offered. Residence halls are moving toward warm, homelike atmospheres with the concurrent requirement to address ergonomics and technology in an appropriate study environment.

Athletics and recreation: Updated training, performance and leisure facilities offer more than meets the eye. They now incorporate flexible office and tutorial areas to accommodate the educational support required for today’s student athletes.

Information and technology resource facilities: Flexible facilities and furniture are prolific. They’re designed to address both the current and future technical instructional equipment demands and the accompanying ergonomic requirements of their intensive use by students and staff. Future growth and changes in how information is stored, accessed and used must continue to be addressed.

Administration and support: Changes required in personnel, organizational structure, responsibilities -- and the new directions dictated by the increasingly competitive nature of educational institutions for funding and students -- create a tremendous demand for flexibility within these environments. The continued challenges of communication and the technological advances that must be used can make a facility obsolete if it cannot respond to these changes.

Throughout all of these environments, ergonomics, flexibility, image, functionality and the ability to address changes in technology are common themes. In looking to address these themes, all administrators have to find a way to specify and acquire cost-effective solutions.

Many administrators have found that identification of “partners” can provide them with the expertise needed to address the trends in both interior planning and furnishing of the variety of environments they must provide for their students and staff. This ability to partner with product and service providers means that architects, interior designers, construction managers, furniture manufacturers, distributors and installers can all provide administrators with the insight they need to make informed decisions as these new facilities are being planned and constructed. Due to the variety of staff involved in the different types of facilities on campus, this outside expertise is invaluable when it comes to assessment of product flexibility, durability, warranty, ease of repair and history of successful use.

The design professionals and furniture manufacturers who have shown their ability to respond to the demands of the university environment with specialized plans and products that can address the present as well as future needs will prove invaluable.

Mr. Robyn Hovey is manager of Jasper, Ind.-based Kimball - It’s Academic Program.