Designing Responsibly

In the fast-paced world of corporate interiors, many diverse goals must align to produce a successful and purposeful project. The triple bottom line – a focus on the social and environmental, alongside the economic – is often important to many of our clients. Designing responsibly, with a keen eye toward budget, people, and the planet, is an important key to producing value through an interior space. At VCA, we look to encourage occupant wellness, exercise sustainable design best practices, and support equal accessibility for our clients and their teams.

The pandemic has emphasized the importance of workplace wellness. Many clients have brought wellness into the forefront of their corporate practices too, supporting the physical, emotional, personal, and social needs of their workforce. The importance of clean air and thermal comfort continues to drive the designs we coordinate with our MEP engineering partners, while access to natural light for occupants throughout the workday plays a key role in how we lay out workspaces and collaborative areas. Many of our clients, both end users and building owners, continue to design in wellness as an amenity, building spaces for fitness, meditation and prayer, and shower facilities for mid-day exercisers or biking commuters.

As VCA has discussed in previous insights, the focus on carbon in the built environment has continued to evolve in the industry. An emphasis in previous years on carbon emissions in operations has evolved into tracking embodied carbon in the materials used to build out spaces. Information on the sourcing and life cycle of the materials we specify – from carpet to paint, ceiling tiles to data cables – has become easier to track in recent years, allowing us as designers to weigh the responsible solution for the planet alongside the aesthetic beauty, purposeful function, and financial budget for many of the specifications we make for a project.

A responsible space must support all members of the community it serves. This means that a workspace and its ancillary facilities and areas should be universally comfortable and accessible. As designers, observing accessibility laws and codes are often a base minimum, while best practices encourage integrating universal design principles to welcome diverse needs and create a truly inclusive environment. Purposefully considering spaces for repose away from stimulating patterns and finishes, for example, can be one way to make a workday more inclusive. Understanding the best practices around unisex restrooms is vital for end users and building owners alike. A design mindful toward all occupants improves the quality of life for the entire workforce, helping foster a vital sense of inclusion and community for a company.

Many of our clients look to us as designers to align their physical spaces with their corporate goals for sustainability. Whether that is to observe environmental practices that drive our project teams to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, or inclusion and diversity programs that challenge us to unpack the social impacts of outdated existing buildings’ restrooms and circulation, we at VCA understand the value in designing responsibly.