Redefining High Performance in Buildings
Beyond the notion of responsible stewardship, maximizing return on investment (ROI) is a significant motivator in a client’s commissioning of a “high-performing” building. A building’s physical characteristics can have a dramatic impact on an institution’s bottom line. But we’ve also noticed the definition of “high-performance” shifting to include the experiential aspects of architecture’s “performance” along with the technical.
Responsible and responsive architectural design should appeal to building inhabitants on an experiential level. While this appeal is most often defined by a building’s character, its individual components – both tangible and intangible – also contribute to its performance by generating energy that activates the spaces within and encourages the inhabitants to achieve greater creativity and collaboration. In other words, the goal is that architecture will feel, understand, and respond to its users. With the right expertise and execution, we as architects can make this a reality by developing and modeling design solutions that encourage and improve the correlations between occupant and space.
The lines between the character of a building and its high-performance characteristics are becoming more blurred. Better day lighting, outdoor views, and improved air quality promote interiors that are more comfortable, transparent, and efficient. In our projects, we’re also noticing a paradigm shift in the blurring of spaces for work and education; and in turn, the places that people seek for relaxation, play, socialization, and collaboration. The move is characterized by corporate and higher education settings that are becoming far less formal and strategically less institutional. This fusion includes re-thinking the scale: access to and transparency of traditionally “private” spaces along with the introduction of more “in-between” space, leading to diverse, flexible, and inviting zones that are not necessarily programmed. One example of this is the evolution of the typical 4-6 wide corridor into a collaboration or lounge zone that allows for more “intentional collisions” between colleagues or between students and faculty.
In its recent post, “Employees’ Choice – 50 Best Places to Work,” Glass Door (www.glassdoor.com) reflects on this trend by recognizing companies that promote constant learning; attract smart and innovative people; have great campuses; and – most frequently mentioned – stimulate collaboration. The movement towards innovation and collaboration strongly suggests that spatial organizations be less introverted and compartmentalized. That is not to say that spaces should be designed without consideration for those who are introverted versus extroverted, but rather that there is a vast range of configurations yearning to be explored outside of the traditional office and/or cubicle set-up.
Some food for thought:
- The ways in which people perceive their working/learning environment impacts the culture and brand of the organization, contributing to the institution’s overall ability to attract, manage, and retain great talent;
- Contributing factors to this paradigm shift include non-traditional work days, social media, and technology;
- Our media- and technology- saturated culture has transformed the way we think, work, and learn – shouldn’t the spaces we do these things in transform as well?
- Most clients are demanding “high-performance” as a minimum, programmatic criterion – as they should. But shouldn’t high-performance suggest a building generate energy while also saving it?
- As brand recognition and brand loyalty increases, so does the improvement in an organization’s public image;
- The value in retention and recruitment does not end after college; the evidence is in workplaces that are being transformed by a sense of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit characteristic of recent generations;
- Influenced by factors in the 21st century such as globalization and the emergence/success of start-ups, students’ attitudes will continue to be shaped by collaborative activities as they transition from classrooms to workplaces.