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Abstract: Building Interiors

The campus encompasses all aspects of daily life and forms a village or town center, with a variety of specialized building types. Users experience the interior portion of each facility daily, so, the discipline of interior design should not be viewed as insignificant.

Designer’s Qualification and Program

Interior design is a profession, with requirements for education, work as a professional intern (2-year minimum) under a qualified designer, and passing the National Council for  Interior  Design  Qualification (NCIDQ) examination. Several states have legislation in progress to help the public recognize and select a minimally qualified and ethical designer. NCIDQ represents professional design organizations (e.g., ASID, IDEC, IDC, IIDA) and regulatory agencies. Passing the NCIDQ examination is a prerequisite for professional membership, as is continuing education; membership in ASID is an agreement to a set of binding principles, bylaws, and code of ethics.  Interior  designers  can provide services and product-related specialties working as an individual consultant or in small or large firms that concentrate solely on design, combine it with architecture, represent a builder or turnkey construction firm, or work in house in the facilities department.

Success is based on designer achievements, professional objectives, and project familiarity (not just firm size). Interior designers have varying skill sets based on category, whether commercial (focus of this chapter) or residential; classification, or experience with a one or more specific business types (e.g., education, health care, government, retail) and sub-classifications (e.g., higher education, the focus of this chapter); and specialties (e.g., historic preservation, green design).

Designers should not be mistaken for decorators, architects, or free product sales design services; the difference is important when public health, safety, and welfare are involved. Architects and designers both understand building codes and manage numerous subcontractors. Architects focus on building site, materials, and infrastructure while the designer focuses on current finish materials and details in behavioral patterns of interior functions, people, and spaces.

Designers work with the architect, owner (institution), construction team, and furniture suppliers; the owner’s best interest is served by hiring an independent project- qualified designer. In contrast, product designers and their free design services are based on product  limitations and sales and do not reflect extensive participation in overall design theory, risking a detrimental and costly disconnect with the architect and owner.

Considerations for a Design  Proposal.  A  design proposal addresses project scope and major parameters, project goals and issues, timeline, user needs, examples of similar successful projects, business concerns (e.g., possible growth, trends, competitors, business philosophy), design team members, and preconceived notions about the final design. The selection process should not focus only on cost because inexperienced designers can be very expensive; rather,  it should assess the qualifications and expertise of the lead designer and design team, ask hard questions, determine the full range of designer services (e.g., similar projects, specialty services, design firm history and philosophy), and check references.

Project Criteria: Ground Work and Program

The foundation of the contract is the outline of scope of services, including time and resources needed, schedule and timeline, list of assumptions, design revision (and compensation) procedures, any responsibilities assigned to in-house designers, construction budget range (which affects designer analysis of product quality and performance and creation of a design strategy), code compliance issues, project parameters and constraints (and effect on feasibility), and in-process communication requirements.

Program Sufficient Information. Project success  and final design quality are directly related to information and insights during the early phase. The owner should provide adequate and complete information; identify all unique needs, existing conditions, future needs, and user behavioral patterns; and allow the designer to meet with or observe occupants to identify needs and wants, prioritize them, and balance them with department requirements and overall campus goals and institution philosophy and standards. The designer should participate in or conduct program meetings on facility interiors to obtain guidance on ADA and other compliance issues and a history of what has worked. At that point, the designer can understand user expectations and estimate a construction budget (or apply the set budget) for the building interior. When institution decisions affect the design, the designer must inform the owner and formally discuss and document findings (sometimes called a finding and recommendation report).

Interior Construction Phases

Address Schematic Design. Design solutions must be tailored to higher  education  environments.  They  must be functional, cost-effective, readily understandable (and communicated visually and verbally), coordinated with institution policies and philosophies, aesthetically  pleasing, and commensurate with other factors (e.g., durability, maintainability, safety).  The  owner coordinates with the interior designer, other consultants, and code officials and reviews and approves new consultants  directed  by  the  designer.  For  space planning tasks, the interior designer must understand building occupant communication and adjacency needs and then create a space proximity matrix diagram that, when approved, is the basis for using modeling tools to create a two- or three-dimensional space model, considering elements such as lighting, acoustics, and environmental concerns; the designer simultaneously researches design elements. The designer reviews aesthetics with the owner and revisits  programming phase  design  strategies  during  schematic  design.   As the designer starts  to  define  finish  materials, furnishings,  and  equipment  selections,  these  items must be evaluated for consistency with the project thematic environment, reinforcement of the design concept, and code compliance and durability, and budget impact. At this stage, when design elements are not prematurely detailed; feedback is most important. Written owner approval includes concerns and suggested changes; problems are corrected before the next phase.

Moving Forward  with  Design  Development.  The design development phase requires research and details to review the schematic plan for effectiveness and satisfaction of program requirements, design intent, code compliance (e.g., egress, emergency systems, product specifications). Design elements are identified that need further research and testing (e.g., millwork drawing details, generic furniture blocks to size to space, surface materials). Pricing (including all extras) and availability of furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) must be confirmed (and alternates researched) but not finalized, maintaining reasonable budget contingency funds. In this phase, the designer regularly evaluates the budget, performs design element cost-benefit analyses, and checks lead times to stay on schedule. The owner must be aware of all design development changes from the schematic design to revisit project priorities and goals.

Documentation of the  Project.  Contract  documents are legally binding and include current working drawings detailing critical dimensions and locations and written specifications (including applicable codes), using industry standard formats. All final project costs are based on this documentation, which must be complete, accurate, and checked for errors, omissions, and inconsistencies. A schematic schedule is needed before work is delegated for bidding; tasks and services for project bidding, installation, and construction are clearly stated, and the owner approves them to make them enforceable.

Award of Bids and Negotiations. The designer acts as the owner’s representative, but owners hold final decision authority. The time-consuming bid process needs extensive preparation to support fair evaluation of all costs and qualifications. Organizing the bid process (e.g., all documentation, drawings, notices, bid submissions, inquiries, communications) increases efficiency, reduces mistakes, and protects against future disputes. The designer-specified level of quality in contract documents should be upheld. A standard bid form simplifies comparisons and encourages fair and ethical vendor treatment. The bid package includes required institutional policies (e.g., equal opportunity, bid bonds, contract procedures). Contracts awards are based on verifiable performance, business solvency, and proper insurance.

Construction Administration. The contract for this phase is between the owner and the contractor and requires cooperation and teamwork. The designer is the point of contact for relevant contractors to clarify critical quality issues and design intent. The designer conducts regular site visits, checks work in progress and on completion, and is included in punch out and closeout processes. Communications between the designer and contractors are documented and copied to the owner (e.g., change orders, substitutions, addenda, meeting minutes). The designer should know about onsite material changes and approve substitutions, even seemingly small items, and assemble finish material data needed for maintenance.

Furniture, Fixtures, and Procurement

FF&E usually is a separate  contract  from  the construction contract, because  Uniform  Commercial Code (UCC) provisions govern buying and  selling  of goods; interior  designers  must  know  UCC  provisions and state laws. On larger  jobs,  construction  contracts are governed by common laws regulating services while FF&E contracts (e.g., furniture, appliances, rugs, lamps, accessories, specialty  finishes)  are  governed  by statutory laws regulating sale of goods. The designer rarely addresses (but coordinates) specialized,  information technology (IT), and audiovisual items. The furniture plan is separate from construction documents. Each piece of furniture is scaled to plan and has an assigned code associated with  schedule,  specifications, or both; in computer-generated plans, furniture is tagged with attribute information. Such data can be used for installation and development of a complex inventory database. Designers coordinate furniture drawings with construction drawings; ensure that  power,  IT,  and building systems are well integrated; and provide furniture documentation.  Procurement  specifications and ordering vary with size of project. On larger commercial projects, a detailed specification is provided for one or more bidders.   Furniture procurement proceeds in one of several ways (e.g., in-house staff managing the bidding process based on provided specifications and working directly with the selected vendor). If the designer is under contract to oversee procurement and installation, after the product is selected and approved, options are: (1) giving specifications to the vendor or manufacturer representative, who manages orders,  delivery,  and billing, similar to the in-house method (e.g., with limited time); (2) acting as purchasing  agent  (e.g.,  write purchase orders, follow up on paperwork, coordinate delivery and installation, and handle any problems (e.g.,  in larger commercial projects); and (3) acting as (turnkey) reseller and taking advantage of designer purchasing power and efficiencies (e.g., write purchase  orders, accept delivery, arrange installation, pay vendors, collect money). ASID and AIA offer numerous standard procurement agreement documents.

Design Basics

Elements of Design.  Interior  designers  create  spaces to satisfy functional and aesthetic project goals, using design elements according to basic principles (same ones used for centuries by painters, sculptors, and visual artists).  Such factors are second nature to the successful designer, who also is talented and experienced in applying them. Owners need a basic understanding of such factors to work with designers.

During schematic design, the designer determines priority characteristics for project spaces. Texture is the actual or visual surface quality conveyed by objects within a space; it reinforces interest in the design concept, helps differentiate objects and surfaces from each other, modulates light, and adds scale. Pattern (similar to texture) is the simplest method of repetition of a decorative motif on a surface (e.g., carpet, fabric, wallpaper); it changes room scale and creates visual interest. Form is the basic distinguishing shape and configuration (and volume) of an object or space (e.g., flat, square, linear, cylindrical) and is generated with points, lines, and planes; it creates order, establishes mood, and coordinates diverse finished space components. Scale is the relative size of something related to another element of known size (e.g., human scale, size of another object). Light and color are discussed in the next sections.

LES – Kelvin Scale Diagram

Figure 2.18. LES – Kelvin Scale Diagram


Light is visually illuminated radiant energy. Good lighting design delivers proper quantity and quality of light for given tasks. The IESNA method determines range of illumination levels (in foot-candles) for specific design conditions. Most codes require a building-type-based project power budget. Designers view quality of light as just as important as quantity and so consider glare (directive or refractive; ability for user to move lighting), uniformity (affecting human comfort),  contrast (difference in illumination level between one point and nearby points), and color (complex interaction between light source color and color of objects reflecting light).

Light sources include daylight and incandescent, fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge light; considerations for each source include color rendition characteristic, initial cost, operating cost, efficacy, size, operating life, ability to control luminary output, and efficiency. Light source color is one of the most important factors in light quality (affecting finishes, materials, furniture, and other items that should be selected under same lighting used in the space). Source color temperature is rated on a Kelvin scale and on the color rendering index, which compares a source to a reference source. A good lighting plan is developed by the electrical engineering consultant, but the designer needs to execute a few simple steps to provide a reflected ceiling plan with luminary locations, decide how light is switched given space function, and consider energy conservation (because lighting accounts for much of total commercial building energy use). Most jurisdictions have construction code requirements on maximum power consumed by building lighting. Many national, international, and local codes cover emergency lighting, usually part of architectural and electrical engineering design (see Figure 2.18).


Color is the most powerful interior design tool but cannot alone create a successful environment. It is the most dominant perception of the physical world but one of the most complex physical and psychological phenomena. Color is a physical property of visible light, part of the larger electromagnetic spectrum. Each color is differentiated by wavelength; when light strikes an object, some is absorbed and the rest reflected in a wavelength that determines its color. Light has three primary colors (red, green, blue) and creates additive colors; pigments have three colors (red, blue, yellow) and create subtractive colors. White light is perceived when all light colors are present; the color black is perceived when all pigment colors are equal in amount. Designers combine light and pigmented primary colors to create an integrated space palette. Color has three properties: hue (basic color), value (light and darkness of color in relation to black or white), and intensity (degree of purity compared to gray of same value). Many systems describe and quantify color, some focusing on light and others on pigments while some use mathematical terms. The designer needs to understand as many color systems as possible. Most use the Munsell color system, which defines the color wheel and uses three scales in three dimensions to specify value, hue, and intensity. A single color does not exist in isolation; it affects and is affected by surroundings.

Color carries many symbolic and associative meanings. Extensive studies on effects of color on humans  have many variables, but people do distinguish between cool (calming, restful, dignified)  and  warm  (active, stimulating) colors. Much of a color’s effectiveness depends on its value, intensity, and surrounding relationship with an adjacent color. Secondary colors combine two primary colors (red, yellow, blue) to create orange, green, and violet.  The five basic color schemes  are analogous (colors that harmonize, sharing a common element), complementary (contrast added by complementary color), monochromatic (shades or values of single color, using elements such as pattern or texture  to avoid monotony), triad (colors equally spaced around color wheel, with one color dominating and with proper balance, proportion, and quantity of each color to avoid confusion), and tetrad (most interesting  and  difficult color scheme, with four  colors  equally  spaced  around the wheel and one or  two  dominating  colors).  The choice of dominating, related, and harmonizing colors depends on considerations such as light and dark, distribution and balance, space size, and color.

Basic Principles of Design

Successful interior design concepts consider relationships, functionality, and aesthetics for the affected environment, conveying a perception that design is an integral part of the whole. Basic design principles incorporate a concept into an environment and distinguish good design from inappropriate design.

Good design is not a matter of taste or preference; it has a basic lasting quality. Most people recognize a design that works well (if not why); poor design generally is perceived as cluttered, disjointed, or dysfunctional. Basic good design principles are (1) proportion is the harmonious relationship of one part to another or to the whole and uses long-established golden rules (e.g., golden rectangle, golden mean), with perception of scale and proportion affected by form, color, texture, and pattern; (2) balance provides a sense of repose and equilibrium, a feeling of the weight of an object; depends on the idea of visual weight (based on size, shape, complexity, color, texture, location in space); poses the challenge of creating many variables and balances in three dimensions; and can be bisymmetric (called symmetric, formal, or bilateral), asymmetric (called informal; more dynamic), or radial; (3) rhythm allows the eye to move smoothly around the room, achieved by repetition, gradation, opposition, transition, or radiation; (4) focus is a feature to which the eye is drawn, creating a feeling of room unity and order; and (5) harmony balances the many forms, shapes, colors, textures, and patterns to form a cohesive and satisfying whole (but some variety is required to avoid monotony). It takes experience, talent, and time to apply these principles appropriately. The facilities manager needs to understand each principle when communicating with the designer.


Acoustics enhance overall quality of interior environments (achieved by space plan organization, design of new walls and ceilings, or absorptive finish selection, which the designer can control). For common situations, a basic knowledge of acoustics suffices; for more complex designs (e.g., concert hall, theater, church), a qualified acoustical consultant should be used. Sound has three qualities: velocity (dependent on medium and temperature in which sound travels), frequency (number of cycles completed per second, measured in hertz; normal human audible range is between 25 Hz and 20 kHz), and power (amplitude of energy, measured in watts and perceived as loudness). The decibel (dB) relates to actual sound intensity (0 dB is the human hearing threshold; 130 dB is the threshold of human ear pain). Human response to sound is subjective and varies with age, physical ear condition, and background factors. Basic problems in controlling noise are (1) preventing sound transmission from one space to another, using the sound transmission coefficient as a rating of insulating noise through a barrier; and (2) reducing noise in a space, dependent on transmission loss, area of partition separating two spaces, and absorption of surface in the room, with product literature giving noise reduction coefficients, now superseded by more comprehensive Sound Absorption Averages (SAAs). Most rooms have materials with different areas and absorption totals; formulas to calculate material absorption are complex and used for critical areas. For most interiors, several guidelines apply: avoid designing with hard reflective surfaces on walls, floors, and ceilings; use SAA 0.20 in large rooms and higher SAAs (not above 0.50) in smaller rooms; increase total absorption in existing rooms by at least three times to change a minimum of 5 dB, the least noticeable change in sound; and in large rooms, use ceiling materials for the most effective absorption (but in small rooms, wall treatments are more effective). Reverberation (prolongation of sound as it repeatedly bounces off hard surfaces) affects speech intelligibility and music quality; reverberation times of less than 0.3 seconds are ideal for most education environments (with longer times for theaters and other specialty areas). Sound within a space can be reduced by lowering loudness level at the sound source, modifying absorption in the space, and introducing nonintrusive background noise to mask unwanted sound. When designing or renovating a building, sound issues must be discussed with the designer before project start.

Sustainable Design

Sustainable design (green building) is an important part of the design and construction industry. The designer considers appropriate materials use, energy conservation, alternative energy sources, adaptive reuse, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), recycling or product reuse, and strategies to balance consumption of environmental resources and conservation of them.

Several groups have industry-recognized ratings (not currently in mandatory building codes) for relative sustainability of buildings and interior renovations based on objective criteria that the designer follows to earn a specific type of rating (e.g., based on credits for specific actions). (1) USGBC, a coalition of building industry professionals, developed a  program  to  promote buildings showing environmental responsibility and providing a healthy place to live or work. (2) LEED, a national green building rating system, accelerates green practices with rating systems for different building types (e.g., commercial interiors, new construction, existing buildings, core and shell developments, homes, neighborhood development), assessed by a commissioning team. (3) Products are certified as environmentally sound by organizations such as Green Seal, Greenguard Institute, Scientific  Certification Systems, and ISO (e.g., ISO 14000, standards and guidelines on performance, product standards, labeling, environmental management, and  life-cycle  assessment). A significant part of total sustainability for green building interior work is material selection, based on a life-cycle assessment, which divides product life into stages (i.e., raw material acquisition, manufacturing, use and maintenance, and disposal), each including energy use. Product sustainability is determined by many criteria  (e.g., renewable material, embodied energy, recycled content, energy efficiency,  local  resources,  durability, low toxicity, moisture resistance, water consumption reduction, maintainability, reuse or recycling of potential low VOCs). Interior finish materials are a primary factor (replaced several times during the facility life cycle). The designer influences selection of furniture, flooring, adhesives, walls, ceilings, paint, and other finishes (e.g.,  to avoid VOCs, formaldehyde). Several interior design strategies can maintain good IAQ  (e.g.,  eliminate pollution source, control space ventilation, create maintenance procedures, and control occupant activity). At the beginning of  a  project,  designers  must understand owner IAQ criteria, identify  materials  with the greatest volatility and pollutant content, select finishes and furniture with low VOCs  and  emissions (using manufacturer material safety data sheets), and request that the owner run HVAC at full capacity for 2 weeks in  new  facilities  to  evacuate  outgassing emissions and  moisture.  During  the  programming phase, the designer provides a room  space  plan  to isolate equipment emitting  high  pollutant concentrations, discusses ventilation and energy conservation code requirements with the building architect and mechanical engineer, and cooperates in creating a functional floor plan. The designer should comply with owner requests to  recycle  or  reuse materials as part of a renovated or new space, including possible LEED credits. The designer gives the building owner literature on product maintenance (e.g., regular cleaning procedures with manufacturer-recommended low-emission products, warranties, specifications, required maintenance contracts). The designer is an integral part of building commission before initial occupancy (which verifies and incorporates sustainability elements into the actual design) and needs to  confirm that materials are installed and calibrated properly.

Interior Millwork

Basic knowledge of cabinet construction is invaluable to understanding millwork. This section describes basic grades, parts, and pieces of cabinet construction.

Interior designers create the project  conceptual  design for front-end, statement-oriented, special function, or image-important millwork. Most facility millwork for commercial use is custom grade, but the owner  and design team decide on cabinetry.  AWI  defines the parts  in typical cabinet construction (exposed or semi-exposed part, concealed surfaces) and also defines cabinetry in three main grades (premium, custom, economy) with a fourth option (prevailing grade); if AWI standards are referenced but no grade  is  specified,  the  prevailing grade or custom grade standards apply. AWI maintains master specifications and a quality certification program based on its quality standards  (gold  standard  for millwork quality guidelines), which are adapted for the discussion and figures in this section on cabinetry components such as joinery  (by  construction  grade), edge banding (if solid wood is not  used),  drawer  and door fronts (flush overlay, reveal overlay,  reveal  overlay on face frame, flush inset, flush inset with face frame), drawer joint types (by construction grade), drawer guides (wood or metal, with varying extensions and removal stops), cabinet hardware hinges (four types, with European hinges now the cost-effective industry standard), shelving (based on span between supports and anticipated loads), and common countertops (depending on area function).

Code Compliance

Codes vary from one jurisdiction to another, but interior designers must know basic codes (e.g., federal, state, and local legal and administrative regulations); state government enforcement of energy codes, environmental regulations, or fabric flammability standards; and federal laws, most notably ADA, which regulates removal of barriers to people with physical disabilities. Local codes often pertain to a specific geographical region or alleviate local problems not addressed in a model code (i.e., one written by experts in a specific field without referring to a specific geographical area). Now, the primary current model code is the IBC in the United States (versus the NBC in Canada); first issued in 2000, it combines three model codes to bring uniformity (and serves as the basis for this chapter). Numerous companion codes (enacted as laws like all codes) govern other construction elements such as fire, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and zoning codes. Designers are ultimately responsible for making sure that designs meet all applicable codes and regulations and deal extensively with fire rating of materials. Hundreds of tests and standards examine a range of properties, but the designer must understand each material before specifying it. ANSI publishes product testing procedures; a nationally recognized testing laboratory must perform the test for a product to earn a UL label. The most important types of interior design tests rate the prevention of fire and smoke moving from one space to another and the degree of finish material flammability. ASTM E84, the most common fire testing standard, classifies materials in one of three groups, with Class A or I as most fire resistant (and Class C or III as least). Building codes recognize degrees of fire resistance (e.g., resistance of materials and assemblies, surface burning characteristics of finish materials). Designers locate fire partitions, understand related regulations (e.g., fire partitions, fire and smoke barriers), and control combustible material quantities for each contributing material. IBC regulates ratings for some floor coverings, textiles, wall coverings, and trim materials; commercial facilities materials must have a minimum Class C flame-spread and smoke-developed index, and a combustible material cannot exceed 10 percent of aggregate wall or ceiling area where it is located. Building occupancy (type of interior space use) defines relative hazards of occupancy and other requirements (e.g., egress design, occupant load, finish requirements, fire partition and barrier needs, ventilation, sanitation, other special needs). Mixed occupancies are common across campus, but each type must be separated from the other with a fire barrier of the hourly rating defined by the specific applicable code (an automated sprinkler system generally reduces required ratings). Every building is classified as one of five construction types based on fire resistance of certain components (Type I is most fire resistant). Construction type variables are usually determined by the architect during building design, but the designer must know about any changes that affect occupancy and the maximum area to determine firewall and sprinkler needs, specify fire ratings of construction coverings and finish materials, and work with professionals who manage code checklists. Means of egress and barrier- free design play a key role; designers must plan for unobstructed egress to match occupant load, required number of exits, maximum travel distance, minimum exit width, corridor restrictions, door swings, fire and smoke barriers, and stairway widths, heights, and handrails. Historically, the architect manages overall code compliance; with testing and qualifications, and the designer is now the expert for interior codes.

Barrier-Free Design

Many model codes and state and federal laws set accessibility requirements, but ADA is the overriding regulation. It is not a national building code and is not enforced by inspections; it is a complex four-title civil rights law. ADA Accessibility Guidelines specify design requirements that owners and designers must meet (or risk civil suit liabilities) and are  based  on ANSI regulations. Universities must make reasonable adjustments so that students with disabilities can fulfill academic requirements (and are not excluded from programs for lack of modifications)  and  must  not practice employment discrimination. Campus wide, adjustments such as  curb  cuts,  ramps,  street intersection beepers, and less hazardous signage and landscaping are needed; for buildings, restroom modifications, lowered telephones and water fountains, widened doors, ramps, and (if possible) accessible elevators are needed. Exceptions are reviewed before design starts, with plans approved by the state or board  of regents when documents  show  compliance.  At project completion, onsite inspectors confirm that appropriate standards were met during construction. All complaints received must be investigated and resolved.

Educational Facilities

Historically, educational interior concerns were clean, painted, and well lighted facilities with serviceable furniture (functional yet economically dominated decisions). Designers are now recognized for creating effective interiors. Some (big) organizations have interior designers on staff (facilities), or an ongoing relationship with a qualified consultant is needed. Enrollments are rising, with more (1) working adults enrolling for career- focused education, supported by companies that view education as a consumer  good;  and  (2)  distance learners. Universities still have traditional full-time and part-time students, but the ability of all students to learn increases and is much  stronger  when  learners  are  part of a community or team, even if only  a  few  hours  a week. Facilities upgrades and new buildings  need  to adapt to changing students. Universities compete to create opportunities for intellectual activity  and  social and cultural interactions; each functions as a community with shared amenities, creating opportunities to partner with private business (e.g., private sector facilities operation; office sharing and joint-use facilities; strategic learning such as mentoring, coaching, hands-on training). Designers place growing emphasis on creating and maintaining a higher education environment for active learning versus passive lectures, a trend pushing  the need for flexibility and universal design to increase function and longevity of space. As part of social responsibility, institutions are investing billions of dollars each year in green facilities and practicing sustainability, energy conservation, and efficient urban transportation; they address tight economics and high energy costs by using life-cycle costs; applying the green  construction rule of thumb, 1:20:200 (a dollar invested should save $20 in operating costs and gain $200 in productivity over building life); and improving energy performance (e.g., natural daylight, improved IAQ). Online classrooms and evolving digital libraries are replacing lecture halls and library buildings with multiple layers of media,  information technology (IT), and equipment (and  concerns such as sight lines, collaboratories, equipment infrastructure, IT and AV consultants as team members).

Finish Materials

Finish selection decisions should meet the requirements of safety, durability, function, maintainability, cost, aesthetics, and sustainability (which include measurable elements). Selection criteria vary based on the material of the product. The broad array of finish materials can be specified in an infinite number of ways; only select main materials are discussed in this chapter. The designer can use a standard process for materials selection to make sure that such materials are used appropriately (e.g., obtain as much information as possible and research failed product installations; inform the owner of findings; apply manufacturer recommended use; investigate manufacturer production capability and financial stability).


Many types of flooring are available. (1) Wood flooring comes in four basic types (strip, plank, block, solid end grain) and has environmentally sensitive  alternatives (e.g., bamboo, palm wood) and engineered floors. (2) Stone flooring is commonly granite, marble, limestone, slate, and sandstone; these also are used for walls. (3) Terrazzo is a composite material (marble, quartz, granite, other suitable chips); and is poured into place or precast and used for floors, walls, and stairs; and comes in four types (standard, venetian, palladian, rustic). (4) Resilient flooring refers to composition materials such as resins, fillers, and plasticizers (e.g., vinyl, rubber, cork, acrylic, linoleum). (5) Carpet comes in three forms (rugs, roll goods, carpet tiles) and several fibers or fiber combinations (e.g., wool, nylon,  acrylic,  polyester, olefin); manufacturing processes (typically weaving, tufting, needle punching, fusion  bonding)  produce carpets with appearance and durability characteristics such as pitch, stitch rate, and pile height; other carpet factors to consider are backing,  cushion,  and  stretched or glue-down installations (the latter more typical in commercial carpet). (6) Tile flooring is made of clay, porcelain, or clay mixtures in flat ceramic tiles (glazed or unglazed) or quarry tiles and are classified by water resistance (e.g., non-vitreous, impervious tiles). (7) Laminate flooring is a plastic laminate with a clear wear sheet over a melamine decorative printed sheet; it is not suitable in restrooms or other wet areas. (8) Seamless flooring is a mix of resinous  matrix,  fillers,  and decorative materials applied in a liquid form and cured to a hard seamless surface;  some  are  self-leveling;  and they are high performance. Many variables can make flooring dangerous, especially when slippery or wet.

Numerous tests accurately and consistently measure slip-resistant variables. The coefficient of friction (COF) is used to evaluate slip resistance; the higher the COF, the less slippery the surface (ADA recommends 0.6 for accessible routes and 0.8 for ramps).


Textiles are classified as natural (e.g., wool, cotton, linen, silk) or synthetic (e.g., rayon, acetate, nylon, acrylic,  olefin, polyester). Solution-dyed synthetic fibers resist color fade, increase fabric life, and are produced with a clean and energy-efficient process. Fabric decisions balance functional and aesthetic needs against cost and availability, considering a number of factors, foremost durability and flammability, including state and federal standards on one or more characteristics (resistance to ignition, flame spread, and smoldering; prevention of smoke development, heat, and toxic gas release; contribution to growth of a fire). Other criteria for fabric selection are dimensional stability, maintenance, appearance, scale, touch, and comfort. Textile manufacturers that are ACT members have their textiles classified and labeled according to performance so that selection performs to contract standards and passes all applicable testing by methods measured under standard laboratory conditions. This section describes ACT performance guidelines for flammability, wet dry, colorfast, physical, and abrasion. Textiles (and fabric enhanced performance treatments) are designed for different functions; such options include crypton, gore, nanotex, stain repellants, flame-retardant treatments, antimicrobial moisture barriers, super water-repellant treatments, and acrylic backing with stain-repellant treatments. The majority of such treatments add to per- year fabric costs. The three steps in the process to care  for and maintain the life of upholstery are carry out regular maintenance, follow manufacturer-recommended cleaning codes, and treat spots and  stains.  Green Initiative products from many textile manufacturers support sustainable design and are manufactured with recycled content, natural fibers, or eco-intelligent fibers and can help companies achieve LEED workplace certification. Key environmental areas when specifying fabrics are climate effects; environmentally friendly materials, products, and manufacturing; and certification of a third-party organization (e.g., Greenguard). LEED certification offers credits for textiles in the categories of recycled materials and rapidly renewable materials, regional materials, IAQ, and innovation credits.

Wall and Window Treatments

Wall Surfaces. Wall surfaces are finished in numerous ways (e.g., paint, most commonly and least expensively; wallpaper; vinyl wall coverings; fabric wall covering; cork; and many other materials

Window Treatments. Window treatments enhance appearance, insulate against heat loss and gain, control glare, provide privacy, absorb noise, control light, and lower maintenance costs. Designers consider the total environment when deciding on blinds, shades, draperies, or other treatments. An important aspect of institutional window treatments is cost-effectiveness (e.g., initial cost, energy conservation, expected service life, maintenance). Blinds are a popular and flexible option. Shades control light and privacy, maintain interior temperatures, and accent windows. Other window covering elements can include curtains, draperies, valances, translucent panels, and grilles. Designers consider window treatments early in schematic design and during architectural design.

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