Of Crisis and Opportunity

Oct. 8, 2009

Given the heated political climate in this country over the past several months, it’s nearly impossible to avoid commenting on the health care debate that has been raging between not only the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, but also among citizens (aka, the “angry mobs,” depending who you ask) who have shown up en masse to town hall meetings and even on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

At the core of the debate is … a good question. Democrats are passionately arguing that Americans, regardless of age, race, income or legal status, deserve health care insurance; Republicans oppose an Orwellian government rationing health care or death panels deciding who lives and who dies.

When you put it in these terms, it all sounds a bit ridiculous and makes you wonder just what it is our elected officials are really doing anyway. The debate is off topic altogether; tort reform needs to be addressed before we can realize any real change in health care. But I digress.

It seems to me that somewhere along the line, we’ve lost sight of the fact that, despite the flaws in our existing health care system, we have the privilege of living in a country with the best medical facilities in the world, and we have architects and designers to thank for their roles in creating them. Two such hospitals are featured in this issue; one graced the cover of our March issue and was also selected as one of our Top 10 LEED® Projects, and the other is our featured photo essay.

Both the Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas, and the Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey are shining examples of how medical facilities are becoming simultaneously more technologically advanced and patient-centric—incorporating residential- and hospitality-inspired designs that are warm and welcoming into highly technical facilities that are equipped with Web conferencing technology to transmit live surgical cases to students and physicians in other locations. In the case of the Dell Center, it also meant striving for and earning a LEED Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which is no small feat given the unique operating challenges common to a hospital setting.

Speaking of challenges, we here at Interiors & Sources had our share of obstacles to overcome during the past year as we rebuilt our Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based headquarters to LEED standards, following the devastating floods of 2008. Our headquarters has since reopened and has been registered with the USGBC for LEED-CI certification at the Silver level, and we are thrilled to join a growing list of exemplary projects that incorporate sustainable design strategies and features—including spaces like those featured in this year’s Top 10. Many of them are the first of their kind to be LEED-certified, but all of them presented innovative and aesthetically-pleasing solutions to demanding design problems.

This issue also features our special Green Guide to Greenbuild section which contains practical information on the latest sustainable design issues facing the A&D community. First up is a look at emerging climate legislation, including an assessment of the potential impacts and benefits of the cap and trade component and how it could affect the commercial buildings market. Our next Green Guide article deals with the increasing scrutiny that is being placed on the performance of completed “green” projects, and focuses on how sustainable projects can best improve their value by delivering on their performance promises. Also included in this special section are our EcoLibrary Matrix of third-party certification programs and EcoList of manufacturers who have obtained third-party certification.

Regardless of where you stand on political issues—be it health care or the greening of our economy or legislating the profession of interior design—what is clear is that we are living in the most interesting and arduous of times, and I believe interior designers can seize the moment to propose inventive solutions to challenges of all kinds. As ASID president Sari Graven reminds us in her forum article, “while the economic crisis has challenged our strength and confidence as individual practitioners, our collective strength as a professional society has never been more relevant or important. In crisis lives the opportunity—and at times the obligation—to do things that we could not or would not do before.”

What will you do, in these trying times, with the opportunities that lie ahead?

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