Editorial: The Road to Recovery

Oct. 1, 2005
By Robert Nieminen
As we were in the midst of closing last month’s issue, the effects of Hurricane Katrina literally could be seen outside my window. Life will get back to normal, and it will do so because of the efforts of all those who reach out to our neighbors in need and help them rebuild that which was lost.

As we were in the midst of closing last month's issue, the effects of Hurricane Katrina literally could be seen outside my window. Having formed just off the Atlantic coast of South Florida where I live, Katrina brushed by Palm Beach County and took 11 lives as it crossed the state. We all expected it to lose strength and hopefully dissipate before it reached the Gulf. Now, as the recovery effort takes place, I realize how lucky we are to have been spared the devastation seen on the Gulf Coast.

It's difficult to comprehend how life will ever get back to normal for survivors. It will, though "normal" may take on a different meaning. But as it did after Hurricanes Andrew, Charley, Floyd and Jean, et. al., life will get back to normal, and it will do so because of the efforts of all those who reach out to our neighbors in need and help them rebuild that which was lost. I believe the A&D community will play a vital role in that recovery, and I was proud to discover our industry had already stepped up to the plate as I began searching for news related to the disaster. As reported in this month's Noteworthy section, several professional organizations are organizing relief and recovery efforts:

  • The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) is pledging $25,000 to the American Red Cross' relief effort and launching a comprehensive resource page on its Web site.
  • Architecture for Humanity is appealing for donations to support the work of locally-based architects in rebuilding homes and communities in the region's hardest hit areas.
  • The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and the IIDA Foundation are establishing a fund supporting hurricane relief and rebuilding efforts.
  • The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is calling for volunteers to assist in the disaster-recovery effort and planning a resource matching system from its Web site.

While the road to recovery will be long in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, the healing process might be getting shorter for healthcare patients in the future, thanks to the pioneering work of firms like HMC Architects, the subject of this month's cover story, that are forging their way through virtually uncharted territory in the greening of hospitals. "The process is so new in the [health] field that the [U.S.] Green Building Council is just working on its Green Guide for Healthcare, a set of sustainable design application guidelines that will ramp up efforts for LEED certification in public, private and notfor- profit healthcare sectors," says Eric Shamp, HMC Architects' sustainable design coordinator.

Despite the limitations, HMC and firms like Young + Wright Architects (whose sustainable design of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College appears as this issue's featured project) are greening healthcare environments because they know what's good for the patient is also good for the hospital administrator. For example, HMC's director of interior design Pam Maynard points out that "studies show patients improve at a quicker rate when we incorporate more natural lighting in their rooms." Meanwhile, lighting can account for up to 30 percent of a hospital's energy costs, and eight percent of the facility's total operating budget. Given the medical, economic and environmental benefits, incorporating daylighting into the design becomes a no brainer.

"I find it quite interesting that when we incorporate the green principles of architecture, which is actually intelligent design, we're not only benefiting the planet as far as the materials, or providing cost savings for facilities managers; we're also giving an advantage to each individual patient, both psychologically and physiologically," Maynard notes.

Fortunately, the design industry is beginning to see the light. Earlier this year, when a group of 500 interior designers attending the ASID's leadership conference in Vancouver, BC, were asked to identify trends and issues they felt were most likely to exert the greatest challenge on how design is practiced, sustainability and the health of indoor environments were among the items that topped the list. According to ASID president elect, Robert Wright, "In the not too distant future, sustainability will no longer be a sub-specialty within interior design but an integral part of how all interiors are designed." As a design community, let's make sure that future isn't too distant.

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