There is a misconception that to have a work environment that is design rich, memorable and innovative, a large construction budget is necessary. Good design is a function of understanding the client and their business and innovatively creating an environment that meets their needs no matter what the intended budget.
The key word for achieving a design-centric and cost effective space is balance.
Balancing the use of inexpensive and common materials against those of higher value used at strategic locations such as lobby and reception areas, customer areas or any other location where the design calls for more is the way to achieve high design at a decreased cost.
Here are a few tips on achieving a design focused and functioning space without having to undertake excessive construction costs.
One of the highest cost generating elements of an interior design falls on the lighting. Different strategies exist for using lighting in a way that both afford design opportunities as well as satisfying the budget.
One for example is using an inexpensive linear strip fluorescent fixture in an unconventional way that can yield two things. The first is an unexpected ceiling articulation that looks less typical then a hung ceiling commonly used almost everywhere. Second, the usage costs for the lights are decreased due to the efficiency of the light source themselves. Predominantly using these lights in the design allows for specialty lighting to be afforded at locations such as main work areas where computer glare requires lighting that is dimmable and with glare reducing baffles that typically cost more. But what is important to remember is that just because linear strips are inexpensive does not mean that they need to look it. Detailing them in an innovative way can create a design element that is unique and not in the least bit unsophisticated.
Another area of substantial savings can be found in the selection of flooring. There are two predominant carpeting types that can be applied to an office environment, carpet tile and broadloom carpeting. Carpet tiles typically come in 2ft by 2ft squares vs. broadloom that comes in roll form such as that used in residential applications. With many inexpensive versions, carpet tiles have proven to be the better choice for office flooring. They are easy to install, come in a vast variety of colors, patterns and textures and individual tiles can be replaced if they become damaged or soiled offering savings from a maintenance perspective as well. Similar to lighting, a balance can be struck in the use of carpet tiles as well. Integrate a more cost-effective tile for open work areas that are typically covered with workstations and allow the more expensive tiles to embellish areas of design interest where they may be more visible.
One last strategy for reducing construction costs yet maintaining design intensity is to understand that there are many materials used outside of the standard palette of materials typically used in office designs that are inexpensive but can yield unique design characteristics.
One such material is a cellular plastic panel. These light structural plastic sheets usually used to clad green houses serve as very cost-effective solutions for conference room walls where transparency is desired but tempered glass is financially prohibitive. Coming in various thickness and transparencies, cellular plastic panels can be used as walls or as ceilings because of their light weight and can provide an unparalleled richness of light and texture often not gained from much more expensive materials. Knowledge of these alternate materials on the part of the Architect can assist in the creation of an environment that is unique and memorable.
By understanding alternate solutions for lighting, flooring and materials, high design can be realized without the unnecessary consequence of high construction costs. Establish your project scope and work with your designer to provide design solutions that satisfy your business and aesthetic needs, on budget.