A Look Ahead

by Robert Nieminen

I'm always learning things as we put together each month's issue of I&S, but some issues just seem to have more knowledge packed into them than usual. Our May edition just happened to be so enlightening that I was inspired to step out on a limb and make a few predictions. The first one? Product libraries in design firms will soon be a thing of the past.

This may seem like a hasty forecast, but I'm going to say it anyway because I think it's true. In discussions I've had with designers and industry professionals leading up to this issue, it has become apparent that technology is changing so rapidly that the next crop of designers will not be (and in most cases, are not) searching binders for products. That's not to say samples are going by the wayside, but manufacturers that don't have their products and specifications easily accessible online will feel the impact in the coming years.

As Cyanna Goold, interior designer with LMN Architects, admitted to me during an interview, she hasn't opened a binder in quite a long time and added that unless it's for a sample, she doesn't even need one. "I do all my research online," she says, placing a premium on manufacturers who have 3-D renderings of their furniture for her drawings. "If I can get digital samples and renderings, I'm going to use those companies." Add to that websites like TODL.com—a virtual design library that will soon launch a robust new version of its site, one that I previewed just hours ago—and you begin to see the possibilities unfold not just for productivity and ease of specification, but also for reducing the environmental footprint created by all those stacks of binders collecting dust.

Speaking of the environment (and the future), here's prediction number two: unless companies are serious about sustainability, they will have a hard time attracting and retaining talent in the years ahead. According to a public opinion survey on workplace values conducted by Harris Interactive National Quorum on behalf of Interface, American workers are seeking employment with organizations that are both financially successful and mindful about their impact on and commitment to protecting the environment, with 71 percent suggesting that a commitment to sustainability, defined in the study as "environmental protection," is an important or very important criteria.

"There is broad recognition that companies that focus on sustainability, or protecting and preserving the environment, are appealing to American workers," says Dan Hendrix, president and CEO of Interface. "These results speak to a lasting trend about the kind of long-term-focused organizations that employees want to belong to."

Among the organizations making waves in the sustainable design pool are those featured in our Green Guide to NeoCon® special section. In it, you will discover how the U.S. Army is successfully marrying evidence-based design strategies with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements in the design of the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia; how proposed changes to LEED's IEQ Credit 4, designed to improve indoor air quality, may inadvertently have the opposite effect; and who took the honors in our 2011 Bloom Awards, in addition to our updated EcoList of sustainable products and their manufacturers.

While we're looking ahead, be sure to check out our huge NeoCon preview for a sneak peek of the hottest products that will be debuting in Chicago in June. We're also giving you a preview of the Interiors & Sources Materials Pavilion at NeoCon, which will be a curated selection of decorative materials from a wide variety suppliers—a petting zoo, if you will, on the eighth floor of the Merchandise Mart that will be populated with the latest applications available for furniture and interior finishes.

This month's issue also marks the reintroduction of designer profiles (which you may remember from our covers in years past). In this issue, Senior Editor AnnMarie Marano catches up with Tom Polucci, who has returned to his old stomping grounds in New York City to head up HOK's interiors division. I predict (one more) that you're really going to enjoy it.

Finally, before you set down this issue, you may feel the need to kick back with a cold one as you peruse Heineken's new offices in New York City, the subject of this month's cover story. Drink in the images of this dramatic new space designed by TSC Design that is an example of what happens when you effectively combine branding and inspiring design: an office where employees are reluctant to leave.

I'll drink to that!