You’ve heard the adage, “Beauty is only skin deep.” Turns out that concept applies to the built environment as well. There’s a common misconception out there that you have to sacrifice beauty for efficiency or vice versa. The truth is you can have both.
We’ve seen it countless times: a project’s design value is assessed based on the materials and the aesthetics of the exterior façade. Efficiency and long-term viability are overlooked (or undervalued) in favor of a flashy design.
While aesthetics are important (what a project looks like can give an overall impression of how a facility is run), they’re only part of the story. Often, the overlooked value of design – the true beauty – lies in its planning and layout, in the internal organization of a facility, and in the selection of the right equipment.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a facility must perform. The most beautiful building in the world is a waste if it doesn't work for its users.
That’s why we designed the LA Metro Division 13 Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility to not only be an architectural anchor for the neighborhood but also serve as an innovative, highly sustainable facility that can accommodate 200 clean-air, CNG-fueled buses, and 525 employees.
Bringing together this idea of elegance and efficiency, we designed a water capture and reclamation system that is built right into the facility’s green roof. While the green roof provides a tranquil space for rest and relaxation, it also stores this system that transfers 100 percent of captured water to the bus washers. Once the water is used, 80 percent of it is then recycled to be reused in the next wash cycle.
The true value of a design should be measured in how well it supports the daily rituals and tangible goals of its users. For example, our Division 13 project might also be measured on whether buses and routes are on time, how healthy employees are, and if the facility is able to better recruit and retain top talent.
Aesthetic preferences vary as a function of personality and the environment, but the best predictor of efficiency is experience, and the basis of an efficient design begins at the earliest stages of a project – before the exterior aesthetic is ever conceived. Gaining knowledge is key to understanding operational and equipment efficiencies and applying user goals and current trends.
In Arizona, we designed the Phoenix Transit West Operating Facility with this in mind. The facility’s primary desire was to have drive-thru bays and all employees working close together. So, we created an open concept design with ample natural light that features overhead doors at the end of each bay to allow trucks to enter and exit the building without any backing maneuvers. Not only are the interior aesthetics pleasing, the design also enhances safety throughout the entire site.
Keeping employees in mind is also a necessary part of creating an elegant and efficient design. As we continue to work on the designs for the new Denver Water Operations Complex, we’re proposing numerous advanced wellness and workplace of the future concepts, including both social and quiet work spaces with advanced technology support and access to increased daylight, biophilia, fitness options and on-campus healthy dining.
So next time you’re considering a new facility design, think beyond what it looks like and remember that the best stuff should be under the hood.