In the building industry, pro forma and budgeting go hand in hand, but neither is necessarily a predictor of project success. Even the most ornate, high-tech, amenity-rich environments can fail to attract tenant or visitor interest, similar to how an expensive trip or dinner can end up lackluster.
Sometimes — with an emphasis on the “some” — you do discover that you’re receiving more than you paid for or ever expected. After ending a frustrating day with a walk, you might come across a luminous beacon tucked in a public, waterfront park that used to be considered scary. As you take in the views and the sounds, you may reset your perspective and restore your connection to nature.
Or you might halfheartedly show up for a community night walk, be handed a flashlight, and find yourself oohing with neighbors-turned-friends over the newfound beauty of your hometown when textures and features are thoughtfully illuminated.
Yes, your tax dollars likely contributed to the park, or any public environment, but your return can keep growing if you keep visiting. And, assuming you borrowed the flashlight, your return over a free community walk is infinity.
These are two of the many experiences designers nationwide are creating in their community work today, as you can see in the above-linked Projects feature from the July/August issue of LEDs Magazine. Their efforts are often conducted with negative to slim margins, and they know the result may not be a physical entity or something that generates revenue. Instead, the value of the outcomes cannot be captured on a spreadsheet: neighborhood engagement, education, and empowerment.
Positive exchanges and returns can also be found among product solutions. Reading through the 31 recipients of LEDs Magazine’s inaugural BrightStar Awards, I can’t help but be impressed by what the array of honorees offer: design versatility, limitless color options, interchangeable optics, unprecedented efficiency, moth eye–inspired glare mitigation, wireless micromanagement of fixtures — in a good way — and much more.
I’ve been around just enough to know that manufacturers account for R&D, labor costs, materials, intellectual property, operations, transportation, customer value, profit margin, and more when pricing their products. But once specified, shipped, and installed, these technologies can improve the productivity of any number of workers, reduce headaches and improve sleep cycles for any number of occupants, and chip away at our collective carbon emissions through their operating life.
A momentary, quantitative price for enduring, qualitative benefits. These are the bright stars I seek in times of uncertainty.
WANDA LAU is editorial director of LEDs Magazine and Smart Buildings Technology. She previously served as executive editor of Architect magazine and worked for a decade in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.
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