Volunteer your talents: How design can make a positive impact
Monday, March 27, 2017
We have all heard that volunteering is good for your soul. It helps us create a connection that is outside of ourselves.
Volunteering is all about sharing our gifts. If our gift is being a designer, why not share it with others who may not realize that what we do isn't just for those who have big pocketbooks? Our talents go way beyond picking paint colors and accessories. Our knowledge of interior materials as well as space planning and furniture can make a big impact on the lives of others.
Just as in the for-profit world, the nonprofit world needs to be educated on how we do our work. To many people what we do seems like magic, and maybe it is. What better way to make someone's life better than to share that magic?
No one should work, live or play in space that isn't safe, fun and accessible. As designers, we have the power to change this and make a difference. Volunteering is just a way to make more magic happen. That is why these are some of the best projects I have had the privilege to be a part of.
For the past seven years, I have been a member of volunteer projects teams that are comprised mainly of commercial general contractors and subcontractors — with a few architects and engineers sprinkled in the mix. These projects become a great example of how the design/build process works.
As the only interior designer in the group, I can demonstrate why good interior design is important and why having interior designers on building teams are good for successful project outcomes. Some of the projects I have been involved in have included: a preschool, an elementary school, low-income senior housing and community centers.
My job as the interiors expert is to evaluate and recommend changes that effect the interior space. Along with an architect, engineer and general contractor, we make recommendations on the overall scope of work that includes among other exterior fixes, making bathrooms ADA compliant, updating commercial kitchens to meet fire codes, providing adequate lighting and replacing unsafe flooring. We also make suggestions on millwork and furnishings.
Most nonprofits are used to receiving donations — whether it is monetary or material items. What they are not used to receiving is the gift of good design.
When design professionals donate their billable hours to projects, recipients become aware of just how valuable having that expertise is — especially during the predesign process when designers ask important questions about the space, the activities as well as the people who are being served.
This is where members of these nonprofits start seeing the correlations between the building and operations. They start analyzing their procedures and the how changing the space can make a difference in their physical environment, as well as give them inspiration to create better programs for those they serve.
These wonderful nonprofit organizations are working hard to serve the community we all share. When it is brought to their attention that they could increase their services if the building they are operating in functions well, they begin to see the value of the improvements we make.
When nonprofits forget that investing in their facility is just as important as investing in the programs they offer, they become less likely to have successful outcomes. They are hesitant to believe that there is power in good design, until they experience it.
Like magic, the finished building with new paint, new flooring, accessible bathrooms and lighting suddenly makes the place have a different, fresh vibrancy. When you get letters from executive directors of these nonprofits telling your group how your improvements have helped them be more successful, you are motivated to do it again. Because volunteering is such a powerful thing, just like great design, it has a way of making our communities better.
Take some time to volunteer your talents this year with a nonprofit in your community. Sprinkle some magic and show just how powerful great design can be!
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