When you think of great public buildings, what comes to mind? A particular museum in Washington D.C.?
Perhaps a World Heritage Site?
I agree these are architectural treasures, however, I want to raise the question about ALL the everyday public buildings in our community. A great public building does not have to make a significant architectural statement – although as an architect I would prefer them to be at least architecturally interesting. It should be functional, economical to maintain, and last for many decades without the need for major modification.
Good design is the key for our public buildings and as a result highly qualified firms are procured to design them. These firms are given standards to meet and most often the hardest standard is a very tight budget for up front construction costs. This is where the train has gone off the tracks. Building to the tightest construction budget and only requiring the building meet code minimum standards does not provide for a great public building. Our most precious resource is the future costs of these buildings. Our tax dollars go towards maintenance of materials, energy costs, and the productivity of the workers inside them. A building that is expected to last decades MUST be healthy, energy-efficient, and durable or we are wasting our tax dollars on a daily basis. If you can construct a building that is enjoyable to work in, has healthy indoor air quality, require little maintenance, and is extremely energy-efficient for the same amount of money annually as one that is simply a lower cost to build, has minimal standards for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, or quality of life, which is better. One option will save you money during construction. The other option will save you money on a annual basis for decades.