Planning, Design & Construction Department
UNM's Planning, Design & Construction department was recently renovated to model a contemporary work environment. The space will be used as a showroom to give other departments ideas for how they can better use existing facilities. 

Light, fresh, modern and uncluttered are just of few of the words used to describe the renovated office space for Planning, Design and Construction (PDC). PDC is the University resource for leading building design and development for the many departments at The University of New Mexico.

Recently, PDC was able to create a space for itself, and also a place where UNM clients can get a hands-on look at what’s possible for their projects.

“While it may look a bit like a showroom, we don’t sell anything. It really is more of a demonstration space for our internal clients to see some of the new, innovative, and wellness-centered approaches to facility design,” said Amy Coburn, University architect and PDC director.

PDC staff are the creative talent behind UNM’s campus development and large renovations such as the new space in Zimmerman Library’s Learning and Graduate Commons. These construction projects take years of planning and stewardship to provide spaces usable in the complex environments indicative of high-research universities. Coburn is dedicated to using the industry’s best practices of design which foster flexibility, collaboration, creativity, and overall wellness in individuals using the spaces.

According to the Steelcase magazine titled 360⁰, investing in worker well-being is just good business. “The return is high for forward-thinking organizations that invest in the physical, cognitive, and psychological wellbeing of their people by thinking about it holistically and incorporating it as a part of their business strategy.”

Coburn suggests that the traditional format of students sitting for long periods in a lecture-style classroom, or staff and faculty only doing their work in a private office, may not provide enough spatial variety to serve UNM’s educational objectives. Some sources note that these sedentary postures contribute to a variety of physical and mental health issues. This is why PDC is hoping to incorporate these best practices of interior environmental design with the new construction soon to be emerging across UNM in the coming years.

Kimberly Sylvester, interior environments design manager for PDC, specializes in interiors and furnishings. Sylvester states that moving forward, PDC wants to design spaces to get people up and moving, where they can collaborate with one another and be inventive in how they spend their day at work or in the classroom.

“Students are enthusiastic about having spaces other than a traditional classroom where they just sit; they want to have choices. We also find that the more niches we create in the buildings for both collaborative and private study, the happier the students are,” said Sylvester. “PDC is trying to encourage people to think a little bit differently about how they use their space.”

In PDC’s new offices, the furniture is all free-standing and “non-handed,” meaning it is easily reconfigured to accommodate changes in people or space. This is vital when designing interiors for universities which always seem to undergo change. 

Another element to the design incorporates a variety of community spaces to encourage casual or impromptu meetings, with simple glass and moveable elements to divide the spaces. There are pops of color to enhance mood and productivity, and a clean, modern look where clutter is minimized. 

“The idea is to have our environments model what we aspire for our employees and students to experience while at UNM: uncluttered, streamlined, clean, with room to move and grow,” said Coburn.