Anyone familiar with corporate “enterprise systems” has witnessed the benefit of companies sharing standard, commoditized, accounting, payroll, shipping/receiving, human resources, and training programs. These organization-wide packaged applications—or platforms—keep firms from having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to nonproprietary and non-mission critical best practices, processes and/or programs.

Lately I have seen large healthcare entities applying this path of thinking for specifying interior finishes and materials for their facilities. Applying standards to interior finishes allows for consistency and branding, as well as adherence to construction, health, and safety codes. Standardization is defined as the best technical application of consensual wisdom, inclusive of processes for selection in making appropriate choices.

This approach creates a situation in which all parties (owners, vendors, project managers, contactors, environment of care, etc.) can realize mutual gains, but only by making mutually consistent decisions. But who is making these decisions?

Interior designers are generally included during the initial selections, but what happens as finish materials and products improve, go out of production, or just plain go out of style long after their original specification? How often are these standards reviewed, refreshed, and rethought?

Many times these replacements are randomly replaced and reselected by in-house engineering or nursing staff—on-the-fly as needed. Many times interior designers are not brought back into the loop due to timing or because their services are viewed as an unnecessary cost.

If specifying interior materials for a healthcare (or any) facility were as easy as ordering á la carte off of a database menu, the task of designing such spaces could be phoned in. Is our industry eventually going to be reduced to end users ordering a #4 warm pallet with a cubicle curtain on the side?