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Furnishing for Flexibility

College Planning & Management | October 2008

When students, faculty, and staff walk through the doors of the new Natural Science Building at Palm Beach Community College's (PBCC) Lake Worth, FL, campus, administrators want them to feel that the building was designed with their individual needs in mind. Flexible, ergonomic furniture was selected to help create an environment that can easily adapt to the dynamics of an academic facility. 

The 50,000-sq.-ft., two-story structure includes classrooms, teaching laboratories, a main circulation lobby, and multiple offices, including an office for the Dean and Assistant Dean of Science. The facility's educational spaces can change literally each hour to support various teaching methods and learning styles. The flexibility found in classrooms extends to office workspaces, which were designed to enable wellness and productivity for each employee. 

"We believe very strongly in student engagement, and the Natural Science Building reflects that philosophy," said Dr. Magdala Ray, PBCC dean of baccalaureate studies. "The interiors make it easy for instructors to customize a classroom's layout to accommmadate visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and other types of learners while at the same time, provide a high degree of comfort for students. The blending of these considerations helps to establish a learning environment that fosters and nurtures student performance." 

The college selected mobile furniture that can be reconfigured into a variety of settings, while also delivering a high degree of comfort. Furniture for students includes height-adjustable desks and cushioned, flex-back seating. For instructors, the college chose desking with height-adjustable work surfaces and articulating keyboard trays and chairs with extra lower lumbar support. 

"As a community college, we serve a diverse population - people of all ages, shapes, and sizes; fulltime, part-time, and evening students; and tenured professors to adjunct instructors," said Ray. "Learning spaces need to meet each of these groups' unique requirements and allow all participants to become totally immersed in the educational experience." 

In addition to meeting the needs of students and faculty, staff wellness is a priority at the Natural Science Building. Office areas feature adjustable desking, which allows users to set the desktop at a level that matches their preferred height for ergonomic benefits. 

"We proactively sought solutions that will minimize adverse health conditions such as shoulder, neck or back pain that are typically associated with people working in a computer-dependent, paper-intensive facility such as ours," said Ray. "Creating and ergonomically friendly environment serves as one of the key ways we support the health and well-being of our employees." 

To provide employees with additional flexibility and comfort, the facility includes overhead storage systems. Employees can open and close the units while seated. The overhead storage systems selected for the project are ADA compliant. 

"Faculty members and staff have anticipated a building of this type for decades," adds Ray. "It delivers total flexibility in every way." 

The Natural Science Building at PBCC's Lake Worth campus opened in August. 

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