I recently attended the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) annual show inSan Antonio,TX.  This is the first year the show included representation from CEFPI and our group from the AIA Committee on Architecture Education wanted to check it out.

The trade show included many excellent manufacturers of school furnishings.  It was good to see so many of them all in one place to be able to compare them.  There are a lot more wood products than I realized, and more and more manufacturers are figuring out the importance of good ergonomics for students. 

But as I was wandering through the exhibit hall, I felt frustrated too, due to the unfortunate condition in which school district purchasing departments exclude architects from involvement in furniture procurement.  This seems to be the rule inColorado, but I understand that Districts in other states more regularly allow designers to participate in furniture selection.  As we seek to design ever more effective learning environments for students and teachers, the integration of furnishings with architecture becomes more and more important.  I believe we need a program of education for purchasing departments, the goal of which would be to help them understand that furnishings are quite different from computers, laminators, and paper supplies. 

Purchasing departments need to involve the design teams from their buildings when specifying new furnishings.  Only when furnishings and IT are fully integrated with architectural design will we achieve the kind of truly High Performance Learning Environments we need to compete in the global marketplace.