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2013/02: Vincent G. Carter PDF Print E-mail


vincent_g_carter-title.gifThink about it: Just like any corporation, the United States government needs interior designers to plan and design space for the millions of square feet utilized by its diverse array of departments occupying countless facilities both domestically and abroad. What kind of person is best suited for such an immense task? A conscientious, detail-oriented, smart-as-a-whip professional like Vincent G. Carter, FASID. As Senior Program Manager with the Department of Homeland Security (if he tells you about his projects, he’ll have to kill you – just kidding!), Vincent works with 1.3 million square feet and 4,000 personnel. His methodical approach and problem-solving proficiencies keep the government’s interior spaces operational and create places where employees want to work. If you can see a little bit of yourself in Vincent and want to learn more about this segment of the interior design industry, then let him open your eyes to the field of Facilities Management.

Please explain to P&C readers what exactly Facilities Management is.

Facilities Management (FM) is an area of specialization in commercial design. Most organizations have a facilities group, but the name might vary. They are responsible for maintaining the space a company occupies, which includes establishing standards, designing and maintaining spaces, adapting existing spaces to satisfy new requirements – e.g., mobile work spaces vs. assigned cubicles or offices. This applies both to the private sector and to government.

What would you say is the basic thought process behind successful FM?

You always have to be projecting and planning ahead. Keeping the big picture of the organization in mind is key because conditions and needs continually change. Learning to ask the right questions is
vincent_g_carter.jpgessential because you have to gather the precise information required to plan for current conditions, as well as for future ones. Finally, you must understand how to prioritize requirements. Inevitably, due to time, budget and/or spatial restraints, compromise will be necessary.

Some examples of considerations that those in FM deal with regularly are

  • Establishing/updating standards [furniture manufacturer(s), materials, features, etc.]
  • Agreeing upon a square footage allocation per person [e.g., Directors have 100sf of work space, Managers have 80sf of work space, and Support Staff have 60sf of work space, etc.]
  • Identifying special spaces [training areas, break rooms, war rooms, production areas, equipment rooms, etc.]
  • Allocating conference/meeting spaces [typical vs. video conference, private vs. open, large vs. small, impromptu break-out areas, etc.]
  • Considering the length of a space’s lease [short-term vs. long-term influences design and planning decisions]
  • Taking mobility into account [every employee having a full work space vs. temporary hoteling / touch-down work space]

Truly, three core aspects of FM are the foundation of the successful interior for any organization: programming, space planning, and wayfinding.

How did you even get started in the interior design industry, and – more specifically – interested in facilities management?

When I was a young man growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I began by rearranging the family living room furniture almost every Saturday. It did not take long until I branched out and started doing it for neighborhood friends as well. Soon I ran across an ad for a correspondence course that described what I was doing, and I found out that it was called interior design.

While earning a Masters of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I discovered my interest in programming, space planning, and facilities management. As a student member of American Society of Interior Designers [ASID], I took advantage of as many field trips as possible, including one to Minneapolis where we toured the 3M Corporate Headquarters. It was then that I became hooked.

I applied for an internship in Washington, DC, with two firms, but without being privy to the name of either. Later I found out that they were Marriott and The World Bank, and I ended up going to work for the latter.

What was your experience at The World Bank – indisputably an enormous institution – like coming right out of school?

I think of The World Bank as my kindergarten in FM and reflect on the saying “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.”

During my 12 years there I covered almost every aspect of the field: design, space planning, signage, wayfinding, space and furniture standards, programming, project management, program management, design firm coordination, payment request approvals, post-occupancy evaluations, drawing reviews, etc.

Is there a typical size / scope for the type of projects you work on regularly?

It varies greatly. I design projects as small as a single office to a snack bar to the interiors of an 11-story building for 1,100 personnel. My favorite project was the conversion of a parking garage into a shipping/receiving facility with office space.

My attention to detail makes me a natural reviewer of submittals by various contractors and A/E firms, as well as by a multitude of vendors such as signage, food service equipment, furniture, high-density filing, etc.

You have been and still are incredibly involved with and dedicated to the industry. Please share with readers the highlights of your leadership history.

Yes, it is something I am very passionate about. Though I’m currently in my second year on the ASID National Board as a Director at Large with Financial Oversight, I actually started as an ASID Student Member. When I transitioned into practice, I soon became Director of Government and Public Affairs for the ASID Washington Metro Chapter, and I was eventually elected President of the chapter. Over the years I have also been a member or and/or have chaired various ASID committees and task forces on subjects like Ethics and Codes.

As I was a major advocate for the passage of interior design licensure in Washington, DC, I represented ASID on the National Legislative Coalition for Interior Design.

Besides ASID and legislative issues, another area of focus for me has been the National Council of Interior Design Qualification [NCIDQ]. During my career I have served as Treasurer, Director of the Exam, and eventually as President.

Do you have any tips for emerging design professionals?

Volunteer for assignments that represent as many different project types as possible. Take note when you find yourself voluntarily working extra hours as it could mean that you like what you are doing. Then eventually narrow your focus to things you find interesting and begin to specialize. Become the SME (Subject Matter Expert) in your area.

Next, prepare to sit for the NCIDQ Exam as this credential is your passport within the field. Having it will allow you to demand more respect from your employers, colleagues and clients.

Lastly, share best practices, don’t reinvent the wheel, ask questions and read!

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Congratulations to the winners of the Council for Interior Design Accreditation [CIDA] 2013 Innovative Interior Design Education Award, which recognizes and celebrates innovative teaching and program-related practices that advance the cause of excellence in interior design education. First place went to Tilanka Chandrasekera, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design, Housing, and Merchandising at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Associate Professor, Interior Design, at the University of Minnesota, and Deborah Schneiderman, Associate Professor, Interior Design, at Pratt Institute, were also recognized. GO HERE to learn more about the winners and view their entries.

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