Richard Fanelli, AIA, CFM, IFMA Fellow, Principal/Fanelli McClain Inc.

I founded Fanelli McClain 30 years ago in early 1985. Things have dramatically changed since then in the way we all work and the technologies that we use to get our work done. Here are some that come to mind:


- In 1985 we started to use the modern version of the fax machine.  It allowed us to get        information and graphics to our clients and vendors quickly without having to hire a courier  to bike your envelope across town. Now, the few fax machines that are left only gather cob  webs.

- Many companies in 1985 had some stand-alone PCs or Macs but few companies had  networked computers and servers. Very few companies had e-mail and Al Gore had not yet  invented the internet.  Access to information came from books and libraries. Fanelli  McClain’s first computer was one of the original Macs that came off of the Apple assembly  line.  It even had Steve Job’s engraved signature on the back.  Boy, I wish I had held onto  that historic piece of computer equipment. One of the first pieces of equipment that I  bought was an IBM Selectric typewriter that had a feature that allowed you to quickly  correct your documents.  I thought that was great technology at the time.

I remember buying Marvis Beacons typing software to learn how to touch type in the mid-  90s so that I could generate my own documents, rather than making multiple mark-ups    and  handing them to a secretary to produce. I wish my parents had forced me to take a  touch typing class in high school.

- The volume of correspondence and information we receive today via e-mail in mind  boggling compared with the dozen or so “While You Were Out” pink slips that you once  received when you got back from lunch in the mid-80s. Today we can sometimes spend  hours processing useful and useless e-mails in the course of a day.  This does not  necessarily lead to increased productivity, but when offset by the speed of communication  and the faster turnaround time for the production of deliverables, due to CAD and BIM  technologies, we do become more productive today in the long run. 

Healthy Offices and Workspaces:

It is amazing that we are all still alive after the way we treated our lungs back in the mid-  80s.  People smoked in offices without giving it a second thought.  You were lucky to have  a smoke extract fan in your conference room.  Ceiling tiles were a dingy shade of yellow  from the cigarette smoke. 

Design firms used Diazo Blue Line printing machine. Which gave off huge amounts of  ammonia fumes, even when equipped with absorption boxes.    The people that worked in  the Blue Line print shops where exposed to the ammonia fumes all day long and walked  around like zombies due to the health issues caused by these unhealthy fumes.

Synthetic carpet was not off-gassed before it was shipped to the job site. It was installed  using highly toxic adhesives with VOCs (volatile organic compounds). When we moved into  our newly renovated office space in Arlington in 1988, I remember everyone getting  headaches due to the VOCs for weeks.

We were still specifying vinyl asbestos tile (VAT) and lead paint back in 1985.  We didn’t  realize that we would have to abate this stuff in the future while wearing sealed white  suites and respirators.  What were we thinking? 

Things have certainly improved over the past 30 years when it comes to health and safety. The speed of work has dramatically increased.  Five people today can do the work of ten people in 1985 (what happened to those other 5 people?).  When I hear people say that all the major advances in technology have already been invented, I have to laugh.  New technologies that increase productivity, reduce costs and improve quality will continue to evolve.  In another 30 years, we will look back at 2015 and wonder how we ever lived without the technologies and methods of 2045.

Richard Fanelli is a Principal at Fanelli McClain, Inc. a commercial interior planning and design firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA.  He has been an IFMA member since 1985 and has served as President of the Capital Chapter of IFMA, has served on the IFMA board of directors and as President of the IFMA FM Consultant’ Council.

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