Keeping good employees will be the greatest challenge facing businesses in the next decade and one way to do that is to create buildings with quality work environments, says one expert.

"Intelligent interiors are one of the things we've been seeing. It's funny how fast the business climate is changing," said Gary Scitthelm of SMED International, a designer and manufacturer of such things as interior walls and modular furniture based in Calgary, Canada.Scitthelm was the keynote speaker at a recent awards dinner sponsored by SMED and the Intermountain Chapter of the American Society of International Designers.

Among the evening's highlights was presentation of the Teresa Bradley Spirit Awards to three individuals.

Schitthelm said that businesses remain concerned about building costs, especially since real estate costs are second only to personnel expenses. But the type of work environment they create directly affects the employees they attract and retain.

"Quality has been such a large focus lately. There is lately talk of lighting, space, ergonomically correct seating, climate control," he said.

Flexibility has become all-important in the physical office structure as employees increasingly work in teams and as various departments expand or contract.

"Companies used to say, `We move people, not our work stations.' Now they say, `We move - how do we do it effectively?' "Schitthelm said.

SMED has helped create interiors locally for the Deseret News, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Franklin Covey. Nationally, it has worked for such firms as DreamWorks and Bank of America.

Winners of the Teresa Bradley Spirit Awards were:

- Dan Sprague, with Armstrong Planning and Design, Boise. Sprague won an all-expenses paid trip for two to Milan, Italy.

- Kristy Sue Lundgreen, a student at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, who won a summer internship at SMED Manufacturing and a $10,000 scholarship.

- Tami Huber, a student at Utah State University, who won the second-place student award of $500.