The Next Generation of Open Offices

Invest in the Future
An interior remodel isn’t an investment to make lightly. Do your homework before committing to a renovation. Not only should you review the physical requirements of your space, but you also need to assess your capacity for change, Duff stresses. Some companies want to mimic the innovative environments demonstrated by companies such as Google, but find out later that those designs aren’t feasible, cost-effective, or in line with their business culture.

A good budget understanding will also help guide your project. Even if you simply want to reconfigure furniture you already have, there is likely a service or labor fee required, says Michael.

Other organizations may need to invest in different furniture, tear down walls, add supporting technology, reconfigure lighting, or reroute access to power supply. How much you’re willing to invest up front will determine how far your design can go.

Unlike switching out light bulbs, however, this transition doesn’t lend itself to an easy-to-calculate ROI. It’s true that some reductions could be seen in HVAC and lighting loads, particularly if you capitalize daylight extensively, but not on the scale of an energy efficiency project.

What you’re doing by switching to an open office is taking space that previously had one purpose and making it multifunctional. And if your square footage is more efficient, it stands to reason that your workers will follow suit.

“Instead of viewing real estate as an expense, it can be used as a strategic tool to improve the productivity and effectiveness of your workforce,” Michael suggests.

Collaborative offices can also serve as a long-term cost benefit by increasing the number of years between interior redesigns. When desks, chairs, tables, and partitions are easy to repurpose, they generate more opportunities to modify the layout than with a fixed environment.

Wall colors and artwork may come and go, but a single room can undergo several reiterations with the right furniture and technology.


Jennie Morton is associate editor of BUILDINGS.




Case Study #1:
Prioritize Conference Areas to Increase Collaboration
Forrester Research

Construction Type
Build-to-suit of a six-story,
186,000-square-foot space

Project Highlights
There is not a single private office in the entire company. Everyone works in open pods – communities of low, flexible workstations defined by the placement of team rooms and other community spaces. Work is done wherever it is most efficiently accomplished, not just at the individual’s desk.

In addition to 72 meeting rooms, Forrester’s conference center is strategically located around the lobby to encourage activity and steady foot traffic.

The conference center resides on the first and second floors for client convenience and staff privacy. It includes 17 conference rooms of varying sizes with videoconferencing capabilities.

It also features a 4,275-square-foot room that can accommodate up to 450 people for client seminars and company-wide meetings.

To ensure the space is used on a continual basis, it can be divided into three conference rooms. Retractable walls reconfigure the space and a moveable front wall connects it to an adjacent gallery.

Because there are no real walls in this conference room, a centrally located AV control room automatically adjusts the shades, lighting, and equipment.

The entire area sits on a raised floor to provide greater flexibility for power and data, and moveable, modular tables and chairs can be configured endlessly.

Photo Credit: Warren Patterson Photography

Case Study #2:
Minimize Personal Space to Maximize Interaction
Philips North America

Construction Type
Fit-up of a 34,000-square-foot office

Project Highlights
The philosophy of the office has been completely transformed at the Philips Workplace Innovation (PWI) center – there are no assigned seats, offices, or cubicles. The PWI aligns the company’s work-from-home practices, reduces real estate needs, and challenges employees to work in a manner that best suits their own lives.

Philips’ open workspace features 200 individual work settings for 260 employees in a free addressing concept – three seats per every four people. The adaptability of each work setting allows employees to migrate from desk to desk depending on workflow, projects, and accessibility to other team members. Benching reduces space needs by offering 6- by 6-foot workstations with 30- by 72-inch desks.

To promote interaction, the open workspace is arranged in seven neighborhoods located along the window line. To address privacy needs, each neighborhood contains small meeting rooms, enclosed work settings, and file/copy areas.

Touchdown work settings allow additional space for visiting employees to work near a given neighborhood. A multifunctional town square anchors the office like an urban center, serving as a café and meeting room.

Photo Credit: Warren Patterson Photography

Case Study #3:
Zone with Style to Encourage Flexibility
Interaction Associates

Construction Type
Fit-up of a 11,000-square-foot area

Project Highlights
Interaction Associates (IA) and its non-profit sister organization, Interaction Institution for Social Change (IISC), needed a multipurpose office that offered collaborative and flexible spaces. The building itself presented several challenges, which ended up contributing to the overall design.

In order to take advantage of the views from high-set windows, flooring around the perimeter was raised and outfitted with a range of workstations. While IA’s employees preferred more private cubicles with shared meeting tables, IISC personnel use continuous desks that offer flexibility to those who are frequently in and out of the office.

This left a “sunken living room” in the center for impromptu meetings and brainstorming sessions. The Collaboration Area is outfitted with retro sofas and ottoman seating, small moveable worktables, and semi-private lounge seating with large overhead lights.

Ramps and staircases transition the surrounding workspaces to the Collaboration Area. Traditional conference rooms are located at the back of the office and a divider creates a clear path for clients to avoid disrupting employees in the middle.

Smaller conference rooms are available, some of which are outfitted with videoconferencing options. There are also four enclosed offices, a catering kitchen, and two private telephone rooms set up for Skyping.

Photo Credit: Warren Patterson Photography  

Case Study #4:
Add Transparency to Team Spaces
Atlanta Development Center

Construction Type
Fit-up of a 15,061-square-foot office

Project Highlights
This layout shows how Gresham, Smith and Parnters used pods to strategically group teams throughout the Atlanta Development Center. The 15,061-square-foot office is home to Asurion, a software development firm.

Each pod consists of three zones – benches and stools for casual interaction, meeting tables for formal engagement, and segmented desks for individual tasks. A typical pod accommodates six test and software engineers, a technical analyst, a technical writer, a project manager, and a team lead.

The nine pods are arranged so they are easily accessible by other teams. Glass walls and door openings make it easy to determine if coworkers are free or engaged with others. The glass can also be used as boards for erasable markers so a writing surface is always within reach.

A cafeteria offers additional space for collaboration, including tiered seating that can be rearranged for presentation activities. Energetic colors and exposed ceilings evoke a loft-style space.

Photo Credit: Brian Robbins Photography

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