Midlands Business Journal | August 14, 2015
"Trendy features join forces with unique staff needs in office design"
Scott Heaney, AIA, was featured in Midlands Business Journal's Office Design Trends edition. To read the entire article, see pages 26 and 31 of the August 14 edition of the Midlands Business Journal. His complete Q&A follows.
Q. What examples of trends first come to mind when you hear the phrase “office design trends?"
A. First and foremost are Apple, Google, Facebook, et. al. Large, highly profitable tech companies driving the trends of employee engagement and extra amenities. As a result of their highly publicized new corporate digs, these companies have created a strong downstream perception that leaves a lot of "normal" companies sincerely wondering if their current mode of operation is good enough and sustainable.
Q. When did some of these trends start to emerge or take hold?
A. Open office trends are not new and were first tested in the 1970's, but the recent great recession starting in 2008 forced companies out of business and other companies into a new cycle of re-focusing how they should be better using their space.
Q. What do you see as driving some of the items or developments mentioned in response to Question No. 1?
A. The speed of how technology is marketed/changes and the rising cost, higher real estate costs, emerging generational differences and an economy that is still slow to recover.
Q. How have you as a business adapted in light of some of these trends or changes?
A. We have used our own office as a laboratory to test the real life effects. We've incorporated in test areas all of the popular planning concepts. We aimed to live and breathe what we are recommending to our clients and at the same time find out what best fits our culture at Schemmer. It has proven to us that open office is certainly not for everyone and its success is dependent on staff personalities and cultural buy in. Layout and furniture adjustments are the easy part. Cultural adjustments prove to be the hardest and must be championed from the very top of leadership. If not, the intended results fall flat.
Q. For so long here we have been hearing about demand for open office spaces. What are the biggest changes you have noticed with regard to the open office layout (i.e. Demand for it? Features integrated into open spaces?)?
A. There is a noticeable increase in demand for open office layouts, but not entirely open. Most of the spaces we design have a mix of open, semi-open and enclosed spaces that have strategic adjacencies to complement each other. Features emphasized are increasingly both functional and code driven. As the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) continues to evolve the critical design criteria are high performance glazing, day lighting and energy conservation. Space planning design features include unobstructed views across a majority of the floor plate, collaboration, audio/visual technology, free address seating and multi-purpose cafes with healthy vending options.
Q. What else would you like to add?
A. I read an article within the last two months announcing the comeback of the cubicle. It's amazing how trendy this open office topic has become. My opinion as a designer is that companies really need to take an honest look at the corporate culture they want to embody. Forget about trends. What is your brand identity and how must it be communicated daily to be successful? That should be the genesis of office design. Office design is not one-size-fits-all. It is expensive, time consuming, and if only approached as a fad, can be doomed to fail.