Office Design Trends Focus on Flexibility and Increased Productivity

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Flexibility and comfort, private spaces and informal meeting areas with technology built in that encourage teaming are all elements of today's office environment. Xilinx Inc., a San Jose, California company wanted to preserve worker privacy and block out unwanted noise according to the San Jose Business Journal. They chose a mix of cubicles and offices, common areas, enclosed phone booths and wide open spaces.

Modular systems, the new generation of cubicles, are designed to allow flexibility in layout and function. These systems incorporate communications and power distribution systems and can be altered during construction and changed later, according to Joe Wheeler, senior project manager with Sundt Construction, speaking with bizAZ.

Initial costs for modular systems are high, Wheeler says, but are offset by schedule savings and reduced cost for design “because we don't need to do exact dimensions; so we spend less design time to come up with construction drawings. As business needs change,” he told bizAZ, “the systems need to be revised.” Modular systems offer substantial savings when changes are required.

Modular systems are designed to be moved, Glynn Gross, President and CEO of CII, a modular systems company, told bizAZ, and are attached to a raised access floor, also a modular product. Electrical and communication lines are run in the space below it, as are heating, ventilation and air conditioning if needed. The access floor provides savings in construction costs and materials.

“Working in virtual cube land provides absolutely zero privacy”, Forrest James, Director of Facilities Services at Xilinx told the San Jose Business Journal. “We understand that people need to have personal conversations while at work, with their children, doctors, accountants, or anything of a personal nature. We took this into consideration when designing our workspace and integrated privacy rooms into the floor plan, resulting in privacy phone booths, casual meeting spaces and mother's rooms.”

Popular new design choices are carpet tiles that are easily replaced according to according to Lisa Gonzales president and CEO of Alternative Designs in San Jose, according to the Business Journal. Another is cork flooring which is a “green” option. Speaking with bizAz, Charlie Popeck of the U.S. Green Building Council, advocates daylighting. Popeck also notes the improved ventilation that results from access floors.

“An under-floor system delivers air where it will be used,” Popeck says.

Making cubicles more personal is also a boost for employee morale. Appropriate decorations says Cathy Harper, interior designer at Designs Unlimited, in a report in TheState.com,, are things that remind you of home or make you comfortable. The State.com suggests mementos of hobbies, plants and pictures of families and friends, but cautions employees not to go overboard.

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