WWF launches Green Game Changers Report

When it comes to the development of meaningful and innovative approaches to the environment, companies are often way ahead of legislation and prepared to do far more than is expected of them by Governments. Best practice is lauded by the WWF in its Green Game changers initiative which has just launched a new report highlighting those organisations that have pushed the envelope on environmental thinking. The latest Green Game Changers Report can be viewed and downloaded here. More →

What does 2013 hold for the facilities sector in the UK?

FMJ MJE_0000Insight publisher Mark Eltringham offers some thoughts about what the coming year holds in the latest issue of Facilities Management Journal including the ongoing existential crisis of facilities management, why the commercial property sector needs to catch up with occupiers and designers as well as a plea for everybody to set ambitious goals and make realistic claims about their environmental impact.

Free briefing – key technology trends for 2013

Insight Briefing - 2013 Technologies_0000The latest of our free Insight Briefings, sponsored by Condeco, is now available to view and download. It explores the major workplace technology trends for 2013, including unified communications, BIM, space utilisation, the Cloud and BYOD asking not only what the technologies are in and of themselves, but what their likely implications are for workplace designers and managers. Just click the image above to view or download the report. 

Free Unified Comms Briefing available

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The latest technology that will revolutionise the way we work is now upon us. It is called unified communications and it is a principle that strikes at the very heart of this new world of fragmented yet interconnected work. It is a comparatively straightforward idea intended to solve a complex challenge. As organisations have started to adapt to an economy that is always-on, global and without boundaries of time and space, they have looked for ways to integrate technology to deliver a better working experience for employees, reduce costs both for themselves and their clients and improve their competitiveness. The Briefing can be downloaded here.

It’s essential to design flexibility into an office

The design of offices and the furniture that fills them matters because of what it tells us about how we work, how organisations function and even what is happening in the economy. If you want to know what’s going on, take a look at the places we work and the things with which we surround ourselves and how they change over time.

Because the way we work changes so quickly, buildings need to have flexibility built into them so that they meet our needs today but anticipate what we will need tomorrow. In his book How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand outlines the process whereby buildings evolve over time to meet the changing needs of their occupants. He describes each building as consisting of six layers, each of which functions on a different timescale. These range from the site itself which has a life cycle measured in centuries, through to the building (decades), interior fit out (years), technology (months), to stuff (days). The effectiveness of a workplace design will depend on how well it resolves the tensions that exist between these layers of the building.

In terms of our workplaces, the ability to respond to change is perhaps the most important facet of an effective design. Creating this level of responsiveness is described in the Facilities Design and Management Handbook by its author Eric Teichholz as ‘the basic driver of the facilities management workload.’

While the nature of work has already changed in many ways, the pace of change has increased even more dramatically over recent years. So the challenge for designers and facilities managers is how best to manage change, keep costs down and provide a flexible home for the organisation. Successful management of change is a good thing, an agent of growth and commercial success. Change handled badly can hamstring an organisation.

The standard answer to the challenge is to build flexibility into the building. At the property management level, this may mean a change in contractual terms, notably in the length of leases, and the provision of lease breaks.

Varying levels of flexibility must also be apparent through the rest of the building in terms of its design and management. If we take an idealised view of the modern office as a flexible, social space for a peripatetic, democratised and technologically literate workforce, the solution lies in an increased use of desk sharing, drop in zones, break out space and other forms of multi-functional workspaces. In many offices, individual workspace is already being rapidly replaced by other types of space, quiet rooms and collaborative areas.

Flexibility must be hardwired into the building at a macro-level. Not only must floorplates be capable of accepting a wide range of work styles and planning models, servicing must be appropriate and anticipate change. That doesn’t mean just in terms of technology and telecoms but also basic human needs such as having enough toilets to deal with changing occupational densities. It also means having a HVAC specification that can deal with the changing needs associated with different numbers of people and different types of equipment.

Elements of the interior that were once considered static are also having to offer far larger degrees of flexibility including, furniture, lighting, storage and partitions. This issue of flexibility has become more important within interior design. Interior elements should now define space, portray corporate identity, comply with legislation and act as an aid in wayfinding. They must do all this and be able to adapt as the organisation changes.

We may not always know exactly what the future holds, but we can work today to be ready for it.

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