Gulf construction and fit-out continues to boom, claims report

Abu DhabiThe total value of building projects in Gulf Cooperation Council states will exceed $80 billion this year according to a new report from dmg::events* in conjunction with consultancy Ventures Middle East. The survey concludes that this year will see a near one fifth increase in the overall value of projects up from nearly $69 billion in 2012 to $81.6 billion in 2013. Meanwhile the interlinked market for interior contracting and fit-out in 2012 was valued by the report at $7.86bn – a 56 per centincrease on 2011. The UAE continues as the the region with the largest interiors spend ($2.83bn), followed by Saudi Arabia ($2.6bn) and Qatar ($1.49bn). More →

Designing for productivity means creating space for us to be alone

WilkhahnOn the face of it, the case for working in open plan offices is clear cut. Not only are they  more conducive to collaborative work and less bound by ideas of that great no-no that we used to call ‘status’, the economic case is seemingly open and shut. Open plan workstations not only take up around half the space of cellular offices, the fit-out costs are typically 25 per cent lower. And yet there are clear signs of a backlash, at least to the idea of them fostering collaborative work.

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Great product designs reflect the changing workplace

If art holds a mirror up to nature, shouldn’t good workplace design hold a mirror up to the way we work? Well yes, of course. No points for answering no. By definition, the things with which we surround ourselves in the workplace should tell us something that is essentially true about the way we see ourselves and what we do. If it doesn’t, it’s not good design. So when we see award winning products, it should be possible to infer from them what is happening and what is changing in the workplace. More →

Build upon creative success urges design campaign

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The #includedesign campaign has urged policy makers to revisit proposals to include creative subjects in the English Baccalaureate and build upon the success of initiatives like Tech City. This is the ‘brand’ name for the creative technology community around Shoreditch in east London, with more than 3,000 creative tech firms, employing over 50,000 people. Last December the design industry wrote an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education warning him against the omission of Design & Technology and Art & Design from the EBacc. More →

Why standing up in the office can help you lose weight

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Office workers can burn an extra 144 calories per day by standing rather than sitting at their desk, says a leading expert on exercise and health. Applying his knowledge of human physiology, Dr John Buckley, from Chester University’s Department of Clinical Sciences and Nutrition, has calculated that working at a standing desk for three hours a day will burn eight pounds of human fat in the course of a year, with no change to your job or leisure time activities.  More →

It pays to check the green credentials of manufacturers

Generation from Knoll

Generation from Knoll

There is a theory that when companies talk about issues such as corporate social responsibility they are doing so because it helps them to achieve their business goals. This is the coldly rational thing to do according to people like free market guru Milton Friedman who argues that companies should not actively pursue altruistic ends unless that pursuit is ultimately in the interest of their shareholders. As Friedman puts it: ‘Hypocrisy is virtuous when it serves the bottom line. Moral virtue is immoral when it does not’.

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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.

A story told in numbers – CIFF Exhibition Preview

John Sacks of JSA previews the world’s largest office furniture exhibition which takes place in Guangzhou, China during March. Ignore the shocking website for CIFF,  this is an exhibition whose story can be told in numbers, like much that is true of modern China. Over 900 companies will exhibit in a venue with over 210,000 sq. m. of floor space and more than 60,000 people are expected to visit.

CIFF Preview

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.