Interior Design and Architectural Strategies for Successful Workplace Design
Well-designed workplaces are the channel for creativity, collaboration and success of a business.
Whether it is a restaurant, law office, bank or coffee shop, the environment you create within the corporate walls speaks volumes about the potential of your employees and the value of your brand. UK Based Business Interiors defines it as a “strategic asset”. Interior Designers and Architects play a vital role in planning for commercial spaces. Today we are sharing some of their strategies to help understand how you can create the ideal workspace for your clients.
What Comes First – Architect or Designer?
The role of Architect or Designer while planning for a commercial space can have very clear boundaries. Deciding who comes first can vary depending on the nature of the project and the team involved.
Architects will be responsible for the design and overseeing the successful construction of the structure, while working collaboratively with the commercial building company and construction manager. They will also be involved in the selection process for walls, windows, partitions and the overall architecture of the space. They are often the first step in the development of a new/remodeled commercial space as they begin to develop the architectural blueprint and plans.
The value of interior designers in commercial projects came about in the 1980's, according to the Architects's Handbook of Professional Practice, when skyscrapers gave way to office buildings with an abundance of unfinished interior space. In order to make the best use of this space building owners contracted interior designers to make spaces functional and appealing. According to the ASID, the Commercial Designer can assist on commercial projects in many ways, including outlining the scope of the project and managing the overall design development and programming (see the full list of design services here).
In some cases the architect and designer may be able to offer similar services, for example with schematics or construction documentation, depending on their level of training and accreditation. You may even be able to find a firm that provides both services. This kind of team collaboration, within the same firm, may be of value for commercial space planning, depending on the nature and size of your project. Interior Design magazine has a list of the Top Firms for 2013.
One of the most important aspects of designing a successful commercial space is space planning. The American Institute of Architects has a helpful document that walks you through the space planning process at a very basic level.
Architectural and design professionals are well versed in space planning. It requires these individuals to have in-depth and extensive knowledge of the client. This will include asking questions like: What are the goals of the building? Who will be working in the building? What are the telecommunication needs? How will the brand be represented on the interior and exterior of the building?
It also involves understanding how spaces and employees work together so the plan will provide space allocation properly for all departments. They must also understand the employee hierarchy and accessibility requirements. It addresses workspace design and the layout of corridors, workspaces, conference areas and common areas like a pantry or kitchen.
Measuring Success & Value of Good Design
The impact of architecture and space planning on a business should be measurable according to UK based firm Business Interiors. A well designed commercial space should make the most of the space, the employees, and the brand. They provide some guidelines on how to measure each of these areas:
Leigh Stringer, Senior Principal and Director of Innovation and Research at HOK in Washington, DC has identified strategies for creating an ideal work environment. They represent ten fundamental design elements that significantly impact the workplace both in form and aesthetics, but also in the potential work that can be accomplished within the space. We'll use these as the basis for considering the role of architects and designers in the design of a commercial space.
1. Thermal Comfort and Temperature
Consider underfloor air, zones for temperature control, and operable windows to control air flow and access to light.
2. Access to Nature, Views and Daylight
Organize the floor plan so enclosed spaces are at the center of a building and open spaces are placed around the perimeter. Provide access to exterior spaces for work or break/lunch time. Incorporate glass when privacy is not needed. Here is a great example of access to nature in the Madrid based architecture firm Selgas Cano.
3. Sensory Change and Variability
Gone are the days of white, flat walls. Now companies are incorporating plants, natural wood floors, cork and other fibers and textures on the walls, ceilings and workplaces. You can create variety in a space with the use of natural materials, but also artwork, color, patterns, and graphic design, like in this small commercial space for RSVP Design Services in Texas, designed by ASID Designer Rhonda Elaine Vandiver-White. Notice the great use of artwork, lighting fixtures and other wall decor to create variability within the office.
Going hand in hand with sensory change you have color. Within an office space you can use specific colors to create defined work spaces that are meant to create a certain outcome or desired behavior. Commercial Interiors don't have to be monochromatic. You can also use color in strategic places to introduce more, or accentuate existing light to brighten up a room or make a space look bigger.
5. Noise Control
Offices are abound with noise. But it can be controlled and restricted to certain areas to allow quiet areas to function when needed. Three strategies for noise control are absorption, blocking and covering, all of which should be employed in the overall design. One without the other could impact the effectiveness of the entire plan. This can include acoustic panels on walls and ceilings (these can be industrial or decorative in nature), decorative area rugs on top of the prefinished wood flooring, partitions, walls, and furniture systems.
Naturally the Architects and/or Designer can impact noise control through proper architecture and space planning. By understanding the company, brand, creativity and administrative processes behind a company you can develop a plan that identifies areas for collaboration and group meetings, and separate those areas from personal work spaces that are meant to be quieter.
Overcome crowding in a commercial setting two ways. One is to create clearly defined spaces for employees where they have a minimal sightline to other employees. Adding mirrors, windows and glass can also make spaces appear bigger and overcome the feeling of being crowded.
7. Human Factors and Ergonomics
There are many factors that into creating a comfortable work environment for employees not just in the environment they work in, but the furniture and technology that they use. Companies can provide furniture that can be adjusted to meet each employee's unique needs, along with proper training. Technology should be intuitive and mobile no matter what space you are working in, or where you are working outside the organization. Encourage, and reward the use of stairs and other mobility throughout the day. Or in addition to stairs why not a slide like at Google's Zurich office.
8. Indoor Air Quality
Companies can control indoor air quality not just by the quality of the central air/HVAC and other heating/AC systems. It can be controlled by the products you install including Energy Star labeled products like windows, lighting and plumbing fixtures. It includes installed wood floors, or more natural floor coverings in place of carpets that can house more debris and allergens (and required more cleaning and maintenance). Companies can also add plants to the office, which contribute to cleaner air (not to mention a connection with nature).
The lines between work and home are blurring, as well are the spaces within an organization. People are no longer plugging away at cubicles all day, they can be working and collaborating with co-workers, and clients in the office, around the corner or across the globe. Giving employees a choice in work environments and accessibility to their work in a variety of settings is beneficial to the employee but also the business. It can help with employee retention and overall satisfaction which can have an impact on performance. Invest in the infrastructure and technology to make this choice a reality.
10. Employee Engagement
There are many ways a company can foster engagement between employees. First, is visibility and mobility between offices and employees. Companies might want to create neighborhoods for departments. Also define personal spaces from collaborative spaces.
If you are looking for more info on this subject we have a few resources for you:
Workplace Strategies that Enhance Performance, Health and Wellness, Springer, HOK Architects
Workplace Strategy's Impact on Design, Interior Design Magazine
The Smarter Workplace, Interiors and Sources Magazine