Gone are the days of low-ceiling office environments draped in beige hues and fluorescent light. Developers and business owners alike are realizing that good design is good business, and plays a vital role in both attracting and maintaining tenants and employees.
The new paradigm for office design includes:
— Innovative technological advancements
— New organizational models (think open floor plans, co-working spaces and private pods)
— Comfortable, home-like environments
— Elements that promote a healthier lifestyle
A grand porte-cochère welcomes guests at 50Fifty DTC.
Technology as Steward for Innovative Design
This shift in office design is not simply a trend; it’s a reflection of rapid technological advancements in architecture. From a software standpoint, CAD and energy modeling software have:
— Accelerated the speed at which we can develop new ideas
— Simplified the realization of custom, innovative solutions
— Deepened our understanding of sustainability in architecture
The multi-faceted exterior of 50Fifty DTC is designed/oriented for passive temperature and lighting control—inviting solar heat gain in the winter and minimizing solar heat gain in the summer. This saves money for the client and reduces the building’s environmental impact.
From an engineering standpoint, advancements in glazing, acoustics, building envelope, floor plates, etc. invite continued architectural innovation.
— New fabrication processes and coatings allow for large glass panels optimized for insulation, reflectance and transmittance.
— Advancements in acoustic management and adaptive interior design support open floor plans and mixed-use office environments.
— An increased focus on material placement and building envelope promotes efficiency in architecture.
Through all of these advancements, we’re learning the benefits of daylighting, airflow and passive temperature control in contemporary office design.
“It’s paramount that employees have a connection to the outside environment. Through new technologies, we can take advantage of expansive Colorado views and natural light without compromising the efficiency of the building.” —Robin Ault, Director of Design
In 50Fifty DTC, we used floor-to-ceiling windows and strategic lightwells to ensure that tenants have a continuous connection to the surrounding environment.
Shape Shifter: Designing for New Organizational Models
There’s no one-size-fits-all for the modern office. Instead, the layout includes a mix of area types that all serve separate purposes. Think: co-working spaces, open floor plans, collaborative environments, mixed-use environments, private pods.
As architects, it’s important that we understand the dynamics of a specific organization in order to create environments that are well tailored to their long-term needs. The primary questions we ask with every client are:
— What is the current workflow, climate and culture of your organization?
— How can we use design to support and/or shift any of the above?
— What are the primary functions of the space?
— What adjacencies will best support those functions?
— What level of privacy vs. collaboration is appropriate for your organization?
— How do you want people—executives, employees, clients, guests—to feel in the space?
In general, open floor plans feel bigger, simplify use of natural light and foster connection between employees. Fewer walls also equate to lower costs, allowing us to allocate additional resources towards furniture and finishes.
But, zero-wall office spaces aren’t appropriate for every organization. Not only do open floor plans present new challenges around acoustics and privacy, but they often weave disparate functions into a single environment, requiring us to employ alternative solutions (lighting, dynamic screens, etc.) to create nodes of space within.
“If people don’t feel good in their workspace, they will leave to find something that better fits their preferences and philosophies. Our goal is to create environments that benefit the organization within by promoting individual and collective well being.” — Kristen Tonsager, Head of Interior Design
For an upcoming project, we’ve employed sliding glass partitions to create different atmospheres within the central space while allowing for shared daylight throughout.
Your Home Away From Home
The average American spends more weekday, waking hours at work than at home, so it makes sense that we’re seeing an increased emphasis on comfort, atmosphere, materiality and craftsmanship in the work environment. We’ve created conference rooms that double as dining rooms, workspaces that feel like hotel lobbies, and far-from-utilitarian community environments marked by high-end detailing and luxury design elements.
More and more Denver companies are seeking out iconic designs that inspire and draw people in while more and more employees are seeking healthy work environments that mirror the comforts of home. It’s an exciting time to be in design.
The office kitchen and dining area at Fios Capital will feature high-end appliances and quality finishes typically found in custom homes.
Perhaps the most effective way architecture can be used to advance healthy work environments lies in creating continued opportunities for connection between indoors and outdoors:
— Expansive views
— Circulation of fresh air
— Outdoor walkways and/or work areas
— Rooftop gardens and terraces
Architecture can further promote employee well-being by supporting behaviors such as biking to work, taking the stairs, or seeking a moment of solace in the midst of a busy workday.
— An increasing number of Denver employees are commuting to work via bicycle, public transit or ride-share programs. This trend is expected to continue throughout the 21st century, and should be reflected in how we allocate space.
— No longer an afterthought in office design, stairwells can be used to promote movement while reducing energy usage and reliance on escalators/elevators. To encourage the climb, stairwells should be widened, centralized and finished with a level of detailing consistent with the rest of the design.
— Even collaborative workspaces should consider including separate pods or quiet rooms where employees can enjoy a moment of privacy, take a phone call, nurse a migraine or simply gather their thoughts.
The Hensel Phelps office redesign employs full-length skylights to pull natural light into interior spaces.
Interested in giving your office a modern makeover? Contact us.