|Commercial Office Refit
By L. Schafer
Many commercial office refits these days will be based on an open plan approach. This is very often because contemporary work environments are conceived as being collaborative, with a more horizontal hierarchy rather than a chain-of -command arrangement. It is thought that openness and accessibility increase morale and therefore productivity. Perhaps most importantly, they can also be more cost effective than enclosed office spaces.
The open plan system will not suit all companies, however. The nature of a business may require the kind of discretion that can only be established by private offices. It may also be the case that the culture in some companies is so firmly established that opening up the physical work environment would create such consternation that it is not felt to be viable.
Economics however will often win out, and in this case an open plan system based on free-standing workstation clusters may be recommended. Walls are very expensive to build, and they are also permanent. A well designed workstation system, on the other hand, can include partitions for privacy and allow reconfiguration as required; accommodating company growth and organisational change.
The most immediately obvious advantage of a well designed open plan commercial office refit is the maximisation of natural light. By keeping the building perimeter as free of enclosed offices as possible, the use of artificial lighting can be minimised. This is known to be conducive to a healthy working environment, with obvious economic and environmental benefits. Interaction with co-workers and the creation of a team-oriented atmosphere is another desirable outcome of opening up the company's work spaces.
While the wisdom of the open office is accepted, the occasional need for private space should also be recognised. With this in mind, any existing traditional offices may sometimes be re-conceived as meeting rooms. The most contemporary commercial office refits will address the inevitable need for quiet and/ or privacy by either utilising existing spaces in this way or ensuring clever use of partitions to create alcoves within the general office area. While partitions should generally be kept below a certain height to avoid creating a "cube farm" look, they can be selectively utilised by a good designer to create shelter. Again, the scope for efficient and creative use of space is one of the greatest benefits of working within this structure.
A common oversight in planning a commercial office refit is inadequate anticipation of future needs. When re-designing an office space, the question; "Where is the business going?" should be given careful consideration. While the future cannot be absolutely predicted, various potential scenarios can be anticipated. A well thought out design that provides some flexibility can save serious money in the long term. It is also worth remembering that furniture and demountable parts (such as moveable partitions) can be depreciated for tax purposes, whereas fixed elements (like walls) cannot.
Any commercial office refit requires careful consideration and professional advice. The options in interior design and planning are developing all the time and it is very likely there are solutions for your particular situation that you are not aware of. Like all collaborative endeavours, it's important to that your designer/ builder has a clear understanding of your company's needs; its culture, its clients and its future potential.
Faber Commercial Interiors oversee commercial building projects from the initial planning stages, through all aspects of building and installation, to interior finishes.
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