Manifesting Design Solutions that Address Societal Shifts While on a Tight Budget
Our world is ever-changing, and we are in constant transformation and adaptation. Office design is no exception. As interior designers, we are always searching for innovative and transformative ideas to make our project environments both efficient, adaptive and creative. But we must acknowledge that the solutions of yesterday, no matter how successful, may no longer apply to today’s use of space and how we need to work and live. How do we keep up with these solutions and trends without shifting from one extreme to another? Can we manage this evolution while accommodating a level of flexibility that doesn’t lose sight of project budget? Of course, we can!
Over the past few years, the acknowledgement of the importance of work-life balance has only increased. There are countless studies of working environments that show the physical and mental health benefits of having access to natural light, creative spaces to play, and quiet areas for occupants to recharge. Spaces for people to socialize can help foster strong interpersonal connections between teammates where building trust and respect are so crucial. Quiet rooms and spaces for individual work create a positive impact on our mental focus, mood and comfort, allowing employees to be more effective during their workday.
As interior designers, we are tasked with not only creating these new and innovating environments but doing so within the financial restrictions of our clients. How can we account for work-life balance in our design and still allow for plan flexibility to accommodate future shifts? We have to carefully balance the current needs of a company against their future growth and today’s quickly changing technology market. One of the best ways to do this is to create spaces that are multifunctional with flexible components. For example, a common solution is the operable demising of rarely used larger conference rooms or training rooms into more frequently used smaller meeting rooms. Another example is the planning of similarly sized spaces that can accommodate different uses over time. This could mean that small meeting rooms can become offices, wellness rooms or can be split into single user phone rooms as needs change with minimal impact to infrastructure. Because many of these spaces are open or multipurpose, typically they can be easily be converted to accommodate change and are inherently economical. Companies are discovering that not only are these uses the right solutions to increase productivity but that they can increase long-term employee happiness and decrease turnover by accommodating multiple workstyles while simultaneously accommodating future expansion and growth.
Planning on meeting a tight budget can be one of our biggest challenges. Along with meeting the needs of employees and being flexible, many clients simply don’t know where to start – and that’s where architects and interior designers can truly guide the process. Determining the most important aspects of the space, or client “must haves” helps designers to explore highly impactful design at those areas, while finding more affordable solutions for the remainder of the space. With the rise in flexibility, designers should be working with their clients need to identify “day two” uses for certain areas to make sure that they are investing the budget where it truly counts. If the budget limitations have you stumped, try finding alternate solutions and sourcing for both materials and labor instead of cutting out certain elements altogether. The array of answers out there for materials, furniture, technology and growth is constantly adapting. Not only is the job of an interior designer to meet the budget and anticipate the future changes of a client, but also to keep up with the constantly revolving world around us and mold future spaces to suit human needs.
Published in the March 2020 issue of Building Dialogue.