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Design for the Changing Workplace
Last updated: 09-30-2015
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In this electronic/information age, work teams form and reform to meet organizational needs, technological innovations, and changing business relationships. Buildings and interior spaces need to be flexible to anticipate and support this changing nature of work. Within the past few years, designers have sought to create a new generation of "flexible" buildings and workplace environments within buildings that have infrastructures and structures that fully support change while sustaining new technologies, and multi-capable individuals and teams.
The changing nature of work means greater mobility for workers, a multiplicity of workspaces within and external to buildings, greater use of geographically dispersed groups, increased dependence on social networks—and greater pressure to provide for all of these needs and behaviors in a leaner and more agile way. Workplaces have responded with many new options, including more teaming and informal interaction spaces, more supports for virtual individual and group work, more attention to integrating learning into everyday work experience, greater flexibility in work locations, and more focus on fitting the workplace to the work rather than vice versa. Many workplaces are also incorporating spaces that encourage relaxed engagement with colleagues to reduce stress and promote a sense of community.
Incorporating holistic design principles, can help achieve flexible spaces.
Design for Flexibility
- Provide flexibility for delivering power, voice, and data.
- Provide distributed, vertical cores, satellite closets, and generous horizontal plenum spaces with relocatable, user-based services to ensure technical, spatial, and environmental quality in the rapidly changing electronic office. See also WBDG Productive—Integrate Technological Tools.
- Provide systems that are controllable and adjustable by the users without burdensome reliance on outside contractors.
Personal control features include overhead personal air jet diffusers and task lighting, which can be controlled from the occupant's desktop computer.
(Courtesy of Public Works Government Services Canada, Innovations and Solutions Directorate)
- Consider wireless technology and mobile phones to enable workers to move effortlessly among spaces as their needs change.
- Provide a multiplicity of spaces for individual and group work.
- Provide connections to internal networks and to the Internet throughout the workplace. See also WBDG Productive—Integrate Technological Tools.
Enable Informal Social Interaction
- Provide multiple places to meet and greet.
- Consider providing informal workspaces in cafeterias.
- When designing cafes and coffee nooks, locate them centrally along well traveled pathways to encourage use and interaction.
- Design the circulation system with informal communication opportunities in mind.
Flexible spaces and services support multiple spatial configurations and densities, and allow for rapid and easy spatial change.
Design for a Variety of Meeting Sizes and Types
- Provide enclosed rooms to support groups of different sizes.
- If open informal spaces are used, make sure that they are separated from individual quiet spaces.
- Consider sharing meeting spaces among private offices.
- Provide visual display technologies and writing surfaces for group work.
- Consider the use of dedicated project rooms for some types of group work.
Support Individual Concentration
- If open spaces such as pods or bull pens are used, provide attractive acoustically sound rooms for individual concentration as needed.
- Locate concentration booths close to work spaces.
- Zone space for range of quiet and interactive needs.
Support Stress Reduction and Relaxation
- Consider spaces for relaxation and playfulness.
GSA's Public Buildings Service (PBS) workplace renovation incorporates a space for relaxation that includes an exercise room, lounge area with TV and a pool table (left). The space is used for group social events as well as breaks. The PBS space also has a daylit cafe (right) where workers gather at lunch time or for meetings throughout the day.
Increasingly, compatible and packaged building components are available on the U.S. market that meet these goals. Several vendors market systems comprising raised floors, plug and play wire management components, and demountable wall systems as a single package.
Open controls protocols such as LonTalk and BACNet, which allow communication between different types of building systems (HVAC, lighting, security, fire alarm, and power), are being adapted to an increasing number of products. This will enable a wider range of cost-effective possibilities for user control over a common network.
Relevant Codes and Standards
- ANSI/TIA/EIA-569 Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces
- ASTM E 1663 Standard Classification for Serviceability of an Office Building for Typical Office Information Technology
- ASTM E 1679 Standard Practice for Setting the Requirements for the Serviceability of a Building or Building-Related Facility, and for Determining What Serviceability is Provided or Proposed
- ASTM E 1692 Standard Classification for Serviceability of an Office Facility for Change and Churn by Occupants
- Department of Defense
- DG 1110-3-122 Design for Interiors, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. General Services Administration
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- PG-18-12—Targeted to specific healthcare requirements.
- PACT Design Guide (PDF 42.0 MB) —Emphasizes flexibility of modular components and common work areas.
- VA Hospital Building System—Great example of systems approach to building design providing flexibility. Other related studies are on this page also.
- VA Interior Design Manual (PDF 6.6 MB)—Currently undergoing update.
Building / Space Types
- Telecommunications Industry Association—The leading U.S. nonprofit trade association serving the communications and information technology industry
- Green Federal Facilities: An Energy, Environmental, and Economic Resource Guide for Federal Facility Managers
- High Performance Commercial Buildings—A Technology Roadmap (PDF 581 KB) by U.S. Department of Energy, 1999.
- Workplace Matters (PDF 3.61 MB) by the U.S. General Services Administration, 2006.
- US Air Force Interior Design Standards
- GSA Sustainable Facilities Tool (SFTool)—SFTool's immersive virtual environment addresses all your sustainability planning, designing and procurement needs.