Office Layout Design
A Office layout is key in the way an office works.
Office layout design is a key component in the way an office works, how staff collaborate and concentrate, and the how the culture of the office is displayed. Office layout design is leading the way in developing the office for ‘unwired’ communication.
Furniture is a successful solution to a number of challenges faced by office users.
Background Noise in the office
Common open plan areas such as breakout zones, cafe areas or teapoints are often used as meeting and collaborative areas. Noise is often considered to be a problem. One meeting can interrupt another, or individuals working or reading. Office furniture design should incorporate acoustic design within the overall scheme.
Acoustics panels are becoming more common in office furniture design solutions as they become a design feature in their own right.
Unwanted background noise
Open plan desking areas can suffer from noise distraction. Quiet rooms may be one solution, but there are methods to combat open plan distraction. Soft materials (fabric and upholstery, carpet thickness, acoustic baffles, ceiling features, curtains) can help to absorb sound rather than reflect, and this can eliminate speech bounce where noise is reflected to add to the noise level. Screens on desks help to muffle noise, as well.
TIP try to avoid an office interior that uses mostly hard surfaces. Softer materials absorb noise.
Noise between offices can occur due to several reasons. Air conditioning grilles can allow sound to travel between rooms, and is a very common route. Similarly open ceiling voids are another common route for sound transfer. In both cases attenuation is achieved using physical barriers. Sound can also travel under a raised floor, although this is less common.
Partition seals where walls have exposed ductwork are often a problem, and again use a physical barrier as the solution.
Partition walls themselves have a sound rating, and the thicker, more solid, the partition the more sound insulation is achieved. For the very best acoustic insulation a partition can be built through a ceiling up to the structural soffit…but this isn’t a flexible solution.
TIP sound travel is stopped by physical barriers. Ceiling baffles, partitions and screens all help to control, or stop, noise travel.
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Versatile Office Furniture Design
Design for a versatile office can be approached in several ways, the most important aspect being the type of flexibility needed. Some offices need flexibility on a week to week basis and for this environment flexible furniture is typically a good solution. For offices that need flexibility over a 6/12 month period, the mechanical and electrical systems, ceilings, partitions and furniture, all need to have inherent flexibility.
Partitioning is typically described as ‘demountable’ to comply with Building Regs., but the most flexible systems are still a fixed solution requiring tradespeople to move. Increasingly office furniture design is incorporating semi-screened elements that offer a worthwhile level of sound insulation and visual privacy but are still very easy to reconfigure.
Electrical power outlets have always been incorporated within furniture and increasingly are provided in a convenient touch-down format that are accessible for ‘hot’ working.
Versatile furniture comes in many forms. Free-address bench systems support staff numbers that fluctuate to cater for days when numbers peak. A number of ranges are instantly dismantled or assembled, allowing workstations to be kept in store for growth or contraction. Furniture can be nomadic…easily moved by users without need for trained fitters.
TIP The base build within an office will play a part in fostering, or restricting, versatility. Assess the Landlord fit-out to determine if a building will be inherently flexible.
Task Based Office Furniture Design
Task based design is the phrase used to describe office design that mixes conventional working areas with other work style formats. A typical example is a desk area alongside a soft meeting space, or an area with open meeting tables within a desk zone. At its most sophisticated TBD blends soft ‘lounge’ spaces, individual concentration booths, chairs with sound baffling for phone calls, layout surfaces and various types of desk set-ups.
TBD is a recognition of peoples’ individual ways of working and the collaboration that is a feature of modern office life.
The move to task based working has been led by new and innovative furniture making the open plan spaces slightly less open, but nevertheless very flexible and easy to reconfigure, especially as wireless networks have enabled nomadic connectivity.
TIP Task based design lowers the cost of ‘churn’. The initial investment is offset by reduced costs of ownership.
Networked Landscape Office Furniture Design
Networked Landscape is the developing approach to enhanced task-based design. Your organisation has broken the 1-desk 1-person link. Breakout spaces, quiet booths, soft meeting areas and collaboration zones are in use in the building. What next?
Designing a networked landscape requires several add-ons.
- Furniture should be more flexible in layout, more eclectic in appearance.
- Reduce conformity, add diversity and choice.
- Enclosed pods should integrate with building systems.
- Acoustics can be tuned and controlled.
- Log usage of spaces and review the low frequented areas.
- The basic principles you’re aiming at are
Work is becoming more collaborative.
- Office work has multiple modes and needs multiple spaces.
- Technology no longer sits on the desk.
- Staff value good workspaces.
- Flexibility and agility are beneficial for staff and organisations alike.