Office design has evolved to be less invasive to the environment while providing a healthier experience for its occupants.
When asked about current workplace design trends, Dan Perruzzi of Boston-based Margulies Perruzzi Architects shared his views with Commercial Property Executive:
Companies are wrestling with the best balance between quiet and/or private space and collaboration space. Employees need private space, but they also need easy access to their colleagues for beneficial interactions. Individual, focused work has to be supported while simultaneously supporting group work.
Everyone is trying to do more with less. Companies are actively reviewing space standards to see where they compare with the competition. Metrics of area per seat and seats per assigned staff are critical areas of focus today. Given that in many areas basic sustainability has been incorporated into building codes, there is a greater focus on wellness and health in workplace design.
The tech, advertisement, media, and information (TAMI) tenants in today’s office market are looking for the following deal points:
- CONSIDERING MULTIPLE MARKETS
- CLUSTER MENTALITY
- HEDGING GROWTH
- OPEN CONCEPT
- MORE CONCERN ABOUT HVAC CAPACITY AND BATHROOMS
- FLEXIBILITY IS PARAMOUNT
- CASH IS KING
- ACCESS AND UNIQUE AMENITIES
What are some of the most notable office landlords, like Boston Properties, doing to address the growth of the co-working segment that is being championed by WeWork?
“Our point of view is we’re pretty maniacally focused on our customer, and our sweet spot has been this long and strong customer: long-term leases, strong credit,” [Boston Properties Executive Vice President Bryan Koop] said. “As we continue to focus on that, there will be changes in how we work with them.”
Boston’s surging real estate cycle is driven by tech, both by traditional technology tenants like Rapid7 as well as companies with an increased digital presence like General Electric. With every company increasingly thinking of themselves as a tech company, plug-and-play connectivity and less lag time between lease signing and move-in are rising expectations, forcing landlords to take a more active role in their tenant experience.
Credit: Purdue University
Simply put – employees want to be comfortable. Many new cars have dual temperature control for both front-seat passengers, and separate controls for the rear. Office employees simply want the same ability to customize their climate and control their environment – from their personal devices.
New research conducted by Purdue University’s Center for High Performance Buildings shows that people who were able to easily control temperature and lighting from their computer were more actively engaged during the day than those who had to get up and use a traditional wall-mounted control…The former also showed higher levels of productivity and had better cognitive test results than the group that did not have direct control over their surroundings.
“By giving people the choice to use more daylight and feel more connected to the outdoor environment, you can optimize productivity and use less energy,” CHPB researcher and associate professor Panagiota Karava said in a statement.
Why are office building measurements getting redefined? In short, buildings are creating more common areas and outdoor amenities to accommodate today’s tenancy. The changes put forth this past October by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International are designed to account for the way young talent is seeking out and utilizing outdoor space – like rooftop terraces, balconies, etc.
From Seeking Alpha:
“The 2017 standard really reflects the changes that are happening in the marketplace,” BOMA International Chair Rob Brierley told VTS. He’s also an executive vice president at Colliers Boston. “There has been such an increasing demand for well-appointed exterior amenities like balconies, covered galleries and finished rooftop terraces. If the tenant is taking advantage of it, the rationality is they should also now include it as part of the rentable square footage… It’s a more clear and accurate representation of how tenants are actually using space.”
“Over the last decade, the amenity packages that folks are asking for is changing so quickly,” Brierley added. “Today if you don’t have a roof deck or patio, you’re definitely at a disadvantage in many ways…. The reality is if you go out to any building that has a patio or roof deck, everybody’s using it. It’s not just the millennials. It really has been an extension of their respective offices, which is one of the reasons this change has occurred.”
Credit: Crain’s New York
When listing amenities for buildings, beyond bike rooms and common area Wi-Fi, is a new addition: nap rooms. Soon to occupy space in Class A office towers around Boston, the new commercial real estate staple is quickly becoming adopted to cater to our changing workforce. By 2020, millennials will make up 40-50% of the working population.
Due in part to the increasing focus placed on the impact of work on occupants’ physical and mental well-being, a new scoring system has been devised to quantify office buildings’ use of wellness amenities.
From Crains New York:
Similar to LEED certification, which measures a building’s environmental sustainability, Fitwel’s system tracks various factors, from signs encouraging workers to take the stairs and wash their hands to more particular features such as lactation rooms and air purification systems. The availability of natural light is also considered a plus because it helps tenants keep their circadian rhythms in sync.
“Of millennials, 78% rate the quality of the workplace as one of the most important benefits of working at a particular company,” [Joanna Frank, president and CEO of the Center for Active Design] said. “They want to be working where there’s an overt emphasis on quality of life. Companies are realizing they need to offer it to attract and retain talent.”
Access to high quality internet is key; without that, today’s office doesn’t work.
“Tenants want an assurance that their building’s infrastructure will meet their connectivity needs in the immediate, but also in the future, regardless of whatever technological leaps are in store for their business down the road,” says Arie Barendrecht, WiredScore’s founder and CEO.
After location, the second most important factor in a tenant’s current space, according to a study by Radius Global Market Research and WiredScore, is the quality of internet connectivity. When it comes to evaluating future space needs, connectivity takes pride of place, with price and location ranked second and third in priority.
Soon your office building could follow the same path as the new iPhone X: facial recognition.
Excerpts from Biznow:
Operating systems such as Nantum are one step closer to achieving the true AI experience, which is intuitive and self-improving, by using machine learning to act as the “brain” of a building. With the brain in place, Nantum can create memories of the building’s performance in order to develop algorithms that will ultimately serve to keep iterating and improving on the systems of the building, including its energy and efficiency.
A shift toward advanced technologies is beginning to take shape with facial recognition software emerging in some buildings as a way to allow employees to safely enter the office without the use of a security card.
“When people talk about IoT, sensor technology is probably having the biggest impact on buildings and space,” Pope said.
You can read more on IoT and smart office technology on Biznow.
Laws firms are dramatically changing the way they use space.
- Law libraries
- Assistant for each lawyers
- Large Private Offices
- Flexible office partitions
- Abundant Wi-Fi
- Less square feet per employee
“There are typical functions each firm has — a good amount of conferencing, support areas, dining for associates, work for attorneys, administrator space, etc. What we’re seeing is tech is having a significant impact on the way firms are using space,” [said Stephen Bay, CBRE Vice Chairman and National Law Firm Broker].
The removal of the physical libraries and having fewer assistants on staff has resulted in office downsizing. As the average decade-long lease ends, firms are reducing their square footage per employee and making the office more flexible in a move to “future-proof” the workplace and remain competitive.
Credit: Banker and Tradesman
Office tenants are using their space far different than years past. In some, but not all, cases employees no longer have an assigned desk. They simply check in and grab space that is conducive to the task they need to perform that day. This would include a phone room for a call with a client or a table for an internal team meeting.
Speaking to this trend, a recent Banker and Tradesman article aims to identify “what the [Boston office] market wants most”:
Efficiency, convenience, a great neighborhood and something “cool” that goes above and beyond for our tenants…[many contemporary office developments]…have flexible conference and events facilities with outdoor access to accommodate corporate gatherings. This maximizes the amount of productive square feet within a tenant space and minimizes the need for a large conference room, ultimately increasing the number of employees that a space can accommodate.
On-site amenities provide a company’s employees with options for a balanced and productive day within their office building. Gyms, dry cleaning and terraces are now standard in many buildings.