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    Designing a workplace future - Infolink | BPN Magazine guest editor Stephen Pearse

    Stephen Pearse, dwp|suters Sydney Principal

    The cynics suggest that looking into the future is a safe place for commentary, as no one has been there it’s unlikely the predictions will be proven wrong.

    However looking into the future is a major expectation from most of our clients when designing for their investment.

    We are constantly imagining the future to provide the best outcome for their brief.

    It is an essential part of what we do.

    Projects can take substantial time to come to fruition and a significant investment is crafted by large teams with the expectation to be appropriate for as long as possible.

    So while futurists practicing futurisms may sound like an esoteric occupation, it is a key component of what we do for all our projects

    To guide us we do have the significant knowledge of past solutions and how they have performed or been modified through new technologies and cultural shifts. This knowledge can give us valuable insights when we design new commissions.

    There are some continuing underlying drivers throughout time, such as the commerce or cost of space. The application of such a driver can change drastically over time.

    We see the definition of the value of space change through cultural shifts, lifestyle shifts and more recently social responsibility.

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    Shaping the arrival with light and form. The main reception area at The Hills Shire Council Offices by dwp|suters encourages face-to-face interaction between the public and staff. Photography by Richard Glover PRODUCTS: RECEPTION COUNTER DU PONT CORIAN VINYL FLOORING BOLON


    One key aspect affecting the commerce is the relatively recent impact of sustainability on our built environments. This is now a fundamental driver for prime real estate leasing.

    Tenancies are advertised with star ratings, key landlords advertise with green guides positioning their buildings for energy efficiency, end of trip facilities encouraging new behaviours. We have experienced staff requesting advice on these facilities in interviews and this loop then drives new innovations. Refining both landlord offers and tenants demands.

    The property market has in fact been a key driver of change in the sustainability area. It sensed the change often spurred by public sentiment, government incentives, subsidies and corporate branding through social responsibility initiatives.

    Another key area of development is obviously new technology. A massive driver of change about which much has been written, the impact of computers, new software like the PDF, the wireless, cloud-based and ‘follow me’ technologies.

    We are also seeing the development of complex analytical software for peer-to-peer, place-to-place mapping in the workplace by firms such as Optimice shining new lights onto how the workplace actually communicates.

    This is breaking down long established structures from the old working models of management by sight to management by outcomes.

    Unwork’s and Mirvac and the notion of Jellybean Working explore cloud-based technologies allowing people to indicate their availability to connect irrespective of location.

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    Pattern, light and durability provide a flexible public space at The Hills Shire Council Offices. The council chamber on ground floor is enclosed by an operable wall system. Photography by Richard Glover. PRODUCTS: PANELS ECHO PANEL WOVEN IMAGE VINYL FLOORING BOLON MODULAR SEATING SCHAUMBURG + ALVISSE


    CHANGE IS INEVITABLE AND IS IN DAILY ACCEPTANCE

    Disruption and having a workplace ready to adapt and innovate are all acknowledged attributes of a modern business. This has recently even formed a key strategic initiative of our national government.  This disruption and innovation will challenge the actual notion of the workplace.

    WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR THE DESIGN OF OUR WORKPLACES?

    What we are seeing in both disciplines of architecture and interiors is a merging / overlap of spatial outcomes, using spaces smarter, all focussed around similar drivers. This is creating a blended flexible outcome across typologies which traditionally were very different.

    • A school never looked like a university
    • A café never looked like a workplace
    • Retail centres were for shopping not necessarily fine food and entertainment

    WHAT’S DRIVING THIS SHIFT?

    There will be many reasons, but the core driver is the need to attract

    • The landlord needs to attract the tenant
    • The tenant the staff
    • Café owner, the customer and so on

    IL1604_Steve_3.jpgLayered elements, colour and lighting. The staff break spaces on each level of The Hills Shire Council Offices encourage collaboration and interaction between the different teams and departments. Photography by Richard Glover PRODUCTS: RUBBER TILES SIGNATURE FLOORING TIMBER BATTENS SUPAWOOD CEILING PANEL QUANTUM INNOVATION PENDANT LIGHTS JSB LIGHTING VERTICAL GARDEN SCHIAVELLO TABLE AND CHAIRS CONET


    The education of our society has started to build almost a consensus of desirability.

    The rise of design awareness, food and health and sustainability within our communities is leading us to a number of common communal goals often then playing out in the attract market.

    We are seeing this in our fitouts, demonstrated by a prevalence of timber, natural light, colour and plants. The recent expansion in the use of natural materials and the reduction of finished surfaces is driven by a combination of aesthetic and sustainable objectives.

    If you have one set of finishes, a look, it says I AM SUSTAINABLE, a responsible member of the workplace community. Of course in most cases where the objectives run deep in the application by the proponent this is the case, in other areas this could be part of an image or fashion and just be surface treatments.

    Another big area of change just starting to gather force is the new generation of workers who will be truly tech-savvy from birth.

    Every new generation to some extent wants to overthrow or at least adapt the previous.

    It is this push from the emerging workforce who will adapt, design new systems and software, implement the Jellybean technologies and redefine the notion of work again.

    These new systems of collaborating online though will bring the need for more change and adaption such as bigger screens. The ability to have a real time presence for diverse partners will further amplify the variation in work style settings to suit the acoustic and engineering needs for human comfort and effectiveness.

    This future worker will demand a new design response through explicit request but also through their desire to have the latest technologies which will again impact on work settings.

    Our research into the future and what might it mean for our workplaces coalesces around a number of themes. Each one explored and developed to varying degrees as we work through designs with our clients.

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    Office, collaboration and breakout spaces are linked by sightlines to external views at the AIHI Workspace, Macquarie University by dwp|suters. Photography by Richard Glover PRODUCTS: CARPET INTERFACE CHAIR HAY COFFEE TABLE STYLECRAFT WALL PANEL FABRIC KVADRAT MAHARAM CEILING TILES ARMSTRONG


    THE DIGITAL NATIVES ARE RESTLESS

    The shifts in skills and expectations of the new workforce are driven by their technology thirst, the work processes learnt from an early age at school, their ease of movement across new platforms, the variety of ways for connecting, social platforms that encourage knowledge sharing and the fluid workplace. Generational mobility is changing, the next generations are happy to rent and can move with much less impediments.

    CHANGE, MORE CHANGE AND DISRUPTION

    Constant change and the need for a flexible workplace means our buildings must be readily adaptable. Churn and movement is a permanent state of being. International connectivity and the 24-hour cycle mean we will access work through the cloud to meet peaks and troughs and varying work patterns. This will affect the commerce taking advantage of currency exchange and staff availability. The growth of the service industries across traditional boundaries will require a new level of trust and partnerships.

    LOOKING FOR THE OFF BUTTON

    In our overstimulated, collaborated and outsourced environment - what is the value of calm? Production, connection, create, solve, communicate – where is the off button in the workplace?

    Workspaces for everything, everything in the workplace. We see the need to develop places of calm, with views, vistas fresh air and the time out room (a good place to be). Bring back the occasional daydream.

    Remember when all the good ideas came in the shower? Now have a waterproof phone.

    PROCESS BASED TASKS ARE LONG AGO OUTSOURCED

    Uberised if you like, employment has shifted with process tasked outsourced and key collaborative tasks now to occur in centralised space. This recent shift is again under challenge with the notion of the Jellybean work.

    The new skills now being developed in our schools will encourage the enquiring mind to search for an opportunity. Our children are taught to explore and be entrepreneurs of ideas; to explore, test and refine. Kids are now taught coding at primary school; they work more on project based activities with new technologies.

    They are being trained to think and innovate, find what needs to be done better.

    Collaborating from an early age across traditional classroom barriers are now gone.

    CITIES ARE PART OF THE CV

    Cities are fighting for global recognition to attract the talent and the corporations.

    I work in New York, I work in Sydney, I want to work in Paris, and I want to be where the skiing is good or where the entertainment is great.

    Work places and lifestyles are merging and access to the benefits of culture, social and natural assets are as important as salary.

    These are part of the kit for employers to attract the talent.

    CITY AS A CAMPUS

    Increasingly we have clients who are looking at what they need to achieve in their workplace to attract the right staff and adapt to the new economy. When analysing sites for relocations, clients are balancing the difference in rents between suburban areas and city locations and considering the potential neighbourhood amenities for staff and clients.

    In most cases, inner-city opportunities provide good on the street amenities, such as access to cafes, gyms, retail, health and meeting hubs. The client is willing to pay higher rent for this shared amenity and lifestyle that the employee wants, often through a reduction in the square metres they need to lease.

    The city itself becomes an integral part of the workplace.

    We will continue to see a blurring between the private domain and traditional public domains within our buildings. The breakout areas, cafes and meeting zones will feel more like quality public places rather than private only zones.

    They will, in effect, become interchangeable. In order for us to meet sustainability objectives our buildings will need to be designed for this change, flexibility and adaptability over a longer lifespan. This will become easier with wireless technologies.

    Together with the evolution of spaces to suit a variety of work styles, flexible hours and changing work patterns, this leads to the need to consider the bigger picture around designing for an Activity Based City (ABC).

    The ABC considers the local neighbourhood when designing workplaces. For example, we see small, agile enterprises wanting access to the best services and localities for their high value employees and co-working space delivering shared spaces globally.

    They are now thinking like this: ‘if my staff want to work outside, then why do I need to build this space into our fitout?’

    We expect this shift will lead to a fundamental change as to how we design for work.

    The office buildings of the future could appear more along the lines of retail, with a mix of services and settings to suit ever-adapting corporate needs.

    Engineered for adaption and the ability to embrace nature and environmental advantages of the locality.

    The workforce of the future will be different and the key is to design now for flexibility.

    We need to think about a sustainable campus city, a flexible hive with off zones designed to be available when and where needed. It will be a mix of vertical and horizontal initiatives stretching the workplace boundaries within this Activity Based City.


    QUT Design School (D Block) by dwp|suters

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    The design school needed a revamp to provide spaces conducive to student collaboration, and to encourage extended use of existing non-effectual spaces.

    The application of recycled hardwood timber battens to an existing semi-external off-form concrete environment invokes a typical Queensland architecture, and pushes the limits of the materials ability to provide both an artistic/creative backdrop and a sense of place for design students to mingle, collaborate and ‘pause’ to have design based conversations.

    A 24/7 student study space encourages students to stay on campus for extended periods of time to collaborate and workshop in a design focussed multipurpose space. Photography by Roger D’Souza

    PRODUCTS: TIMBER RECYCLED AUSTRALIAN HARDWOOD PAINTS RESENE PAINTS FLOORS MARMOLEUM ACOUSTIC LININGS WOVEN IMAGE ECOPANEL, KVADRAT MAHARAM BOARDS AND SUSTAINABLE LIVING FABRICS SOLID SURFACES LAMINEX AND FORMICA FURNITURE SCHIAVELLO STYLECRAFT AND CHAIRBIZ

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