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Design 20 www.thefis.org Above all, reliability zentia.com Quality Control Confidence Above all, you 12162521 Zenti a_Ads_Print_122x85 mm Spec Finishes AW.indd 1 23/09/2021 17:23 CHANGING TRENDS IN OFFICE SPACE FIS hosted a debate last month to help identify key design trends that are emerging and reshaping our interior office spaces. The online session was chaired by Mark Catchlove, Director at Herman Miller’s Global Insight Group, which is responsible for sharing the latest thinking in workplace design and related issues. T here was a lot to cover in an hour as the pandemic has forced office building owners, tenants, and design and build companies to completely re-evaluate their priorities. In a diverse and evolving industry, this could have gone horribly wrong but happily, it quickly became apparent during the debate that there seem to be common and very positive denominators that are driving a concerted effort towards sensible, considered and sustainable workplace design. The panel of experts from various disciplines included representatives from design and build companies, fit-out contractors and furniture designers. Each individual works at the coalface of this industry so were well placed to provide a clear perspective on the changing market. Early changes Mark asked delegates about the first emerging trend they noted when delivering projects during the pandemic, which have now become the norm. Julie Anderson, Director at Rap Interiors, spoke for most when she identified the understandable “obsession with health and safety” around how trades work on site, which inevitably delayed work. Paul Dare, of Morgan Lovell, quickly saw how clients realised that they and their employees wanted to use spaces differently and their careful analysis drove the conversation towards the need for more collaborative and quiet spaces, as well as the necessity of making employees feel safe at work. It is almost incumbent on suppliers, Paul observed, to guide clients because it’s quite apparent that no-one really knows what the future will bring. What we do know is that health and safety must be incorporated into building and furniture design. In fact, Geoff Anderson of the IOR Group said: “It must be the worst time to give up a lease now while we are all so unsettled [by the pandemic].” James Gall, of 21 Construction, noticed the increasing need for collaboration, but this is compromised by the reluctance to meet in person. He said: “We’ve spent 18 months trying to design over Teams and it’s not really working for us as a design and build entity, there is no substitute for getting together round a table.” We are all getting better at virtual meetings though and we know that collaboration is absolutely key to resulting in quicker and better design. From a contractors perspective, Neil Courtman, of Collins Construction, said that he often finds himself at the back end of consultations and so finds it difficult to discuss firstly the ergonomics of the proposed workspace and secondly, the buildability of it. He said: “If we were brought in as a contractor early doors, maybe stage one (feasibility) we could then provide support to make sure that the collaboration works effectively.” Simon Campbell (Portview Fit Out) noted the recent trend of much smaller space rental units being driven partly by current market conditions; saying: “The immediate appetite, for however long this lasts, is for landlords to sub-divide space to let as smaller units rather than larger, collaborative offices.” Changing perspectives Turning to a related topic, Mark asked if the people we are speaking to about new projects have changed since the pandemic began. Ann Clarke, of design and build company, Claremont, saw an almost immediate change, saying that: “It is evident that HR is driving the process, taking into account the needs and requests from office workers to ensure they feel safe enough to maintain productivity.”

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