Not just up – Skyscrapers of the future

The United Nations predicts that by 2050, 68% of people will be living in a city. With land increasingly precious and expensive, the natural alternative is to look at what living in a vertical world would look like.

Some cities around the world have embraced the skyscraper world, with spectacular skylines to match – Seoul, Moscow, Hong Kong, Mumbai and São Paolo feature the most skyscrapers.

The UK is no exception to this trend with famous new buildings such as the Shard in London and Manchester’s City Tower.

50 years ahead of its time

One great global example ahead of its time, was conceived in the 1970’s by Norman Foster and built in the 1980’s. The HSBC office “One Queens Road” was designed help people move around the building in a more lateral way, bypassing lifts as the primary carrier of people in the building. Lifts access certain floors while a web of escalators connect the remaining floors. Its most famous feature is how it maximises natural sunlight as a major source of lighting inside the building. At the top of the multi-level internal atrium (enabled by the buildings lack of internal supporting structure), mirrors reflect natural light down through the atrium into the plaza on the ground floor. External sun-shades control the amount of sunshine that goes into the building, important for climate control, especially in such a hot climate. In an early nod to green energy, the air-conditioning units are cooled by sea water, an abundant resource in the region.

Going green around the world

Breaking ground in 2020 is the Southbank by Belulah in Melbourne Australia. Decided by competition, the design includes biophilic design elements. The two towers (102 stories and 59 stories respectively, making Tower 1 the tallest building in Australia on completion) are designed to twist around a green spine of vertically networked platforms and outdoor areas like terraces and verandas. It should result in not only amazing city views and internal light but improves the contextual links within and between the two buildings.

Green skyscrapers have proliferated around the world: from the Park Royal on Pickering Hotel in Singapore, to Milan’s Bosco Verticale, to Shanghai’s Shanghai Tower and even Hemel Hempstead.

The Bosco Verticale has green plants that will grow up the building over time. These are not only ascetically appealing but trap dust, absorb CO2, act as a cooling agent and release oxygen. This is an element that is being increasingly included in skyscraper design.

The Shanghai Tower meanwhile uses green technology to future-proof itself, with rooftop wind turbines, rainwater collection and grey-water systems, dual-layered insulation and many energy-saving features.

The Beacon in Hemel Hempstead, a residential property, is being designed to use less than 80% of heat and electricity of a standard residential block. Each level of the building has a “solar-ledge” of solar panels. The power generated from these combined with energy derived from the heat of the building should lead to residents of the building getting free electricity and hot water for up to five years. Further innovations such as harvesting heat from shower water, collecting grey water and rain water for clothes washing and flushing toilets as well as automated parking that will be seen in this building seem to be the way of the future for skyscrapers, indeed buildings of all kinds.

All of these buildings prove that going up doesn’t always lead to isolation or linear, vertical living and working spaces. Interconnectivity, green and climate saving features and a connection to nature are still possible, even spaces in the sky.

Making Happiness Happen in the Workplace – Why Design Matters

Everyone has lived or worked in a place that simply doesn’t feel ‘right.’ It can have an enormous impact on an individual’s wellbeing and happiness, which then has a knock-on effect to their productivity and possibly their longevity. According to Gallup’s 2019 “State of the Global Workplace” report (https://www.gallup.com/workplace/257552/state-global-workplace-2017.aspx), just 10% of adults working full-time in Western Europe are considered “engaged”, (ie both involved and enthusiastic about their work and workplace). Engaged employees in Gallup’s report are likely to be 17% more productive and their company 21% more profitable than those who are not.

While many elements go into this, dissatisfaction with the physical working environment is certainly a key element. Shifts from cubicle-farm style offices to hot-desking and back, and offices that don’t take into account the needs a multi-generational workforce, mean companies have to look at what it means to build and design a happy office.

Significant research has been done into the impact of workplaces designed for or reconfigured to maximise well-being and happiness. There are some basic fundamentals that come out through most research.

Physical elements

There are some environmental elements that instantly increase happiness:

  • Delivering adequate natural light for all users of the space, not just the lucky few with a corner office;
  • Ensuring acoustics are appropriate to the use of the space – so sound carries if needed or is dampened in other areas;
  • Building a mixture of collaborative as well as private space – while collaboration is ideal, recognising that sometimes individuals need somewhere that is quiet or private;
  • Providing lighting, air and temperature are appropriate and fit-for-purpose.

All of these are simple but vital elements of a happy workspace.

Movement and wellness

Given medical experts regard sitting as the new health threat, the workplace needs to be designed to encourage users to move around. For example, ensuring stairwells are accessible and attractive so that people are more likely to walk and take the stairs rather than the lift. Employees are more likely to collaborate, take breaks and have positive interactions if they are encouraged to move around. This can be as simple as offering standing desks to employees but Google’s Headquarters in Colorado took this to a new level, literally, with a giant rock-climbing wall.

Ambience

Consider the ambience of your space. Does it have colours that inspire productivity and creativity or beautiful, interesting and natural interior design? Although not new, incorporating elements in an office design that provide visual complexity can impart a sense of comfort, ease and potentially mitigate stress. Give your office a sense of balance and proportion, as well as using colour and texture to improve the richness of the environment.

Flexibility

This is not about adding a yoga room but ensuring that spaces can be adapted to the changing needs of the day-to-day as well as the future. Adding flexibility to your design can help a company not only expand as its staffing levels change but to repurpose spaces as the company grows. With the average office cost per square foot in London the highest in Europe (GBP112.5 per square foot (Q1-2020) for the West End), giving companies the ability to maximise their office space is of paramount importance as well as fostering a more harmonious environment. Opened in 2016, Google’s 6 Pancras Square offers modular meeting rooms. Known internally as Project Jack, each plywood pod is mass-produced and can be customised on-site into different sized spaces and different levels of privacy.

Nature

It is not a new concept to bring nature indoors. However, Biophilic design puts our interaction and connection to nature at its forefront. Research has shown that by simply including more nature and natural materials in a workspace, productivity can be increased by up to 15%. Among other recommendations, the Well Building Institute recommends one one-foot plant for every 100 square feet. This is more than a pot-plant on every desk, but the ability for users of the space to connect with their surroundings seasonally, during the day and night and even react to the weather.

 

Fundamentally, as the saying goes, home is where the heart is. By creating a space in which the users feel at home, inspired and creative, and where they can connect and collaborate with others, is a space which engenders a feeling of “home” and well-being. That feeling helps employees be more productive, creative and innovative, fosters respect and ultimately delivers happier employees.

All or Nothing

The pendulum of interior trends has swung between minimalism and maximalism for an age–and while neither will ever be genuinely off-trend, they can both go incredibly wrong. It’s essential to understand the features of each style that has given rise to their longevity.

Let’s explore how you can rock the ‘all’ or the ‘nothing’!

Why minimalism works:

Minimalism works so well because it offers your space two primary features of design: total functionality and a bold starkness. Creating a minimalist interior is a foolproof way of evoking a feeling of space to breathe and a gathering of your thoughts without the anxieties overcrowding can bring.

How can I encourage minimalism?

Less is always more–so exercise a level of restraint when choosing what to display on open shelving. Pare down your items until you’ve only a select few visible, alternate these if you like, but only have a handful visible at any one time. Remember the spaces surrounding can be as important as the focal ponts themselves.  Consider your interior as your own personal art gallery–mix it up when you’re bored with the current exhibition!

Celebrate the architectural bones of your house. Minimalism should be  about exposing what’s underneath–so use this opportunity to design around the features of your home, rather than to conceal them. Practicality goes hand in hand with minimalism, so make sure you’re using the most of the space your home has to offer, before welcoming in anything extra.

Practice the ‘less is more’ philosophy in your daily life–not just in your interior spaces, and you’ll find it transferring across to other aspects of your life seamlessly.

Why maximalism works:

We adore the unlimited versatility of maximalism. You can fill every square foot of a wall with artwork, and it will still look on-trend. However, the secret of maximalism is forgetting what you’ve read, heard and know about design–and filling your space will the pieces you love. This is incredibly important, as you’re going to be surrounded by them all the time.

Our only guidelines would be to take a uniform approach to an entire space, rather than just one area of your interior. As mentioned above–it’s all or nothing!

How can I encourage maximalism?

Create a gallery wall! A signature feature of the maximalist style. Fill your wall with bright, colourful pieces of varying shapes, sizes, and frames. Again, avoid listening to design trends and go with what you think looks good!

Go vintage! Maximalism is a fantastic opportunity to try a boho or eclectic style, and your local vintage furniture dealer will almost definitely have something that could be used as a feature piece for your space. While it might be risky, it’s important to remember that committing to maximalism can pay off incredibly. So why not!

While we’ll always have a soft spot for simple elegance in design, we’ll never shy away from using bold patterns.

Regardless if you want to go down the minimalist route, or express your personality with the brashness of maximalism, it’s your choice–get in touch today and see how we could help you!

Using Minimalism as a Stress Reducer

Far too often, our homes or offices become cluttered. Our belongings fill the rooms, and the space begins to invite a sense of claustrophobia.  It’s a  feeling best avoided–our spaces should be a place to feel relaxed, where positive energy is created, and visual discord doesn’t cloud our thoughts.

One particular way of easing the negative influence clutter can cause is by embracing minimalism. We’ve put together a few ideas for building a space that embraces minimalism and evokes a sense of tranquillity.

Space Enhancing Furniture

Observe the next house you enter–you’ll come to realise that we often choose furniture that’s larger than we need. Usually, the homes of most couples won’t need a vast reclining suite or that dining table with enough room for a dozen guests. Why not opt for more minimal and versatile furniture?

This could include console tables or an extendable dining table–they offer brilliant space maximising solutions and still have the potential to entertain guests when needed. Keeping your interior free of overbearing furniture – the space surrounding is as important as the furniture itself.

Maximise Efficient Storage

One of the best investments you can make in adopting a minimalist approach is efficient storage solutions. They’ll ensure everything is kept out of the way, and precisely where you need it. This could begin with creating a well-organised wardrobe, and the use of sliding doors–not only will they look more contemporary, but they’re also far more space efficient than traditional hinged doors.

Simplify Your Palette

While colour may seem arbitrary to minimalism, often in the best minimalist spaces, it’s one of the key factors to how the space will feel.

By having too many bright and or clashing colours, even the emptiest spaces can feel inhibited and stressful. In keeping a colour scheme to only a few hues, you can build a feeling of consistency without being overbearing. And by employing only a few colours, it doesn’t have to feel bland, as you can still combine textures that create a sleek impact.

Our homes should be the place where we go to relax. And a minimalist approach provokes this. In applying some of these decluttering methods, you’ll bring simplicity into your style, and see the benefits almost immediately.

From Little Things Big Things Grow – Celebrating Mechanical Pencil Day!

Next time you’re using a pen, glance down and observe its design.

Chances are you’ve never done this before.

Observe the interplay between its form, function, and shape, the care that has gone into an object most of us use without thought daily.

The same could be said for any object lying around the home or office–and more often than not, you will have never bothered to inspect them. They just work – or not.

When we started our careers, architects and technicians work white coats, with a thick, grey streak of lead shavings across their midriff from the constant sharpening of mechanical pencils – long, plastic and steel ‘clutch pencils’ that were an essential tool in draughting designs prior to committing pen to (tracing) paper. The pencils were a personalised companion of our profession, constantly needing adjustment via sharpening boxes uniformly bolted to desks. A fusion of product design and architecture.

 

Some of the best architects of the last century had dalliances in product design–Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe were incredibly passionate about chair design. At the same time, Britain’s own Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple, began his career as an architectural designer. The overlap between the two has grown increasingly fluid, yet the design guidelines remain the same–great design will always speak of practicality, simplicity and innate intuitiveness.

 

This concept can be seen in the dismantling of every single product we use–just like the pen you write with, the phone in your pocket and the chair you sit on–there is always a constant thread of purity and simplicity of manufacture in almost every piece.

 

As time passes, the transference of knowledge between architects, interior designers and product design will grow–which will only lead to even more daring design adventures.

 

So next time you’re using your pen, consider its form, its aesthetics and function, and all of the decisions that passed in it coming off the production line. We may not use the mechanical pencil much these days, but the link between architecture, design and our everyday lives is as strong as ever.

Celebrating Industrial Design: Three Elements Of Great Design

Think about warehouses, exposed brick, beams and formwork, metal roofing and wood flooring that bears the marks of time. You’ve probably already got the exact image in your head. When did this style weave its way into our psyche? Is there a name for it?

There is, and the school of Industrial Design is as prevalent in modern design, if not more than it ever has been. Whether it’s the details of the industrial styling that seem slightly misplaced, or the unabridged rawness to the materials–there is a magical quality to industrial design. In combining these elements, it becomes a stunning way to mix modern design with ageing materials to create a look that is sophisticated.

 

The elements of the style surround us today and aren’t just limited to inner-city loft-style apartments, but office spaces, public seating areas and break-off spaces. As we celebrate Industrial Design Day, we look at three factors that contribute to the style’s status.

 

Simplicity & Minimalism

 

In removing clutter from an industrial space, you begin to see the beauty of the details. The reason the industrial design is so popular is that it evokes a sense of calm and minimalism, so heavy, bulky furniture and knick-knacks are best avoided. While a centrepiece is excellent and will look great when carefully considered, it’s better to avoid using too many interior products and fittings as they create a look than is overbearing. The design should welcome movement and space, so it’s essential to respect this notion when designing.

 

Modern Industrial

When balanced with carefully selected modern fittings, industrial design elements always look great. Combine a rustic style with shiny metals, use hanging lights, wrought iron, brass fittings, brushed nickel or a wooden island that tells a story. It all offers a contemporary twist and will transform your space. Disregard the fact that the elements came from a different era, play with them and create exciting contrasts that stand out.

 

Rough, Stressed & Unassuming 

 

The premise of industrial design lies in its celebration of materials that would usually be disregarded. The style is not about shinier or brighter; it’s about creating a raw look that doesn’t have an ‘off the shelf’ feel. Think ageing metals, stressed fabrics and matte finishes. Combine metal with wood to create interesting contrasts that create a lasting effect. These materials, when combined, can make old materials look entirely new, and freshen an entire space.

 

If you’ve found yourself admiring warehouse conversion you’ve seen online or the exposed brick at your favourite coffee shop, maybe it’s time to bring some industrial design into your own space!

Breaking Free From Your Lunch Break

Humans need to keep moving to stay healthy. We weren’t designed to sit in front of a screen for 8+ hours each day–and studies have shown how damaging it is, not just to our posture, but to stress levels and emotional wellbeing! Many modern office spaces see their ‘break-out space’ as a critical factor in combatting this, as a way of allowing their employees to get away from their stressors during the working day.

 

As well as a place for meetings and informal catch-ups–a well-designed break-out space makes sense from an organisational perspective too. It creates a place for stimulating conversation, with impromptu discussions, often leading to the best ideas, which then spread to support projects within the workplace. The impact of a break-out space is incredibly influential and should not be dismissed as ‘just a lunch spot’.

 

Still, many modern offices forget their workforce will function better after a break, with the notion often being lost during the busy working day where time pressures are felt. However, by using foresight, and encouraging a time-out–in a well-designed space–productivity will increase, as time away from the screen offers employees a time to refresh–returning more alert and relaxed, the more consideration put into the break-out space, the more productive and alert a company’s workforce will be. And, as a company’s office space will say a lot about the company, creating a variety of spaces, like a break-out area–companies give themselves the best opportunity to retain key staff and attract great new talent. This could include filling your break-out area with comforts from the home, which offer a connection with space–reminding staff to switch off. Other ideas include bringing in elements from the natural environment, timber benches, warm lighting and cosy furniture. They all combine together to provide a relaxed feel, full of comfort and relaxation.

 

So while working hard is essential, it’s just as necessary to take a few moments from your day to enjoy your break–which is precisely why ’Take Back The Lunch Break’ day was created. Whether these moments come in the form of exercise, getting close to nature, seeing a friend or enjoy a meal–does your workplace have a break-out area that invests in their employee’s wellbeing?

Outdoor Co-Working Space? Tell Me More!

With stress, depression and a raft of mental health issues accounting for almost 14 million days of lost work in the UK last year, increased support of employee wellbeing in the workplace has never been greater. As office spaces encourage more natural light and airflow – thankfully, heading away from traditional, cubical styled, fluorescent-lit offices–we ask ourselves, how can contemporary co-working spaces further improve their inhabitant’s wellbeing?

 

While the co-working phenomenon would have sounded crazy in the not too distant past, we’ve seen first-hand how the co-working trend is transforming modern office design, and how the experimentation with office design knows no bounds. One particular aspect of the pattern has seen incredible prominence in the last few years: the outdoor office. Like a beer garden at your favourite pub, they add another element of tranquillity to your workspace and combine the regular practicality of a well-designed office with the beauty and ease of nature.

 

While your business may not have the budget (yet!) to have a 9-acre rooftop garden for staff (like Facebook), an outdoor office can be as simple as you like. And there are fantastic ideas that offer alternatives to traditional indoor spaces; this could be as simple as utilising your workplace patio or courtyard with picnic tables and umbrellas, positioned in areas flooded with natural light, combining them with a selection of plants.

 

If your office space has limited outdoor options, think about ideas that could be used in the future–that do away with conventional design, however, if you have ample space, an investment into an outdoor space could prove invaluable.

 

Regardless of the layout you decide upon, be sure to maximise natural light as a priority. In doing so, employees will likely become more productive, as there is a natural preference to be in nature rather than a traditional office. This is why the notion of outdoor space in the co-working industry is becoming so popular–not just a fad.

 

All staff can enjoy the benefits of an outdoor space, which can then also provide a location for meetings–that were usually reserved for bland, cubicle styled rooms. This is where the notion of an outdoor office further blurs the line between business and leisure: meaning employees will become less stressed while producing a higher quality of work.

 

So as time passes, and different interpretations of the ‘outdoor office’ are welcomed, the likelihood of them playing a role in your company’s culture should be investigated–as the benefits are hard to surpass. Just ask the guys at Facebook!

A LESSON FROM THE ANCIENT GREEKS: BALANCING BAD ACOUSTICS

Considered pioneers of acoustics and sound travel, the Ancient Greeks used their in-depth knowledge when designing the stunning amphitheatres that still stand today. It’s a shame their designers aren’t still working, as some contemporary spaces will overlook acoustics, as it’s often viewed as a ‘cost option’.

However, excellent acoustics don’t need to be expensive, especially when they’re integrated at the beginning of the design process. 

Poor acoustics aren’t just annoying, they are often unhealthy and can impact aspects of work-life – including productivity and concentration, staff wellbeing and a diminishing a sense of privacy. And as the shift from traditional, cellular offices to collaborative, agile spaces advances, the importance of considering resolved acoustic systems is more relevant than ever.

As we celebrate Save Your Hearing day for 2020, we discuss ideas for improving acoustics in modern workspaces.

Productivity

We are all affected by noise – and not always in a bad way. A sense of thrumming activity, being part of a lively atmosphere can often be a good thing and raise your sense of being in a working neighbourhood. In certain areas this should be designed in, via not only the layout but choice of furniture systems and heights, finishes and materials and so on. However, when you are researching intricate details, or reading through legal documentation, CVs and the like that require your full concentration it is likely that you will need a much lower level of ambient noise. The same is often true of Meeting rooms, client waiting areas including reception. The acoustic design isn’t just layout, but also methods of construction, services design and appropriate use of materials.

It’s often the case that employees will continue to work without realising that noise is actually affecting them.

When creating a space, encourage a holistic approach and consider the comfort and possible needs of the employees that will be using the environment. Do you have an older workforce? Create an appropriate design that won’t compromise the natural work style of an older generation who may prefer to work individually. Is there a particular group of your employees that spend more time speaking over the telephone? Consider appropriate seating arrangements too.

So next time you’re considering the design of a space, consider acoustics too – and at an early stage. Your team will love you for it, as will the Ancient Greeks!

Facilities Management: The Lifeblood Of Great Workplace Design’

As workplace technology evolves, so as does the role of Facilities Management. Rewind to 2010, the term ‘co-working’ – where different companies operate within the same workspace – began to circulate. Since then, its impact on the FM industry has been significant.

As we celebrate World Facilities Management day, where does the future of FM lie?

The essence of quality office design, much like FM, requires a detailed understanding of each site’s variables. As such, the relationship between the two disciplines should be streamlined; the FM team understands the intricacies of management, staff, company structures and lease arrangements, while the architectural team should take this knowledge and translate into a practical, flexible, cost-effective space that is both easy to maintain and attractive to potential tenants.

 

How can Facilities Managers shape the future of contemporary workplace design at various stages?

 

 

The Three Designs

 

Facilities Managers are usually very aware of design considerations regarding accessibility, usability and universal design.

 

Accessible design ensures that buildings, products and services are usable for staff and visitors alike. Physical disabilities such as dependence on a wheelchair, lumbar problems, sensitivity to light and noise should all be considered by the design team. The FM can help by highlighting specific needs early on.

Usability – maximising every m2 of the floor as possible, making every £ spent count. Are acoustics suitable for the business need? Are the rooms simple to reconfigure? And is there sufficient space for those stackable chairs? Sounds obvious, but without knowing the final end use these are design risks that can be eliminated.

 

Universal design – are we creating a space that will make guests feel clear on way finding, make them feel welcomed and calm upon arrival, and impressed upon leaving?

 

Getting the blend of these elements is crucial – not only to aid streamlining of an organisation but for the wellbeing and attitude of the building’s occupants.

 

The Construction Phase

 

By involving Facilities Managers in elements of the operations and specification of a project, there is an opportunity to integrate this knowledge into its delivery.  As companies shift toward renewable energy sources and energy-efficient design, we’re confident their input will increase too.

 

Collaborative Spaces & Flexibility

 

Co-working as a business concept has transformed office design – and it’s here to stay. While a collaborative space can lead to an increase morale and creativity, businesses and FM’s must balance the relationship of collaborative spaces and individual working areas.

To adapt to the quick pace of transformation in the workplace, facilities managers need to understand how three particular types of flexibility can influence a space.

 

  • Contractual Flexibility: Employed staff could be outsourced, on fixed contracts, casual or full time – so the amount of people in the company’s workforce is likely to be quite fluid and may change day-to-day

 

  • Time Flexibility: Employee working hours could vary and be based upon the preference of employee. This could mean a more significant shift to evening staff or early morning. FM teams should cater for this in the management of space.

 

  • Locational Flexibility: Now more than ever, more employees will likely have the freedom to work from home, in satellite offices or client premises. FM teams should be wary of this and account for a more significant shift toward this in the future.