Optimizing the Open Office

When you hear the word workplace, what images come to mind? If you’re like most, you think of fax machines and file cabinets, copiers and cubicles. But what about swag huddle rooms where employees socialize or strategize? Unassigned seating in an all wireless environment? Outdoor work areas beneath canopied trees?
These are just a few of the advancements a shifting cultural and technological landscape have brought to corporate real estate (CRE). More flexible, communal and high-tech, the “workplace of the future” hasn’t just arrived, it’s continuing to evolve at warp speed. With extensive experience in interiors construction, there’s no better partner than Balfour Beatty to build next generation workplaces. 

Leading design firms interpret this transformation in a variety of ways. The WELL Building Standard, which prioritizes employee health and social equity in workplace design, is central to each definition. So, too, is the concept of “activity-based working” in which layouts are arranged based on work functions instead of hierarchy.
Perkins + Will questions, “Can we shape buildings to optimize experiential, environmental and economic performance?” Gensler understands that today’s employees are sophisticated consumers who want to work in spaces that manifest their company’s brand. 

More and more, clients are choosing construction partners like Balfour Beatty that are leading this CRE revolution—not simply reacting to it. And with $649 million in interiors work completed across the US in 2017—much of which with repeat clients—Balfour Beatty teammates have mastered the incredibly nuanced nature of this market. 

Our expertise is critical when it comes to budgeting. Open office plans can create substantial savings. A reduction in size or complete elimination of walled offices decreases total building square footage and lowers rents. Polished concrete is one example of a sleek and modern design feature that is lower in cost than traditional flooring materials such as carpet, wood or institutional vinyl tile. 

On the other hand, state-of-the-art audiovisual (AV) capabilities increase budgets. Open ceilings—the most signature element of the “workplace of the future” movement—reduce material costs but often require contractors to conceal existing conduit and ductwork that is not arranged in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Despite their industrial appearance, open ceilings escalate labor costs. 

One of the chief concerns regarding open offices is a reduction in employee productivity due to noise and other perceived distractions. Our teams recommend a variety of noise reduction mechanisms. In addition to white noise machines, cloud or canopy ceilings dampen sound; however, this stunning design feature carries a higher price tag than a standard, suspended ceiling. To contain noise within huddle rooms, designs often include double pane glass storefront systems in lieu of the cheaper single pane option. 

Recognizing the complex decisions that workplace modernization projects entail, many clients are including our teams during design development. While an eight-month preconstruction process for a 12-week upfit can seem extensive, this results in significantly less construction delays. In many facilities, owners must consider federal compliance regulations governing where employees sit—guidance Balfour Beatty teams are well-equipped to provide. 

Increasingly, owners are involving employees in the decision-making process regarding their workspaces. With the ongoing demand for new amenities and technologies, corporations that historically updated their offices once a decade are being challenged to do so every two to three years. The majority of interior upfits are completed inside occupied buildings, making the speed to market Balfour Beatty provides equally important as cost certainty. 

If you ask Balfour Beatty’s interiors experts, their loyal followership also stems from the seemingly insignificant project management details. Whether it’s ensuring every trace of dust is removed each evening or addressing a previous contractor’s oversight without being asked, there is a thin line that separates good interiors contractors from the great ones. 

With owners relying on Balfour Beatty to build cutting-edge spaces, old-fashioned customer service values firmly cement our teams in the latter category.