Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Open Offices

Piling On

I’m adding to my narrative two weeks ago (click here to read) on the effects of open office plans.  Today is not about the science but rather the complaining and emotional impact on employees after moving to open office space.  I’m not taking a side, rather just piling on more information from two weeks ago. 
 
Workers are simply not as happy in open spaces. They are 15% less productive (depending on the type of work), more likely to get sick, and more.  This is interesting. Some people want open collaborative space and others beg for an office where they can “get my work done”.  This is exacerbated by the fact that your best team players are probably getting recruited by other companies who might be offering them an alternative. 
 
The workforce is in a major shift in demographics and what do new workers (millennials and Gen X) really want?  Who knows anymore?   Based on our experience completing 125 leases every year, I can say with conviction that—it depends. Here are a few of the questions we ask our clients as we begin the process and to set direction:
 
1—How do you and specifically your teams work?  What type of work is being done and what is the need for interaction?
2—Who is your best cohort you hire?  Where do you get them from and why?  What is your turnover rate and why?
3—What happens in a recession? (During recessions, businesses fight to stay in business and cutting costs becomes more urgent.)
4—What do you have now?  What works and what doesn’t? 
 
I won’t continue to harp on this topic.  I just thought I would spend a couple narratives looking at open office from a different perspective. Has the pendulum swung too far to open offices with over 70% of all offices now open?  What are your thoughts?  Let me know.  

 

Craig

602.954.3762


Why open offices are bad for us
By Bryan Borzykowski

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

open office space

Four years ago, Chris Nagele did what many other technology executives have done before — he moved his team into an open concept office.

His staff had been exclusively working from home, but he wanted everyone to be together, to bond and collaborate more easily. It quickly became clear, though, that Nagele had made a huge mistake. Everyone was distracted, productivity suffered and the nine employees were unhappy, not to mention Nagele himself.

In April 2015, about three years after moving into the open office, Nagele moved the company into a 10,000-square foot office where everyone now has their own space — complete with closing doors.

We’re 15% less productive, we have immense trouble concentrating and we’re twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces

Numerous companies have embraced the open office — about 70% of US offices are open concept — and by most accounts, very few have moved back into traditional spaces with offices and doors. But research that we’re 15% less productive, we have immense trouble concentrating and we’re twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces, has contributed to a growing backlash against open offices.

Since moving, Nagele himself has heard from others in technology who say they long for the closed office lifestyle. “Many people agree — they can’t stand the open office,” he says. “They never get anything done and have to do more work at home.”

Small distractions can cause us to lose focus for upwards of 20 minutes

It’s unlikely that the open office concept will go away anytime soon, but some companies are following Nagele’s example and making a return to private spaces.

The more focus the better
There’s one big reason we’d all love a space with four walls and a door that shuts: focus. The truth is, we can’t multitask and small distractions can cause us to lose focus for upwards of 20 minutes.

What’s more, certain open spaces can negatively impact our memory. This is especially true for hotdesking, an extreme version of open plan working where people sit wherever they want in the work place, moving their equipment around with them.

We retain more information when we sit in one spot, says Sally Augustin, an environmental and design psychologist in La Grange Park, Illinois. It’s not so obvious to us each day, but we offload memories — often little details — into our surroundings, she says.

We retain more information when we sit in one spot

These details — which could be anything from a quick idea we wanted to share to a colour change on a brochure we’re working on — can only be recalled in that setting.

We don’t collaborate like we think
For many of us, it’s the noise that disturbs us the most. Professors at the University of Sydney found that nearly 50% of people with a completely open office floorplan, and nearly 60% of people in cubicles with low walls, are dissatisfied with their sound privacy. Only 16% of people in private offices said the same.

They asked people in various office types how dissatisfied they were with their space  and in 14 different respects, including temperature, air quality and sound privacy, closed fared better than open.

People do talk to each other more, but they don’t talk to each other more about work-related things

Beside the cheaper cost, one main argument for the open workspace is that it increases collaboration. However, it’s well documented that we rarely brainstorm brilliant ideas when we’re just shooting the breeze in a crowd. Instead, as many of us know, we’re more likely to hear about the Christmas gift a colleague is buying for a family member, or problems with your deskmate’s spouse.

People do talk to each other more, but they don’t talk to each other more about work-related things,” says Augustin. Think about it: if you work in an open office, you’ll book a meeting room to brainstorm. It’s still an act that requires some level of planning and privacy.

And it turns out our best work is done when we have total focus, says Augustin. We can work in a busy space, but the final product won’t be as good as if we are in a quiet locale.

It’s a shame to waste people by not giving them a place that supports what they actually do

“[It’s] inefficient,” she says. “It’s a shame to waste people by not giving them a place that supports what they actually do.”

Of course, she says, it’s important for us to bond and to get to know each other. But there are plenty of ways to bond in closed offices. Nagele’s team, for instance, eats lunch together every day. A few ideas come out of lunch time chats, he says, but most are developed from more focused brainstorming sessions.

Finding the right balance  
For jobs that require focus,  like writing, advertising, financial planning and computer programming, some companies that aren’t ready to ditch open plans are experimenting with quiet rooms and closed spaces.

Some of us even feel that escaping to a quiet room is a sign of weakness

The trouble with that, is some of us don’t feel comfortable leaving the team to go off on our own—it can feel as if we’re not pulling our weight if we’re not present. That’s particularly true in high-pressure environments. Some of us even feel that escaping to a quiet room is a sign of weakness, Augustin says.

Other companies are creating closed spaces for smaller teams. Ryan Mullenix, a partner with NBBJ, a global architecture firm, has worked with tech firms that have built offices for between three and 16 people.

They can still collaborate, but they can also block out noise from other teams of people they don’t need to hear from. Technology can also help. Mullenix’s own office has sensors, placed 10 feet apart, that can track noise, temperature and population levels. Staff can log on to an app and can find the quietest spot in the room.
 
People can now do focused work and they have more time to work

Against the grain
Some of us thrive in open offices. Those who do repetitive tasks represent one group. Another: more junior employees. For them, it’s easier to learn by watching how others work. If new-to-work staff get their own office from the start, they may lose focus and perform at a lower level, Augustin says.

The bad news for unhappy open-office dwellers: the concept isn’t going away any time soon.  But, says Nagele, more companies should consider what he’s found. His employees are happier and more productive—and that helps not just the company, but the team.

“People can now do focused work and they have more time to work,” he says. “That’s helped everyone’s mindset.”

Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Open Offices

Open Plans Kill Productivity

In my ongoing effort to explore both sides of the open office vs. traditional office debate, here are some thoughts based on science.  The Journal of Environmental Psychology jumped into the fray and came out with a huge study (40k+ workers and over 300 companies).  What did they find out?
 
— Closed offices outperformed open offices for productivity.
— Proxemics issues (how people feel when close) create uncomfortable workers (and therefore less productivity).
— Noise and visual disruption (or as Geoffrey James says below “visual and noise pollution”) creates distraction and focus issues.
 
Read below for more.  The debate continues and there are fatal flaws to both sides.  

 

Craig

602.954.3762


Open-Plan Offices Kill Productivity, According to Science

By Geoffrey James

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Earlier today, I got a story pitch on the “office of the future” that featured the following bullet points:

  Remote Work Will be the New Norm: According to recent Fuze research, 83 percent of workers don’t think they need to be in an office to be productive, and 38 percent said they would enjoy their job more if they were allowed to work remotely.
  Physical Space Will Shrink: We’ll see more companies shift to a more collaborative office space model with workspaces that bring together teams, spark conversation, and create the best ideas.
  Traditional Desks Will Disappear: The so-called cubicle farm will become a distant memory and people will start embracing an environment that suits their needs — whether it be a table at a coffee shop, a standing desk, or collaboration space.
  “Office Hours” Will Become Obsolete: The workday isn’t 9 to 5 anymore, it’s 24/7. In fact, a recent Fidelity survey found that Millennials will take a pay cut for a more flexible work environment.

The list (which is very much “conventional wisdom”) illustrates the crazy-making way that companies think about open-plan offices. Can you see the disconnect? Bullets 1 and 4 are saying that people don’t want to work in an office, while bullets 2 and 3 are defining the very office environment where people don’t want to work.

And isn’t that the sad truth? Most people would rather work at home and or tolerate angry stares from the other patrons in a coffee shop (should one need to make a call) than try to get something done in an open-plan office.

In previous posts, I’ve provided links to numerous studies showing that open-plan offices are both a productivity disaster and a false economy. (The productivity drain more than offsets the savings in square footage.) I’ve even posted some videos showing how wretched (and in some cases ridiculous) these environments truly are.

Well, just in case you weren’t yet convinced, here’s some new evidence from a study of more than 40,000 workers in 300 U.S. office buildings–by far the most comprehensive research on this issue. The results, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, came to the following conclusion:

“Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues. Benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.”

Don’t let the jargon confuse you. The term “proxemics issues” refers to how people feel uncomfortable when they’re forced into close proximity with other people. To be perfectly clear, here’s what the paragraph says: “Open-plan offices aren’t worth it.”

BTW, it isn’t just the noise and the interruptions that cause people to hate open-plan offices. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article:

“All of this social engineering has created endless distractions that draw employees’ eyes away from their own screens. Visual noise, the activity or movement around the edges of an employee’s field of vision, can erode concentration and disrupt analytical thinking or creativity.”

Unlike noise pollution, which can be remedied with a pair of headsets, there’s no way to block out the visual pollution, short of throwing a towel over your head and screen like a toddler’s play tent.

So, getting back to the story pitch and the conventional wisdom it represents: Yes, indeed, people want to work at home, and yes, indeed, they’re willing to take a cut in pay to get away from the open-plan office that you’ve offered them.

What’s weird is that the people who design office spaces and the executives who hire them don’t see the connection. They seem unable to understand that forcing open-plan offices down everyone’s throat is not only ruining productivity but it’s actively driving good employees to avoid to coming into the office.

So let me make it simple.

Dear Executive: Do you want your employees to come into the office and work long hours while they’re there? THEN GIVE THEM PRIVATE OFFICES. At the very least, give them high-walled cubicles that provide a modicum of privacy.

For crying out loud, is this really that difficult a concept to understand?

Categories Architecture, Creative Office Spaces, Design, Narrative, Open Offices

Exposed Ceilings Are Cool But Not Cheap

Exposed ceilings are all the rage, but users pay a price for this look. Most of our clients think it’s less expensive to just demo the ceiling and have a cool open space.  Not so fast.
 
Here are some of the additional costs that come with an exposed ceiling:

– Re-running electrical cabling and HVAC ductwork with the added pressure of making it look cool (“cool” is another word for additional expense).
– Painting the now-exposed components.
– Sound proofing/noise mitigation.  If not designed AND negotiated properly, this could be an after-relocation expense to the tenant. 
 
These are costs to actually construct the open ceiling.  Many times the open ceiling will come with increased utility bills because you have more space to heat and, in Phoenix, to cool.  While this is usually negotiated into the Base year, if the building has more tenants moving in and opening up the ceilings, expenses will continue to rise. 
 
This is something to put in the back of your mind as you contemplate your next office.  OR you can just call us.  We live these issues daily.

 

Craig

602.954.3762


HEADS UP: THE 5 HIDDEN EXPENSES OF OPEN CEILINGS
By Clay Edwards

March 4, 2018
Open ceilings, with their exposed ductwork and industrial vibe have become popular – but trendy rarely equals inexpensive. For many years, omitting the traditional drop ceiling was assumed to be not just cooler but also to cost less. Common sense seemed to be that by choosing open ceilings, the cost of the drop ceiling was simply avoided, saving on labor, materials and time.

2008 study of retail and office interior construction in five cities seemed to back up that assumption. Sponsored by the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), the study found that initial construction costs for suspended ceilings were 15-22 percent higher than for open plenums in offices, and 4-11 percent higher in retail spaces.

Great news! Or was it? It appeared this popular feature that conveys a sense of spaciousness and casual charm also saved money. Unfortunately, the news was premature.

Our years of experience have shown that open plenum ceilings have many benefits, but being cheaper isn’t one of them. It’s important to consider the hidden costs of open ceilings, which almost always make them more expensive, particularly over a building’s life cycle.

Hidden expense #1: Open does not mean unfinished
At first glance, it might seem contradictory to think that an open ceiling would cost more than installing a suspended ceiling system and infrastructure. The catch: there’s work required in both cases. Even when ductwork is exposed, it’s anything but unfinished. Hidden ductwork is typically blocky, dirty, oily and generally not aesthetically pleasing. Round or oval ducts deliver a more “finished” look but are significantly more expensive.

Hidden expense #2: Higher labor costs
As commercial construction has ramped up in recent years, developers are seeing a shortage of skilled labor in many trades, driving up construction costs. Open ceilings may involve lower material costs than suspended ceilings, but any savings is more than offset by the cost of labor-intensive tasks required for open plenum. For instance, this may include running all electrical distribution conduit tight to the deck above with the associated additional bends in the runs, rather than running all of the conduit that crosses paths at different elevations.

Hidden expense #3: Making it pretty
At a minimum, space users want everything painted, from the exposed ceiling to the ductwork and plumbing — a job that’s more complicated than simply painting walls. More significantly, existing infrastructure that’s been hiding behind suspended ceilings is often unsightly, requiring major work to make it attractive to employees or customers. In other words, the casual look of an open plenum is actually the result of substantial work.

Hidden expense #4: Sound considerations
In addition to visual considerations, open plenum plans come with a need for acoustical treatments. The panels in suspended ceilings are called acoustical tiles for a reason: they absorb sound to keep ambient noise levels from being disruptive. The hard surfaces of an exposed ceiling can create an echo effect that gets amplified as people talk louder to be heard over ambient noise.

Avoiding noise problems in open plenum plans comes at a cost. Office and retail users may install acoustical panels directly onto the deck, or suspend baffles to absorb sound in critical areas. Another solution: spray-on acoustical material on the ceiling’s hard, reflective surfaces. These products soften the surfaces to absorb some of the noise, and typically have other benefits such as thermal insulation and fire protection.

Hidden expense #5: Skyrocketing energy bills
Even if open plenum ceilings can be installed cost-effectively, there are operational cost considerations that can change the equation somewhat. A major trend in construction cost estimation is to look at the entire life-cycle cost of different solutions, including the cost of energy consumption and maintenance over time, as well as the initial materials and labor.

The CISCA study mentioned previously noted that energy costs were found to be lower in suspended ceilings than in open plenum ceilings. The savings ranged from 9 percent to 10.3 percent in offices, and from 12.7 percent to 17 percent in retail spaces studied. In addition, CISCA noted that open ceilings required frequent cleaning and periodic repainting. “Considering both first-time and operating costs, suspended ceilings are extremely cost effective,” the study concluded.

Weighing the pros and cons
The additional cost of open plenum ceilings shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Office and retail space should be designed and built to maximize its appeal to employees or customers and to enable productive use of the space; incurring an incrementally higher cost structure is a secondary concern. But users who are getting ready to build out space should be aware of the true cost of different alternatives to avoid surprises during construction. It’s natural to make the assumption that an informal, exposed ceiling is less expensive than a suspended ceiling — but the reality is often quite different.

Categories Architecture, Creative Office Spaces, Design, Narrative

The Legacy of Steve Jobs and Office Space

Apple moved into their spaceship this year.  I wrote about it while under construction and now you have probably have seen finished photos all over.  If not, here are some.

But today’s narrative is not about this inspired headquarters.  Today, I want to talk about Pixar’s headquarters built in the late 1990’s.  The standards of creative office (and all the baseline design for the new Apple HQ) came out of Job’s vision for one of his early companies. 

This headquarters had:
·       Open space so that the workers could be more creative.
·       All specialties among workers were split up within the premises.
·       A cafe, foosball, fitness center, two 40-seat viewing rooms, and a large theater—keeping them in the office longer.
·       Open atrium so people will run into each other creating interactions.

So what is my point?  Three things struck me when I read the below article:

–Good design lasts—we know that but in office space, it’s the same.  We can build something that we love that does not need to be torn down every 5 years.
–Committing to what you need is critical.  We know how you work today.  What works, what doesn’t.  Where is technology taking you and your team?  
–Having the right team is paramount. This includes brokers—that’s us—plus design, contractors, furniture, etc. Make sure the team is the right on for you and your business.

We can help.

Craig

602.954.3762


Pixar Headquarters and the Legacy of Steve Jobs

Source: Office Snapshots
Date: 8/30/18

The first office ever posted on Office Snapshots was Pixar’s Emeryville headquarters – and is naturally one of the most popular. It is a place where, just by looking at it, one can tell that creativity abounds. After 5+ years of studying, posting pictures of, and writing about office design – it seems like a good idea to take an in depth look into just what makes their office space so special.

A New Campus VisionThe story behind Pixar’s headquarters starts in 1999 with Steve Jobs. As Pixar’s CEO, Jobs brought in Bohlin Cywinski Jackson – famously known for designing Bill Gates’ Washington residential compound – to flesh out his vision for the campus, which was planned to hold up to 1000 employees.

According to Jobs’ recent biography, the headquarters was to be a place that “promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations.”  Given that collaboration has recently been one of the major topics in office design, and that the late 90’s were filled with cubicle farms, his ideas were clearly ahead of the curve.

Jobs also strived for a campus that stood the test of time. Tom Carlisle, Pixar’s facilities director adds that, “He didn’t want a standard office-park building—one with corrugated-metal siding or ribbon windows. The building had to look good 100 years from now. That was his main criterion.”

The Atrium and Unplanned CollaborationsPixar’s campus design originally separated different employee disciplines into different buildings – one for computer scientists, another for animators, and a third building for everybody else. But because Jobs was fanatic about these unplanned collaborations, he envisioned a campus where these encounters could take place, and his design included a great atrium space that acts as a central hub for the campus.

The biography adds that Jobs believed that, “If a building doesn’t encourage [collaboration], you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity. So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.”

The atrium houses a reception, employee mailboxes, cafe, foosball, fitness center, two 40-seat viewing rooms, and a large theater – and was planned by Jobs to house the campus’ only restrooms. The idea was that people who naturally isolate themselves would be forced to have great conversations, even if that took place while washing their hands. Today, they do have more than one restroom, of course. But it was the idea behind it that was important.

Brad Bird, director of The Incredible and Ratatouille, said of the space, “The atrium initially might seem like a waste of space…But Steve realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen.”

And did it work? “Steve’s theory worked from day one,” said John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer “…I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”

Jobs’ Meticulous Eye for… Steel Beams?

Steve Jobs is well-known for his meticulous eye for elegance and design when it comes to Apple’s products. But another area where this fanaticism for detail came out was with regard to the steel beams used in the construction of the Atrium.

“The architects used cold-rolled, bead-blasted steel, and all connections are custom-bolted, not welded, purely for aesthetics’ sake.”

His biography adds more, “Because the building’s steel beams were going to be visible, Jobs pored over samples from manufacturers across the country to see which had the best color and texture. He chose a mill in Arkansas, told it to blast the steel to a pure color, and made sure the truckers used caution not to nick any of it.”

And some additional investigation found that, “A field painter cleaned it again and applied a “clear coat” of paint to it. All of the bolts that were visible had round heads in lieu of hex heads to give the illusion riveted connections. Rivets have not been used since the 1950′s.

At one point in time Pixar asked that the round head of the bolt have the Pixar “ant” stamped into the head. They abandoned this idea due to cost.”

A Clean Interior Slate to Allow Organic Creativity

Moving beyond the atrium itself, the entire building plan was meant to provide a clean slate that gave Pixar the ability to creatively fill the space as it saw fit – in a very organic way.

One fun way in which this organic creativity manifested itself was in the creation of a hidden speakeasy known as the Lucky 7 Lounge – which has been visited by many special visitors like Randy Newman, Michael Eisner, Michael Cera, and even Steve Jobs himself. Though the lounge was not in the original plan, allowing for fun and spontaneous elements was.

Office Spaces That Live and Breathe

Having tried a much more open, cubicle-based plan at their previous headquarters and noting the difficulty in getting work done, Pixar opted to go with a much more closed environment this time around. Many offices are arranged in U-shaped units of 5-6 individual offices – with a central gathering area in the middle that brings the idea of the creating unplanned collaboration down to a smaller, workspace-sized concept.

In terms of decoration and style, employee office spaces are a sight to be seen. Some work in small house huts, other share space, some stand up. John Lasseter’s office (image right, click to zoom) is filled to the brim with toys – clearly not your average executive office.

Brad Bird notes, “If you walk around downstairs in the animation area, you’ll see that it is unhinged. People are allowed to create whatever front to their office they want. One guy might build a front that’s like a Western town. Someone else might do something that looks like Hawaii…John [Lasseter – Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer] believes that if you have a loose, free kind of atmosphere, it helps creativity.”

Many employees, especially animators, are given setups with 2-3 very large monitors, some 3d enabled with Pixar specific animation software that was developed in-house.

Steve Jobs’ office was described as being the cleanest office at Pixar – which from the looks of it houses a very minimally spaced set of Eames Plywood chairs, a Noguchi Table, a Razor scooter, and not much else.

Elsewhere in the campus lie office chairs that originally were owned by Walt Disney Studios from the 30’s. Though the original plan called for a very mid-century modern aesthetic, utilizing classic design as well as rugs that were handwoven by Tibetans in Nepal.

The campus itself also houses modeling workshops, storyboard rooms, a massive render farm, and of course orchestra and sound recording facilities.

An Epic Campus Landscaping Plan

Though most companies do not have the ability to develop a major campus landscaping plan, Pixar wished to use their 20-acre campus as a special, unified place carved out of the surrounding urban context. “The landscape, designed by Peter Walker Partners, is agrarian than manicured in character, with many seemingly undiscovered places to walk, sit and talk, or eat lunch.”

The exterior campus includes a 600-seat outdoor amphitheater, a soccer field, and an organic vegetable garden used by Pixar’s chefs, flower cutting gardens and a wildflower meadow. And for both fun and fitness, they also have an olympic-sized swimming pool, volleyball court, jogging trail, and basketball court.

As Jobs put it – these amenities were meant “to keep his young animation staff happy – and animated.”

In order to create the desired agrarian atmosphere, the exterior is filled with both native and exotic plants and trees – including European beech, live oak, palms, redwoods, Japanese maple, and cottonwood trees. The visitor entrance also boasts a series of beautiful rose gardens.

To Fence or Not to Fence?

An interesting point of contention in the development of the campus came, oddly enough, over Pixar’s desire to fence in the property during the second phase of the campus. Why fence in the property?

The company’s Director of Facilities explained, “We are a movie studio, and this is what movie studios do, now that we are a more successful company, people want to get into Pixar. We get fans and tourists; we call them ‘looky-loos. But we also get people who want to steal our intellectual property, our ideas, It’s no laughing matter that the world is a much different place than in 1998.”

Emeryville’s city council initially denied the expansion plans over the fence, but it seems after pressure from Pixar – and a threat or two to leave Emeryville – the plan (fence included) was approved.

Connecting with the Workplace

Creating a work environment that people enjoy working in can be one of the most challenging aspects of modern office design. And surely one of the most memorable features of Pixar’s are the many characters, both big and small, that find their way around the campus. Outside you’ll find a huge version of Luxo Jr., while the cast of The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. can be found within the atrium.

Why do they do this? Sure it adds some brand value to a campus that otherwise might seem plain, but for a company like Pixar who slaves for many years bringing their films to life, I think it represents a connection to and love of their work.
There can be no greater feeling that walking around the workplace and being reminded of the great work you helped to produce – as well as seeing the smiles of the many visitors as they recollect the ways each movie touched their lives.

Coming Back to Reality

If you’ve been reading and thinking about how much your work environment need improvement in order to match up with Pixar, you aren’t alone. The company currently employs around 1200 people – has since built several more phases which have added room for more employees in additional buildings which include a rooftop garden, central hearth, as well as bringing much of the campus to LEED Silver certification.

Much of the latest work has been completed by Huntsman Architectural Group, and Gensler.

Now while the campus has expanded significantly past its original bounds, the plan designed around creating an atmosphere where creativity thrives is still very much intact.

But while we can sit around and mope about how our offices are stiflingly terrible, we should actually be considering what things we can learn from this design and how we can implement them into our own workplaces.

Here are a few things to help create that ‘Pixar feeling’ in your office:
1.    Be intentional about designing for collisions and unplanned collaboration – rather than using managerial force.
2.    Use the office space to remind employees why they work for the company.
3.    Make the office fun and a place employees want to work, rather than have to work.
4.    Allow employees to express themselves through their workspaces.

Additional Photography

While my original post on Pixar included some shots, I have since come across a number of additional campus views that I hope you will enjoy. Much of the following photography – specifically the beautiful architectural photography – was completed by Sharon Risedorph Photography. The photo of Luxo JR was taken by Jason Pratt.

Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Office Market

Suburban Offices are Back

First, let me say, I told you so.  I have been saying for some time that the huge shift to urban core will not be sustained.  There are companies that want/need to have that environment so I am still bullish on urban cores, but there are others who will reverse the three-decade trend of moving offices closer and closer to the employees’ (and primarily the decision makers’) home.  Below is a Bloomberg article about businesses seeing millennials growing older and betting on them settling down in the suburbs.
 
Here are some summary points:
 
–        “Open and creative offices” are moving to the suburbs.
–        Millennials want to be closer to the city when they are young but as they start families they move to suburban areas.
–        Companies are taking urban office features and incorporating them into suburban areas to attract millennials.
–        Suburban offices are cheaper than urban offices – this will change as market conditions change. Contact our team to see what the differences are today in your market and submarket.
 
This is where having a seasoned professional on your side is critical.  That is what we do—represent tenants as they evaluate their office space and locations.  Call us if you need some sound advice from a trusted source.

 

Craig

602.954.3762


Suburban Offices Are Cool Again
By Patrick Clark and Rebecca Greenfield

October 17, 2017First you leave the city for a kid, a garage, and a backyard. Then you get a job in an office park—only maybe it’s an officepark with yoga and food trucks.For millennials, the suburbs are the new city, and employers chasing young talent are starting to look at them anew.For years companies like Twitter, Salesforce, and GE have headed downtown, framing their urban offices as recruiting tools for young talent. After opening a new headquarters in downtown Chicago last year, Motorola Solutions bragged that it got five times the job applicants it had in the suburbs. Suburban landlords like Charles Lamphere kept hearing a common refrain from tenants: “We need to go to the city to get millennials.”

Fresh college graduates might be attracted to downtown bars and carless commutes, but these days, for older millennials starting families and taking out mortgages, a job in the suburbs has its own appeal. “What people find is that the city offers a high quality of life at the income extremes,” says Lamphere, who is chief executive of Van Vlissingen & Co., a real-estate developer based in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, Ill. “The city is a difficult place for the average working family.” 

Many employers, hoping to attract millennials as they age, are trying to marry the best of urban and suburban life, choosing sites near public transit and walkable suburban main streets. “What’s desired downtown is being transferred to suburbanenvironments to attract a suburban workforce,” says Scott Marshall, an executive managing director for investor leasing at CBRE Group. 

Marriott International’s recent search for a site to replace its old office park in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Md., led it not into Washington but just across town, into Bethesda’s more transit-accessible downtown. (Jim Young, Marriott’s vice president of corporate facilities, cites access to “some of the nation’s top public schools”—something more millennials will care more about as their kids get older.) When Caterpillar Inc. announced its move from Peoria, Ill., to the Chicago suburbs earlier this year, CEO Jim Umpleby bragged that the new site “gives employees many options to live in either an urban or suburbanenvironment.”

Suburban landlords are upgrading office parks with amenities to mimic urban life, too. At Van Vlissingen’s properties, that’s meant fitness centers, food-truck Fridays, beach volleyball courts, and a fire pit and amphitheater where monthly concerts are staged. Origin Investments, a real-estate investment firm, recently spruced up a dated office building outside Denver with a 4,000-square-foot fitness center and a “barista-driven” coffee lounge and stationed a rotating cast of food trucks outside a building it owns near Charlotte.

Suburban office parks appeal because they’re cheap compared to downtown buildings, says Dave Welk, a managing director at Origin, which is based in Chicago. But his firm’s suburban thesis builds on the belief that city-loving millennials will eventually opt for suburban accoutrements. 

“The thinking has been, ‘We’re in a 20- to 30-year supercycle of urbanization,’” Welk says. “I believed that five years ago. I don’t believe it anymore.”

None of this means the suburbs are going to supplant central cities as job hubs. After all, jobs traditionally based in cities—jobs in professional industries as well as the service jobs that support them—are growing faster than those typically based outside of them, according to Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.

At the same time, Americans are more likely to live in the suburbs today than they were in 2000, and even the young, affluent ones drawn to cities tend to move once their kids reach school age, Kolko’s research shows. Many of those workers will suffer long commutes into the city center. Others will opt for jobs closer to their suburban homes.

Jack Danilkowicz, 29, moved to Chicago in 2012 for a job at a financial job downtown, but within a few years, he got married and started plotting his move to the suburbs. He landed a job at Horizon Pharma, a drugmaker with offices in the northern suburb of Lake Forest, and moved with his wife to nearby Libertyville, trading city nightlife for the good public schools their newborn son will one day attend. “I grew up in the suburbs,” he says. “Probably in the back of mind, I always thought the suburbs would be the place to raise a family.”

 

Categories Architecture, Creative Office Spaces, Design, Narrative, Tech Industry

How Tech Office Space Sets the Bar for Everyone Else

What would you do if you had an unlimited budget to improve your company’s next office renovation?  Below is a great article detailing what some tech giants are doing to their interior design to keep their employees happy, productive and in the office. 
 
One simple takeaway is that these companies are doing THE most innovative and comprehensive buildout you can possibly build.  AND they are applying everything in the real world.  We find that our clients, regardless of industry, are watching and observing all these changes and then incorporating as many of their favorite features as they can afford into their own space.
 
Contact me if you would like to see some examples in Phoenix or across the US.

Andrew
602.954.3769
acheney@leearizona.com


 

Technology firms and the office of the future
Their eccentric buildings offer clues about how people will work


April 29th 2017
 

FROM the 62nd floor of Salesforce Tower, 920 feet above the ground, San Francisco’s monuments look piddling. The Bay Bridge, Coit Tower and Palace of Fine Arts are dwarfed by the steel-and-glass headquarters that will house the software company when it is completed later this year. Subtle it is not. Salesforce plans to put on a light show every night; its new building will be visible from up to 30 miles away.

It is not the only technology company erecting a shrine to itself. Apple’s employees have just begun moving into their new headquarters in Cupertino, some 70 kilometres away, which was conceived by the firm’s late founder, Steve Jobs. The four-story, circular building looks like the dial of an iPod (or a doughnut) and is the same size as the Pentagon. At a price tag of around $5bn, it will be the most expensive corporate headquarters ever constructed. Apple applied all its product perfectionism to it: the guidelines for the wood used inside it reportedly ran to 30 pages.

Throughout San Francisco and Silicon Valley, cash-rich technology firms have built or are erecting bold, futuristic headquarters that convey their brands to employees and customers. Another example is Uber, a ride-hailing company, which is hoping to recast its reputation for secrecy and rugged competitiveness by designing an entirely see-through head office. It is expected to have some interior areas, as well as a park, that will be open to the public.

The exteriors of the new buildings will attract most attention, but it is their interiors that should be watched more closely. The very newest buildings, such as Apple’s, are mostly still under wraps, but they are expected to be highly innovative in their internal layout. Some of that is because of fierce competition within the tech industry for the best engineering and other talent: firms are particularly keen to come up with attractive, productive environments. But these new office spaces will also signal how work is likely to evolve. Technology companies have already changed the way people behave in offices beyond their own industry, as a result of e-mail, online search and collaboration tools such as Slack. They are doing the same for physical spaces.

The big idea championed by the industry is the concept of working in various spaces around an office rather than at a fixed workstation. Other industries have experimented with “activity-based working”, but tech is ahead. Employees may still have an assigned desk but they are not expected to be there, and they routinely go to different places to do various tasks. There are “libraries” where they can work quietly, as well as coffee shops, cafés and outdoor spaces for meetings and phone calls. The top two floors of Salesforce Tower, for example, will be used not as corner offices for executives but as an airy lounge for employees, where they can work communally and gaze out at the views over a latté.

A fluid working environment is meant to allow for more chance encounters, which could spur new ideas and spark unexpected collaborations. Facebook’s central building is the world’s largest open-plan office, designed to encourage employees to bump into one another in its common spaces and in a nine-acre rooftop garden. Communal areas are meant to be casual and alluring. John Schoettler, head of real estate at Amazon, says he aims to make them into “living-room-like spaces”. For offices to feel like home, it helps to hire a designer with expertise in residential real-estate, says Elizabeth Pinkham of Salesforce. In common areas at the firm’s offices, there are TVs, couches and bookshelves. Framed photos of a few employees add to the effect.

The new “working at home”

For those who scoff at the creative benefits of being surrounded by pictures of Colin from accounts, there are more tangible payoffs. The lack of fixed workstations shrinks the amount of expensive real estate given to employees without leaving them feeling too squeezed. Tech firms devote around 14 square metres to each employee, around a quarter less than other industries, according to Randy Howder at Gensler, a design firm. Young workers are thought to be more productive in these varied environments, which are reminiscent of the way people study and live at university. One drawback, however, is that finding colleagues can be difficult. Employees need to locate each other through text messages and messaging apps.

Collaborative spaces can also expose generational tensions, says Louise Mozingo, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Tech firms’ elderly employees (otherwise known as the over-40s) can struggle to adjust to moving around during the day and to the frequent disruptions that come from large, open-plan offices. Many of Facebook’s employees do not like their office because it is noisy, and some Apple employees are hesitant to move into their new building for the same reason. Plenty also balk at the massive distances they will need to walk.

That may not be the only thing to cause employees concern. Tech firms are increasingly keen to use their own products in their headquarters. Jensen Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia, a chipmaking firm whose graphics processing units are widely used in artificial-intelligence programmes, says his firm plans to introduce facial recognition for entry into its new headquarters, due to open later this year.

Nvidia will also install cameras to recognise what food people are taking from the cafeteria and charge them accordingly, eliminating the need for a queue and cashier. A self-driving shuttle will eventually zip between its various buildings. And Nvidia’s own AI will monitor when employees arrive and leave, with the ostensible aim of adjusting the building’s heating and cooling systems.

The data that firms can collect on their employees’ whereabouts and activities are bound to become ever more detailed. Another way of keeping tabs on people is through company-issued mobile phones. “Every employee has their own tracking device,” observes Mr Howder at Gensler. “Technology firms will sooner or later take advantage of that.”

Few of them are willing to share details of their future plans because of concerns about employees’ privacy. However, some of their contractors signal what sort of innovations may be in the pipeline. Office-furniture makers, for example, are experimenting with putting sensors in desks and chairs, so that firms will be better able to monitor when workers are there.

Such data could be anonymised to allay privacy concerns. They could also save electricity or help people find an empty room to hold a meeting. But it is not hard to imagine how such data could create a culture of surveillance, where employees feel constantly monitored. “Technology firms could be an indicator of what will happen with privacy in offices more generally,” says David Benjamin of Autodesk, a company that sells software to architects, among other clients.

Silent discos and Bedouin tents

A less controversial trend is for unusual office interiors. These can distinguish companies in the minds of their employees, act as a recruiting tool and also give staff a reason to come into the office rather than work from home. For companies that do not ship a physical product, such offices can serve as important daily reminders of culture and purpose.

Last year LinkedIn, a professional social network, for example, opened a new building in San Francisco that is full of space set aside for networking, and that includes a “silent disco”, where people can dance to music with headphones on. Instead of offering generic meeting rooms with portentous names, Airbnb, a tech firm that lets people rent out their homes, has designed each of its meeting spaces after one of its rental listings, such as a Bedouin tent from Morocco. It also has a meeting room (pictured above) that is an exact replica of the rental apartment where the founders lived when they came up with the idea for Airbnb. Every detail, including the statue of Jesus in red velvet on top of the fireplace, is accurate, says Joe Gebbia, one of the company’s founders.

Nvidia is obsessed with triangles, the basic element of computer graphics used to create lifelike scenes in video games and movies. Its new headquarters, which cost $370m, is shaped like one (see picture), and its interior is full of them. Everything, from the skylights to the benches in the lobby, is triangular. “At this point I’m kind of over the triangle shape, because we took that theme and beat it to death,” admits John O’Brien, the company’s head of real estate, who pointedly vetoed a colleague’s recent suggestion to offer triangle-shaped water bottles in the cafeteria.

Such workspaces remind staff that they are choosing not just an employer but a way of life. In the tech bubble of the late 1990s companies disrupted the workplace by offering foosball tables, nap pods, blow-up castles and free lunches. Now the emphasis is on amenities that help employees save time. Larger firms, including Facebook, Alphabet and LinkedIn, offer their staff something akin to the services used by the extremely wealthy, helping employees to find places to live, adopt pets and the like. Some large tech groups offer on-site health care.

The effect of all this is that the typical office at a technology firm is becoming a prosperous, self-contained village. Employees have fewer reasons than ever to leave. With the spare cash they can throw at their employees, tech giants have vastly raised the bar for other kinds of company, which also want to recruit clever engineers and techies for their projects.

Other industries would be wise to take time to watch how tech firms are structuring their work environments. There is certainly a chance of a backlash against those that use their products to watch employees too closely. Workers may like free lunches and other perks associated with the tech business, but probably not enough to surrender their privacy entirely.

 

Categories Architecture, Creative Office Spaces, Design, Narrative, Open Offices

World’s Coolest Offices 2017

Every year, we share the most innovative offices from around the world (and a few from our own clients).  Below is our list from 2017. 

First, you get a few of the best clients we were fortunate enough to work with this past year. We can hold our own here in the Valley of the Sun.  Below our clients are the international companies from Inc. Magazine. It’s amazing to see the creativity that goes into building out all of these spaces.  
 
Pick your favorite. I love Kudelski (our client—but I’ve been in the space), and the Airbnb space in Dublin.  Scroll down, it’s worth your time. 
 
Enjoy,

Craig

PS — In addition to the coolest offices of 2017, we had a client (Oaktree Capital and Cypress Properties) turn loose 4 architects to build out 4 spaces without direction or budget.  We called it Project Future (check out this background video). These 4 spaces turned out fabulous and the 600 people who toured them on opening night loved the show. Click here to see the spaces and the party.


MindBody

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SkySong 4

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Greater Phoenix Economic Council

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Booker Software

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Kudelski Security

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And of course, our home, Lee & Associates

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15 OFFICES THAT WILL MAKE YOU INSANELY JEALOUS

By JEREMY BITTERMANN
Inc._logo
December 29th, 2017

 

Crazy indoor plant life. Castles and opium factories converted into headquarters. Inc. has been keeping tabs on the very coolest offices throughout the year. Here are the best of the best. 

1.    One with nature

If you can’t work outdoors, bring the outdoors inside. Swedish gaming company King used real lichen and trees built out of plywood to create a hideaway that feels like a Scandinavian forest. 

IMAGE: KING; DESIGN: ADOLFSSON & PARTNERS; PHOTOGRAPHY: JOACHIM BELAIEFF

2. Nod to yesteryear

Airy and filled with natural light, WeWork’s flagship China office is built into what used to be an opium factory. The space uses the building’s original staircase and steel beams, painted green for a more natural feel. 

IMAGE: DESIGN: WEWORK & LINEHOUSE; PHOTO: WEWORK

3. Color by number

Dutch architecture firm MVRDV designed a wing of its headquarters to resemble a doll house. The rooms are color-coded by purpose, from the red TV lounge to the dark blue meeting room.

IMAGE: PHOTOGRAPHY: OSSIP VAN DUIVENBODE

4. Through the years

The offices of genealogy company Ancestry pay tribute to the firm’s employees–and their roots. Portraits of long-tenured workers are hung next to photos of family members from generations ago.

IMAGE: DESIGN: RAPT STUDIO; PHOTO: JEREMY BITTERMANN

5. Over the rainbow

Media agency Canvas outfitted its office with dichroic glass, which reflects light at different angles. The glass changes color depending on the time of day and the angle at which you view it. 


IMAGE: CANVAS WORLDWIDE; DESIGN: A+I; PHOTO: MICHAEL WELLS

6. Get nutty

Vice’s Toronto office has a bar designed to feel like a throwback saloon. Made of walnut, it’s stocked with coffee and tea, plus bourbon and whiskey for after hours.


IMAGE: ADRIEN WILLIAMS

7. A colorful history

British startup Money.co.uk converted a Victorian castle into its new home. The new digs combine old-fashioned decor with kitschy elements and pops of color for a truly unique feel. 


IMAGE: DESIGN: INTERACTION; PHOTO: CHRIS TERRY

8. Stepping up

Airbnb’s Dublin office is the first one the company has designed from scratch. It’s broken into 29 distinct “neighborhoods,” and the staircase at the center serves as a lounge and meeting area.


IMAGE: DESIGN: HENEGHAN PENG ARCHITECTS; PHOTO: DONAL MURPHY

9. Recharge

PwC’s new Switzerland office gives employees the chance to catch up on rest in the nap room. The natural color palette gives the space a calming, outdoorsy feel.


IMAGE: DESIGN: EVOLUTION DESIGN; PHOTO: PETER WUERMLI

10. Keep it green

Instead of dividers or walls, co-working space Second Home separates its cubicles with greenery. The Lisbon, Portugal-based office is home to more than 1,000 plants, which also helps improve the office’s air quality.


IMAGE: DESIGN: SELGASCANO; PHOTO: IWAN BAAN

11. Grayscale

Squarespace went with a sleek, minimalist scheme for its 98,000 sq. ft. New York office. It’s almost entirely black, white, and gray, with the only splashes of color coming from the plant life. 


IMAGE: DESIGN: A+I; PHOTO: SQUARESPACE

12. The ring

Apple’s new spaceship-like headquarters give life to a vision initially laid out by Steve Jobs. The campus is home to 12,000 employees and 9,000 trees, and it relies entirely on renewable energy.


IMAGE: COURTESY APPLE

13. It’s alive

That’s not a painting: LinkedIn’s 26-story San Francisco headquarters feature a living wall next to the 17th story juice bar. It’s made of various types of moss and has both depth and texture.

IMAGE: DESIGN: IA INTERIOR ARCHITECTS; PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIC LAIGNEL

14. Dual purpose

Boston-based Pillpack outfitted its lounge with a refurbished Prohibition-era bar. It serves espresso during the day and turns into a DJ booth during nighttime events.


IMAGE: DESIGN: HALEY MCLANE, PHOTOGRAPHY: JARED KUZIA

15. Looking forward

Google broke ground on its new London headquarters in late 2017. The 1,066-foot “landscraper” will contain offices, swimming pools, and basketball courts, and will be almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall.


IMAGE: COURTESY GOOGLE

 

 

Categories Architecture, Creative Office Spaces, Narrative

Third Space First

You heard it here first (hopefully).  There is a new type of space for companies called third spaces.  Third spaces are places for local people to gather and eat, with areas for creative, cultural, and community activities. This is where ideas and startups are born.

If this concept takes off, the next wave of development will need to add third spaces into the design, and existing developments will renovate to add them.  We are seeing it happen with a couple of projects we have in Phoenix.

Renaissance Square is turning two old tennis courts into a very cool collaborative space that will include a multi-use turf field, kitchen and bar area. Here is what it looks like today and the rendering:

  
Tennis Courts Rendering      Ren Tennis Courts

Camelback Commons took a huge gravel courtyard and added several workspaces along with games and seating areas that are right next to an onsite restaurant.

 
Camelback Commons Before   Camelback Commons

    
The market is changing…..and fast. We are right in the middle of it. 

Craig

 

602.954.3762
ccoppola@leearizona.com

P.S. In part 2 of the premiere, the guys get some one-on-one time with Figtree Capital to see if they can make that special connection.Watch the video below!


 

Third Space First
The quickly growing number of third spaces is good news for both the social and the urban fabrics. 

By: Erling Fossen 
January 10, 2017

Real estate used to be quite simple. Either you built houses where people lived (first space), or you built offices where people worked from 9 to 5 (second space). What a way to make a living. Then came mixed-use development, where you combined living, working, and leisure in the same area. New York got its first mixed use-zoning districts [pdf] as late as 1997. Now it’s all about third spaces.

A local community group in Dublin gives the best and yet simplest explanation of the “third space” concept, defining third space as “places for local people to gather & eat easily, inexpensively & regularly, with space for creative, cultural and community activities.”

If we dig below the surface of that definition, there exist two fundamentally different approaches to third space, though they are united by the core concept of human interaction. One is connected to an American nostalgia about great places and the erosion of social capital. Communities need places where people can interact and nurture common values. There can be no community without common values.

The other approach is connected to innovation and creativity. Third space connotes creative places where new ideas and start-ups are born. Third places can be co-working spaces, co-creation spaces, shared spaces, community spaces, social spaces, and more. At the center of all these approaches to third spaces are creativity and the desire to foster and commercialize new ideas. Even co-working spaces put their biggest effort in community building. In an ongoing global survey of co-working spaces, nearly 80 percent say the most important feature to attract new members is community building.

In the Western Hemisphere, the number of co-working spaces is increasing rapidly every year. Oslo had ten co-working spaces last year, and we’re looking at 20 this year. Even the secretary of finance in Norway—Siv Jensen—visited a co-working space to learn about how Millennials work and play. When she visited Tøyen Start Up Village last year, she boldly stated that “the entrepreneurs are the real heroes” of our time.
   
Commercial real estate used to be all about building new headquarters for Fortune 500-companies—or at least for a large single user with a 30-year lease. But end users are not what they used to be. There are many users occupying a single building—drop-in users, short-term users, and maybe a few long-term users. That means developers and designers have to create third spaces both inside and outside the building, where people can interact and capitalize on the ideas brought into existence during and after interplay. Without third spaces, there is no interaction, no attraction, and there are no users.

Public places suffer in general because they don’t generate profit. Both the public authorities and the real estate developers are constantly trying to push the responsibility over to each other. The contemporary quest for third spaces is, therefore, good news. Real estate development must be urban development, literally building its business model around the third spaces. Real estate developers must scrap their Excel sheets and the old business models, or somebody else will. Professional co-workings spaces like WeWork can offer medium sized companies a shared space in larger buildings. Another example, the extensive New Lab in the former Brooklyn Navy Yard, offers a roof and creative surroundings to all the hardware geeks in New York.

Real estate is no longer about buildings, but how we use the urban fabric to create communities that are economically and social sustainable. That’s a completely new ball game for real estate developers. But it’s very good news for the rest of us.

 

Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative

UBS Reinvents the Work Space

When you start a new job at a new office, what’s the first thing you do? For most of us, the answer is get settled in your workspace. You are assigned a desk, maybe put up a few pictures, stock the drawers with your favorite pens, and meet your neighbors.

But this simple act of settling in is disappearing as offices move away from permanent work stations to a more flexible office concept.  

UBS is one company making the settling in process go away. Here are some of the revolutionary things they are doing in their office space: 

–They allow and encourage employees to move from desk to desk. (They now have 25-30,000 people using mobile desktops…by the end of 2017 they expect over 70,000.)
–Using the ratio of 1 available desk for every 1.2 employees. This forces movement.

–They are looking to have a total of 6,000 employees going mobile, which will reduce the number of individual offices by 40%. So, there is a bottom-line win for these changes. 

I am not completely sold on these changes. They will not work for every company, but knowing that real companies are making real change helps us think about our own environments.

We work every day with tenants that are implementing this kind of radical change in their workspace. Want to know more? Give me a call. 

 

Craig
602.954.3762
ccoppola@leearizona.com

No Laptop, No Phone, No Desk: UBS Reinvents the Work Space
By: Chad Bray
the-new-york-times-logo
November 3, 2016
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UBS offices in Zurich. In its newly opened building in London, the banking giant is
looking to change the way employees view their relationship with their workspaces.
 CreditArnd Wiegmann/Reuters

LONDON — A desk is like a home away from home for many in the working world.Family photos, trinkets from a vacation, an extra pair of shoes or spare chopsticks are just some of the things routinely left lying around in what has become personal space.

But that comes at a price for companies, particularly in cities like London or New York, where the cost of real estate is at a premium, and at a time when workers are more mobile than ever.

In its newly opened building in central London, the Swiss banking giant UBS is looking to change the way employees view their relationship with their work spaces.Many of its employees at 5 Broadgate in the City of London will no longer be tied to the same desk every day with a telephone and desktop computer. Instead, the company has deployed so-called thin desks throughout the building.

Phone handsets were replaced by personal headsets, and employees can log onto their virtual desktops on computers at any desk in the building or at home. There are no laptops to lug around, and their phone numbers follow them from desk to desk or to their mobile devices.

“For me, it’s opening up and allowing people to work in different ways on whatever project, whatever activity they’re working on,” said Andrew Owen, managing director for UBS group corporate services in London. “Being chained to a desk in a singular environment is restrictive.”Employees have a small amount of filing space and a locker where they can keep any personal items they might use during the day. (Larger caches of documents that are held on paper for the longer term can be retrieved from an off-site location within two hours.)

The elimination of fixed desks is not a new concept — it has proved particularly popular among technology companies and start-ups — but only in recent years has technology made it more viable for larger companies.
It is still a rarity, however, in investment banking. Citigroup is one of the few companies that has a similar setup, at its new headquarters in downtown Manhattan.

And the practice has not yet infiltrated all aspects of UBS’s business.The trading floors at UBS in London still have a more traditional setup, with groups of employees heading to the same set of desks each day to view three or six screens of trading data.

But that could change in the future. “The trading desk is our next port of call to achieve user mobility,” Ashley Davis, managing director for the UBS corporate center in London, said.

By having a more mobile setup for its employees, UBS believes it is able to use its real estate more efficiently. The company is using a ratio of one available desk for every 1.2 employees who work in the new building in London.More than 6,000 people will ultimately work there; about 89 percent have moved in so far.

There are common areas where employees can gather for meetings or work if the company finds itself at full desk capacity. Most days, however, someone is traveling or on vacation.

UBS executives insist the shift is not all about costs.“I would be wrong to sit here and say there isn’t an economic efficiency dimension,” Mr. Owen said. “In and of itself, that’s not the reason to do it. It would fail on that basis. It has to be of value to our staff and our structure in the way we operate. There has to be a value there.”

UBS spent two years preparing workers in London for the new mobile desk concept and addressing their concerns, Mr. Owen said.

The new metal-covered office building, designed by Ken Shuttleworth of Make Architects, had to overcome a variety of challenges to fit into the neighborhood.

It could not block the view of St. Paul’s Cathedral in central London from King Henry’s Mound, 14 miles away in Richmond. (Legend has it that the mound was the spot where Henry VIII watched a rocket fired from the Tower of London to signal the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, but historians believe the story to be untrue.)As a result, the 700,000-square-foot building is long and flat and rises only 13 stories, what Make calls a “groundscraper” rather than a skyscraper. UBS has a 20-year lease on the property.

Inside, UBS has significantly reduced the number of individual offices, by about 40 percent. None sit against the windows, allowing light throughout the building.

UBS first started a pilot project for mobile desks in Switzerland in 2010 — about the same time it was preparing for the construction of its new building in London.It now has 25,000 to 30,000 employees using mobile desktops in Switzerland and is rolling out the concept to its operations in Nashville and India. By the end of 2017, the company expects to have about 72,000 thin desks globally.

“Working together, talking to each other, working in a more agile way. People are probably not so fixed any more in their working environment,” said Harald Egger, UBS’s head of group corporate services and sourcing. “They work much more in projects.”

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Categories Creative Office Spaces, Narrative, Tech Industry

Shipping Containers and Farming?

Months ago, I wrote a narrative on old warehouses becoming indoor farms. (Click here to read.)  Now, we are seeing shipping containers being used to grow produce.  No transportation costs and no packaging costs are clear advantages of this new way of farming. Here are are few more:
 
–          Each 320 sq. ft. box has the growing power to produce 2 acres of lettuce a year.
–          Grow time from seed to harvest can be 6 weeks.
–          Funding for food and agricultural technology startups has doubled in the past year to over $4 billion.
–          No pesticides or GMO’s needed.
–          6 of the top 10 most popular vegetables can be grown in these shipping containers.
 
The times are changing. Want to know more about how space is being used creatively? Give me a call.  

 

Craig
602.954.3762
ccoppola@leearizona.com

Are Shipping Containers the Future of Farming?

The startup Freight Farms is using repurposed freight containers and LED lights to grow acres’ worth of produce in a fraction of the space
By CHRISTOPHER MIMS
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June 8, 2016
INSIDE THE CAVERNOUS INTERIOR of a former Boston-area taxi depot—walls covered in graffiti, pools of water on the concrete floors—three gleaming green-and-white containers sit side by side. The steel boxes are former “reefers”—refrigerated shipping containers used to transport cold goods. Bone-chilling rain is falling outside, but inside the 320-square-foot boxes, it’s a relatively balmy 63 degrees, and the humid air is heavy with the earthy smell of greens. Filling each box are 256 neat vertical towers of plants, bathed in a noonday-intense pink light.
 
The crops being cultivated here—lettuce, herbs and other leafy greens—are not what we’ve come to expect from this kind of operation. But the company behind this agricultural innovation owes a large debt to America’s pot farmers. Freight Farms was founded in 2010, its existence predicated on a bet that LEDs would soon become efficient enough for farming as if the sun had disappeared—without breaking the bank. Co-founder Brad McNamara puts it this way: “Traditional research said, yeah, LEDs are good, but the more important research was that they were improving at a Moore’s-Law rate.” Moore’s Law, used to describe the exponential increase in computing power over the past 50 years, can be applied to LEDs thanks in part to the needs—and considerable resources—of marijuana growers.

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In addition to 128 LED strips, each “farm” has a water circulation system, 8 gallon-size tanks of liquid fertilizer and a propane tank for producing supplemental CO2—all running on as little as 10 gallons of water and 80 kWh of energy per day. Under the right conditions, a grower can go from seeds to sellable produce within six weeks. According to data pooled by the company, an average Freight Farms box can produce 48,568 marketable mini-heads of lettuce a year—the growing power of two acres of farmland.

Freight Farms is part of a rapidly expanding field: Food and agricultural technology startups received $4.6 billion in investment in 2015, almost double the $2.36 billion that poured into the sector in 2014, according to a report from agriculture investment platform AgFunder. Companies like John Deere and Monsanto have long invested in new technology for conventional farming, but we’re now seeing a disruption of farming itself.

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“A tractor passes quickly over rows of lettuce—too quickly, it seems, to be performing any complex task. But this tractor is outfitted with computer vision from Blue River Technology, which uses image-recognition artificial intelligence to identify the weeds and weaker plants. In a flash, the machine thins the crop and feeds the healthy lettuce heads—doing a field worker’s job in a fraction of the time.

“But a (potentially) bigger benefit of agricultural AI is a more focused application of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, which, when sprayed indiscriminately across entire fields, wreak havoc on our ecosystems. Blue River hopes to lower both the cost and the environmental impact of farming—not bad for what started as a Stanford class project.”
—Mike Ramsey

In 2010, Gotham Greens completed what was then the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse, perched atop a Brooklyn warehouse. “When we started this thing in 2009, we were one of the only ones out of this new guard of hydroponic indoor farming,” says co-founder and CEO Viraj Puri. “In 2016, there’s probably 100 of us.” Near Chicago, FarmedHere, which sells produce to Whole Foods, operates a 16,000-square-foot warehouse filled with towers of hydroponic greenery. In Newark, N.J., AeroFarms, which recently received over $30 million from investors such as Goldman Sachs, is transforming a 70,000-square-foot steel mill into the world’s largest indoor vertical farm.

Freight Farms has received $5 million in funding to date and projects to sell 150 farms this year, at $80,000 each. Selling produce to consumers has proved difficult for many ag startups, but Freight Farms operates no commercial farms itself; instead, the company supplies the technological infrastructure and tools to grow. As a result, its business model has less in common with agricultural operations than it does with Google or Facebook, from its start in a tech incubator to its reliance on data, code and automation. Every Freight Farms box sends a river of data—such as temperature, humidity readings and CO2 levels—back to the company’s central servers. Just as Google becomes more powerful as more people use it, each Freight Farms owner benefits from insight gained across the network. Buyers, many of whom are first-time farmers, are trained in a two-day course and connected by a private online forum where they share everything from data on crop selection to marketing ideas.

There are more than 60 Freight Farms containers installed in 22 states and two Canadian provinces, in climates ranging from the long winters of Ontario to the sweltering heat of Texas. In a development that surprised even the company’s founders, the containers are increasingly making their way onto traditional farms for supplemental income outside the growing season. But most are parked in the interstitial spaces of cities, from warehouses and underneath highway overpasses to alleyways behind the restaurants where their crops are served. The result is hyperlocal produce, which sometimes travels just a few feet from farm to table.


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“We harvest it in the morning, and often it’s in a salad for lunch,” says Bobby Zuker, co-owner of Green Line Growers, which operates out of the former Boston-area taxi depot.

“It feels like a little bit of a science project,” says Mike Betts, a personal chef in Boston who buys lettuce, spinach, kale and herbs from Green Line Growers. “They’re specifically dialing in the nutrients—exactly what that plant needs—and it comes through. You break off their lettuce and it has heightened sweetness. Their arugula is a lot spicier than the wholesale version of it that’s cut a week before and sitting in a plastic container until I buy it.”

That just-picked freshness comes at a price. Green Line Growers sells its mini-lettuces for $1.25 a head—more than twice the cost of typical organic store-bought lettuce. Like many tech services before it, Freight Farms is starting off as a niche product for the rich, but that may not always be the case. The cost of growing indoors is likely to drop with improvements in the efficiency of LEDs, which are projected to require half as much energy in 2030 as they do today.

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Gotham Greens CEO Mr. Puri cautions that indoor farming is unlikely to render traditional farming obsolete. “Hydroponics and controlled-environment agriculture lends itself to certain types of produce, like highly perishable leafy greens, salads, herbs and vining crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers,” he says “But a lot of other ag staples can’t be grown in a commercially profitable way, like grains, root vegetables and tropical fruit.” For the fortunes of Freight Farms and its competitors—not to mention American consumers on the whole—that may not matter. According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the market for organic produce in the U.S. was $15 billion in 2014. Right now, a Freight Farms container can grow six of the 10 most popular vegetables in America, and demand for those items is expected to increase if Freight Farms achieves its ultimate goal of producing vegetables without pests or pesticide for less than the wholesale cost of their conventional alternative. If that happens, boxed farming could go a long way to feeding a growing population with shrinking arable land. And assuming Uber continues its success, there’ll be plenty more abandoned taxi depots, too.

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