Over the past few weeks, our team has been learning how to make our spaces safe for the return to work, visits to doctors, and trips to our favorite retailers. We acknowledge solutions presented by suppliers and manufacturers that impact our work in interior design; their products influence our spaces from the air we breathe to the chairs we sit on. Read on to see some of what we’ve learned regarding COVID-19 protection measures and visit our Facebook page throughout the week to get our full take on these solutions.
A building’s filtration in its heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) can be a part of an overall mitigation approach to protect occupants from COVID-19. To reap the full benefits of an HVAC system, cleaning and disinfecting HVAC components, including ductwork, installing high-efficiency (HEPA) filters, and increasing outdoor air ventilation are critical.
WALL COVERINGS AND OTHER SURFACES
We also pulled research on the longevity of the COVID-19 virus on commonly used wall covering materials, and how to effectively eliminate the virus on these surfaces. Today’s manufacturers are integrating antimicrobial technology into interior design elements to keep them cleaner from multiplying bacteria – window shades, paint, door hardware, and faucets. Additionally, the addition of UV lights for more deeply disinfecting the office at night could help to keep walls and other surfaces cleaner.
TEMPORARY WALL PARTITIONS
In addition to pre-existing wall surfaces, temporary wall partitions find relevancy, especially in open offices, to help ease the spreading of viruses. While plexiglass, laminate, or another hard surface has been preferred, those surfaces must be frequently cleaned. Not all fabrics are a good option for the surface of partition, those that are coated or are made specifically to repel moisture would be best. And, while not as attractive, cardboard has been tested and it may be that the virus lives less on cardboard than on plexiglass.
Presented with the problem of maintaining upholstered surfaces in high-traffic and shared spaces, our fabric manufacturers have risen to the challenge and provided, and continue to seek, solutions for safe fabrics. Referencing the EPA’s recommended products for disinfecting, our fabric manufacturers quickly pulled together their resources to help educate us on which materials perform best in an environment that will not require excessive cleaning. Coated fabrics, vinyl, and Crypton meet these standards for cleanability.
Beyond innovations for public and private spaces, the design community is contributing to the solution for your personal space – personal protection equipment. We’ve seen manufacturers and design firms shift their resources and brainpower in response to COVID-19. Fabric manufacturers and independent designers are using their resources to create face masks, and many donate face coverings for each mask purchased.
No one solution protects us completely and it will be a combination of behaviors and tools that gets us through this time. We look forward to more virus testing, and then, of course, the vaccine.
So many things support a healthy culture at work. It is about the variety of types of spaces offered to employees, the acceptance of broad diversity in staff perspectives and skills, as well as management’s desire to build a community that makes an office culture-rich and productive. One component in making all that work is the lighting.
Office lighting levels and colors determine how we see and feel the office environment.
While lighting engineers are striving for an overall “well lit, bright” and “evenly lit” environment, it may be that creating different lighting levels within the corporate office provides some relief or at least some options for the office worker. There is a lighting design theory prevalent now that says when light levels change within an environment, workers note the change and it reduces comfort. We at r.o.i. Design wonder if changes in office light levels create an opportunity for more comfort, not less.
We are conditioned by light in nature. Our relationship with the sun makes us aware of how the light feels different in the spring than in the fall. We walk through the woods and experience direct and bright light in clearings, indirect and dappled light in the forest, and the reflective light while by water.
So how do you bring natural lighting design to your office?
Consider indirect lighting.
Most light we experience is reflected off of other things. Today there are a variety of fixtures that push light to ceilings, and walls that redirect light into the environment. At least 50% of office light needs to use this technique.
Consider changeable lighting.
Giving office dwellers the ability to dim lighting is crucial. Projections and computer screens require less ambient light. And it has been proven that at 3 pm, most offices need a boost of light to energize the office, while earlier in the day people are more productive with less direct light.
Consider multiple sources and points of light within a space.
If an interior space requires a certain level of lumens, make sure that requirement comes from not just one source. Many successfully lit spaces use direct downlight from the highest point, pendant lighting from 8 to 9 feet off the floor, and wall lighting that is 7 feet off the floor. This technique also allows decorative lighting to provide a function, and not just to be pretty.
Consider direct lighting to focus attention.
Much like lighting a billboard, signage, corporate messaging and images, create a “hot spot” of focused light to emphasize what’s important.
While this all sounds expensive, lighting needs can be accomplished on a budget. We are seeing an increased practice of knowledgeable lighting designers working in collaboration with us to create these superiorly lit environments at an affordable price point. Together, lighting design and interior design create spaces that work.
The office break room – it’s the place staff visit many times per day. They may be dropping off their lunch in the fridge, grabbing a cup of coffee, sharing a piece of birthday cake, eating lunch with co-workers, or just finding a spot to focus on some work other than in their cubicle. The “water cooler” days are over. Companies value their employees and want them to feel at home at work, so they are providing break rooms that aim to please. It’s more than just pleasing staff, it’s about building a culture of sharing, collaboration, inclusion, and performance.
r.o.i. Design has fashioned many break rooms, and here are some of the common employee requests:
Enough refrigeration, coffee pots, and microwaves:
“I don’t always have a lot of time for breaks, and if there is a line for the appliances, I skip a break.”
A company with less than 18 employees can get away with one 33” wide refrigerator and one microwave, but as soon as the population tips that number, more appliances are needed. People will congregate at the same time. The value of informal collaboration is priceless, so no one should have to wait to be engaged with others.
Enough space so it’s not cluttered and messy:
“If I am going to spend time in that room, it has to be orderly and calm or I am not going to bother. I also want a variety of seating options as well as everything being clean.”
So, what is enough space, and how do owners legitimize that investment? In planning, if the break room can take on some of the requirements for meeting and gathering, and managers promote the space as a meeting space, then the break room creates an ROI. It can also be a great place to build an internal brand and messaging.
Natural light and natural lighting:
“My desk isn’t close to a window, so I look forward to spending time in the break room and look outside.”
Since most of our designs are in Michigan, the dark seasons can be brutal. Anything owners can do to create settings with natural light, adequate artificial light, related plant space, and outdoor space is significant.
Healthy vending options:
“I don’t expect my work to provide my lunch but when I am too busy to get healthy food, it would be great to know I can get something more than a candy bar or a bag of chips.”
If owners don’t have resources to provide healthy snacks, there are a variety of vendors who have creative programs for healthy snacks.
Information and Technology:
“My job is stressful, and I am staring at a screen all day, but it would be great to look at something other than spreadsheets and plans. Something that informs, educates and entertains me and takes me away from my day.”
Some companies rely on monitors that stream CNN, ABC, CBS, etc. Other companies are getting creative about streaming nature videos, replays of the weekend sports, and editorial videos that relate to the issues of the day.
The cool factor:
“If my break room looked like my local hangout, and my bosses were OK with that, it would say a lot about where I work. I think I could relax more if the break room didn’t feel like part of a corporate plan”.
The break rooms of today are one part Starbucks, one part Whole Foods, and one part Google. The recipe for cool shifts daily, but it doesn’t look like the rest of the office.
Our customers have talked about the hiring process, and the
tour they give to prospective employees, and clearly the break room has a
significant impact on how applicants feel about the company. So the break room
is more than an afterthought, it has a role in describing the goals of the
company and the current corporate culture.
Even six years ago, the buzz about the “casualization” of the workplace started to peak and has been growing since. In an article by Retrofit Magazine, “Today’s Corporate Break Rooms”, a very key point is featured: “If you’re a building owner or facility manager planning to retrofit your office space to incorporate a corporate café or town hall, one thing is clear: You may have the most attractive spaces designed and constructed but unless the culture of your organization is aligned with the casual work style they support, the investment will be for naught. Management must encourage and foster a more flexible approach to how and where people work for these casual breakout spaces to be successful…”
When the logo, the architecture, and interior design all
align, a brand appears. At r.o.i. Design we strive to be engaged in all parts
of the design to achieve a cohesive brand appearance to create the “return on
investment” look and feel that delivers results for our customers.
We have designed logos for a variety of types of identities,
including medical practices, restaurants, and more. A logo typically includes a
mark of some kind, and then words that are seen in particular fonts and styles.
It is quite common that a logo tries to do “too much” and we
spend a lot of time pruning and editing a message, so the final logo can last
In the case of View Point, we collaborated with Campus View’s marketing staff, going back and forth with ideas until a concise visual was realized that included the “peak” of the building but also connected with the View of Campus View, the corporate brand.
Other logos we have designed recently include ABC Pediatrics, Van Haren Dentistry, Wok & Mortar, and HealthBridge.
For r.o.i. Design, the View Point project allowed us to use all our skills and resources. In addition to planning and interior design, we took on the challenge of adding the finishing touches to a warehouse-loft-look by designing, procuring and installing décor. We used numerous reclaimed items, along with new items to complete the look.
We shopped Pitsch Wrecking and came away with some old
windows, bikes, and a few feet of chain-link fencing. We stripped the bikes and
painted them in their entirety, and then hung them from the ceiling. We disassembled
some of the bikes and just mounted their painted wheels on the wall. We cleaned
up the windows, made them shatterproof, and arranged them in the lounge area.
We wanted to use some old warehouse doors but couldn’t find any.
So, we built them in our shop and faux painted them to create the look we wanted,
then installed them in key areas.
We found an artist who had some great “old sign” graphics
and asked them to change the verbiage and design to accommodate some Grand
Valley State University words and icons.
And with the addition of a few IKEA mirrors and some faux
painting by Michael Pfleghaar, the warehouse-loft-look took shape.
Campus View, a major player in student housing in Allendale, MI, wanted to create a different housing option for the student who wants a private personal space but still needs to be connected to a community. They own the building formerly housing “Brian’s Books” near Pierce Road and 48th Street just south of the Grand Valley State University Campus. They decided to turn this 20-year-old retail space into View Point, with 24 small studio apartments, an open lounge area, a common kitchen, an exercise room, and a laundry room.
They called in TJA Architects and r.o.i. Design to help them conceive and execute a plan to create View Point. We developed a hipster design criterion, while still providing top-notch amenities.
Keeping the basic architecture of the building, we had to conceive an exterior finish that would separate it from its former retail storefront look. One of the main front gables was minimized and the face of the building was sided in three different colors of metal panel to create random vertical stripes. We highlighted the entrances with a dramatic asymmetrical face of dark siding contrasted with warm wood planking around the entry doors.
These design criteria resulted in some fun details in the interior common areas:
Oversized, 24-inch tall apartment numbers stenciled on the walls
Funky wicker woven corridor light fixtures
Planked and octagonal modular carpet patterns in random patterns
Custom canvas art using iconic Grand Valley State University names and places
Found and repurposed items for decor
View Point offers its residents a well-appointed one-room apartment with a full bathroom. Each unit includes a small kitchenette area with solid surface countertops, study area, sitting area with a wall-mounted TV, and a bed with trundle storage. Just outside each unit is a lounge area with seating, a huge TV, and a spacious common kitchen with an 18-foot island and personal storage for each resident.