Do you love the open office environment, but sometimes struggle
with the need for a quiet spot to get a project done, have a private
conversation, or just have a moment by yourself?
While trends in office space planning are moving towards no
walls and open spaces, the reality is that most people sometimes need an area
which is peaceful and private, where they aren’t interrupted.
The open office isn’t going away
because it has proven to be great for managing by overhearing, training the new
hire, and collaboration. It also helps the growing company be flexible as they
need to add or move employees without calling a contractor and building more
So, how are offices balancing the need to be together but
“apart”? Our annual trip to NeoCon proved that manufactures are paying
attention to their customers’ open office needs. We saw lots of creative ways
to get a moment of isolation, while still being “available”.
This year the drapery curtain showed up in several showrooms, turning the cubicle walls into a framework that allows for a curtain to be drawn for full separation, or just some. Herman Miller created a lounge in their open office using a giant red velvet curtain and globe lights. Groovy!
There were also a lot of “pods”,
little rooms that manufacturers are now offering as part of the line of
furniture. You buy this tiny room and place it within the open office and plug
it in for power and ventilation.
There were canopies, lids and cones
of all shapes and sizes that aim to keep your voice from traveling to the next.
There was one we called “the cone of silence” that you can pull down around a
So, don’t hate the open office, it doesn’t have to make you
frustrated. You just need to get creative with some relief spaces!
Advantage Label says they “label with a purpose”. They work with their customers to create labels and packaging that present a quality product and promote sales. r.o.i. Design’s experience of Advantage Label was just that, they perform with purpose and wanted their office to show them as a place of quality, efficiency and pride.
Wolverine Building Group contacted r.o.i. Design to support their design process and we were asked to review lighting plans, select finishes and lighting, and help make the break room more of a restaurant than a cafeteria.
Using the red of their logo colors (which was also an accent color on the exterior of the building), r.o.i. Design added charcoals, blue gray and orange to the overall scheme to create depth and variety. The use of planked modular carpet tiles allowed accent colors to be introduced within a consistent field of carpet, without added costs.
Wolverine Power Cooperative is a bold company, with big goals and a humble history. While r.o.i. Design enjoyed every aspect of our time with the group, what is lasting for us is their commitment to their customers, their hopes for their employees, and their desire to do the right thing.
Those values translated into a desire to make their new work place a space where collaboration, communication and innovation would thrive. That meant their new offices and employee culture would be making landmark changes in how they work. Their directive was to allow the space to be as transparent and as inclusive as possible, but also provide an inspiring environment for their business.
Rick Skendzel of Architecture Technology in Traverse City, MI, engaged r.o.i. Design to provide interior design services that included interior details, lighting design, light fixture selections, specialty millwork design and finish selections. Our close work with Skendzel, Wolverine’s Dawn Coon, and construction manager, Apex Engineering’s, Steve Steimel, was a dream team. We all were focused on the same goals, compromises were almost effortless.
Highlights of our design contribution include:
Bringing a natural rhythm to ceilings in open areas with planes of wood and color, helping to organize a large space without adding walls.
Highlighting the sense of innovation with a curved entry wall, LED lighting, textural surfaces and recessed niches to display historical elements.
Using a “birds nest” pattern (symbolic of nature) into details at reception, café and board room.
Adding dramatic lighting in café and open areas.
Creating intimate arrangements of furniture to foster collaboration and interdepartmental socializing.
The history of their cooperative is inspiring and you can learn more about that here.
Manufacturing giant Hutchinson Worldwide has one of their anti-vibration plants in Grand Rapids, MI and that location was selected to be the location for their North American Innovation Center, 616 Fab House. The facility includes a 100 year old factory that originally began as Corduroy Rubber. The historical nature of this plant was in part the reason it was selected as an innovation center as it showcases the historical presence of Hutchinson in the US.
Through a competitive process, r.o.i. Design was selected as the design team to plan the innovation center and over a year the plans developed to include 13,400 square feet of a renovated third floor space. In that space there are video conference rooms, executive conference rooms, training rooms, lounge space, exhibit space and hospitality. In addition to the innovation center space, a new entry tower and approach to the 616 Fab House was designed. Working with Architectural Concepts, Ken Watkins, r.o.i. Design provided complete design and construction documents.
r.o.i. Design’s goal in the design was to celebrate the structure, including the vintage wood beams and columns, the original brick and wood floors, in contrast with the clean, new modern additions of glass, steel and technology. LED lighting was added using fixtures that blend with the historical envelope, providing light and drama without adding unneeded decoration.
Steelcase’s MediaScape products were installed in the space, allowing for multi-faceted video conferencing between Hutchinson offices and their global customers.
The modern space was enhanced with reproductions of historic photos that tell the French and American story of Hutchinson and Corduroy Rubber.
r.o.i. Design is grateful for this opportunity and were very impressed with the focus and dedication of the Hutchinson team and look forward to their continued growth and contributions.
From January 20, 2016 mlive article: French auto and aerospace supplier opens North American innovation center… “The 616 Fab House, which formerly served as a storage area, was built in just under eight months with Pinnacle Construction serving as general contractor and R.O.I. Design handling architectural and design services. About 10,000 square feet of unused space on the third will allow for future expansion.”
The 616 Fab House is Hutchinson’s second innovation center, with the other being the 507 Fab House, located in Montargis, France, near Hutchinson’s Paris world headquarters, according to a company news release. That facility was built by the legendary Gustave Eiffel.
The innovation center, 616 Fab House is part of Hutchinson’s 30-acre campus, is dedicated to research, development and innovative thinking for all of Hutchinson’s divisions.
“It is our intent to use the 616 Fab House as a place to connect using our state-of-the-art video and audio conferencing systems to bring customers together with Hutchinson’s global capabilities,” said Hutchinson North America President and CEO Cedric Duclos. “Additionally, we aim to use this space to foster innovative thinking and brainstorming. Using our touch screen technology and a variety of meeting spaces, we provide a setting that inspires creative, problem-solving thinking that drives Hutchinson’s business forward.”
Not that long ago, we showed up at the City of Grand Rapids building department offices and we were greeted by “What old building are you working on now?” How did we get that recognition?
Maybe its because we renovated a 110 year furniture manufacturing building for our own offices, or maybe it’s because we were the designers of the first loft style work environment on the West Side of Grand Rapids more than 20 years ago, “The Grand Rapids Furniture Campus”.
But more recently, the recognition may be for our work with JGR Real Estate and another 100 year old manufacturing company.
JGR Real Estate Offices
Julie Grevengoed, Owner and Broker of JGR Real Estate purchased an vacant store front on the corner of Bridge and Seward in the West Side of Grand Rapids. JGR had to renovate the entire interior and improve the exterior façade to meet her business needs as well as the requirements of the City of Grand Rapids. r.o.i. Design created the space plan, lighting plan and worked with Wolverine Building, Mike Kelly, to help turn this once pawn shop into a contemporary and inviting space.
Currently we are working on another “antique” owned by an international company who is converting an old manufacturing space into a meeting and conference area for their North American operations. Their teams will gather here for training and innovative collaboration on designing new products. Project is scheduled for January 2016 completion.
It is also possible we are known for the design and re-purposing of old spaces because we have been in the business of delivering a return on investment to our design customers for more than 20 years.
100 Year Old Manufacturing Space Before Renovation
Businesses and associations are starting to promote business gatherings again. The economic hardship of the last 5-8 years drastically impacted that business for properties; now groups are reconsidering the away-training , coincidentally, there are some requests being made of facility design and service from those groups.
Properties have analyzed how many unique guests visited their property in a year, and they know it is possible that more people experience a hotel or resort for a meeting than those whose who come for more than 2 day stay. The meeting and conference business fuels the social business and vise-versa. Properties are more interested than ever to meet new people, offer them hospitality or a day, in hopes they will return for more.
r.o.i. Design has been responding to properties changing needs for meeting and conference, and we share here the trends we see.
In general, the trend is toward “conversation” and “community” supported by technology.
Properties group sales staff are working with a wide variety of “hosts”, not just the millennial.
The decision maker varies in age, experience, role and most importantly by requests. There is not one customer to please. Properties are becoming more and more agile in their response to the meeting and conference business. That means flexibility in furnishings, meals, technology and overall schedule.
Joshua Prager at TED@NewYork talent search. June 7, 2012. New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash
Seating options are no longer limited to banquet, training and theater style layouts.
The incoming group is looking for a wider variety of seating options, and not just for the meeting but for break out and meal arrangements as well. r.o.i. Design has studied this and found a correlation between this expectation and the customers current experience of other environments, including but not limited to, coffee lounges, retail spaces, a recent local “Ted Talk”, church assemblies, university classrooms (virtual and brick) and their own homes. The challenge is to make one group of inventoried furniture morph into a variety of experiences. Requests for accent pillows, more side tables or even lamps have started to show up.
Technology not only means that the participant has to get online.
The presenter needs to have clear access to the internet and an easy way to show their presentation. Offering a plug and play that is effortless for the presenter and allows participants to use their lap tops to also dial into the presentation is going to be the norm.
Lighting and lighting controls need to be controlled by the guest.
If a group is looking at their lap tops to get a better look at the shared presentation they may need a dimmer setting of overhead lights, or if the audience has to be woken up after lunch the present may want to increase light levels, or if the ambient light is changing from daylight to evening, the group needs to have control.
Break Out Spaces with Options
Gluten free, vegetarian, Indian vegetarian, vegan…
The percentage of special meal requests is increasing. The ill fated salad bar is dead but properties are figuring out how to create a manageable “buffet” that each guest can customize without the kitchen having to go through cart wheels to feed the diverse palette. The most innovative are including the guest in their food preparation and providing a lot of options for seating within a proximity of the whole.
Properties are discovering that some of their spaces that may not have been previously considered as viable “meeting and conference” assets to be very appealing to customers.
r.o.i. Design acknowledges that the most successful one day hospitality experiences are the result of an innovative staff, an engaged host, an informed speaker and a facility inventoried with all the items needed to encourage a unique experience.