As technology becomes more and more advanced, we are noticing a change in how the design world handles physical samples and reference materials. Gone are the days of having multiple furniture, carpet, and lighting binders. The need to have space for all of these things to live is becoming less and less physical and more and more digital.
Over the last year, we decided to take a hard look at our materials library and start to cull and organize each area to get rid of outdated binders, materials, etc. The goal was to create a more collaborative space for designing. As a result, we have been able to downsize our physical material library by about 50%. We now have the most current samples, updated binders, and the newest products available in order to design the best spaces we can.
With less shelving, the now open space allowed us to add some lounge seating and a dedicated work area. This not only benefits r.o.i. Design, but also makes for a more hospitable place for our clients to visit and review selections and materials for their projects.
Returning customer United Commercial Services (UCS) came to r.o.i. Design with an interesting challenge. They purchased a building in the Creston Heights Neighborhood of Grand Rapids that originally was a mortuary but most recently a medical clinic. They wanted to remodel it to create a new home for their cleaning and maintenance business.
Greg Metz from Lott3Metz provided the architecture and together we planned the space that included a central kitchen lounge, open and closed offices, much-needed conference and collaboration spaces, warehouse, and shop, as well as an entire lower level dedicated to the process of hiring and training new team members. Pinnacle Construction managed the construction and found solutions to the surprises that a 60-year-old building provides.
The exterior got a bit of a facelift, keeping the existing brick but adding new canopies, windows, doors, and trim, giving the building a new bright look.
Not only is their space now larger, giving the team more amenities to make their work efficient, but there are also design features that make working there more fun. Recycled wood panels clad the walls in the lobby, kitchen, and lounge. The kitchen island has big pendant lights and is large enough for the whole team to stand around. There are barn doors to the “war room”, which has an entire wall of whiteboard wallcovering to use for planning projects. The lower level has a kitchenette with bar top tables. Carpet patterns offer interesting pops of color. The lounge furniture from West Elm adds a residential flare.
The location of the new office is near r.o.i. Design’s office. There is a neighborhood myth that UCS’s building was haunted. Since they’ve moved in, they have had more than one reason to believe that they have a part-time guest sharing their space, just in time for Halloween!
United Commercial Services is a Grand Rapids-based cleaning and janitorial service contractor that has been a part of the West Michigan community for over two decades. They clean over 12.5 million square feet each night and manage over 240 employees.
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.
Corporations are looking for ways to make employees more comfortable and productive while in the office. So what creates that happiness and what is the role of design to aid in creating happiness at work?
r.o.i. Design has seen their customers provide a variety of
spaces and amenities to their offices to assist with making a
multi-generational workforce glad to be at the office.
While break rooms are important, so are the other pit stops
and opportunities for refreshment:
A small counter with a beverage fridge and a Keurig reminds folks to keep hydrated.
Some lounge furniture by a window with a view. Doesn’t have to be an enclosed office, just a spot for a moment of contemplation and enjoyment.
If your office is filled with cubicles, converting a small office to a shared space so a couple of folks can work privately can be very productive.
On the stressful days, the old fashioned “tea cart” being pushed around with snacks at least makes them smile.
And then there is the opportunity to communicate to staff
Monitors that run changing images and texts are great for keeping staff “in the know”.
Imagine if, after the boring quarterly meeting, a monitor in the office had funny photos from the meeting with some bullet points to repeat the key points of the meeting, but also to remind folks that they appreciate them coming to the meeting!
Recognize staff for a job well done or celebrate with those crazy birthday announcements
Or just maybe having the company Facebook page up on the screen.
One office we visited had staff DISC profiles looped on a video.
And if your office doesn’t have a ton of space to create
“other spaces”, or a budget for art or technology, consider adding plants and
greenery to soften the interior.
No matter how a company expresses their care for their
employees, any effort to recognize staff efforts and dedication is appreciated.
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…”
Congratulations to Mill Steel Company on the opening of
their new headquarters on Lucerne Drive in Grand Rapids.
This 30-year-old brick building exterior was modernized with new paint and metal siding, roof dormers, canopies and railings, decorative light fixtures and new signage. r.o.i. Design could be seen with large finish samples walking around in the snow and rain last year, working with Mill Steel imagining all of the finish changes.
This project began with r.o.i Design managing a programming step, interviewing a variety of people from Mill Steel and creating bubble plans for Dixon Architecture to use in creating the floor plan. The plan included private offices and meeting rooms, but proportionately much more open office, collaborative and shared spaces. There are a café and a breakroom, as well as a patio and fire pit. Staff have plenty of breakout areas for private conversations or just to get away.
Mill Steel wanted the space to be engaging and represent their personalities; they liked clean lines and assured us they weren’t afraid of color. The interior was completely demolished and remodeled – most new walls have glass doors and windows that open up all the rooms to the natural light. r.o.i. Design worked closely with contractors on the lighting and ceiling plans to make sure the space was well lit and energized. The color scheme included their brand blue color but overall was kept neutral, light and bright.
Some of our favorite interior design features include:
Ametal paneled wall in the lobby
A “Live Wall” in the breakroom
Pivot doors from the breakroom to the training room
A custom twenty-one-foot boardroom table
Painted wall graphics
Floors with interesting carpet and luxury vinyl tile patterns throughout the office.
Thank you to Dixon Architecture and Dykhouse Construction
for partnering with us on this great project.
Mill Steel is one of the largest steel service centers in
the nation. They specialize in
flat-rolled carbon steel for various markets including automotive, appliance,
construction, HVAC, and agriculture. Their 32,000 sq. ft. facility is a
two-story building with walkouts on both levels and conveniently located to
For more information on Mill Steel, visit their website.