The new place to be: Trends in office design

With office design experiencing an evolution, CID has taken the time to speak with industry leaders to see what the new trends in office design are and how they’re making the office space the new place to be

Office design is a crucial sector in the interiors industry, as it affects millions of people worldwide. Good quality office design can not only lead to better productivity, but also improve and maintain the emotional and physical health of those using the space.

When it comes to future trends in office design, we asked some of the region’s top industry leaders in the region to shed some light on upcoming trends and the direction of the sector.

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Ahmed A. Sultan, partner and general manager, Finasi, tells: “Current trends are in line with the contemporary look, minimalist with a floating design that allows mobility inside the office. Clients are definitely asking more and more for open plan solutions that inspire creativity amongst employees and enhance communication between the team, as well as on an external level.”

The pendulum swing in design has most certainly swung very strongly toward open layouts in office design, with most clients leaning towards a ‘no-door policy’. From Google to Emaar, multinational agencies are opening up to the idea of encouraging interactive office behaviour.

Hiroyasu Orikawa, general manager, Okamura, explained that the current lean toward open office design shouldn’t be seen so much as a trend, but a balancing out of verious design solutions and alternatives.

He says: “Whenever it is, whether in the 90s or today, we do not think that workers’ demographics have really changed. Some people strongly prefer interaction with other colleagues to boost up the discussions, while some prefer to be in secured solitude for drawing maximum performance.

“It is fair to say that, however, instead of having the right balance for both, only the ‘open office’ side has overly evolved and the ‘closed office’ side has been somewhat left behind. In other words, the right balance has been missing and it was what many workers have wanted.”

In addition to open office plans, there is, of course, a drive toward sustainable materials, build and concept work. Green Office Design maintains a focus on crafting new office environments where form and functionality are gracefully combined.

K. Kumar V.K, managing director, Green Office Design, explains: “Current trends in office design are all about sustainability. It is about working with designs that create ‘green offices’ through achieving efficiency in energy, water, air and material.

“It is about how sun light can be harvested to minimise energy consumption; it is about improving indoor air quality through eliminating VOC’s in materials and finishes; it is about offering plants better prominence in the office space; and it is also about the realisation that every office should exist in symphony with nature and resonate effortlessly with our environment.”

Green Office Design isn’t the only one witnessing the ever-increasing growth of green solutions being applied to workplace interiors. JRD International has created products specifically designed to contribute to the development of LEED certified buildings.

“The RMD Board is an innovative product for which patents have already been applied for various end-use products. It is the outcome of our rigorous [research and development] efforts and consideration of all the functional aspects of the end-use applications,” says Sagar Verma, president, JRD International, of the company’s new wall panel products.

“The RMD Board is a versatile, multiple use, imagineered product that is loaded with eco-friendly features. With the current emphasis on building a green environment, architects and building professionals are looking for a ‘green’ product such as the RMD Board. In addition to its other features, RMD Boards have excellent sound absorption and thermal insulation, which are very helpful in today’s open-office environment,” Verma adds.

While a number of new products are coming onto the market as a response to the drive toward sustainability, the open layout office is also causing quite a stir. Design companies like Okamura and Finasi are also manufacturing products aimed at solving the problems of open office layouts, such as the increased noise and lack of privacy that some employees struggle with.

Orikawa says: “[We] thought that we also needed to serve the other side as well. In 2012 and 2013, many people seemed to be looking for ways to satisfy their diverse work style preferences—having choices in other words. The other side, of course, means closed space, concentration, focus, etc.

“These all mean having your own ideas and your own creativity being undisturbed…This way Muffle was created. We need the right balance in our work scenes—both open and closed. Muffle is sound-absorbent up to 500Hz and promotes a quiet environment for focused work or concentrated communication.”

With open planned offices, design solutions from breaking up spaces with high-backed seating and sound-absorbent material like Muffle, to incorporating mobile and expandable soft walls, are the market’s growing alternatives to the monopoly that open-plan offices are having on office design.

Finasi, too, is providing designs specifically marketing open offices. Sultan notes: “The fact that the office is the ‘place to be’, making it a more interactive and enjoyable place to spend time, with the thinking that exciting shaping of the environment causes a change in the attitude of people. Open spaces with common areas, kitchen and dining spaces are sought after, as well as meeting rooms to welcome and host guests.

“Multifunctional furniture is always in high demand—Mobica Plus products, such as award winning Nomado, a compact mobile office solution, and the Sharko chair with pull out table work well. Demountable partitions are also in demand, such as the Sound of Silence by SAGSA. This product absorbs 30% of noise.”

With open plan offices certainly on the horizon of the design community’s conscience, the Green Office Company, whose number one selling product is its Envirofun range of system furniture, continues to provide sustainable solutions, which aren’t to be apart from open offices but rather another level of development.

As for the future of office design, most of those that CID spoke with agreed that open office design would be here for the long run, while V.K doesn’t disagree, he still maintains that sustainability initiatives will remain pivotal to the world of design.

He concludes: “If you asked a designer five years back, he might have spoken about ‘out-of-the-world’ designs where technology would be the pivotal point around which the design would revolve; but if you ask the same designer now about the future of office space, he would say that the future offices shall be sustainable, environmentally friendly and green.”

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