Thursday, April 9, 2015

7 Tips on Designing a Quieter Officer or Workplace

Too close for comfort
Do you, your coworkers or employees complain about unwanted noise and distraction in your open office workplace? Do you wear headphones to quiet the cacophony of sound around you? Do you have no place to go to make private phone calls?
If you answered yes to any of the questions you likely are experiencing some design shortcoming in the layout, design and detailing of your office or workplace. To help you and others maybe avoid this in the future we offer Seven or so tips which if followed might contribute to a higher performing open office work setting where you can collaborate, innovate yet work in quiet when you need and want it. Sound impossible? Maybe not. Here's how.
Here's Seven Tips which you can use. Some are fairly simple, others are more complicated and have some cost. However if you abide by the maxim of you get what you pay and plan for that's a good place to start. Building awareness of using best practices in space planning strategies while using reflective and sound absorptive materials is a good place to start. Remember the right solution is an integrated combination of the following Seven Tips tailored to the specific needs and requirements of your business and industry.
Tip #1. Selecting the Right Space:
To promote the openness and interactivity found in collaborative environments such as CoWorking Space look for spaces to rent or buildings to buy with a fairly simple building shell hopefully with fairly high ceilings and access to daylight on more than one side of the space for cross-ventilation, access to views. If not on when visiting, ask to have the mechanical systems turned on to normal and walk around the space. If there are any existing meeting rooms, private offices go into them and visualize meeting with someone in those spaces, maybe carry on a conversation and see how easy it is to hear one another. Ask the building owner or property manager or realtor with you if there is sound insulation built into the wall framing between the space and other tenant spaces, or common areas like shared corridors, stairways, elevators and restrooms?
Also ask whether the walls go up to merely the suspended acoustical ceiling tile or all the way up to the floor deck or roof deck above? While it's less flexible and more costly for them to build all the way up to the roof or floor above, it's a surefire way to increase privacy and confidentiality in your spaces. And when building out your new space ask if sound insulation is included in wall construction as well as if some walls can go up to the floor or roof above as part of your lease arrangement.
Ask as well, what kind of wall and ceiling surfaces do you have to work with? Is all just painted drywall and glass, or a mix of painted drywall, glass, wood, brick or other materials? The more varied the materials the more chance for increased sound absorption and redirection due to changes in material softness, surfaces and so on. This variety improves acoustical quality. Then, what kind of floor is there and do you think you will replace it or upgrade it? If it's a polished or stained concrete floor or wood floor without proper construction, it will look great but used in a room with many people working sound will reflect more easily than if there is carpeting or modular carpet tile flooring which help absorb sound, rather than reflect it. Be careful about what you're signing up for. There may be unintended consequences of your early site selection decisions.
Tip #2 - Space Planning a Gradation of Open to more Closed Walled Meeting, Teaming and Individualized Work areas:
Work with your architect or interior designer to create a floor plan with a variety of larger to small closed walled work areas within your open work areas. This can integrate both the lively collaborative open areas and "away" or "quiet" spaces into your office design. Think designing open work areas with oases of meeting spaces, office and informal lounge areas interspersed or on the perimeters. When doing so so you can build spaces suitable for small 2-3 person meetings, larger team meetings rooms for 5-12 and smaller highly focused heads down quiet spaces.
To maximize your long time investment install sound insulation batts in the wall framing and run the walls all the way up to the underside of the floor or roof deck with foam insulation at the joint to limit sound transmission between spaces. Or use movable architectural walls with sound insulation in them. To create a sense of inclusiveness between nearby by open work spaces install large glass sidelights next to doors into these rooms as well as consider transom windows to allow borrowed daylight in and reduce lighting usage. Pay attention to the glass thickness and whether it is double glazed to limit sound movement.
In your space layout, be sure to locate quieter work neighborhoods and users away from lively areas such as kitchen / work cafe's, lively common spaces like bathrooms if there are specialized high focus needs. Locate more lively interactive work uses and activities nearer other active uses. Cultivate workplace protocols around desired ways for your work community to use various workspaces and behavior expectations for noise. Create and sustain the behavioral conversation as a foundation of fostering an inspirational work culture. There's a balance between collaboration, privacy and innovation minded work activities only you can find together.
Be aware of the differing work styles, needs and personalities of the various generations at work and their temperament, whether extroverted or introverted. The most brilliant space layout can be short-circuited by not paying ongoing attention to the needs of your people. Pay close and repeated attention and you'll be on your way to successful leveraging of the physical office resources you provide your people.
Tip #3 - Varying Ceiling and Wall Surface Angles:
In addition to the other strategies, you can further control unwanted echoes and noise communication by varying the reflective or hard surfaces of drywall partitions, suspended ceiling elements, wall panels. Your designer can subtly design these moves into your space without incurring significant added construction cost. Adding this strategy to the design palette also can enhance your space's uniqueness as compared to more standard tenant-fitup approaches.
Tip #4 - Avoid placing of Curved Surfaces with Centers in Key Spaces:
If you want concave curved surfaces as part of the interior architecture locate the center of the arc or curve element outside of the space. Doing this will ensure your space will not echo in these curving or rounded areas. If you do, you'll be sure to hear funny echoes and weird distracting vibrations. Echoing spaces are not great to work in. That's why round or cylindrical interior spaces while attractive aren't necessarily great acoustically without attending to locating their center points outside of the space.
Tip #5- Ceiling Treatments, Sound Clouds, Wall Panels:
Another strategy is installing acoustical ceiling treatments like hanging sound clouds over work areas or sound deadening walls panels as well. A simple version of this is installing higher performance ceiling tile from companies such as CertainTeedArmstrong and USG to name a few. You can use 2x2 or 2x4 or more unique tiles encased in decorative metal trim creating distinct "visual islands" and focal points within a large open spaces. Combined the sound deadening qualities of tiles with attractive linear pendant up and down lighting zones and you can create attractive open work areas.
For wall panels you can also install Tectum or Certainteed Ecophon other similar another sound absorbing product directly to ceilings or the underside of floor pans or on walls. If sustainability concerns such as recycled content, sourcing and indoor air quality are strongly desired work with your architect or interior designer to select material choices which provide acoustical performance while balancing these concerns. Wall-hangings such as quilts can serve as focal points visually but also provide acoustical relief in targeted areas.
In general for either material ask to examine the light reflectance of the materials and ask about the light reflectance value. The higher the number value daylight and artificial lighting will reflect more in your space helping lower energy bills while contributing to worker well being. This helps brighten up the overall space as well.
Tip #6 - Selecting the right Floor Coverings for your business needs and uses:
If you have highly reflective floor surfaces such as concrete, wood floors or floor tiles consider installing carpet squares or area rugs in open office / common work areas. There are a number of manufacturer's such as Interface FlorMannington, Shaw Contract GroupTandus who have modular solutions which can help treat lively areas with floor coverings. The fibers in carpeting and carpet squares and resilient backing helping cut down sound. These same manufacturer's all offer various kinds of eco friendly lines, recycling and financing programs attractive to owners.
Then, if you have areas where workers will stand a great deal perhaps in a printing and document center or behind a retail kiosk or point of sale terminal, consider installing a resilient or rubberized flooring surface to decrease joint pain while adding additional acoustical absorption capabilities. Also, pay similar attention in workstation areas where increasingly workers use sit/stand or standing only desking.
Tip# 7 - Don't forget about your Furniture
Take care to select furniture with some degree of acoustical performance attributes and features. Whether workstation furniture, general seating, lounge areas, cafe's or other spaces don't ignore options which have some degree of acoustical insulation, or sound deadening capabilities in panels, upholstery and so on. A few years ago, something called benching was all the rage due to the need to seat more people in less and less space and create more interactivity and collaboration. However, all this seemed to do is increase sound-canceling headphone sales and frustration. Work with your architect and interior designer to carefully balance acoustical needs along with functional and ergonomic needs in furniture and finishes selection. It's not difficult to do but just needs to be paid attention to early on in initial stages of design and with the focus maintained through the furniture specifying and ordering process.
Summing Up
Your open office workplace can be a high performing quieter place helping rather than hindering getting the needed work done while contributing to long term workplace productivity and cultivating a great work culture. By carefully selecting the right office space location in the beginning, careful design and space planning as well as material selection and the details you will be on the path to long term success. Remember as mentioned earlier, the right solution for you is an integrated combination of the Seven Tips tailored to the specific needs and requirements of your business and industry.
For more about this or if you want more detailed advice please connect with me at 802-448-0056 or

Friday, March 27, 2015

Walls in Balance: A Sketch

We are making it a habit to share recent sketches of places or spaces we seek to conceive in our practice. This is one such place, an outdoor meeting area of two leaning cast in place concrete walls with the imprint of the wooden boards, mosaic tile inset, rugged wooden seats cantilevered from the concrete topped by a recessed planter.
Perhaps it could be for a garden or a park? We can only begin to imagine the house or museum these walls belong to. Right now that's mysterious to us.
Note the drainage gullies at the foot of the concrete carrying rainwater or melt off away. One of our favorite architects is Carlo Scarpa, an Italian 20th century architect who designed and conceived fine homes, commercial and institutional buildings in Italy. With his work you can really feel the "making" of the architecture. And so we try to do so here. It is a beginning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

VBSR Spring Conference: Join us for Building Active Work Cultures Workshop

     Won't you join us in May at Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) 25th anniversary Spring conference May 13th? Join ourselves and hundreds of other like minded socially responsible businesses from ‪#‎Vermont‬ and the region gathering together to hear about best practices and trends in starting, running and growing your businesses. 
      There's keynotes, breakout workshops, panel discussions and a cash bar reception at the end.
      And we'll be facilitating a workshop there in the morning. It's called "Building Active Work Cultures: Best Practices in Wellness Oriented Workplace Design and Programs". We'll be joined by Tim Shea and Janis Blais from National Life Group and Jessica Hill from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, two of our clients we have been putting into practices some of these ideas. We'll be highlighting how and why wellness oriented workplace design and programming are foundational to building high performing work cultures, attracting and retaining great talent and more. 
      We will also connect this growing trend to broader corporate social responsibility and sustainability initiatives, the ‪#‎ActiveDesign‬ phenomena and why it's something to pay close attention to going forward.

For more about this exciting day or the workshop contact us for more information or call us at 802-448-0056
.‪#‎vbsrspring‬ #leadership #CEO

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Video: The Seven Faces of Wellness in Office Design

Tips on How to Find Talent on LinkedIn: An Infographic to share

      As architects and designers of experiences, we are fans of visual story-telling. Recently we found this infographic and thought it worth sharing.  And since we often find ourselves on LinkedIn for any variety of reasons over the course of the week, why not use your time more effectively, with a plan and a process.  Without it you'll be wasting time.
      Are you using LinkedIn to stay in touch with trends in your business, connect colleagues and partners? Are you actively recruiting for new talent? The graphic provides some good tips about how to energize your recruiting efforts using the site as well as sound general advice on using LinkedIn professionally.
      Let us know what you think about this infographic and the tips you find here.  Were they helpful for you? Provide any new insight?  Do let us know.

Click To Enlarge

Infographic: How to Find Talent on LinkedIn
Via AkkenCloud

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tips for Using Zip Sheathing and a Video: Good Things Found Along the Way

      Have you seen buildings under construction around you with green and or orange cladding with black colored taping? Ever wondered what the product was and why it was being used? Turns out this product and others like help create more energy efficient and higher performing, more comfortable homes and commercial buildings. For more on how and why, see this somewhat goofy video introducing the reasons for the green and orange wrapping you often see on those projects and a little about them from the manufacturer.
      We came across the helpful blog post article, Zip Sheathing Tips from Green Building Advisor about the ins and outs of Zip Sheathing and thought it would be great to share here.  We recommend using products like this where possible to ensure more predictable air-sealing on residential and commercial projects and productivity on the jobsite. While more expensive with upfront material costs it can save time and potentially ensure more predictable enclosure performance for years to come.
      If you're interested in high performance and energy efficiency, managing future energy costs, using products like this on your exterior building enclosure can really help as part of the detailing strategy in conjunction with insulation, framing and other aspects of the detailing of the enclosure.

      We like to present interesting articles and research we find useful for our practice. Perhaps it will be useful to your next design project.

      Have you used this product on your project or one's like it? Let's us know how it worked for you.