12/12/2006 - 22:00

Informal, open spaces in

12/12/2006 - 22:00

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Staff rooms are out and informal spaces are in.

Staff rooms are out and informal spaces are in.

This trend, proffered by one local interior designer, is occurring as companies seek ways to save space and employees at the same time.

The result is a boom for the commercial interiors market as companies seek to address these competing aims imaginatively by  creating work places that are both functional and inspiring at the same time.

Hassell senior associate and interior designer Gavin Campbell believes new approaches to interior design may well be leading corporate culture, as businesses reconsidered how work spaces affected employee morale.

“So much knowledge is transferred through employees’ informal spaces. We call it the water cooler effect and this can be created through an environment that promotes more social interaction amongst staff,” Mr Cambpell said.

Getting away from a feeling of sterility was also crucial to providing a good environment for employees, and this could be achieved by creating visible breakout areas and placing casual seating throughout an office, he said.

Completed in January 2006, Hassells’ long-term transformation of KPMG’s Perth office has turned four floors of non-functional space into functional space through the removal of a staircase and the creation of open plan work spaces, striking reception area and a large meeting room.

Mr Campbell believes the restructuring promotes more communication and collaboration among staff.

Reducing employee space ratios is becoming a major consideration for Perth companies who are faced with increasing staff numbers but only have limited space.

Hassell principal designer and architect Caroline Diesner said 14 square metres was the norm per employee; however, she had heard some companies in Perth were now seeking 10sq m per employee.

“Twelve square metres per person is really tight. I think the days of splurging are over,” she said.

Woods Bagot interior designer Zenifa Bunic said open plan offices had average space ratios of 12sqm - 14sq m; however, law firms had bucked the trend by seeking fit-outs with ratios above 15sq m.

“Perth has a history of low rents, but with the market heating up firms are trying to save money. Mining companies and law firms in particular do have a bit more money and tend to do things a bit differently,” Ms Bunic said.

While also having an impact on new office designs, integrated technology such as boardroom audio-visual systems was becoming standard, Ms Bunic said, and not so much of a feature anymore while wireless technology was slowly creeping in.

Mr Campbell said there was no longer a standardisation of technology, as clients were seeking multi-function designs and soft-wiring.

“Wireless gives people freedom, but the security aspects of the technology are only now beginning to be understood,” he said.

The move towards transparency in the workplace is another key corporate cultural change driven by open plan designs and an abundance of glass.

Woods Bagot’s recent fit-out for Perth law firm DLA Phillips Fox is considered a standout in its desire to be more transparent.

“We developed their interiors standard nationally. It’s sophisticated, contemporary and its transparency is quite unique,” Ms Bunic said.

The designer suggested corporate offices could take a leaf from the teaching sector, by watching how people learn and enjoy the freedom to interact.

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