DURBAN – Effective office-space design can play a major role in helping companies reduce overheads and optimise work processes according to Marike Kleu, Senior Interior Architect at Trend Group.
While the interior design industry in South Africa has developed mainly over the past three decades, interior architecture is still relatively new. So much so that it is not yet open to out-of-the-box ideas.
"A key aim is to make our clients aware that a conventional closed-off office plan is not necessarily the best option. As designers, we are fairly in tune with internal trends and developments, but convincing our clients to embrace such innovation is a challenge," Kleu points out.
Having said that, it is critical to adopt the correct approach for the project at hand. Kleu said, "In terms of our design approach, we determine the requirements of the staff first, which then allows us to determine the workspace settings".
They also get a handle on the client’s mode of work, and what the specifics are here. Do people need to be grouped together in teams, or is privacy the main criterion?”
Such an understanding is critical before the actual workspace design even commences, as this information forms the basis of any optimisation or restructuring that may be possible.
Current thinking is based more on themed environments suited to the particular needs of specific clients. “The idea is to create smaller pockets within your office space that still serve to foster a sense of belonging.
Another critical element is co-working or collaborative spaces, which relate to access to communal resources and amenities, as well as activity-based working. “Again and again, we see the key driver as being the way of working.
This solution also has to be in line with the client’s specific budget. Kleu explains the process adopted by Trend Group: "The project lead will brief us on the basic scope. From there, we sit with the client in order to understand the precise requirements".
It is important to understand the company structure, as opposed to just compiling a list of items and then compiling a space plan.
All of this information feeds into a concept shell design, a space plan and, ultimately, a 3D model that is presented to the client to review.
The workspace design market is not only being impacted by technology, with the advent of trends such as co-working and agile workspaces, but also the fact that new-build projects are coming to an end in Sandton in particular.
Another major trend is collaboration, where smaller start-up companies effectively share a communal space in an incubator format, which then grow and move on to create their own offices. Renting such space initially is a much more cost-effective option that also gives smaller companies the opportunity to expand without incurring excessive overheads.
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