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High-Tech’s Influence On Office Interior Design

Written by Carrie Rossenfeld
Amanda Pierce
Pierce: “We used to think one head, one desk; that is no longer the standard protocol.”


LOS ANGELES—Thanks to technology, building and office design is changing from the ground up, from how we manage our HVAC systems to how our employees collaborate and work, Tangram Interiors’ design-team lead Amanda Pierce tells The firm recently completed its first project incorporating the Microsoft Surface Hub technology for the Century City, CA, office of Pittsburgh-based the Coury Firm, a family-owned financial-advisory company and multifamily office serving wealthy families and business owners across the country.


Surface Hub accelerates collaboration and innovation by connecting individuals via digital whiteboard, integrated conferencing, multimedia integration with other apps such as Skype and more. Tangram’s implementation in the firm’s main conference room encompassed multiple components, including structured cabling, cameras, desktop monitors and system configuration.


We spoke with Pierce about how office interior design is changing due to these high-tech features and how design firms are keeping ahead of the pack.


Microsoft Surface Hub in the Coury Firm's Century City, CA, office.

Tangram incorporated Microsoft Surface Hub technology into the main conference room at the Coury Firm’s Century City, CA, office. How is interior design changing as users employ more cutting-edge high-tech features in their offices?


Pierce: The first step here is to define what we mean by high-tech. Building and office design is changing from the ground up, from how we manage our HVAC systems to how our employees collaborate and work. For this example, let’s focus on worker behavior and how this has translated to the dealer world. There are two major trends currently developing traction in office technology today. The first is the incorporation of increasingly sophisticated collaborative tools, like the Microsoft Surface Hub that package together VTC with a seamless integration of document and screen sharing. The second is the development of workspace analytic products, such as Steelcase’s Workplace Advisor, that allow us to start understanding scientifically how spaces are used, or in some cases, underutilized. What we’ve been finding recently is that employees are spending more time in small collaborative meetings. For us, that means that when designing and specifying furniture for a space, we need to reconsider how we are allocating space and products to provide enough choice and control for the users. Additionally, the introduction of touch screens has significantly changed how those spaces need to be configured since more-traditional set-ups no longer allocate themselves well to interactive collaboration. What are design firms required to do in order to meet these users’ needs that they may not have needed to worry about 10 years ago?


Pierce: From a furniture and technology perspective, we are seeing a large trend in workspace design that allows for an increase in shared workspaces. With the technology available now to make workers more mobile, the need for a permanent workstation has decreased. When we think about a floorplan, we are looking more so at the proximity of each workstation to collaborative areas, so that each employee has what they need to be successful. We used to think one head, one desk; that is no longer the standard protocol. Furthermore, because of the mobility of the worker, the types of spaces in demand are changing, and we can use real estate more creatively. For example, space that was previously occupied by private offices or workstations can now be used as a game room or a work café to better promote camaraderie and ultimately, productivity and satisfaction. Where are these types of projects heading, and what will design firms need to do in order to stay ahead of the curve going forward?


Pierce: Steelcase recently released a new set of research on this topic called “Blur the Edges,” which basically states that we have to start thinking about the office from a hospitality, productivity and collaborative perspective. For Tangram, we are starting to think more about the office as a place to live, rather than just a place to work. That state of mind mirrors the increasing trend of more residential or “comfortable” furniture being specified into projects as well as the user preference to have multiple postures for work. What if you had your favorite coffee shop table, quiet library room, happy-hour bar and heads-down work area in one building? You’d probably feel more comfortable and content. The more amenities that reside inside the office walls, the fewer reasons to leave, fewer distractions and greater productivity.


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