Interest in the future of the office is as strong as ever. Annual workplace conferences around the world provide a regular platform for owners, agents, researchers, manufacturers and suppliers of services of many kinds. There is ample discussion about future concepts, but what is the likely direction of travel? Is there such a thing as a future office concept? If there is, what does it look like?
FutureOffice is a new theme for The Society and is aimed at providing a focus for serious debate about how office space will be designed, populated and used in the future. As part of an organisation's sustainable space provision, it is a key component of any business strategy, or should be.
The concept of networks of knowledge-based enterprises could be used to create access to human resources for selected industrial sectors – in terms of specialist skills and knowledge – so that both physical and virtual proximity are taken into consideration. The approach should adopt an inside-out strategy for defining end-products, relying heavily on the preferences of end-users to guide design decision-making. The nature of workplaces, as spaces that are conducive to productive knowledge-intensive activities, requires an indoor environment to match. Moreover, this must be capable of satisfying the various needs of all end-users.
The kind of real estate that is likely to satisfy these needs is highly ICT-serviced, reconfigurable and re-locatable, matching the pattern of growth for knowledge businesses. The feasibility of these concepts will need to be fully explored including modularization, methods of assembly, fixing and disassembly. The focus should be on how to produce real estate solutions in terms of designs that can be adapted according to product variance requirements. Additionally, they must allow for maintenance, replacement and upgrading to be done economically over the lifecycle. ICT infrastructures will need to be designed and tested for their efficacy in supporting the mobility of personnel.
Effort needs to be aimed primarily at creating manufactured modular products that provide a rapid response to the need for highly serviced, flexible space. The specific objectives should be to:
- define innovative service concepts that support business growth, whilst minimising risk exposure for businesses, especially SMEs;
- develop novel concepts for scalable real estate solutions, based on high levels of service provision and reconfigurable space.;
- develop know-how to support the rapid deployment (and redeployment) of robust, state-of-the-art ICT infrastructures anywhere;
- devise workplace strategies that support end-users in their work, making them more efficient and comfortable with their conditions; and
- defining service concepts that adapt to, or better still anticipate, shifts in the marketplace.
Delivering business support is grounded on the use of many resources of which real estate is both obvious and primary. As such, real estate must provide an effective platform for businesses to develop and grow, so that flexibility – in the sense of adaptability – is achievable in practical terms. The scale of the problem of creating flexible real estate products is significant and as to be tackled by a major push on the part of producers of industrialized building systems, real estate developers, owners, operators and tenants.
The areas of competence required to meet these challenges include:
- workplace design;
- virtual design environments;
- building information modelling;
- modular building system concepts;
- modular building components;
- large-scale production of industrialised components;
- rapid assembly automated systems;
- sensor and control systems; and
- mobile technology.
FutureOffice will launch in the second quarter of 2015 with it own dedicated website. Join the countdown now. In the meantime, feel free to contact us.