In the 21st Century, there may be no principle more vital to the lasting success of a design than flexibility. Drawing on his five-decade-long career in infrastructure design, famed engineer and researcher, Richard de Neufville notes why he prefers flexibility: “You want to create a system that can adapt to the actual demands occurring at different points over its lifetime.” Essentially, since change is inevitable, designing for a static reality is designing for failure. To gain the benefit of Mr. de Neufville’s half-century of experience, today we’ll see how his 3 Benefits of Design Flexibility translate into the office design space.
1. Don’t Overcommit to a Floor plan: Planning for flexibility reduces both environmental and financial waste.
The first major way that Mr. de Neufville’s wisdom translates into the office design space is in the realization that permanent interior walls no longer make sense in the 21st century. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that no one can accurately predict what work will look like 10 years or even 10 months in the future. What if your organization grows and the layout of your offices no longer makes sense for your workforce? Just think about all the hassle it would create to change the floor plans in your building. Lengthy and expensive construction, shutting down the office, and plenty of environmental hazards, dust, and trash. Managers across the world reading this already have headaches just imagining this scenario.
Overcommitting to a floor plan can create multiple long-term inefficiencies and weaknesses. However, with demountable glass walls, your organization gets a host of immediate benefits, while making it much easier to change floorplans when your circumstances change, whether that’s in 5 years or 5 minutes. For example, with demountable walls like the Muraflex EXPO, you can smoothly transform a space from individual offices to large meeting areas, and right back, depending on the needs of the moment. Your office can be both a haven for private work and a forum for public collaboration. Wherever your business goes next, and whatever form peak productivity takes, you’ll never regret having the option to change your physical space to match your evolving needs.
2. Flexible design helps you attract and keep talent with diverse working preferences, which translates into better long-term value.
The next way that large-scale design concepts apply to the workspace is in understanding that diverse work conditions accommodate more diverse workforces. Some open-concept office advocates may have read the above point and felt relieved, however, that’s not quite called for. Although overcommitting to certain structures is a dead-end, a total lack of structure can be just as detrimental to productivity and employee well-being.
While some people prefer the hum and buzz of office sounds while they work, others prefer privacy and silence. Some people like the social aspect of open spaces, while others prefer to work without interruption or distraction. Some calls are fine in public, and some are sensitive enough to require privacy. Sometimes a single worker can fall into all of these groups, depending on their current task.
If your office doesn’t cater to the diverse needs of different workers, you’ll lose out on great talent and waste time training people who will leave for more accommodating organizations. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have large spaces that feel big and let natural light flow throughout, it just means that your office needs products that can create privacy without creating overly restrictive barriers.
One great way to use flexible floorplans in service of flexible working conditions is a free-standing meeting space like the Muraflex ARCO. The ARCO crates a discrete meeting space that provides a higher level of acoustic privacy without blocking light or making the space feel smaller. For private work, calls, or meetings, the ARCO creates a flexible working environment that allows neurodiversity to flourish.
3. Flexible designs plan for evolving technology.
Up to this point, we’ve covered that too much permanent infrastructure, as well as a lack of infrastructure both leave businesses flat-footed in the face of progress. However, designing for flexibility isn’t just about the infrastructure that creates variable floorplans, it’s also about the ability to evolve technologically.
Demountable glass walls offer you the highest level of technological flexibility since they’re constantly improving. Unlike permanent walls or permanently empty spaces, demountable glass walls advance in both practical and aesthetic ways that empower your workplace. For example, while your permanent walls stay the same over time, the walls of products like the EXPO continue to evolve. With the EXPOv2’s opacity switch and automatic movement, you can transform the size of your office and make your glass walls opaque or transparent, all with the press of a button.
Similarly, if your organization is contemplating a rebrand, one of the best ways to make the transition clear to both employees and clients is a color scheme. With the Muraflex MIMO, you can replace your clear walls with custom glass colors that, while still being transparent enough to let in natural light, provide a wave of color that totally changes the character of a space.
The demountable nature of these products means that they can be moved, replaced, or upgraded with ease as technology, design, and engineering reach new heights. Even if we don’t yet know what that tech will look like, embracing demountable glass walls will leave you more prepared than the competition to take advantage of these advances in productivity and style.
In the end, Mr. de Neufville’s insights into large-scale design translate quite well into the interior space because, at any scale, flexibility is about admitting you can’t predict the future. The more options you create now, and in the future, the more likely it is that you’ll stay one step ahead of the crowd.