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A workspace fit-out for life

18 August 2014

The Rische Group emphasises the importance of an innovative workspace

A workspace design and fit-out isn’t a one-off job – it determines whether or not your office operates successfully over the course of its life. However, try telling this to your internal stakeholders, who hold the keys to your budget when it comes to hiring a contractor. FMs face an uphill task in convincing organisational management that choosing and assessing contractors on an individual project basis is not the most effective way to manage its workspaces, or indeed its people, in the long-run.

As we know, an organisation’s strategy is supported by long-term FM goals. Long-term cost reduction, sustainability targets and scalable space all require extensive planning and use of the right solutions. However, when outsourcing a workspace fit-out, it’s difficult for clients to look past short-term costs and appreciate the lasting beneficial effects this will have on the productivity of their staff and the company’s financial and environmental performance.

Creating the perfect workspace requires briefing the contractor extensively to develop a true understanding of how people work together and how your organisation operates. Dividing and opening space is critical in determining how staff interact and communicate with each other. From a wider organisational perspective, there also needs to be an appreciation of the constant restructuring of teams and departments, along with rapid changes in the company’s size.

In turn, your contractor will be in the position to best provide the workspace solutions that enable the flexibility and quality needed. Office space should be maximised by making it reusable. Products such as sliding wall partitions can divide space both visually and acoustically for privacy, but also be folded away again easily to open out an office to encourage communication, which is vital to staff productivity.

Other innovative products include furniture that can be repurposed, such as Babini office desks, featuring pull-out pedestals that allow for informal meetings as a smarter alternative to separate meeting tables that sit empty half the time. Your contractor’s expertise can really be vital here, as there will be only a few select distributors for the highest quality brands.

Using a well-informed and forward-thinking contractor also means you stand a greater chance of achieving long-term cost reductions. Choosing the right construction materials contributes to this enormously, with one example being stretch ceilings, such as those made by Barrisol. They’re fitted through heating and stretching in about an hour, hiding electrical wiring of ceiling lighting solutions, and can be re-stretched and fitted using the same process to save cash.

Sustainability has been the word on everyone’s lips for years now and targets seem to be increasingly ambitious. Involving your contractor as early as possible in the design phase of your workspace, e.g. through BIM, can play a major role in managing waste reduction, given that 30% of construction is rework, 40-60% of labour is wasted, 10% of materials are wasted and 3-6% of total construction costs can therefore be saved, according to The National Building Specification (2013).

Implementing auditable metrics covering timescales and cost savings, and industry standards such as the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, also means your project is more likely to make a convincing business case and stay within budget up until completion.

FMs often have a clear idea of how they intend to meet the organisational objectives through smarter, cost-effective workspaces. However, the evidence suggests contractors are not as strategically involved in this process as they should be. In a recent BSG survey, 59% of FMs claimed they were looking for a contractor because their existing contract was expiring or performance was unsatisfactory. This indicates a reactive and job assignment-led approach, in which communication and understanding from both sides could be improved.

Intelligent and sustainable workspace creation begins long time before the fit-out is underway, so FMs need to involve their contractor at a more strategic level to ensure organisational stakeholders see the benefits to their performance over the life-cycle of their place of work.

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