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Functionality from design

28 October 2011

Modern business environments have evolved greatly over the last few decades, with a profound shift from the compartmentalised, hierarchical office layouts of old, to a much broader, open-plan working environment. However, when a business has become used to working in a certain way, changing from one state to the other is not without its challenges. Here, Premises and Facilities Management looks at one project where clever zoning defined by the flooring techniques within the office space has help

Wood Mackenzine Research and Consulting is settling in to its bright new headquarters in Edinburgh, following a major office move. Tasked with relocating the energy, metal and mining specialist from a traditional period town house to a flagship new development in the heart of the city’s business district, designer Rodi McLean of BDG McColl knew that such a dramatic change in surroundings would require careful spatial planning.

With the majority of staff used to working in small, modular offices organised around business functions, McLean was keen to maintain a sense of continuity by reinterpreting this functionality within a more spacious, open-plan setting. In order to achieve this, designated zones were created for various activities, as well as to highlight paths around the office to ease the flow of traffic. As the biggest surface within the space, the flooring played a crucial role in marking out the required areas.

Floor zoning is increasingly being used as a way of creating visual impact within an interior design. Used cleverly, it can offer more than simple delineation of areas within the building – creative use of colour or pattern can result in unique flooring designs that add interest as well as practicality. With their modular installation, carpet tiles are perfect for achieving this look and when it came to specifying products for Wood Mackenzie, McLean was looking for stylish tiles that could be laid creatively to reflect the flow of activity around the room.

“Having been based in a largely cellular environment in the town house, a key part of the client’s brief was the planning of the large, open plan offices and marking out the various areas of activity,” said McLean. “In terms of the flooring specification, I was looking for a good quality product, with an interesting but understated design that I could use to create feature areas.”

McLean specified 2300m2 of Forbo’s Tessera Helix tiles in the Carbon colourway as the main component of the flooring design. The use of high lustre ‘metallic’ yarn gives the Helix collection a slight reflective quality. Two further colour variations (the electric blue Catalyst and rich black Nucleus) were laid in blocks of three along the main circulation routes of the office. At ‘junctions’ or areas where a separate zone needed to be marked out, blocks of nine tiles were used to delineate a change of direction.

Installation of the flooring was subcontracted to Veitchi Scotland and Director Tommy Gaunt said: “This was quite a complicated installation, with lots of laying out challenges and hand cut design work but it went really well and the finished effect is impressive.”

Finally, to complete the specification, 200m2 of Flotex tiles were installed in the ‘back of house’ facilities and deliveries area, which is subject to much heavier footfall and potential soiling. These tiles are made from a solid vinyl base layer and a densely packed surface of electrostatically flocked nylon fibres that permit deep cleaning. They right offer the acoustic benefits of carpet but with the functional properties of a resilient floor.

Steve Hutton, Facilities Manager at Wood Mackenzie said: “We are really pleased with our new premises and the smart and quietly sophisticated flooring has certainly contributed to the overall effect. In fact, we are so happy with the results that we have installed the same products in another of our offices in Guildford, Surrey.”

Working practices, just like design trends, will always change and develop, with many businesses now adopting a more collaborative approach. Redesigning working spaces to fit these new requirements inevitably leads to some uncertainty for colleagues who have become accustomed to working in a certain way. However, good design has a huge contribution to make towards a smooth transition between the old style and the new.

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