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EXCLUSIVE How FMs can maximise their workspace

04 February 2014

How FMs can ensure they derive maximum efficiency from interiors and workspaces

If a FM is to ensure his workspace is completely efficient, he or she needs to make careful use of the available space. But this isn’t always as easy as it appears.

''Bench solutions for desking remain a default standard as businesses continue to maximise their floorspace however there are schools of thought developing which suggest some future change in the face of continuing resistance from staff who feel undervalued sat at a shared space,’’ says David Venables, sales director at KI Europe.

''There are also pockets of increased demand for height adjustable and sit stand solutions. Studies confirm sit-stand solutions enhance overall employee health while increasing productivity.’’

Venables says the growth in 'third space' has been significant over the past few years as organisations seek to provide alternative work areas away from the desk using more informal furniture designs which give workers new options ranging from private study space to informal team collaboration.

Furniture solutions that actually 'unify' third space with workstations save floorspace and provide a more integrated approach, Venables says. ''Workstations connected at 90 degrees to central storage spine configurations are also increasingly popular and a growing number of manufacturers are introducing these designs into their portfolios.

''Acoustics has become a priority in office furniture designs and is manifesting itself in all the above areas. From soft seating to desk screens and even storage, sound reduction is being designed into furniture wherever possible.’’

Storage will always remain a pivotal component in workplace design however there has been a big shift in how people use storage in the office, Venables adds. ''Paper filing storage is increasingly in decline - perhaps we’re truly seeing the 'paperless' office manifest itself? There has been a massive growth in the requirement for personal storage solutions to cope with flexible working and as a consequence of this organisations are increasingly seeking keyless solutions as the cost of 'key' management becomes considerable.’’

Venables says there are now new Smart card and Image recognition systems becoming available as the importance of personal storage in the workplace develops way beyond the humble locker.

David McLaren, director of James Tobias, agrees that storage is a key aspect of interior commercial workspace. Its effective deployment improves the efficiency of the working space and the staff working in it, as well as setting design cues for the space as a whole, he says. These can in turn improve the working environment and enhance efficiency.

''Maximum use should be made of the available vertical space - stretching from floor to ceiling. Install units which fill the space entirely; this can improve your storage capacity by up to 20%. If you're dividing a large open plan office, consider the use of storage wall, instead of partitioning. This will save space and cost, potentially providing storage capacity on both sides, as well as acoustic and thermal protection. As an added benefit, such units will be demountable and relocatable, should future requirements dictate.’’

This also means interior designers will be able to play their part in helping a project meet its SKA rating as a sustainable fit-out. ''Ensuring materials used in fit-outs are recyclable and sustainably sourced will also help towards this objective,’’ says McLaren. ''This could include carcassing manufactured from FSC-approved timber products.’’

It is important to use high quality products, McLaren says. ''This isn’t just because they’re more durable and will last longer, but also because the weight loadings of a storage unit manufactured from structured aluminium carcass with steel shelves will be considerably enhanced compared to pegboard units.

''In fact the maximum permissible loading will be about two-and-a-half times greater. This improves capacity and may mean you need less storage units, releasing workspace for other purposes.’’

Sam Hawkes of Riegens Lighting points out that lighting is also important to the efficient use of interiors and workspace. ''Most FMs will be familiar with the benefits of LED lighting in terms of energy efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. However, LED technology also makes it relatively easy to enhance the workspace environment by creating a dynamic lighting system that changes with the seasons and times of day.’’

Several studies in recent years have confirmed the positive effects of using artificial lighting to support these natural circadian rhythms, Hawkes says. These effects manifest themselves in reduced accident risk, improved concentration and productivity, better visibility and a general ‘uplift’ in how we feel.

''In the past, attempts have been made to re-create the natural rhythms of light using different colour temperature fluorescent lamps and adjusting the proportion of light output from each – with limited success. LED technology, though, enables the creation of a ‘tuneable’ dynamic white light system where colour temperature can be varied between 2700K and 6500K, in combination with different light levels.’’

Dynamic, tuneable white light systems can be programmed to follow a time schedule or to use different scenarios that can be selected manually in different areas. The result is greater comfort and a better environment for the user, offering high-quality visual mimicking of the rhythm of sunlight.

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