Letting the Sunshine In: Welcoming Outdoor Elements to Your Indoor Space

Letting the Sunshine In: Welcoming Outdoor Elements to Your Indoor Space

While nature-focused design is deservedly hot right now, I’ll admit that I initially dismissed it as something relevant only to the Googles and Amazons of the world. Whether “biophilic” office design would be adopted by smaller companies seemed to me more questionable. Too much expense, I thought. Too much upkeep.

I was wrong.

A few months ago, I walked into my new hair salon and was immediately struck (metaphorically, of course—or this blog post might have gone in an entirely different direction) by their gorgeous green wall.

For those of you who—like me, pre-salon visit—are not quite up on the biophilic office design trend, a “green wall” refers not so much to the color green, but the use of greenery growing directly on the face of a wall. Think less the imposing green-painted left field wall at Fenway Park and more the ivy-covered outfield walls at Wrigley.

Warm. Friendly. Relaxing.

Combined with the natural light from my salon’s huge storefront windows, the green wall—lush and lovely, a focal point right behind the reception desk—helped make the interior feel cozy and welcoming. After a stressful morning fighting traffic in a (failed) attempt to get to my hair appointment on time, I finally felt my breathing slow.

As I discovered that day, bringing the outdoors in is for more than just big companies, and doing so offers benefits well beyond the obvious aesthetic ones. Research shows that introducing natural elements to the workplace can lead to:

a reduction in stress and blood pressure,

an improvement in mood, creativity, and ability to focus,

an increase in memory and attention skills,

air quality improvement (at least when plants are introduced—and they may also serve as a noise buffer),

& finally, a decrease in boredom and absenteeism—with an accompanying increase in productivity.

A commitment to biophilic office design also demonstrates the kind of attention to detail and concern for employee wellbeing that can help employers attract top talent.

For all its many attractions, Pittsburgh is a relatively gray place to live, logging 203 cloudy days in 2016. And all those clouds means it rains a lot, too. It’s not always easy to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Being able to enjoy greenery and other natural elements within the workplace can help to stave off the disconnect that comes from being cooped up inside on a regular basis. To qualify as a truly biophilic design, the elements of nature should be integrated into the overall environment, working together rather than in isolation. But any effort to add direct experiences of nature to the workplace can bring benefits.

Earlier in this article, I referred to biophilic office design as a trend, but—ask any travel agent—the notion that people long to be in a sunny, outdoor environment is anything but new. Architects have worked to connect humans with nature as far back as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Even in the case of Wrigley Field, the decision to plant ivy along the walls was a conscious appeal to fans’ connectivity to the natural world: a reminder that at the end of the long, cold Chicago winter would come sunshine and baseball. And those hallowed outfield walls have been adorned with ivy since the 1930s.

Of course, in the Wrigley example, the ivy-covered facade is outdoors, not something for a business owner to worry about maintaining in a lobby or conference room. But a green wall is only one of a multitude of ways to introduce elements of nature to a building—making it easy for businesses of any size or location to embrace particular aspects of biophilic design.

Some companies incorporate garage doors that can be opened when the weather permits, letting in light and fresh air. Others provide all employees with multiple potted plants, and maintain them. Still others use water features—fountains, or aquariums—for the sound and appearance. To let in natural light, many businesses add skylights and atriums, or mimic the effect by installing circadian lighting systems. Adding fireplaces for warmth, color, and movement has also proven popular in recent years.

Notably, representations of the natural world can also help, particularly when used in conjunction with other elements. Sometimes it just isn’t feasible to add natural ventilation, vistas, or light to a building. But even incorporating natural building materials and images of nature may assist in keeping those inside better connected with the outdoor world.

Which brings me back to my salon. This article was all but finished when I returned to get my hair cut last week, and decided I might as well ask a few questions about the green wall that had inspired my research.

Sidling over to the office manager, who was sitting behind the welcome desk, I leaned in conspiratorially. “Does it require a lot of maintenance?” I asked in a low voice, my eyes flicking to the wall. I was so close I could almost touch it.

She considered my question a moment, then, in a voice just as quiet as my own, she responded, “Not really. It’s fake, you know.”

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Written By: Kim Pierson

for CoeoSpace

The Elastic Office – Occupiers Are Demanding It

The Elastic Office – Occupiers Are Demanding It

What is an elastic office? An elastic office can best be described as an office space that provides tenants with the flexibility to shrink and grow during their tenancy. An elastic office differs from Co-Working in that a single tenant fills the space on a fulltime basis (although some Co-Working companies—such as Novel CoWorking—do also provide elastic space). Traditional Landlords are just catching on and getting in the game, providing the tenant with the ability to grow or shrink in different spaces that the Landlord has available during the term. Instead of the tenant committing to a particular suite within a building, the tenant commits to the building itself. In turn, the Landlord commits to providing the tenant with the ability to move to a larger or smaller space during its tenancy.

I wish I had a crystal ball. I’d not only be able to predict the growth of our start-up but see its future. I’d know exactly how many people we would have and how much space we would need. Without the ability to see into the future, though, a business must remain agile. Many tech firms have no idea of their growth trajectories next month, let alone next year. Yet the traditional Landlord expects them to sign a 5+ year lease. What’s a growing occupier to do? The elastic office may be the solution, and may very well meet the needs of Landlords just as much as tenants.

Benefits of Elasticity for Landlords

  • Secure long-term leases
  • Grow with the company
  • Get in on the ground floor and establish a relationship

To be proactive in attracting forward-thinking tenants, innovative Landlords have begun to adopt the elastic office model by building out speculative suites of different sizes. The construction is efficient and cost effective as every suite has the same finishes and a similar floor plan (which tends to be mostly open with conferencing and a kitchen). This not only keeps costs down but allows tenants to seamlessly transition from one space to another as their needs change.

With flexible real estate growing at an average of 23% each year since 2010, it’s clear that this is the type of space today’s tenants are demanding. The Landlord who can’t offer it risks being left behind.

At coeospace.com you will find traditional office space, unfinished, move-in-ready and co-working solutions all in one place. Our match scoring algorithms match users to the perfect space in seconds.

Written by: Kim Ford

for CoeoSpace

Not Perfect, but Yours: Three Steps to Finding the Office Space You Need

DISCLAIMER: This article will NOT lead you to the perfect office space for your business.

The perfect office space—like the perfect home, the ideal spouse, and rainbow-colored unicorns—is nothing but fantasy.

If you approach your office search thinking you really can have it all—that there’s some amazing spot out there that the rest of the world has missed despite its great location, free parking, abundant natural light, and rooftop deck, all for very minimal monthly rent—you’re about to waste a lot of valuable time. Worse still, you’ll end up feeling like you’ve had to settle for a space that can never quite measure up.

While not perfect, your new office space can still be—as the Rolling Stones so wisely told us—what you need. It can be fabulous. And functional. And the way you find it is by figuring out what’s really important to your business.

Step 1: Prioritize

There’s a reason office spaces vary considerably in everything from design to location: not everyone is looking for the same thing. And that’s good—or we’d all be competing for the same limited spaces. The key to successfully finding the office space you need is to know at the onset what your top priorities are, and what things you’re willing to compromise on.

Maybe you’ve been running your business from home and just hired your first employees. Money’s tight, and you’re sure of only one thing: your new office space must be inexpensive. Or maybe you have a more established business that’s ready to expand. You’re looking for a bigger office in an up-and-coming area with lots of restaurants—and free parking. Your priorities are different, but the process for finding the space need not be.

List all the factors that it would take to make your new office space “perfect” for your company, then determine which are the most important to you and your employees. Some of the most common considerations for finding space include:

  • Location. It’s easy to say that you need a good location—the hard part is determining what that means to you. What constitutes a “good location” for your office may be quite different from that of another business. Some companies prefer a location that minimizes commute times for key employees. Others want to be easily accessible to clients. Still others highly value proximity to restaurants, gyms, and childcare. Being close to trails and a park system may be a top consideration for a wellness-focused company. Consider your corporate culture and business priorities and use those factors to help narrow down possible locations.
  • Space. A good rule of thumb is to provide 125-225 usable square feet per employee, but that’s only a starting point and will vary depending on layout. While you certainly don’t want to lease a space so large that you are paying for a lot of unused room, if you anticipate growth during the lease period, you will need to ensure you have space to accommodate it.
  • Layout. How you want the space to be laid out—open floor plan, traditional offices, or cubicles? How does your team tend to work? Do you need an elaborate conference room to meet with clients or host networking events, or would a few smaller huddle rooms work better? Would a modular set-up that can be changed perhaps provide the best fit? How much control will the landlord give you to modify the existing space?
  • Parking and Exterior. Are there enough parking spaces included in the lease to meet the needs of your employees and customers? If parking is not included, is there ample free parking nearby? Public transportation? Bike racks? Have measures been taken to ensure the security of your employees and equipment?

Step 2: Involve Your Employees

Whether you have two employees or one hundred, involve them in this decision as much as possible; office space is important in attracting and retaining top talent. While you may be able to anticipate some of your employees’ concerns and desires (a convenient, centralized office location, for example), they are sure to also have priorities of which you are unaware (a bike rack, perhaps, and an area to shower and change after they bike to work).

Step 3: Get Professional Help

Ask for recommendations for a commercial real estate broker or agent from people you trust. When you’ve found someone with a proven success rate, provide him or her with your list of priorities. This person will be able to help you to add to the list and possibly even reprioritize.

A broker or agent is in a good position to advise on matters such as lease flexibility, something that might be needed if you outgrow the space quickly. He or she can also help you consider less traditional leasing options, like subleasing (a good option for growing companies, often allowing you to go month to month), or co-working (allowing you to save money until you truly need a dedicated office space).

In addition, your broker can help you negotiate the lease, possibly saving you a significant amount of money, and can assist in getting answers to questions such as who is responsible for repairs and other expenses, and in what ways you are allowed to take steps to customize the space to best suit your company’s needs. All of which can help to make your new office space, if not perfect, exactly what you need.

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What is your top priority when looking for new office space?

Written by: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace