Three unexpected ways to boost your office potential – 3. Finding the perfect property

By Hannah Mellow on 3 July 2015

Over the last two weeks you’ve been reading about the use of network analysis to guide seating plansand how we understand business needs and cultures to make sense of utilisation patterns, which helps businesses adopt flexible working successfully. This week sees the last instalment of our series of three blog posts based on an academic paper, which we’ve published in the Corporate Real Estate Journal recently and which highlights our latest thinking on evidence-based design and its merits in providing spatial solutions that fit people. So this week, it’s time to find the perfect property.

3. Finding the perfect property

A business may find itself needing to relocate for a variety of reasons; they may have outgrown their existing space, the lease may be coming to an end or indeed they realise that configurationally the structure of their existing space is itself getting in the way of the business operating effectively.

Such was the case for one of our clients, a business information company seeking to change its fragmented culture to a ‘One Company’ culture, where people from across the business would be able to draw on the expertise of their colleagues more easily. They recognised that their existing building was reinforcing organisational barriers and considered a move, but wanted to ensure that the move was right for them.

Conventionally, a property search agent would look for a new space based on requirements including sqm per person, location, cost, availability and possibly the personal preference of the CEO. However, these factors give little indication of how integrated the staff would be once they occupied the building, which was the reason for the move in the first place. They would run the risk of spending millions finding and renting a new building, only to find that the same issues may reappear again.

We knew it was therefore crucial to carry out a detailed requirements-gathering study as well as a rigorous assessment of all prospective building options, to make sure the latter suited the former. Collecting evidence about the way staff were occupying their existing space and surveying them about their future business requirements led to the establishment of a set of strategic design guidelines and measurable spatial criteria, which formed part of the property search brief. Each shortlisted property could not only be assessed against these criteria, but could also be analysed in terms of its spatial configuration and potential to integrate or segregate people, based on an analysis with DepthMap software.

The figure below illustrates an example of comparing the spatial potential of two different properties. Both options showed similar overall levels of integration (highlighted in warm colours such as red, orange and yellow), yet Option 2 showed a higher range of variation of spaces from integrated (suitable for collaboration) to segregated (suitable for concentration).


Analysis of spatial configuration of two shortlisted property options using DepthMap to determine levels of integration or segregation of a floor plan.

We could now use this information to lead an informed discussion with the client on their business needs – would they rather like an office with a more even spread of relatively integrated spaces, which would allow everyone to take equal part in business activities? Or would a workplace with a greater differentiation work better, which would allow some people to be at the centre of activities and others to enjoy more peace and quiet? Essentially, the spatial analysis and simulation of likely activities adds an additional layer of intelligence to the property search by taking into account what potential a floor plate and office configuration holds for integrating or segregating people.

The company has since successfully re-located. Based on the strategic guidelines we developed, the new office includes a central knowledge hub which brings people and information together in one place. This has helped to foster innovation and transform the working experience.

With an evidence-based approach to finding the perfect building, the business and the people who work within it can flourish.

The full version of how our evidence-based approach can provide innovative solutions for common workplace issues was published in the Corporate Real Estate Journal, Vol 4, Issue 3, pp. 249-262.

Topics: 3waystoboostpotential, potential, depthmap, evidence-based design, property selection, organisational culture, relocation