I started thinking about this idea of managing expectations after Dennis Wilde from Gerding Edlen’s talk at the Greenbuild Convention and Expo luncheon in Phoenix, Arizona last week. Dennis mentioned that when working with clients, they strive to manage the client’s expectations. For example, when talking about office space, they encourage their clients to re-evaluate some of their criteria or assumptions and here’s why.
Dennis explained that in an office building about 40% of the space that is assigned to individual people goes unused either because people are traveling, on vacation or in meetings somewhere else. On any given day a building is about 40% larger than it needs to be. In the long-term, this works against a company regarding upfront costs for materials as well as the cost to heat/cool the space whether it is being utilized or not. So when a client comes in and says to Gerding Edlen that they need 120 sq ft of office space per employee, GE tries to realign their thinking.
In considering the workplace of the future, Dennis came up with a great concept to transform the workplace. If a chair at a desk or cubicle could be designed to recognize an individual when they sat down and could send a signal to the computer to pull up the individual’s computer files and work information, then people could work anywhere within the office. A rump recognition chair: where your past meets the future.
We are generally uncomfortable working in someone else’s office because it is “their” space. Why? Because we brand our spaces with pictures and items that reflect our personalities. We even lock our office doors when we leave which clearly sends a message that the space is unavailable. How much space, energy and resources could be saved, if we could free ourselves of the idea of my space and your space?
Some consulting firms are starting to do something similar to this. Because their employees travel frequently to different company offices, the employee is assigned to a work station and a technician delivers their files and other materials they need to work effectively.
If this concept was adopted by large, global companies and they could reduce their square footage by 40%, which would require 40% less raw materials, and reduce the amount of energy to operate, then, we would be moving toward sustainability.
Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications at CertainTeed Corporation.