What it Takes to Collaborate

Fostering a culture of collaboration is a primary driver for many businesses and organizations in the US. This has been a growing trend within the last decade. COP’s partner, Herman Miller, has been researching the nature and success of collaboration extensively and has been able to study whether efforts to promote collaboration are successful. Click here to access their research findings.

Sound Masking in an Office Without Private Offices or Cubicles – The Bridgespan Group

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Challenge

Reducing Distractions and Protecting Speech Privacy in an Open-Concept Space

When the Bridgespan Group, a non-profit consultant group for philanthropists and mission driven organizations, moved to a new 28,000 square foot, one floor location, they saw an opportunity to do something completely different with their office space and the way they worked. One aspirational value of the Bridgespan culture is collaboration—employees work in close-knit teams and the company leadership feels every person has valuable contributions to make. As a result, they wanted a completely open office that was a physical representation of their collaborative spirit. The goal was to design a dramatically different kind of office that would enhance interpersonal interaction and provide a variety of workspace choices for all staff every day while simultaneously keeping costs down.

All employees were invited to participate in the visioning of the new office project, and after numerous brainstorming sessions and a lot of research, a plan for a truly open office emerged. The new office would not have assigned seats, rather, everyone would have a place to store their personal belongings and choose where they wanted to sit throughout the day. At the heart of the office there would be a space with movable tables, sofas, and white boards where teams could meet and discuss work previously done in closed conference rooms. There would be several small comfortable seating clusters throughout the office for small-group conversations, and also sitting and standing work stations for individuals. Those looking for a more private setting could move to the “library” where there would be no conversations or cellphone use. There would be a bank of small private rooms for people to use when they truly needed privacy for meetings, phone calls, or individual work, but there would be no private offices – even for the most senior staff. Conference rooms would have glass walls so meetings could be seen by everyone.

With such a bold vision came privacy and noise concerns. A completely open office space with no cubicle partitions or walls to block sound would mean that speech privacy would be compromised and noise distractions would be elevated. How could Bridgespan retain their open concept vision but also create an acoustically comfortable environment? How could they ensure that teams did not distract one another while working on separate projects? How could they ensure that conversations in conference rooms and private rooms would not be overheard?

Solution

QtPro™ Sound Masking System

The Bridgespan Group asked their property managers, Cresa Partners, for potential solutions to office noise problems. Cresa suggested that Bridgespan consider introducing sound masking to the space. Sound masking is the process of adding a low level, unobtrusive background sound to an environment to reduce the intelligibility of human speech and reduce noise distractions. By making nearby conversations unintelligible, sound masking protects speech privacy and allows individuals to work more productively in a space with fewer noise distractions. Sound masking is more cost effective than other acoustical treatments such as partitions or soundproofing materials.

Integrator Connectivity Point won the bid to install Bridgespan’s sound masking. Small, barely visible emitters (speakers) were installed in the open ceiling and drop ceiling areas throughout the open-office space and the designated private areas. The emitters were connected by cables to a QtPro control module residing in the server room. Connectivity Point and Bridgespan worked together on a wiring plan that could facilitate potential zoning changes later on. The system was also configured to act as a docking station for music devices so that Bridgespan could play the music of their choice over the emitters during events and get-togethers.

Result

An Open Office Plan that Actually Worked

Bridgespan was able to create an open office environment that’s both beautiful and functional. Office chatter from team projects is not distracting to employees and groups in other parts of the office. The “library” remains quiet and unaffected by noise in the adjoining open area. Furthermore, private conversations in the private rooms and conference rooms are not overheard by employees in the open area.

“Sound masking helped make our open office concept work. Teams can collaborate out in the open near other teams and employees without being overly distracting. We’re pleased with what the system has done for us.” – Charles Lee, Director of Information Services, The Bridgespan Group

 

About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. They collaborate with social sector leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and accelerate learning. Bridgespan works on issues related to society’s most important challenges and to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. Their services include strategy consulting, leadership development, philanthropy advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.

About Cambridge Sound Management
Cambridge Sound Management, Inc. manufactures QtPro sound masking systems to help organizations across multiple industries protect speech privacy, reduce noise distractions, and fuel workplace productivity. Powered by direct-field Quiet Technology, QtPro works by emitting a uniform, barely perceptible background sound at the frequencies of human speech. Cost effective and easy to install, QtPro is deployed in hundreds of millions of square feet of space throughout the world including commercial organizations, healthcare facilities, financial services, government agencies, and educational institutions.

About Connectivity Point
Connectivity Point specializes in integrated technology solutions for voice, data, video and security applications. They have specific expertise in structured cabling and wireless connectivity, security systems, audio visual equipment, VOIP telephone systems and sound
masking solutions. Connectivity Point services the New England area with their own technicians, and nationally and globally through a network of pre-qualified partners, enabling Connectivity Point to be their clients’ One Point of contact.

Post sponsored by Cambridge Sound Management

RDK’s Lean Journey

For the past few years, RDK Engineers has taken many steps to start incorporating Lean and its
practices into our company.
At its core, Lean is a philosophy that seeks to increase client value and eliminate unnecessary
waste. By applying systems thinking, Lean organizations see the whole value stream of their
operations and find ways to use less material, effort, energy, and equipment to deliver
increased value to clients while providing meaningful work for staff. Lean has successfully been
applied by the manufacturing world to a variety of organizational challenges and is increasingly
being used in healthcare operations.
RDK’s Lean journey started with a half-day workshop in our Andover office in 2011 where we
tackled our internal RFI (Request for Information) process. In the class, we laid out every single
step of the process and identified very quickly all the waste in this process. RDK was able to
walk away with a Value Stream Map, which outlined our wastes and potential improvements
that could be made to our process.
A year later, ten RDK employees completed an 8 week course on Lean geared towards the
Healthcare industry. Many of RDK’s healthcare clients apply Lean to their projects, so improving
our understanding and application of Lean allowed us to align ourselves with their approach.
Since then, RDK has created a Lean Steering Committee that meets every other month to
discuss lean strategies and how to implement a continuous improvement culture. A subset of
our Lean Steering Committee has been meeting with each RDK departments to identify
improvements within their teams using one of the Lean tools called CEDAC (Cause and Effect
Diagram Adding Cards). The topic of the CEDAC’s are “what impedes us from doing our job to
the best of our ability?” and we run a workshop on that which ends with prioritizing
recommended solutions. It is a brainstorming session where dozens of ideas are offered and
then posted. We then chart the cost versus overall impact of each recommended improvement
and also vote on them to determine the most significant. RDK’s internal groups have also
decided to take the feedback from their CEDAC’s and spend at least one hour each month at a
staff meeting discussing Lean and potential recommended improvements. We are thrilled with
the progress we’ve been able to make.
RDK will continue on its Lean journey by holding internal workshops, applying improvements to
processes, minimizing waste and adapting these principles company-wide. While doing this, we
will start to apply Lean tools to our project work and continue to consider the tremendous
value that it can offer our clients.

 

RDK Principal Joe Bonanno identifies waste in the RDK RFI process.

RDK Principal Joe Bonanno identifies waste in the RDK RFI process.

An RDK group using the 'CEDAC' tool to brainstorm how we can all work more efficiently.

An RDK group using the ‘CEDAC’ tool to brainstorm how we can all work more efficiently.

 

What Tenants Want in a Building

By Marc Margulies, AIA, LEED AP, principal at Margulies Perruzzi Architects

How do tenants decide which building to take space in? What are the factors that inform the leasing decision? Clearly, cost comes strongly into play, but the financials are often very competitive. The decision may thus be swayed by the physical attributes of one location versus another. How can older or “dated” looking buildings be repositioned for maximum appeal? What are savvy landlords doing to their buildings to attract and retain good-credit tenants? A few factors to consider:

 Amenities

Why does Boston’s Innovation District have such great appeal to growing companies? The reason, in part, is because immediately outside the front door there are a dozen funky restaurants, health clubs, Hubway bike racks, and waterfront music and bars. Given a choice, tenants invariably prefer having convenient access to these kinds of amenities, even if it’s in a suburban setting. Companies want a dynamic, energetic environment – one that has both life-style convenience for staff and the facilities to keep employees from losing work-time by leaving the building.

 Ideally, all the conveniences of an active urban environment would be nearby. Food is the most desirable amenity, and a dominant trend is to provide healthy menu alternatives with adjacent outside dining. The most powerful statement about repositioning a building is the creation of an active dining/meeting/community gathering space adjacent to or as part of the main lobby that helps to bring life and energy to the common areas, one that can be used for casual meetings even beyond food-service hours. The lobby and gathering space should be wireless-enabled with comfortable and flexible furniture. When visitors come to the building, it should feel active, productive, and energetic.

 Other attractive services include dry cleaning drop off/pick up and shared conference facilities with robust audiovisual capabilities. A “micro-mart” can offer 24/7 access to a wide variety of fresh products and typical sundries in a secure self-service environment. Some kind of fitness facility is indispensable; in larger buildings, the fitness facility usually has substantial offerings, but at a minimum provides showers, locker rooms, and some aerobic workout machines.

 Aesthetics

Historic buildings have a unique appeal that new buildings cannot duplicate; new buildings have the long-span, light-filled, flexible footprints and modern common-area finishes that are so attractive. Many buildings built from 1960 to 1990 are caught in-between, and if they remain un-renovated, often feel trapped in time. To remain competitive, dated finishes must be judiciously replaced, and the overall aesthetic environment made to feel fresh.

 Some tell-tale signs that new finishes are needed include natural oak (anywhere), drywall stair railing/half-wall, bordered carpet in the corridors, terra cotta floor tile, heavily fissured ceiling tile, two-toned wood paneling, artwork of miscellaneous sizes and frames, walls with multi-colored, heavily patterned marble, or large round recessed lights. Bathroom finishes should not have 4×4 floor tile on the walls and floor, rust on the toilet partitions, or plastic laminate sink counters with exposed plumbing or 2×2 fluorescent lights.

 Instead, the lobby, corridors, bathrooms and elevators should be light, bright, and clean with contemporary colors and furniture. The “wayfinding” (signage) should be visible and designed around a theme consistent with the building marketing. If there is a security desk, it should feel more like a concierge than a guard post.

 Finally, many of the buildings constructed in the 1970’s during the energy crisis had narrow windows with high sills and bronze tinted glass. The color of the light, particularly in the lobbies, is significantly degraded, making the interiors feel darker and less cheerful. This limited window line is an inherent disadvantage relative to newer buildings, but the color of the glass exacerbates the problem. Replacement of some or all of the windows with clear, low-E glass makes an enormous difference.

 Sustainability

With minimal effort, a building can achieve USGBC LEED EB (Existing Building) status, and the plaque in the main lobby is a powerful statement about the building management’s commitment to providing a healthy work environment. While smaller tenants may not pursue LEED certification, tenants often prefer LEED-certified buildings, and a high percentage of large corporations insist on it.

 Few building owners are enthusiastic about the LEED process and cost. Tenants often view it as a statement about the quality of property management. There is a rigor that comes from LEED certification that assures tenants that their office is well maintained, healthy, safe, and environmentally friendly.

 High-quality tenants in the marketplace want to feel comfortable that the building they are moving to is going to be an asset to their successful, profitable, and productive company, and that prospective employees will see it as an attractive place to work. Amenities, aesthetics, and sustainability are three key elements to successfully appealing to them.

 

About the author

Marc Margulies, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal at Margulies Perruzzi Architects. Consistently ranked as one of Boston’s top architectural and interior design firms, Margulies Perruzzi Architects services the corporate, professional services, research and development, real estate, and healthcare communities. For more information, please visit www.mp-architects.com.