The Adaptive Common Area: A How-To Case Study

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Lifestyle pundits have lately noted the trend toward multiple screen usage; we simultaneously watch television, work on our laptops, and text from our smart phones. Space utilization is following the same trend – one space must serve multiple functions. Facility planning consultant Keith Fentress, in his excellent blog series, cites the value of flexible office furnishings that can be reconfigured into individual “touchdown spaces,” collaborative “huddle rooms,” or sociable “hubs.” Can the flexibility that works well in an office space also find application in an institutional setting?

One research university recently gave a test run to some reconfigurable furnishings in a large common area. The space served variously as a reception area, a study area, and a student social area, sometimes changing its function two or three times in a single day. This video reveals the truth behind the test.

When A Laboratory Is Space-Challenged – Tips for Designers

The good news for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was they were getting two new buildings. The bad news? The square footage would actually be less than the buildings they were leaving. PNNL’s program manager Greg Herman had to look for ways to fit more into less. Working with his design team, he maximized space by keeping walls to a minimum. Mobile casework and quick-disconnect workbenches allowed him to reconfigure “ballroom-type” laboratories in a matter of days, rather than taking time to demolish and rebuild interior walls.

Just as important was determining what equipment was the most reliable, useful, and best quality. “If it’s not reliable, then the users are not going to use it,” stated Herman. What made the cut? Read the complete story at


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Hospitals Designing for Constant Change

Technology innovations, regulatory revisions, demographic shifts – they all add up to an ever-changing healthcare environment. “The best investment a healthcare organization can make is in a facility that can—and will—change,” says Lisa Regan, director of performance and transformation for Bluewater Health of Ontario. Regan and her colleagues cite modular design as the key to flexible space utilization, starting with building designs that allow for a variety of space usages over time. Modular cabinetry and furnishings are an essential part of the flexibility picture, moving out of “soft spaces” such as storage areas and offices whenever “hard spaces” such as imaging or surgery need to expand. In a recent Bluewater Health hospital re-fit, 80% of the new cabinetry was reconfigurable casework. Regan estimated the modular casework yielded a 74% savings when the spaces had to be reconfigured only a year later. Read the full story at


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Your Gift from the IRS: The Equipment Purchase Deduction

As the song says, “It’s that time of year,” time to take advantage of Section 179, the tax rule that allows you to deduct the full purchase price of business equipment, up to $25,000. New equipment put into service before December 31st can be deducted from your business’s gross income under Section 179. It’s that simple. And everything we provide – high density storage systems, RFID systems, materials handling equipment, for example – qualifies for the deduction.

More good news: When you add in depreciation, the total tax reduction is even greater. This calculator shows the savings: Check with your tax professional, then give us a call.


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Designing Commercial Spacecraft: Carry-On Bags Permitted?

In some ways, today’s interplanetary travel resembles airline travel: uncomfortable seats, bland food, and very limited storage space. As a manned Mars mission approaches reality and commercial space ventures push the envelope of tourism, Boeing has partnered with NASA to design less spartan spacecraft interiors. LED screens are substituted for windows and a blue lighting scheme creates a calm, pleasant atmosphere. Cargo storage too is a vital consideration; seating can be reconfigured into storage, much like modular reconfigurable storage systems here on planet Earth.

Passenger-oriented design will certainly make the 2-year trip to Mars relatively comfortable. discusses Boeing’s plans in detail here: While industrial designers at Boeing are working on spacecraft interiors, perhaps they will figure out a way to increase the overhead storage capacity in today’s airplanes!


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Adaptability – Any Way You Arrange It, It Spells Success

Any biologist will tell you that adaptable species are the ones that survive. Similarly, space planners know that an adaptable office environment is the one in which employees don’t just survive, they thrive. And as employees thrive, so do the businesses they work for. New research by Steelcase [] shows that productivity calls for a balance between collaborative space and private space. The ideal office environment will adapt easily, allowing for both collaboration and privacy for a varying number of employees as work teams grow or shrink and staffing needs shift.

The dinosaurs didn’t adapt well, but businesses today are finding ways to avoid the fate of T. rex by installing modular, adaptable workspaces, and surviving with style.


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News Flash: Millenials Don’t Like Offices!

“We’re gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into Storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get.” These lines from the movie “Office Space” drew big guffaws in theaters, but facilities managers cringed through their laughter. As the economy improves and hiring increases, they are hard-pressed to wedge new hires into the traditional offices-and-cubicles space plan.

The newly-hired millennials themselves may provide the solution. This generation seems to have a strong preference for an open, mobile, collaborative workplace. Private enclosed offices and high-walled cubicles are shunned in favor of large open floor plans and low-rise workspaces that can be moved around and reconfigured as work teams change. A recent story in IndyStar shows an interactive before-and-after graphic of an open-plan makeover for one company seeking to attract tech-savvy millennials:

As major corporations such as Rolls-Royce and Eli Lilly shift to open-plan workplaces to recruit millennial workers, smart space planners are now specifying office furniture that is modular, mobile, and easy to set up or store as needs fluctuate. And there’s a bonus – according to CoreNet Global, the space occupied per employee has dropped from 225 square feet in 2010 to 170 square feet in 2013. That’s something that will put a smile on the face of any facilities manager!


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Photo © Rui Vale de Sousa – fotolia