Change to Thrive: A Lesson from Your Mall

At the Christmas season, it may be hard to believe that malls are becoming scarcer, but it’s a trend that has been going on for the better part of a decade. A combination of overbuilding, online shopping, and demographic shifts has led to the demise of nearly 1/3 of America’s malls.

But there’s a silver (or green) lining in the retail cloud. Rather than let these massive malls stand empty, owners are following the green re-purposing movement and transforming old malls into new housing, new offices, and new types of retail. Retailers are downsizing their storefronts as they change from their traditional ways of doing business, opening up space in the malls that can be reconfigured into new forms: healthcare facilities, off-campus university learning centers, government offices, libraries, and housing ranging from low-income apartments to chic upscale condos.

Transformation is part of today’s design vocabulary. Warehouses become lofts, malls become community centers, and even the furnishings in offices, like the popular Swiftspace workstations, are reconfigured into whatever form suits the needs of the user at that particular time. Designing and planning for transformation adds longevity to an investment in almost anything: buildings, furnishings, even people. How is your business incorporating transformation into its long-range plan?


Photo © Minerva Studio/

Greening Your Office? Provide Bike Storage

Sustainability has become a part of office policies everywhere. Paper is recycled; energy usage is monitored; space-saving storage and furnishings are installed. Many businesses are now looking at additional ways to go green, and bicycle commuting is one of the options they are embracing. Here’s how businesses in some cities are encouraging their employees to ride their bikes to work:

  • London – The newly refurbished Alphabeta building in central London features a “cycle-in” bicycle ramp that is a visual design feature as well as a practical incentive for cyclists. The bicycle parking area provides secure storage as well as changing rooms and lockers for commuters who don’t want to wear bike shorts to business meetings.
  • Chicago – It makes sense that bicycle parts manufacturer SRAM would have a bike-friendly office. Their headquarters features a 1/8 mile test track that winds through the office area, with bike racks at every desk in the open-plan offices. Another Chicago building, the Willis Tower, provides bicycle valet parking for office workers. For about $1/day, cyclists drop their bikes in the valet zone, then call ahead to have their bikes retrieved when the work day is over.
  • Toronto – The designers of office complex Bay Adelaide West incorporated bicycle storage into the overall parking plan, attracting forward-thinking businesses to their new building, Toronto’s first LEED® Certified Core and Shell Gold high-rise office building.

If you’re looking for ways to “green up” your workplace, the organizers of Bike To Work Day in Washington, D.C., offer advice for businesses that want to encourage bicycle commuting. Adequate, secure storage is always a primary consideration; a storage design expert can help you find the best bicycle storage solution for your sustainability program.


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Green Office Case Study: Cisco

The statistics are surprising: commercial buildings account for 60% of U.S. electrical consumption, 30% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and 136 million tons of U.S. construction/demolition waste (U.S. Green Buildings Council). As the American economy continues to shift to office-oriented services housed in commercial buildings, builders and users are searching for ways to reduce these environmentally unfriendly numbers, and fulfill the promise of sustainability – a healthier environment and a healthier economy.

Technology leader Cisco, committed to “greening” its business, tested a sustainable real estate strategy in its San Jose, California, offices. Their facilities managers realized that traditional offices are often vacant 65% of the time, while meeting rooms were often overbooked. This usage imbalance was not just wasteful of energy, but also in terms of real estate costs. Cisco developed an initiative, The Connected Workplace, to house more people in less space. The number of individual workspaces was greatly reduced and collaborative spaces were increased. Electronic equipment – copiers, desktop computers, LANs – was consolidated and reduced.

Mobility and flexible space utilization became the foundation of Cisco’s Connected Workplace design. Quoting Cisco’s vice president of Global Work Place Resources and Enterprise Risk Management, Christina S. Kite, “A properly designed workplace requires less building infrastructure, which takes up less space, produces less heat, and consumes less power than traditional workplaces-while supporting employees more effectively.” The results of the Connected Workplace, released in a public case study, give any business a powerful reason to make its commercial spaces more efficient and sustainable with high density storage and adaptable mobile and modular workspaces.


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You May Think You’re a Facilities Manager, But…

No matter what your job description is, you’re in sales. Sure, you studied construction management or engineering, but if you’re a facilities manager, sooner or later you’ll find yourself selling a proposal to the people who sign off on your budget.

Some sales are easier than others. An impressive new building or a news-worthy green initiative gives your bosses a chance to shine in the public eye. It’s tougher to get funding for less visible, tangible projects. Writing in Facilities Maintenance Decisions, Dan Hounsell suggests creating a “marketing plan” for your low-profile projects. He offers 4 starting points for creating such a plan, using the example of one of the least glamorous aspects of FM: deferred maintenance.

Hounsell recommends emphasizing (1) long-term cost savings; (2) sustainability; (3) job creation/retention; and (4) responsible management. Cost savings in particular can be a deciding factor, and a well-presented case for “spend a little now, save a lot later” can produce a quick approval.

These selling points are effective for any proposed expenditures that lack a “glam factor,” such as better spare parts management, or (dare we say) new storage systems. Give this marketing plan a try on your next budget request, and let us know the results!


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Planning for the “Next-Gen” Lab

As science and technology advance, research facilities are having to decide how they will adapt – do they have the built-in flexibility to modify their laboratories, or will they have to do a top-to-bottom redesign? Writing in Lab Design News, Jeffrey R. Zynda, describes a “next generation” laboratory, one that is reconfigurable to meet the increasing need for computational research, as well as promoting the well-being of researchers themselves through social, collaborative environments.

A flexibility plan is essential to an effective next-gen lab. Reconfigurable casework and movable benches are a good step toward flexibility, as Greg Muth discusses in “Flexibility – It Takes A Plan.” Without good planning, however, the flexibility rarely lives up to the expectations.

Muth notes that a good flexibility plan defines who modifies the space – the users, the maintenance staff, or an outside vendor – and how long the modifications will take. He points to the example of Genentech, who developed “SWAT teams” of contractors who know the casework systems well and can make frequent modifications quickly and easily.

Creating a sound plan with the assistance of a knowledgeable vendor will help next-gen labs maintain their usefulness for years to come.

Photo WavebreakMediaMicro © Fotolia

Laboratory Design: What’s a “Next Generation” Lab?

Until recently, life sciences labs were “seen one, seen them all.” However, the traditional rows of wet benches have lately been giving way to a new form of laboratory design – the next-generation lab.

In Lab Design News, Jeffrey R. Zynda, principal and academic science practice leader at Perkins+Will, Boston, points to a shift in research demands as the driving force behind next-gen lab design. Genomic sequencing, for example, relies much more on computational research than on hands-on experimental investigation. Further, the ever-growing collaboration between the public sector and the private sector encourages both specialization and flexibility. To meet these twin goals, designers must be mindful of the need for lighting, air handling, and furnishings that can accommodate specialized research while remaining reconfigurable for future projects. Flexibility in turn supports sustainability, another significant consideration in next-generation lab design.

Finally, these new labs promote the well-being of the scientists themselves. Social, collaborative environments will attract the brightest and best of the next-generation researchers, keeping these research facilities at the forefront of science.


The Green Office: How A Small Change Can Yield Big R.O.I.

When Americans are making buying decisions, 80% say they consider a company’s sustainability track record, according to a Harris Interactive survey. Many businesses look to high-profile programs – green-fuel fleets or waste recycling – to improve their green rating. A less obvious way to boost your sustainability quotient: green workstations and desks from MAS-certified manufacturers.

One such manufacturer, Swiftspace, has been working steadily to reduce VOC emissions from its furniture products. (VOCs – volatile organic compounds – are commonly found in paint and wood products, and the gases can cause health problems in enclosed spaces.) In April 2015 Swiftspace received its MAS certification for healthier indoor environments. CEO Rob Way also pointed out Swiftspace’s green-conscious policies of low-waste design and shipping materials, as well as the furniture’s simple, no-tools setup which eliminates the fuel footprint of on-site installation travel.

And the benefit of sourcing green furnishings for your office? In addition to LEED tax incentives and rebate programs in some locales, the positive publicity can attract the attention – and the dollars – of the 80% of the buying public that prefer to do business with an environmentally conscious company.



Photo © lenets_tan – Fotolia

And The Winner Is…

Facilities maintenance professionals: Their work is vital to the smooth functioning of office buildings, hospitals, government facilities, military installations, retail operations – practically any place other than your home – and yet we rarely think about what it really takes to keep these facilities up and running. The recently announced 2014 FMD Achievement Awards, sponsored by the business publication Facilities Maintenance Decisions, honors these unsung heroes for their outstanding work. Award recipients were named in the categories of Retrofits and Renovations, Sustainability, Financial Management, and Personnel Management:

We salute you!


Got questions? We’ve got answers…


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