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Is the Open Floor Plan Out?

May 31, 2016 by Lara Jakubowski1

Two recent pieces make me wonder if the pendulum is shifting on the open floor plan model.

There’s no changing the fact that the trend in workspaces is toward smaller footprints, leaner offices, more mobile furniture and flexible set-ups.

But Officing Today’s recent article referencing Flexible Workspace Review US 2016 by Instant Group suggests that coworking spaces may be retrenching from all open space floor plans.  The demand for private office space is being met with hybrid solutions.  Officing Today reports that 23% of coworking space is private offices.

We know that most of NCN members have more traditional floorplans, but many are interested in the coworking model.  This information is good food for thought.  There’s always a need for solid feasibility planning to support shifting a business model toward coworking.  Most of the centers I talk to are considering the open floor space plan, but for a portion of their space.  The Alliance Center, where NCN offices, doubled the occupancy of its building by incorporating more workstations in open floor plans but I would argue that its success is also linked to a key location in a very dense part of Denver where demand is strong.

Did you hear the story on National Public Radio about the inventor of the open floor plan?  I thought it was fascinating how this concept evolved (failed!) in the mid 1990’s.  Amazing how quickly Chiat Day switched course and moved back into traditional office space, although eventually back to some sort of hybrid layout I understand.

Is the lesson: everything in moderation?  Know your client?  I think the open floor plan and all the comfy couches are here to stay, but in what ratio?  I think we are seeing an evening out of the market.  The real estate folks who wanted to squeeze every square inch out of their projects are hitting a wall and there is a recognition that one size does not fit all – be it a big corner office or a small seat at a hot desk.

What’s your experience with the open floor plan?  When has it been most successful for you?  I’d be interested to hear more.

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About Our Blogger:

Lara Jakubowski

Lara is the Executive Director at the Nonprofit Centers Network and has worked with nonprofits and their real estate projects for 18 years. Most recently she was the principal in LWJ Consulting LLC, a consulting practice that focused on shared space, shared services, business planning, facility planning and fundraising. Since 2006 she has worked with over forty Metro Denver nonprofits to evaluate and grow their impact in the community.

One comment

  • Aaron Cruikshank

    June 5, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    As someone who helps my clients develop coworking spaces, I’d say that knowing the market is super important in determining the ratio. For example – in the burbs, we see more demand for private offices than in dense downtown cores. Other neighbourhoods needs more amenities in the building beyond offices like a gym, childcare or a maker space.


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