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Workplace


Coworking: an office revolution underway


Paul Goodchild explores the rapid change flowing through office space and what this means for facilities managers charged with planning and managing new environments and the expectations of a new workforce


buildings evolve over time to meet the changing needs of their occupants. He describes each building as consisting of six layers, each of which functions on a different timescale. These range from the site itself which has a lifecycle measured in centuries, through to the building (decades), interior fit- out (years), technology (months), to stuff (days). The effectiveness of a design will depend on how well it resolves the tensions that exist between these layers of the building. The principles behind this complex situation have been known to us for a long time, at least since the 1970s when Frank Duffy first introduced the world to his ideas about the physical and temporal layers of the building – in his terminology the ‘shell, services, scenery and sets’ which anticipates Brand’s own take on the interplay of building layers. The ability to respond to change and the tensions that exist between these


I


n his book How Buildings Learn, the author Stewart Brand outlines the process whereby


layers are perhaps the most important facets of an effective office design. Creating this level of responsiveness is described in the Facilities Design and Management Handbook by its author Eric Teichholz as ‘the basic driver of the facilities management workload.’ However, it looks like things may be changing fundamentally because of the uptake of coworking and its influence on mainstream office design. This is a genuinely disruptive phenomenon because it marks a fundamental shift in the way office space is used. It may even be more accurate to suggest that the space is not occupied but rather consumed. It is based on a business model that does not see the people who use the space as occupiers in the traditional sense but as members. In that regard at least it is the most advanced form of flexible or agile working space, unless you count the hotel lobbies, private members clubs and coffee shops that are its most obvious aesthetic and functional progenitors.


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