As walls come down, and the lines between indoors and outdoors blur, the need for connectivity and flexibility in commercial design and public spaces is at an all-time high. For example, think about today’s modern work places. A four-walled cubicle with a desk is no longer standard. More frequently, employees are set up in open floorplans and plugging in anywhere (and everywhere) is increasingly the norm. Despite this shift, employees – and their employers – still expect constant connections and maximum productivity.
As these environmental usages continually evolve, commercial design will need to adapt to offer different technology solutions. From open work spaces to meeting rooms, education facilities, and public spaces like restaurants, below are three options commercial designers should consider to effectively and safely provide power throughout any environment.
1. Turn Existing Furniture into a Power Source
According to The Workplace Network study, conducted by Knoll and UnWired (a U.K.-based events and publishing company that produces conferences and reports on all aspects of work, technology and the workplace), on a typical day in the office employees are only at their desks 47% of the time. Meeting rooms are only in use between 50 and 60% of the time. The study surveyed leaders in charge of facilities and real estate at 46 global companies. Deemed the “hoteling” concept, many companies are now expanding the ways in which people can meet and work. Collaboration spaces or “huddle spaces” have replaced the cubicle. The option to work and learn anywhere is more than just a trend – it’s now an expectation – and to do so requires the ability to plug in.
For commercial designers and architects looking to incorporate power into collaborative working and learning environments - whether it’s an office, library or university - there are a variety of solutions that can turn existing furniture into a power source. Tools like furniture feeds for a meeting room table or power-devices integrated directly into the furniture offer excellent solutions for both new construction and retrofit applications without compromising aesthetics.
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2. Offer Connections Outdoors
Jonathan Olivares, a New York–based designer and author of A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, has researched the challenges and possibilities of outdoor workspaces, and according to his findings,
“Some companies have outdoor spaces, but they treat them as leisure space: cafes, gardens, patios. I think if they put business furniture and power and data outside, that would make a huge difference. It would make it look like a workplace instead of a barbecue or café.
As working habits change and our mobile devices, attached to us like appendages, allow us the freedom to work outside traditional offices, increasingly we are seeking alternative spaces that make productive activities feasible outdoors. This in turn demands new types of outdoor furniture and architectural elements.”
The simplest way to add power outdoors is to select solutions, like outdoor charging stations or pedestals, that blend seamlessly into existing landscapes. Manufacturers are designing these products to be outdoor-rated and built to withstand all weather conditions while offering USB outlets, power outlets and LED lights to illuminate pathways.
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3. Design for Convenience Now and in the Future
According to the Global Web Index survey on the use of connected devices, the average American consumer between the ages of 16-64 owns 3.64 connected devices (Source: Smart Insights). Each of these devices comes with its own charging needs, and an increasingly popular solution for charging in commercial spaces is via USB connections. However, USB solutions and their capabilities are frequently misunderstood by designers and specifiers. The right power offering for a space isn’t always about higher amperage – instead it’s about considering what devices users are trying to charge and what the space itself requires.
For example, a restaurant will likely encounter patrons needing to quickly charge a smartphone, which requires less power than larger devices. An office, on the other hand, will have a mixture of smartphones, tablets, wearables, and laptops that have more varied power demands. Multi-outlet systems that offer multiple access ports are best suited for airports and bars – places where it seems like there are never enough outlets – while pedestals or outdoor charging stations bring power to areas off the wall, whether in a central location or in an outdoor setting. There are many USB-based charging solutions that are highly suited for the diverse array of charging demands found in commercial and public spaces.
Adding power to existing furniture, providing connections outdoors and installing devices that can be easily replaced to adapt to ever-changing technologies can ensure a space is able to meet the demands of a new generation. Many of these changes even offer added benefits like reduced building operating costs and an elevated aesthetic, while simultaneously providing solutions that safely add power. Whether working to retrofit a space or design a new build, these tips will help specifiers, architects and designers alike stay on the forefront of change.
About the Author
Sabrina Snyder is a Product Marketing Manager for Legrand, specializing in new technologies, increasing indoor/outdoor productivity for facilities and innovations that maximize guest engagement in retail and hospitality spaces. Sabrina has a background in marketing communications and has been with Legrand for over 10 years.