Micro-Environment from OFS: Rethink Open Office Design (NeoCon 2019)

06/10/2019 By Sarah Kloepple

Open office plans are ideal for collaboration and flexibility, but can lack privacy, both acoustically and visually. We’ve written before about managing the open office dilemma—from privacy pods to integrating more technology. Now, designers have another option.

Enter: OFS’ new micro-environment, Obeya, unveiled at NeoCon 2019 in Chicago.

The word obeya is Japanese for “big room.” Designed by Roger Webb, of Webb Associates, the product is a micro-environment meant to combat the drawbacks of the open office trend. It’s a framework made of wood that can be installed in an office to better define the space and bring people together with privacy.

Rather listen to the interview between Roger Webb and Christoph Trappe?

What Inspired Obeya

“[Obeya was] developed around the open office plan,” Webb says. “We are social people. We love working together. We interact well together. But one of the problems with an open plan is it’s noisy, disruptive and there’s no privacy.

“Part of the reason for designing products like Obeya is to provide spaces for people to retreat to, to meet, to find privacy areas, a place to focus and restore—all those things that are really important, but we’ve kept them open because we want transparency in the office. We want communication to flow.”

OFS Obeya open office

Obeya allows the user to close off three walls for privacy and has a ceiling designed for comfortable acoustics. The idea is to be semi-private, but still be seen.

“I’m not really a fan of what I like to call the ‘goldfish bowl,’ a trend going on at moment,” Webb says. “I think that’s going back to where we were in the ‘60s. I think we have to move into the next century with much more open dialogue and transparency.”

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Sustainability at the Forefront

Although Obeya is made from wood, OFS is committed to sustainable practices. Over 50 years, the company has reforested thousands of eroded acres.

“Wood is a natural resource that creates a lot of warmth,” says Nick Blessinger, vice president of marketing at OFS. “We wanted to bring that to the places where people are. But all that comes back to sustainability being at the heart of [doing what we do].”

Obeya from OFS is made from wood but through sustainable practices.

OFS strives to continue its founders’ legacy of conservation. The company has reclaimed 7,000 acres of FSC-certified forests and planted tens of thousands of trees, according to its website.

When asked how OFS defines sustainability, Blessinger replied: “Do the right thing. There’s a lot of choices you can make. Small choices make a big difference. Sometimes common sense can be the best way to be sustainable.”

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