Paragon Interface redefines workspace planning for the office of the future

Striking a balance between working from home and returning to the workplace is likely to result in the ‘hybrid office’ of the future, according to Paragon Interface Senior Associate Kirsty Schoombie.

The ‘hybrid office’ is defined as the ideal compromise between remote working and being office-bound, as was the norm prior to Covid-19. Instead, in this ‘new normal’, employees continue to work from home while being required to be in the office on occasion. This will allow for interaction with fellow colleagues and bolster corporate culture, especially with larger companies. “Yes, there is an associated cost-saving with having your staff work remotely,” acknowledges Schoombie. However, the phenomenon dubbed as ‘Zoom fatigue’, which refers to the increased cognitive demands posed by constant teleconferencing, indicates that workers would prefer some level of human interaction as the world slowly recovers from the pandemic.

The hybrid office is defined as the ideal compromise between remote working and being office-bound.

This will also give interior architecture companies like Paragon Interface the opportunity to ‘reimagine’ the office of the future. “With social distancing, sanitising and mask-wearing likely to be with us for the foreseeable future, it is important for workspace planning to take this into account,” highlights Schoombie. This can easily be done by reducing the number of work stations and placing them further apart, while also increasing the number of couches for social seating, for example.

Wider corridors and doorways and additional partitioning will become more common, while even office furniture is likely to evolve in terms of fabrics and advances such as foldaway desks. Other features include no-touch doors, increased use of stairs to reduce crowding in elevators, and the use of materials such as silver and copper in surface finishes due to their antimicrobial properties.

Management consultant McKinsey highlights four steps to redefine workspaces post Covid-19: Optimising basic processes so that remote work is as uninterrupted and as effective as possible; redefining work roles in terms of ‘fully remote’ and ‘hybrid remote’; redesigning the workspace to foster safe collaboration; and optimising the office footprint accordingly.

Schoombie points out that the latter does not necessarily mean reducing the physical size of an office building per se, but rather using interior design to improve space utilisation and planning. Traditional layouts will have to be reconsidered, with the addition of Perspex screening now a regulatory requirement. This is likely to result in a more modular approach to workspace design. Another area likely to change significantly post Covid-19 is the office canteen or cafeteria.

“With so much time now being spent working from home, it is going to become increasingly important for people to ensure that their ‘home offices’ are comfortable and practical. This is essential for both personal well-being and productivity,” concludes Schoombie.

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Paragon Interface creates a new way of work at The Ridge

Following on from its successful completion of Deloitte’s new Africa headquarters at Waterfall City in Midrand, Paragon Interface has just completed a new workplace for the professional services firm at The Ridge at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. This was a high-profile project for the interior architecture company Paragon Interface, part of the Paragon Group, as The Ridge has just been awarded a 6 Star Green Star Office Design rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

“Maintaining the design integrity of the base building architecture while successfully incorporating the distinctively Deloitte brand experience was our aspiration for the interior of this ground-breaking ‘green’ building,” highlights Paragon Interface Director Claire D’Adorante. “The result has been a project that we are immensely proud of. The Ridge has quite a unique aesthetic – it’s industrial but still very elegant and well-detailed in response to the technical requirements of the sustainable design brief.”

The Ridge is the apex of the new Portswood District green development at the V&A Waterfront. It has a gross lettable area of approx. 8 500 m2 and consists of ground, plus three levels of office accommodation and three basement parking levels.

The ground floor accommodates the more public functions such as a Deloitte reception, client-facing meeting rooms, a staff restaurant and a Vida Café that can service both Deloitte employees and the public realm through a service hatch inserted into the covered entrance façade. The ground floor experience is completed by Deloitte’s ‘Xcelerator’, an immersive environment where clients can experience the potential of digital transformations in an innovative environment that enables the creative development of customised digital solutions.

To facilitate and encourage active movement for both employees and visitors, The Ridge has a light-filled internal atrium conceptualised as a street that runs through its centre. The workspace planning focuses on activating this street edge through the deliberate positioning of agile workspaces around the atrium to create a bustling working corridor.

It includes a balance of collaborative workspace such as touch-down points, casual lounge spaces, focus rooms and pods. Social relaxation areas are positioned in the vertical circulation core. Lifts and a sculptural steel staircase allow employees to easily connect with each other between floors. New ways of working such as desk-sharing practices are also being successfully implemented here, aligned with Deloitte’s global workspace practices.

Apart from the application of similar branding elements in the signage, finishes and colour scheme as at Waterfall City, The Ridge has a distinctively different atmosphere. Extensive use of natural materials such as exposed concrete, timber and glass echoes the external façade. The indoor planting completes a holistic wellness experience for users.

However, perhaps the biggest differentiator at The Ridge is the presence of exposed slabs and services, a technical requirement of the innovative chilled slab cooling solution – one of the many unique sustainability features of the building. Special acoustic panels float underneath the slabs to provide appropriate levels of sound absorption for a comfortable office environment and suspended linear low-energy LED lighting between the panels follows a similar design rhythm.

“From the beginning The Ridge was always going to be unique, and the interior really needed to respond to that brief. At the same time, it aligns the threads of Deloitte’s branding philosophy and the workplace strategy implemented at Waterfall City,” says D’Adorante.

The sustainability features at The Ridge that contributed to its green rating from the GBCSA include energy-efficient and passive climate control measures, the use of renewable energy, sustainable water handling, reducing the carbon footprint of the building and a focus on the use of natural lighting, including natural ventilation through openable windows. Energy performance has been integrated fully into the design, which maximises natural light, ventilation and manages water and waste resources efficiently.

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Lanseria Smart City unlikely to make a big splash in SA’s urban landscape

In his State of the Nation Address on 13 February, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that the proposed Lanseria Smart City “is now a reality in the making”, with the draft masterplan completed in November 2020 out for public comment.

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Learn why so many architects never build what they dream of in second Paragon Group masterclass

Why do so many architects never build what they dream of? This is the question that Paragon Group Director Anthony Orelowitz will address in an online masterclass on 29 October.

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