A blog by CR Laurence...Simon Boocock, Managing Director of CRL looks at the benefits and possible solutions for creating a harmonious open-plan environment.
There are a lot of advantages to open-plan office environments so long as the space is designed in the right way, with one eye on acoustics.
While much emphasis is placed on ease of installation and visual appeal when specifying products for an internal fit-out of commercial premises, acoustics are an equally important practical consideration.
Open-plan environments are a huge trend for offices, with the idea being that they promote a cohesive, collaborative and inclusive environment. From a practical viewpoint, open-plan offices are spacious and light-filled which is advantageous when planning compact spaces. A recent study in the US revealed that open-plan offices, when designed in the right way, can even improve physical fitness among workers and aid their overall mental health and wellbeing.
However, while the idea is all very well in theory, the reality is often a lot different, as the open-plan nature means noise levels are not easy to maintain and distractions affect work levels. Privacy levels are also compromised and with no differentiation between departments cohesiveness can more often result in chaos. Ironically, there is much research to suggest that workers in open-plan offices spend significantly less time in face-to-face interactions and more time on email and instant messaging, with the removal of boundaries pushing people to isolate themselves from their colleagues by wearing headphones to cut out the background noise.
The challenge for architects therefore, is to find a way to create a happy medium; a light-filled open-plan inspired space with good acoustics where everyone can work in harmony. A fail-safe solution is to include glass partitions within the office’s design. Keeping the look and feel of an open-plan environment that is so important, a frameless glass partition enables natural light to flow and a high-end look to be achieved, while acoustics and privacy levels can also be managed more effectively.
Fortunately, from the viewpoint of the specifier and installer at least, fitting glass partitions does not need to be a huge task and maintenance can be carried out quickly too, keeping downtime to an absolute minimum. With the right systems chosen, glass office partitions are straightforward to fit, even retrospectively, enabling the open-plan space to be easily adapted to suit changing requirements as and when necessary too.
One such system is the CRL Langle Office Partition range which includes the standard and XL versions, both offering a creative and effective solution for modern interior designs.
The dry-glazed system provides a maximum transparency and an elegant appearance thanks to its thin, powder-coated profiles available in a satin anodised, brushed nickel or matte black finish. The profiles can be fixed to ceilings, floors, walls and door frames for a complete look and are supplied with EPDM fixing gaskets available in black or grey. Where noise reduction really is key to the installation, Office XL can accommodate 20 to 28mm thick insulating glass which will insulate sound up to 42dB, allowing employees to work with far less disturbance.
To help with the glass panel installation, the CRL Vacuum Ratchet Tensioning Kit enables them to be easily placed and pulled together. With no silicone sealant required, a clean and neat finish is achieved with polycarbonate joints that simply clip on the glass.
The height of hinged doors can be easily adjusted and floor-to-ceiling doors can be mounted, if desired. The system effectively closes the gaping joint between the glass door, side panel and top light, making it acoustically viable.
For a modern, urban look in any interior design, CRL’s Langle New York Office system features all the advantages of the Office XL system with a stylish, matte black frame. As all profiles are from the same series from CRL, the system is connectable via original angle connectors for a flexible partitioning system that meets the needs of the specifier, installer and end user.
New York Office is simple to fit and requires no special tools or glass cut-out for assembly; simply plug and play. Installed without notches, the entire system is screwed in and dry-glazed, minimising installation time and making it ideal for fitting retrospectively too. Vertical and horizontal profiles can be positioned as desired, which allows for a versatile design to be created depending on individual requirements.
Such solutions overcome many of the common practical challenges of open-plan office environments, creating an upmarket and productive ambience that any architect should be proud of.