Rooftop patios - what are they good for?

When we conduct Space Needs Assessments for companies looking to lease new office space, one of the amenities that is increasingly coming up as a high priority is some form of outdoor space - typically a rooftop patio. Sounds very cool and why wouldn't you want one? Well, they're expensive from a rent and operating cost perspective and they're often only available in new buildings either for the sole use of the anchor tenant or as a shared amenity with all of the associated restrictions. Also, although those of us that live in the lower mainland like to kid ourselves, we don't live in California and there's a high probability of rain for 9 months of the year.

I'm not really selling it to you, am I? OK then, let's look at some of the benefits. 

A rooftop patio can be a way to really make your company's brand and culture come to life. It can be linked to your staff lunchroom or client area to give you a spectacular space to bring staff together, e.g. with a summer BBQ, to celebrate achievements or alternatively to entertain clients. 

In an Activity Based Working(ABW) environment where staff are provided with technology that allows them to work anywhere within the building, it can be another setting in your palette of places to collaborate, removing some of the pressure from your workhorse meeting rooms. It can be fun too. Don't we all remember when we were kids and on days when the weather was nice lessons were held outdoors?

Additionally, if you were planning to have your next office WELL certified to demonstrate your commitment as employer to the health & wellbeing of your staff then a quick look at the WELL standard suggests a whole raft of credits that could be achieved using the patio as a starting point.

How about a fitness court as a less intimidating supplement to the staff gym. Exercise equipment that looks like street furniture can be built into your patio space to provide a self-guided workout. There's even an app to help you progress.

My personal favourite 'bonus' use for the patio is as a staff garden. Using compact self watering container beds such as those from North Vancouver's LifeSpace Gardens staff can have access to fresh produce all year round by growing their own and trading surplus with colleagues or donating to charity. 

So all things considered rooftop patios are good for quite a lot of things, and if you apply some imagination then they can provide bang for your buck in terms of employee engagement and health and well-being that is difficult to beat. 

Alan Hancock, Principal, Workplace Design Consultant, Space at Work

Space at Work are specialists in designing workplaces. We take the time to understand our client's requirements and by asking the right questions and listening to the responses we provide solutions that incorporate best practices, current and emerging trends to create spaces that are agile, adaptive and ready to accept whatever change is around the corner. Please contact us if you have an upcoming workplace design project that would benefit from our expertise.


Hackable workspaces - our past, present and future

Last year Facebook opened a new 434,000 sf office in Silicon Valley's Menlo Park. Designed by Frank Gehry and dubbed Building 20 it's address is One Hacker Way. That may sound like a pretty normal address, but dig a little deeper into the history of computer science and you'll find that this choice of address is not so arbitrary after all.

Before Facebook's Building 20 there was another 'workplace' of the same name and it was associated with many significant breakthroughs in modern scientific research. The original Building 20 was on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass. Hurriedly built during WWII as a temporary space to foster enhanced scientific discovery, the building was constructed from low cost materials using low cost methods.

It's temporary nature (it was never officially named) meant that it's occupants treated it with a degree of irreverence and felt empowered to modify it as necessary to suit their immediate needs. If cable needed to be run to an adjacent room the occupants would simply drill a hole in the plywood dividing wall themselves.

The space allowed for a degree of scientific creativity and experimentation that is not typically possible in a traditional office building. It was thus an incubator space for rapid technological advancement and would be considered one of the first and most important 'hackable' buildings of the 20th century.

I think it [Building 20] is a place where things start. We started all sorts of aspects of things. not only start things but you also start [them] with a certain independence of mind. It's this attitude that I think you should look for in a place....

Building 20 was demolished in 1998 but it's legacy lives on at One Hacker Way where Mark Zuckerberg has adopted the same flexible layout and utilitarian palette of finishes to create a truly hackable office space (albeit one designed by a celebrity architect).

Casual meeting areas are set off from the open plan by squares of plywood hanging from the ceiling, a visual “under construction” reference meant to reinforce the company’s ethos. Facebook even spent money to expose its networking wires, which dangle along the ceiling.

Staff at Facebook's Building 20 are also used to furniture moving around on a regular basis and without warning - the management believes that this approach stimulates change and innovation.

The hacker movement has recently been extended to the mass market and there are now furniture systems such as Herman Miller's Metaform which allows users to easily modify and customize their workspace with open source 3D printed accessories; and Vitra's Hack that takes the utilitarian look of OSB plywood and combines it with some awesome Swiss engineering to create a foldable modular and mobile workstation with built in sit/stand capability.

Employees are increasingly demanding choice as to how and where they work and with these types of flexible space and furniture it will become easier to personalize workspaces to suit the task or work mode that we are engaged in at any given moment. The workplace will no longer be designed to within an inch of it's life but will become more 'curated' space, with the designer taking the holistic overview while more individual work style choices are left up to the user.

"People didn't love this building for its beauty or its comfort, but for its flexibility. What we learned from Building 20's success was that we would need to provide modern services and technology without being rigid or constraining."

So 70 years after it was built and almost 20 years after it was demolished, Building 20's hacker ethos is alive and well and coming to a (former loft/warehouse/shed/industrial*) space near you.

*delete as applicable

Space at Work are specialists in workplace design. They take the time to understand their client's requirements and by asking the right questions and listening to the responses they provide solutions that incorporate best practices, current and emerging trends to create spaces that are agile, adaptive and ready to accept whatever change is around the corner. If you represent a forward thinking organization that wants to do things differently in your workplace then please get in touch. We're here to help.

Changes to City of Vancouver TIPS program and permit process

Getting building permits is always a hot topic for members of the building owner, design and construction community here in Vancouver. In the last 18 months things have gotten somewhat more challenging with the enforcement of ASHRAE rules and the removal of pre-1999 building stock from the City's TIPS (expedited TI permit) scheme.

Today I attended a BOMA BC presentation by Patrick Ryan, Chief Building Official, Director of Building Code and Policy and George Fujii, Director Development Services, Planning & Development Services at City of Vancouver. They provided a very informative presentation detailing what they are doing at the City to try to improve the situation. They acknowledged that they could have done better during this time period but with the significant additional investment that they received they are making serious inroads into providing a consistent and predictable service that is more client focused. Currently wait times for Field Review permits are at 6 weeks but they are targeting reducing this to 4 weeks.

Other planned enhancements to include:

  • electronic submissions and online tracking
  • more training for designers and contractors
  • a simplified service

One key piece which I was pleased to hear is that they will be aiming to reward design professionals that provide complete submissions with faster processing timelines and not allow them to get held up by the fly-by-nights that need far too much hand holding. All the more reason for savvy clients to use experienced professionals on their projects. 

If you want your next workplace interior design project to be handled by knowledgeable professionals that understand the City of Vancouver requirements then please contact Space at Work and we'll manage the entire process for you to make your project run smoothly.