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How An Architectural Collaboration Helped Create A More Efficient And Welcoming Office Space

A full modular architectural rendering of TF Cornerstone at 1090 Vermont Ave. in Washington, D.C.

Even before the disruption of the pandemic sent millions of Americans to work from home, American offices were not being utilized to their full potential. According to a study by VergeSense, the average company was only using 30% of its office space in 2019, down from 40% in 2018.

Today, as millions of Americans have adjusted to working from home during the pandemic, companies are further rethinking their office needs. Office vacancy rates continue to rise, and employees are now looking for something different from their workspaces. Many companies have begun to downsize their offices and look for ways to create more flexible, collaborative and private spaces where employees can choose to work rather than being tethered to their desks all day.

"If employers and employees learned anything during the global pandemic, it’s that work can be effectively performed in spaces beyond the traditional office, and employees often seek more choice in their work environments after going through this experience," Despina Katsikakis, executive partner and global lead of total workforce at Cushman & Wakefield, said in a statement. "Businesses have proven they can not only survive but even thrive with a dispersed office workforce."

ROOM, a modular architecture company that creates soundproof office pods for businesses, has developed flexible, sustainable and affordable products to meet today’s workplace needs. ROOM’s flexible, soundproof office booths help buildings maximize their space and can be easily reconfigured in case of any company changes.

ROOM’s signature product, the Phone Booth, can be installed in less than 60 minutes and comes fully equipped with a built-in desk, an energy-efficient lighting system, power outlets, sound insulation and ventilation fans, all using sustainable materials to reduce its carbon footprint. Since the launch of its Phone Booth, the company has expanded its product suite to include meeting rooms, single-person private offices and more.

ROOM co-founder Morten Meisner-Jensen noticed the demand for flexible office products back in 2018 and that traditional office spaces were not offering proactive solutions.

"Before the pandemic, we knew that it was inevitable that there was a need for flexible and alternative methods to long-term leases," Meisner-Jensen said. "Traditional build-outs take too long, are expensive and don’t provide adaptive solutions in an ever-changing market."

As a company’s needs change, they often go through costly construction and demolition processes, which strain the environment, adding to the landfill debris, he said.

Meisner-Jensen said ROOM’s modular architecture is cost-effective because it uses pre-fabricated materials over a traditional office build-out, eliminating the need for additional construction and acquiring building permits. 

"It’s easy to install within a few hours, helping businesses move things around without making permanent, costly and environmentally damaging adjustments to its office space," he said.

It’s not just companies who are seeing the benefits of alternative space, developers and building owners who are hoping to attract and retain tenants in this changing office environment are also embracing the concept of modular, flexible office space.

Developer TF Cornerstone approached ROOM about a vacant commercial office space at 1090 Vermont Ave. in D.C. with the goal of creating a facility that works for any potential tenant that walks through the door. ROOM collaborated with CANOA, a circular B2B marketplace that supplies sustainable furniture, to help realize their vision of developing an alternative and sustainable office design. 

"We realized this was a great collaborative project between both brands, as CANOA's mission is to build less, buy better and waste nothing," said Lance Amato, head of customer experience for CANOA. "ROOM's flexible architecture solutions are able to provide a truly adaptable space that allows different configurations for various tenant segments."

The two organizations partnered to create a series of seven alternative floor plans for TF Cornerstone that could work for a series of tenants, leveraging ROOM’s modular architecture and CANOA’s access to furniture, fixtures and equipment from their sustainable marketplace. They’ve rolled out a suite of modular products for various industries, such as law firms that need private spaces to keep client confidentiality to tech startups that excel in a thriving, collaborative area. 

"At TF Cornerstone, we’re intensely focused on innovating to deliver the highest-quality workspaces to our tenants," TF Cornerstone Vice President Ken Houle said. "We were excited to discover what ROOM and CANOA were working on and proud to offer this unique offering combining unparalleled flexibility with a highly productive workspace."

The floor plans have been preapproved to help meet the needs of current tenants and bring in new ones in a prefabricated build that’s easy to adjust at a minimal cost, which helps businesses run efficiently while reducing the environmental impact of traditional construction methods. 

Meisner-Jensen said ROOM’s mission is "to create a true alternative to fixed construction." He wants to develop something affordable, quick and, most importantly, flexible and sustainable to meet today’s office needs. 

"In essence, our purpose is to inspire a better way to work, for all," he said. 

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B, ROOM and CANOA. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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