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How 3 Associations Changed Their Space

Office space doesn't have to be just a bunch of desks and conference rooms any more. We talked to three associations that recently reinvented their HQs to get their best tips.

Embrace the uniqueness of the space

The Association of College & University Housing Officers - International moved into a three-story historic building built in 1929 in Columbus, Ohio (near Ohio State) earlier this year. Executive director Sallie Traxler says the organization wanted to preserve the history of the building and left the outside alone. However, it incorporated modern sustainability features on the inside of the 7,200 SF space like LED lighting and energy-efficient windows.

Sallie says the association, which takes up two floors, wanted the space to tell the story of higher education, housing and resident life. Rather than have pictures on the walls of past university presidents, it created displays of photos and words to show the industry’s history. Sallie says the organization now gets more visits from members than in its previous space and can hold bigger meetings. Visitors leave something behind (aside from an umbrella). They're asked to place their school pin on a world map. 

Have an organized way of getting everyone involved

When the Association Management Center moved into a 48k SF space in Chicago last spring, it had to find space to accommodate its 225 employees plus the 31 association clients that use AMC’s space for their own headquarters and to hold board meetings, says HR and operations director Karen Kramer. After letting employees vote on favorite designs, it formed several employee committees to focus on things like new furniture or what would be moved to the new space.  At least 50% of employees were intricately involved.

More natural light was incorporated by moving individual offices to the interior of the space and putting collaborative space near windows. The organization also wanted to incorporate its logo in a unique way, so it tried to capture it through this curved design in various common areas throughout the space, says Karen. It also incorporated features that let people work in different ways like shared tables tall enough for those who like to stand. (Still trying to convince our boss we need a hammock to work.)

Budget for everything and anything

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America CEO Craig Wolf says outside of an architect and interior designer, there are several contractors involved with a renovation. With these specialists come added costs, on top of any after-hours work fees. The organization recently remodeled its space near McPherson Square in DC by building out a custom mahogany bar in a new expanded lobby. It includes high top tables and bar stools, creating a combined entertainment and work space--important for a trade association in the alcohol business, Craig adds. The organization also added three dozen historic photos of member firms over the last century.