By Naomi Millán, Senior Editor
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Having the HVAC provided through a raised floor is another strategy used in open office that supports both quick reconfiguration of the space and sustainability goals, though it is not a strategy limited to open office. Because the conditioned air is diffused directly into the occupied zone, the air can be as much as 10 degrees warmer than in a conventional system, which first mixes with the layer of air above the occupants, says Garvin. Some furniture systems now also integrate an air damper system to deliver ventilation control, much as in a car, he says. Chilled beam is another alternate HVAC method that finds a good home in open office.
Again, acoustics comes into consideration when deploying strategies such as underfloor air distribution. With this strategy, there is no need for a dropped ceiling to hide mechanical systems. An open plenum often provides limited overhead acoustical material to absorb sound, says Papadimos.
In addition to all the ways open office design interacts with systems to create a more sustainable space, the strategy also influences occupant behavior to further the sustainability potential of the space. For example, in the open office, communal resources make sense. Both Projective Space and JetBlue’s corporate support center utilize centralized business centers for print/copy/fax functions. “We want to create an environment that allows people to change their behavior unconsciously, so they’re not feeling it’s a sacrifice,” says Sophia Mendelsohn, head of sustainability at JetBlue. “Every time we collectivize something, what Rich’s team has been very careful to do is make sure there are enough of those resources and put them everywhere so you don’t ever have to walk too far.” She says they’ve learned if a trashcan and a recycling bin are placed too far away from each other, both will be used as trashcans.
Other items ripe to be collectivized during a move to open office are mini fridges, coffee makers, really anything that might be plugged in at the work station which could instead be a shared amenity, which will also draw people out of their workstations, encouraging them to move and collaborate.
Occupant behavior is also moved towards more sustainable practices in the open office, in part at least for an unexpected reason. “An interesting thing that happens around sustainability in open office is that you can’t really hide your bad habits,” says Mesia. “There’s communal encouragement around green practices.” For instance, people might give their coworkers a hard time if they’re seen using a space heater.
Open office design has many benefits. At JetBlue, Smyth says the collaboration between crewmembers is the primary reason for moving to the strategy at their office, but doesn’t deny sustainability benefits have come along with it. “It’s good. It saves dollars. It’s good for the environment,” he says.
To Get The Most Out Of Open Office Plans, Pay Close Attention To The Details
Successful Daylighting In Open Offices Requires Careful Planning Of Partitions, Office Layout
Operable Windows Offer Sustainability Benefits, But Also Acoustical Challenges
Raised Floor Can Help Limit Reconfiguration Hassles In Open Offices