When it comes to design, no one wants to make a mistake – aspects of design last up to ten years or longer depending on a lease and alterations after the fact can be costly. It’s why the concept of future proofing design has become important as technology in the workplace is changing rapidly.

Not every office is created equally, neither are furniture or technology. Future-proofing your design isn’t impossible, it just takes foresight and investments in the right areas.

Understanding Different Product Lifespans

While devices like Laptops don’t have a useful life that really extends beyond 4 years, other systems that are important for open offices, such as sound masking have a lifespan that is more than double those numbers.

At the same time, offices today cannot work without technology. If you were affected by the Amazon Web Service Outage earlier this week (like we were, as several of the services we use are hosted through that) then you’ve seen the importance of technology. If your office internet goes down you’ll see similar effects. Can’t find a charger for your phone as you enter an hour long meeting? You get the idea.

Compare the lifespan of some of the technology above with that of office furniture – which can last the length a decade long lease – and you can why there are challenges if you want to future proof office design.

Modularity in Design

Breaking down components within a workplace as much as possible into interchangeable pieces is a good start. It allows for particular components to be upgraded as required. It’s important for future proofing a workplace as open offices may one day give way to more private spaces, for example.

Even phone makers are going modular in an effort to not only futureproof their devices but provide users with added features. The Motorola Moto Z comes with a modular back that can fit on a serious camera lens, among other “Moto Mods”. This week Alcatel also unveiled a modular phone with interchangable backs that include different features like a battery pack.

Within the office, Movable walls and companies like DIRTT provide modular and custom designs that can match the need of any office space. Bigger companies like Haworth also offer moveable wall systems.

If you can add technology to your furniture in a modular manner, you’ll have a better chance to future proof your design and save money and time in the long run.

For more on the basics of modular design in the workplace, Larry Lander, Principal at PDR, breaks it down very eloquently in this video on how to Future Proof Design.

Start with a strong foundation.

Building in strong technology infrastructure means that your office will be able to support new user-end tech as it comes out. Personal devices tend to outpace the lifespan of infrastructure pieces – think cellphones or laptops vs TVs for example.

One way to start with a strong foundation is to ensure that you have enough power throughout your office. It’s essential to keep the increasing amount of devices we used powered up.

Steelcase introduced the Thread as one solution to add power to spaces. Other solutions such as Connectrac also allow you to add power to a space without any major type of renovations.

Along the same lines, technology like ChargeSpot provides the benefits of strong tech infrastructure that is easily added below almost any surface.

ChargeSpot can be added easily below most surfaces – adding wireless charging areas without impacting furniture tops or design

Once ChargeSpot is installed, devices that have wireless charging built in like the Samsung Galaxy S7 can be placed overtop to charge. Ones without it plug into a spark and can charge the same way.

It’s also a great example of the way that a strong infrastructure future proofs a space. With Apple’s wireless charging update, most mobile phones will now feature it. With phones constantly being upgraded, strong charging infrastructure that can support these developments remains more valuable than ever.

Only a decal sticker is visible. It makes adding or upgrading ChargeSpot in a space seamless.

The fact that it installs seamlessly below the desk is also a huge benefit. ChargeSpots themselves can be removed and upgraded without changes to the table as a whole.

Once you begin putting technology into furniture directly, in a way that makes it visible and embedded in the furniture, you start to run into problems (think console TV’s). When tech becomes outdated, you either have to upgrade more than you bargained for, or live with outdated tech.

New Spaces or Major Renovations

If you’re moving into a new space or a new building a power over ethernet backbone provides an opportunity for a smart office. Adding sensors throughout a space also paves the way for machine learning and AI opportunities that may arise for the workplace.

For example Cisco’s Digital Building Solution provides the backbone for workplaces to tap into the power of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Factoring Productivity into ROI

Future proofing a space is an investment. It requires a bit of extra outlay but in terms of productivity, the boost can be substantial. If you want to see a great example of how investing in meeting room tech can payoff check out this calculator, for instance. It shows the benefits of investing in baseline smart office tech. Even an extra 15 minutes of productivity each day adds up over an entire year and an entire workforce.

At it’s core this really comes down to building a strong foundation and planning for the right infrastructure within your space.


Featured Image: CBRE’s “The Temple” in LA