Monthly Archives - August 2019

Emerging Workplace Trends Shaping the Future of Modern Architecture

Emerging Workplace Trends Shaping the Future of Modern Architecture

Office design has never been more fundamental to the success of a business. The constant change that new technologies bring to the workplace has opened unparalleled opportunities for design innovation and experimentation. This current trend toward office optimization is forecast to increase in 2019 and beyond. The needs and expectations for a work environment are quite different from those in the past. One of the newest and most important trends is something termed “wellbeing.”

Wellbeing In the Workplace

Employee wellbeing is an important consideration when planning and designing a modern office. Today’s research is proving that a “well” workplace is a healthy workplace--and happy, healthy employees add to the bottom line. The design of a workplace should include the following elements:
  • Color: Research shows that the right colors can positively contribute to happiness, productivity and even physical health (eg. yellow can evoke feelings of optimism, warmth, and creativity).
  • Texture: Adding texture to office brings warmth and appeal--and elevates the “humanity” of the space (eg. a variety of fabrics, patterns, artwork, pillows, rugs, sculpture pieces, etc. can create comfort and interest to the work environment).
  • Air Quality: A rise in carbon dioxide or other noxious gases can cause loss of concentration, low productivity, and even serious health concerns for employees.
  • Lighting: Power over Ethernet (PoE) and LED lighting systems enable buildings to interact directly (in real time) with end users and the environment. (eg. lighting that mimics sunlight and changes in time/season allows bio rhythms to be maintained--and can create indoor comfort conditions to suit individual employee preferences).
  • Ergonomics: This is the science of designing products for the workplace that are optimized for human use (eg. specially engineered chairs that fit individual needs or desking systems that allow employees to stand and work rather than sit all day).
  • Experience-Driven Spaces: These spaces are employee-focused enhancements in the workplace that help develop employee wellness, happiness, morale, and sense of community (eg. a massage therapy service, chiropractic facility, meditation area, walking/jogging trail, rock climbing wall, espresso bar, and the like).
Employee recruiting and retention is a critical goal in today’s business world. Therefore, a workplace design with wellness features is something top-notch employees are looking for. And, simply, it’s the right thing to do. Wellbeing in the Office Another emerging trend in 2019 is extending the use of co-working spaces.

Co-working Spaces

In the past, the various enterprises sharing a co-working environment have remained separate and closed off from one another. However, in newer cohabitation spaces, walls are being torn down and companies are sharing spaces, resources, and, sometimes, even personnel. These companies all share similar goals (maximization of collaboration, creativity, flexibility, innovation) and are especially designed to attract millennials. Free-range office spaces are often characterized by:
  • Open plan office design
  • Multi-use meeting areas
  • Technology resource spaces
  • Unconventional creative spaces
  • Lots of glass
  • Plants and greenery
  • Portable green wall dividers
  • Lightweight, mobile furniture
  • No cubicles
  • Comfortable couches and chairs
  • Coffee/espresso bars
Cohabitation spaces provide options for companies to acquire space without having to commit to long-term leases; they also encourage landlords to re-work space (flexibility) and provide for shared amenity areas within the building. Co-Working Spaces in the Office Another popular thing is “old becomes new again.”

Quirky Buildings and Interiors

This isn’t a new phenomenon but bringing a historical old building back to life or repairing a broken-down warehouse is a popular direction these days. New business parks in areas such as old fishing yards, meatpacking districts, deserted manufacturing plants, and abandoned waterfront areas are giving these spaces a new lease on life. Old, honored craftsmanship meets with new, modern furniture and decor--the best of both worlds. This “old becomes new again” design trend features:
  • Old-world craftsmanship
  • Modern design accents
  • Antique/weathered textures
  • Smooth/soft textures
  • Glass and metals
  • Carpet and wall coverings with abstract designs
  • Modern furniture and office equipment
This design trend allows for an “aged” feeling with quirky choices of color, texture and decor that is modern. Contrast is important: old vs. new, hard vs. soft; homey vs. industrial. Quirky Office Buildings In contrast to this old versus new approach to design, biophilic design enjoys huge popularity these days and is becoming a near necessity.

What is biophilic design?

Biophilic design is an extension of the philosophy of “biophilia” (part of the green movement) and is defined as “the inherent human inclination to affiliate with nature.” This design trend is noted for the following features:
  • Environmental Features: Color, water, air, sunlight, plants, animals, and natural materials are built into the environment.
  • Natural Shapes and Forms: These buildings often have botanical, animal, or shell motifs. Simulation of natural shapes, such as arches, vaults, and domes are part of the architecture.
  • Natural Patterns: These spaces have varying sensory experiences: play between balance and tension, rhythm, ratios, and use of scale. Contrasts are important.
  • Light and Space: Humans react to differing types of light and space in a variety of ways. These spaces offer warm light, cool light, diffused light, and even dark. There’s a harmonious relationship with the outside (eg. large glass windows bring in light, trees, and other landscape into the building).
  • Place-Based Relationships: Historic, cultural, geographic, spiritual, and ecological factors are respected and honored in the design of the building.
The basic principle of this popular design philosophy is to incorporate feeling-based concepts, such as order and complexity; curiosity and enticement; mastery and control; affection and attachment; security and protection; exploration and discovery, even fear and awe.

Biophilic Offices

Environment Diversity: The Better Way

In workplace design for 2019 and for the future, the push tends toward creativity and humanity. Offices now have “personalities” and wear the spirit and the culture of the company. The user experience is at present a critical factor in workplace design. Gone are the days of the draconian office that takes no heed to the needs of its inhabitants. The current drive and interest is toward meeting the needs of the people who spend most of their waking hours in a workspace.
What if Proposed Texas Legislation Became the National Norm for Cabling?

What if Proposed Texas Legislation Became the National Norm for Cabling?

As of the spring of 2019, there were 2 virtually identical bills making their way through the Texas legislature: Senate Bill (SB) 1004 and House of Representative Bill (HB) 1141. https://legiscan.com/TX/text/SB1004/2019 https://legiscan.com/TX/text/HB1141/2019 Backed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IEBW), the goal of these bills was to classify any cabling circuit that supplies more than 50 watts of power as “electrical work” and would, therefore, be required to be installed by a licensed electrician. Existing Texas law spells out the different types of electrical work that have a licensing requirement. It also states the type of work that is exempt from this requirement. One of the exemptions reads as follows: “. . . the design, installation, erection, repair, or alteration of Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3 remote control, signaling, or power-limited circuits, fire alarm circuits, optical fiber cables, or communications circuits, including raceways, as defined by the National Electrical Code.” SB 1004 and HB 1141 sought to add the following wording to the end of the existing exemption rule: “. . . that operate at less than 50 volts (V) and that are not capable of supplying or controlling more than 50 volt-amperes or 50 watts of power.”

What are the consequences to the low-voltage industry?

Per current Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards, Class 2 power sourcing equipment (PSE) provides a maximum of 30 watts and Class 3 PSE provides a maximum of 60 watts--while Class 4 PSE provides a maximum of 90 watts. If the proposed Texas legislation were to prevail, it would mean that circuits that support Class 3 or Class 4 PSE or PDs (powered devices) would fit within the parameters of the new law. Therefore, any circuit that supplies or controls more than 50 watts of power would no longer be exempt from the electrician license requirement. In short, people are put out of work and costs go up. For now, both these bills’ status is “Adjourned Sine Die” (in plain English, this means “adjourned without a day”--meaning “adjourned for the session”). The 86th Texas Legislature began on January 8, 2019 and concluded on May 27, 2019. It won’t meet again until January 12, 2021 (unless the Governor calls an emergency session). So, in effect, both these bills are dead for the near future. Emergency averted. However, there was recently a similar building code change being proposed in Utah that would lower Class 2 wiring voltage from 100V to 50V. Changes like these would prevent audio-video (AV) integrators from installing distributed audio systems. A grassroots effort was initiated to defeat this bill--the rationale being that this rule change was a possible attempt to capture work, rather than a safety or training issue (which was how it was proposed). Thanks to these efforts in the Utah low-voltage working community, the bill has been removed from the pending rule hearing. What do these types of legislative endeavors mean to the PoE industry?

The Low Voltage Controversy

Jason Potterf of Cisco, who recently testified against SB 1004 in Texas, states: “This is going to be a multi-year fight. We’ve seen a flurry of PoE targeted legislation over the past 6 months in multiple states, and anticipate next year will be no different. However, we’ve successfully defended PoE from these attacks in all cases and believe it will prevail in the future due to its inherent safety features.” Jason Potterf, Cisco Quote https://www.cepro.com/article/texas_bills_electrical_license_poe Kelly Ryan, president of the Texas Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (TBFAA), was also in attendance during the Texas bill hearings. He states, “The Texas Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (TBFAA) strongly opposed HB1141 and SB1004. During the public comment portion of the Texas House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee, TBFAA testified against HB1141 as we felt the proposed language was an immediate threat to low-voltage jobs throughout the state. While representatives for the electricians testified that HB1141 was needed to protect people from shock and fire hazards of PoE circuits, they gave no specific incidents to support their claims.” Kelly Ryan, Texas Burglar & Fire Alarm Association This wrangling is happening because of the trend toward Light Emitting Diode (LED). The current form of this technology (which has been around since the ‘60s) has revolutionized the lighting industry and makes it easy for low-voltage integrators to install lighting fixtures. In response to this low-voltage trend and because of the ever-changing new technology in this field, the IEEE recently amended 802.3 standards. These standards define Ethernet-based networks. In short, amendments 802.3cb-2018, 802.3bt-2018, and 802.3cd-2018 increase voltage allowances to meet industry demands for greater Ethernet functionality. Lighting is going low voltage and this concerns many electricians right now. The new proposed legislation is a struggle over the demarcation of this Ethernet-based technology. Everybody’s trying to find their place in this overlap between AV and electrical work.

Is there other proposed legislation out there?

The National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) is the leading non-profit organization representing the commercial energy industry. In particular, they advocate for all workers in the low-voltage trade. Per the NSCA, the early part of 2019 saw the introduction of an unprecedented amount of licensure bills. This association feels that many of these bills are the result of adjacent industries using legislative measures to capture or control trade jurisdiction. Following, is a snapshot of the main bills that the NSCA is monitoring at this time:
  • Arizona Bill HB 2181
  • Florida Bill SB 604
  • Hawaii Bill SB 423
  • Idaho Bill SB1009
  • Maryland Bills HB 702 & HB 905
  • North Dakota Bill SB 2359
  • New York Bill A3748
  • Oklahoma Bills SB 175 & SB 653
  • Texas Bill HB 1141
For further information regarding these bills, please visit the NSCA at www.nsca.org/track-legislation.

It’s time to pay attention

There are 70+ more bills that the NSCA is monitoring--and there are many other industry-related issues of concern: code changes, legislation governing connected devices, cybersecurity laws, intellectual property rights, school safety regulations, payment and obligation, apprenticeships, and many more. As quoted above, this truly will be a “multi-year fight.” Now, more than ever, it will be important to be an informed representative of the low-voltage industry.
NOTICE: We will be closed Thursday the 28th & Friday the 29th for the Thanksgiving Holiday