In my most recent blog post, “Renovating Office Space to Deliver High Performance,” I wrote about how to update commercial office space to better align with the needs of today’s high-performance businesses.

More often than not, those major needs are workspaces with well-integrated, functional and state-of-the-art technology. They usually feature open, convertible and flexible floor plans to promote collaborative teamwork within the facility. They also offer employees a variety of work space designs to meet the individual preferences of today’s diverse workforce.
While all of those features are in demand today, and most are greatly appreciated and admired, commercial operations also have to reduce or manage the capital expenditures required to responsibly achieve those updates in outdated buildings or properties.
One way we help clients do that is through an in-house process we use to help clarify clients’ real business needs, while also helping them to see the many possibilities at their disposal, especially in light of the facility-related challenges they currently face. By understanding the client’s needs and challenges, all parties find it easier to compare the options and decide on resourceful solutions that will answer their most pressing concerns while also reducing capex.

1. Begin with research & discovery.

It’s important to begin these facility update projects with a research and discovery phase: this means sitting down with your A&E firm and having a dialogue about what you want or hope to achieve operationally from the renovation.

Most of the time, this goal-setting process also requires taking a good look at what’s working well in the organization’s work spaces now, as well as what isn’t. Specifically, that means identifying the challenges you currently face. Ideally, your A&E firm should speak with several people across the different disciplines that could be involved in the project, to begin to tease out the challenges they face. During this process, we encourage clients to take a step back from any preconceived solutions for a while. We try to get them to stop thinking about the end result for a moment and really consider the operational challenges they’re facing: what isn’t working now, and why that may be the case.

2. Work through visioning and benchmarking facility options.

Once the research and discovery phase is completed, your A&E firm should have a pretty good idea of the challenges that will need to be addressed in the renovation project. From there, you’ll need to go through a visioning phase, where your A&E firm presents a myriad of visuals, from illustrations to videos and photos, of the possible formations and workspace configurations that could work with your operations and the space to be renovated. This visioning phase is intended to provide you with a wide variety of opportunities and solutions and options for renovating and updating your space, along with a variety of capex options.

Next comes the benchmarking phase, where you compare all these possible scenarios against the typical operational designs and configurations that other entities in your industry are using today. Here you’ll want to come up with examples from the trend-setters or leaders in the industry across a variety of work areas. For example, what does your ideal work station look like? What does your preferred office lobby feature? How are others equipping and furnishing their conference rooms today? And what sorts of office configurations are helping these trendsetters promote collaborative work among their people?

Your A&E firm should help find these answers for you, and they should also take the time to hear what you have to say, determining which designs appeal to you and which ones might help you address your design challenges best.

At that point we are able to help our clients analyze the costs of each major upgrade, and set priorities. We also work through innovative ways to deliver what they’re seeking, while reducing capex. The goal is to develop an occupancy report highlighting the benchmarked designs, costs and timelines, and how each of them will help the client to achieve their goals and business needs. To be successful, the visioning and benchmarking and the resulting occupancy report must address the client’s goals and challenges.

3. Consider updating legacy floor plans.

Throughout these stages, we find there are some general trends that a number of high-performing organizations are focusing on today when renovating older commercial facilities. A common trend is removing many of the high walls so characteristic of yesterday’s office settings. The end result is more natural light and much more collaborative open work capabilities across teams.

High-performing organizations are also adding convertible or open work areas that promote brainstorming, collaborative work and team planning sessions. This includes open spaces with plenty of whiteboards and high-top tables. It also includes full system or internet connectivity throughout the campus so employees can be productive no matter where they’re working.

There are costs to providing these sorts of updates, but thorough visualization and benchmarking efforts can help to uncover affordable options for achieving these and other high-performing updates, without breaking the bank.

Carol Ebeling is director of interior design for BRPH. She is behind the interior design strategy on some of the world’s largest manufacturing, aviation, and commercial facilities for Fortune 500 clients including Boeing, GE, Harris Corporation, Northrop Grumman, and more.