Tag Archives: office design

The Employee is Always Right! Why Your Workplace Has More in Common With Malls Than You Think.

Whether it’s a 20-person start-up or a solo-preneur, Gather Art’s District provides tenants the flexibility to grow and scale within the same four walls.

How many times have you heard that “the mall is dead”? One quick Google search using this phrase churns out several hundred haunting visualizations of abandoned storefronts, eerily vacant food courts, and pastel wallpaper curling off the walls. 

Recent conjecture about the demise of the office triggers a similar sense of dread among commercial real estate brokers and tenants as they envision a post-pandemic future. In reality, retail—just like any other industry succumbing to the wiles of the virtual landscape—isn’t going anywhere. It’s merely evolving, and the office is no different.

Office design has matured since the turn of the twentieth century, taking on various models like Taylorism circa 1904 and Cube Farm in the seventies and eighties with the dawn of the cubicle. The most popular and commonly used today is known as the Networking model. Often referred to as the flexible or open office, Networking has flourished in the past decade with movable furniture, semi-divided workstations, and seating arrangements designed to address the need for collaboration, privacy, and overall efficiency of space.

Flexibility has taken on new meaning since the start of the pandemic as employees working at home appreciate new-found independence in the way they work, when they choose to do it, and where. Likewise, employers have witnessed how efficient and productive remote work can be. Still, only 24% of professionals have said they want to work remotely full-time, though they don’t want to give up the flexible work option that technology has granted them at home. We surveyed our own staff and found only 5% would want to telework full-time if the option was available but none expressed an interest in returning to the office full-time either. It seems the most preferred option is somewhere in between, with the vast majority (85%) hoping to spend 1-3 days working remotely in the future.

“We have to give people a reason to come back to work,” says Patrick Gegen, Senior Designer at Hickok Cole. “When retail first saw a shift in sales coming from online channels, some brick and mortar sites shut down as a result, but eventually the industry learned to appreciate the value-add of in-store services and pivoted towards offering customers curated, branded experiences that made it worth their in-person visit.”

In-store activations and events like Instagram pop-ups or massive dance classes caused a resurgence in brick-and-mortar. So much so that even direct-to-consumer brands (those who sell their products online) like Warby Parker and Rothy’s have launched physical storefronts of their own. So, what’s the office equivalent? 

“People want a personal touch, they crave human interaction,” explains Patrick. “We’ve all proven that we can work from home and we enjoy it to a certain degree, but we’ve erased the impromptu catch-ups and run-ins, both of which stimulate and contribute to the creative process. Video calls and virtual conferences can’t replace the social experience we derive from the workplace.”

Bully Pulpit Interactive offers a variety of workstations that cater to the individual needs of each employee.

Company culture, networking, and social interactions with co-workers may be enough to drive workers back into the office building. But, according to Patrick, that shouldn’t mean employees return to the same space. Instead, he envisions a future landscape catering to employees who have the option to work remotely but who typically choose not to. That means the new office will be designed with fewer designated desks and more public spaces that facilitate connection while serving a breadth of functions: fewer private offices and more divisible space; multi-purpose rooms that break down for additional, smaller conference spaces or semi-private workstations instead of just hosting large group meetings; and amenity spaces equipped with charging stations and enough table space for several workers to set-up as needed. With the ability to work from home for heads down or quiet work, more centralized workstations will allow employees to congregate and collaborate easily while private spaces will serve those looking to retreat from distractions at home or who feel more productive in the work environment. 

“One thing that’s likely to affect how we interact with the office is our sense of balance and well-being,” said Melissa Brewer, Co-Director of Interior Design and a Senior Associate at Hickok Cole. “We’ve clearly grown accustomed to the flexibility in our schedules and the extra hours we’ve gotten back without our commutes. So how can we replicate this level of convenience in the office?”

A study conducted by FlexJobs identified work-life balance as the top consideration for professionals evaluating new job prospects, even outweighing factors like vacation days and salary requirements. The same study found that Gen X (40%) and pet-owners (28%) represented the top tiers of workers who wanted flexible work options – and that was before the pandemic. It’s clear that flexibility and convenience are top priorities for the next generation of workers and driving factors behind why employees today prefer working from home.

Melissa argues that convenience is the holy grail of office amenities and suggests office owners and employers take that into consideration when designing a new space or re-integrating their workforce post-pandemic. Offering services that benefit employees by allowing them to optimize their time at home makes them feel valued while allowing them to focus on work when in office. In fact, one survey found that providing employees with onsite clinics not only reduces medical care costs but the time they spend away from work traveling to and from their physician. Likewise, offering in-house services like onsite daycare and dry-cleaning contribute to greater productivity and comfort. 

Discovery, Inc. offers employees on-site access to medical clinics helping to improve productivity and job satisfaction.

“Employers that are ahead of the curve were already providing the things in life that help employees save time and feel appreciated–either directly in their building or adjacent neighborhood–before the pandemic,” Melissa continued. “Now that employees feel like they’ve achieved higher levels of work-life balance during quarantine, they’re going to want to preserve that when it comes time to return to the workplace. And I think employers understand that. They have lives too.”

Offering benefits that go above and beyond the standard packages will help entice new talent and a younger generation post-quarantine, as well as help retain current employees by demonstrating they care. Employers and office space will adapt to emphasize convenience and service so people can maximize their time spent at home as well as their time spent at work.

The pandemic has taught us that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to our work week anymore–and maybe there never was. Our internal survey shows that parents desire increased flexibility in order to devote more quality time to their families, while staff who live alone prioritize connection to their team members and the social side of work. Retail has adapted into a highly personalized experience and so too should our workplace. Each individual’s needs, tasks, and life circumstances vary greatly, and our new challenge is to design a space that allows each employee the flexibility to make it their own.

The French novelist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said it best, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” In short, like retail, the office isn’t going anywhere, it’s simply evolving.

The Power of Purchase: Investing in Consumer Values for Long Term Success

With the internet at our fingertips, consumers are highly aware of their purchasing power and attuned to the policies, principles, and values of the brands they support. When it comes to major social issues, consumers don’t just want companies to address them in a statement. They demand action and accountability, expecting to see radical improvement throughout the supply chain. And they’re applying this level of scrutiny to most aspects of their life: from what they eat to who they vote for. 

The narrowing gap between commercial real estate (CRE) firms and the end-user suggests that our industry is no exception. While most CRE firms have adopted a value-based approach for their corporate branding strategy, according to Sarah Barr, Director of Hickok Cole Creative, “The movement towards informed consumerism requires firms to embody their mission, wholeheartedly through philanthropy, hiring practices, and partnerships.” She adds,  “This is an opportunity to reflect on core values, improve processes, and embrace transparency for future growth and success.” 

When done effectively, CRE businesses can build brand equity and cultivate deeper connections with their end-users, who in turn serve as brand advocates, and valuable outlets for sourcing ideas and keeping abreast of major trends. Most importantly, purpose-driven brand strategies can influence how residents select their apartment communities or how tenants select their workplace. 

Comparatively, potential residents and tenants may look beyond unit and office layout, pricing, and amenities, to conduct their own research into the property development teams, construction materials, and how the building is marketed.

“Consumers want to see commitment,” says Sarah. “How are you evaluating your supply chain to ensure your building’s brand purpose and story stack up? And once the building is complete, how does it live that purpose on a day-to-day basis?” 

She references NOVEL South Capitol, co-developed by Crescent Communities and RCP, and managed by Bozzuto, whose brand strategy centers around being a community-driven and community-focused third place. The apartments sit above Chef Erik Bruner Yang’s ABC Pony, which at the onset of COVID, pivoted to help keep restaurant workers employed preparing meals for healthcare heroes, firefighters and those in need through a project called Power of 10 Initiative.

NOVEL publicly aligned itself with the project on social media and provided Erik an extended platform to promote the effort with an Instagram takeover and ongoing social media integrations. Through the takeover, followers and residents were able to connect with Erik’s story, learn more about the initiative, and if compelled, donate. “Though NOVEL is not directly tied to Power of 10 Initiative, Erik is part of NOVEL’s community and it’s who I think about when I think of NOVEL. The project aligned with NOVEL’s community-focused strategy, creating a sense of pride for current residents and interest for potential residents who want to be part of something bigger,” she concluded. NOVEL has continued to have programs to support their community through this strange time that goes beyond the traditional experience, as well as promoting the unique benefit of Erik’s restaurant just downstairs for a full work-from-home menu.

Apart from growth potential, your decisions can drive real change. Take LEED for example. At the start of the certification program, LEED played a major role in differentiating buildings in the marketplace. Organizations who identified as sustainably-focused began to seek out LEED-certified buildings as one way to solidify their commitment and live out their purpose—helping LEED grow in popularity and pave the way for other sustainability and wellness programs like WELL, Fitwel, and the Living Building Challenge.

It won’t be long before most tenants take into account what their broker, building owner, and property management team stand for when their lease is up for renewal. Whether you define the end-user as an association, commercial tenant, resident, dog-lover, decision-maker, social advocate, or a good neighbor, their decision-making process lies with the collective stories you tell and live. “This is no longer walking the walk,” Sarah adds. “It’s running an ultra-marathon.”

Hickok Cole Awarded DOEE Net Zero Energy Study Grant

This continues the forward-focused design firm’s development of net zero energy design acumen for projects in the DMV.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 13, 2020) – Today, Hickok Cole announced it received a $20,000 grant from the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and with funding provided from the Green Building Fund. The funds will facilitate early design assistance supporting the pursuit of net zero energy performance renovations for an existing commercial office building in The District. The grant period will run through the end of September this year and yield a case study for DOEE’s use.

Spearheaded by the firm’s High-Performance Design practice, Hickok Cole applied for the grant shortly after being engaged by the office building’s management firm for a full Conceptual Design process. This marks the firm’s third major net zero energy focused project since the American Geophysical Union (AGU) headquarters renovation, Washington, DC’s first-ever commercial office renovation targeting net zero energy.  

“We’re thrilled to be awarded the opportunity to further explore net zero energy performance,” said Holly Lennihan, RA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and Director of Sustainable Design at Hickok Cole. “Thanks to the DOEE and Green Building Fund grant, we can test the application of these design strategies and provide a path for our industry partners to engage in sustainable energy initiatives in the future.”

Initial grant activities include a design charrette in coordination with the engineers and general contractor. The project team will then create and study architectural and energy models, identify energy reduction opportunities, establish efficient building systems design and develop a conceptual budget in alignment with the renovation narratives generated during the charette. Throughout the four-month grant period, Hickok Cole will provide regular progress reports and conduct monthly meetings with the DOEE. Final deliverables include a case study created in collaboration with the client and grant team.

“The DOEE’s grant program is an excellent step towards achieving the climate action goals as outlined by the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018,” said Yolanda Cole, IIDA, LEED AP, Co-Owner and Senior Principal of Hickok Cole. “As champions of high-performance design in the District, we’re committed to reducing the environmental impact of our industry and are proud to play a role in this historic movement.”

In June, DOEE also awarded Hickok Cole and MCN Build with the Design Build services for Kingman Island following the planning and feasibility study it conducted with the firm in 2017. The winning proposal presented a vision to enhance the island as “a unique educational and recreational asset for children and residents of the District, an oasis in the city that will protect critical habitats and species representing the District, and work towards the goals of a healthy restored Anacostia River and an engaged community.”

About Hickok Cole
Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. We’ve called DC home for more than 30 years and are proud to have designed some of the area’s leading sustainable projects, including the American Geophysical Union’s net zero energy renovation and 80 M Street SE, the first mass timber commercial renovation in the District.

Hickok Cole Announces Headquarters Relocation to DC’s Union Market Neighborhood

The forward-focused design practice plans to relocate from its current Georgetown location in the spring of next year.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 3, 2020) – Hickok Cole announced today that it has signed a lease for a new 25,000 square-foot office, owned by Foulger Pratt in Washington, DC’s Union Market neighborhood. The 32-year old design firm has plans to move its 100-person staff from its current Georgetown location to 301 N Street NE by April 2021.

Image courtesy of Foulger Pratt

“We’ve loved being part of the Georgetown community for the past twenty years, so leaving is bittersweet. But, as the firm has grown and changed, so have our needs,” said Mike Hickok, Co-Owner and Senior Principal of Hickok Cole. “We’ve been searching for new space and have always felt the character of the Union Market neighborhood aligns with our creative culture. The move provides a unique opportunity to invest in what’s next for DC and contribute to the revitalization of one of the city’s most interesting new neighborhoods.”

Press House first came to Hickok Cole’s attention several years ago while they were designing an adjacent mixed-use project at 300 M Street NE. Since then, Foulger Pratt purchased the property and is developing a multi-building mixed-use project on the site. Hickok Cole approached Foulger Pratt to learn more about their vision for the property, eventually striking a deal to lease office space on the top two floors of the historic Press House building that gives the development its name.

“At our core is a drive to do work that matters,” added Yolanda Cole, Co-Owner and Senior Principal of Hickok Cole. “We pride ourselves on our local expertise and the ability to make an impact in our own backyard. This transition marks a pivotal moment as we design our new home to reflect both who we are today, and who we strive to be in the future. I am confident in the talent, creativity, and passion of our team to position the firm for the next generation of success.”

Built in 1931, the three-story industrial building originally served as home to National Capital Press, the company responsible for printing training manuals for the government’s War Department. Nearly a century later, Foulger Pratt is seeking to landmark the building and has preserved its historic character by maintaining and restoring the original façade, while adapting the interior to function as state-of-the-market retail and office space. Interior details, including the original mushroom columns on the second floor, will remain. The most distinctive feature will be the five saw-tooth monitor skylights. At their peak, the skylights span a total floor-to-ceiling height of 30 feet and provide an abundance of natural light throughout the space.

Image courtesy of Foulger Pratt

“We are thrilled that Hickok Cole selected 301 N Street as the location of their new headquarters,” said Cameron Pratt, Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Foulger Pratt. “The historical architectural features of the building, centered at the heart of a rapidly changing Union Market neighborhood, provides the ideal setting for a leading-edge design firm like Hickok Cole.”

Hickok Cole will design their new interior office space to LEED Gold certification. Spearheaded by the firm’s Workplace Interiors practice, the new design will be informed by an internal vision and discovery process and seek to unify the entire design studio on one floor, in an open-office concept intended to promote collaboration, communication, and connectivity among sectors and services.

About Hickok Cole
Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. We’ve called DC home for more than 30 years and are proud to have designed homes for some of the area’s leading organizations, including National Geographic, NPR, and American Geophysical Union, the first net zero energy building in the District.