Office space redevelopment, retrofits and refurbishments make up a large part of the interior design sector.
Investment in this particular area is large, matched perhaps only by retail in terms of financial gain in the commercial sector.
A change in office politics, however, has meant that the humble office building refurbishment may now face lesser demand at best and be rendered obsolete at worst.
Despite the rise of the virtual office, there is still a need for some form of built space environment, though that need is lessened given the flexibility and mobility of workers. This could serve as a real threat to the built office environment, not to mention the bank accounts of interior designers.
With the digital world being as progressive as it is, the tech realm is catering to a number of needs that would otherwise be handled in the built environment. With many office buildings going paperless, meetings handled via teleconferencing, and major communication handled through email, the days of having a work staff under the same roof are dwindling.
Also, while some modern workplaces – such as the headquarters of Google or Facebook – are adorned with volleyball courts, in-house cafes and creative office spaces, the common business cannot always afford A-grade office spaces.
This leads to employees boxed into the dreaded ‘cubicle’ under harsh florescent lights and in a working environment built long before the days of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) was the dizziest daydream for even the most environmentally responsible interior designer. In short, to garner greater productivity and to work better, being out of the office is often a smarter option.
Savvy employers are beginning to realise that working outside the office can offer to both boost productivity levels and lower overhead costs drastically by getting rid of the costs to rent or upkeep an office building.
While the above paints a bleak picture of the common office, it may not mean the end of the commercial interior design sector. As the sector evolves, interior designers are becoming more creative with their spaces and meeting the demands of the modern worker in terms of IEQ and various other environmental standards.
The sector is in the midst of a major ideological change, with employees upping their demands or working from elsewhere. While this could mean a loss for designers, it could also mean an opportunity to raise lower standards and design in a way that revitalizes the sector.