Industrial Without Clutter: Exposed Ceilings and Access Floors

22 February 2018 Tate
Exposed Ceilings

The changing face of the modern office environment is based on a number of factors, both architectural and human. Over the past few years, the “feel” of the office has changed, based on the evolving needs of an increasingly Millennial-dominated workforce and a change in workplace priorities. Offices are becoming more open and collaborative, and incorporating more elements of well-being. Spaces are called upon to be multi-functional and adaptive to increase office density while maintaining a feeling of individual privacy when needed.

These new needs have influenced the architectural design of today’s offices. The industrial look, started by starving artists in New York City looking for inexpensive studio space, has moved into the headquarters of today’s leading companies, such as SalesForce, Google, Twitter, and Capital One. One trend that has been gaining momentum is industrial design that incorporates natural elements – appealing both to a desire for minimalist principles while bringing the outside in –  and one of the most instantly recognizable and conspicuous industrial details is an exposed ceiling.

An open ceiling means larger multi-paned windows. This lets in more light, which has been shown to increase employee satisfaction and overall employee productivity. These open ceilings expose the beams and other structures – allowing aspects of the building once hidden by a drop ceiling to be proudly put on display – and utilities, such as plumbing lines and HVAC air returns, are left visible and often painted monochromatically to let them blend into the ceiling.

But architects aren’t just saying goodbye to ceilings. For some time now, the driving trend in workspace design has been moving to open floorplans with shared workspaces and non-walled communal meeting spaces. When this move away from walled offices and traditional cubical spaces gets combined with the design principles surrounding the open ceiling aspects of the industrial aesthetic, one major architectural issue gets created – if the design needs to be sleek and minimal, where can all the wires, cables, and HVAC apparatus necessary for the modern office be hidden?

The answer lies in the floor. By using a raised access floor with underfloor service distribution (UFSD), the spacious and collaborative feel created by an exposed ceiling can be achieved while minimizing utility clutter. UFSD means that data and power cabling is out of sight and under the floor, while still remaining accessible. You can also increase your ability to quickly and efficiently respond to future infrastructure needs through the use of modular plug and play hubs.

It’s important that workplace design keep up with changing employee priorities and needs. A recent Oxford Economics study projects that talent supply will fall short of demand in North America until 2021; organizations that have appealing workplaces will have an advantage recruiting and retaining employees. Industrial design is a growing trend that incorporates an open collaborative feel that resonates with younger workers. Exposed ceilings are a staple of industrial design, and raised access floors with UFSD enable a clean, sleek aesthetic necessary for their use.

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