The objective of good commercial office space is to balance great design with flexibility and optimise efficiency. Its realisation, however, is all too often achieved with colossal waste. Modernisation, refurbishment and extension foreground where this waste exists. Between a building’s core DNA and the additive layers of spatial infrastructure that render it marketable (and ultimately inhabitable) a disconnect takes place. Marketing demands a finished space which means a layer of spatial infrastructure to demonstrate a look and feel. This can succeed in selling space to a tenant but is rarely a match for their exact requirements. In paraphrasing Rem Koolhaas’ exploration of the repeatable, environmentally stabilised inner worlds of many commercial buildings, this layer of infrastructure quite literally becomes ‘Junkspace’. Its life is short, expensive and typically ends with extensive adaptation or complete removal to suit the requirements of a tenant. Time, material and money are absorbed by an inflexible process, one which has been exacerbated by rapidly changing ideas of what a modern office actually is.
Broken down into their developmental categories; Shell and Core, the raw enclosure, structure and servicing framework; Category A, generic servicing, finishes and comfort; and Category B, a fully fitted out tenanted space; it would seem that much of this waste occurs in negotiating the space between the Category A and Category B fitout. Landlords and tenants have attempted to negotiate this in different ways – marketing a building fitted out to Category A with the landlord then contributing towards modifications and a Category B fitout; a shell and core with sample suites, one of which may form the basis of a full tenant fitout with a contribution from the landlord; or a full Category B fitout secured via a pre-let agreement. Each creates waste or inefficiency in different ways – lost time for tenant or landlord, material waste, or additional costs due to abortive works or accelerated, inefficient programming.
We are undertaking research to understand how to eliminate the waste inherent in this process and bridge the transition between design, construction, marketing and tenancy. Using virtual reality technology our aim is to minimise the need to create a physical environment for the purposes of marketing and instead use this technology to represent a range of options within a shell and core, allowing a tenant to accurately visualise before it is constructed. This could, in turn, harness efficiencies within a ‘just-in-time’ construction process, delivering flexible, customised, tenanted spaces within an optimised time frame, with a single contractor and zero waste. By harnessing this technology, the realisation of commercial office space can be streamlined, benefitting landlords, tenants and, most importantly, a truly sustainable agenda.