Margulies is an award-winning architect, community leader, real estate industry mentor, and philanthropist who has made a difference in the communities where he lives and works. After serving as Fidelity Investments’ manager of real estate design, Margulies founded Margulies & Associates in 1988. Now known as Margulies Perruzzi (MP), Margulies has grown the firm to one of New England’s top architectural and interior design firms, focusing on workplace, health, science & technology, and real estate development projects. Margulies strongly believes that people are deeply affected both by their workplace and by where they live, and that architects can contribute enormously to making businesses more successful and their employees happier. His clients recognize the value of this expertise, resulting in commissions to design and strategize on many exciting and provocative headquarters projects. Margulies is also involved in a number of volunteer efforts, most notably working on behalf of Boston’s Wharf District Council to develop waterfront resilience to rising sea levels, and on designing and building cost-effective modular micro-units for the homeless.
The well-deserving 2023 winners will be honored at the in-person Awards of Excellence Gala on April 27, 2023 at the Westin Boston Seaport District.
A critical part of any lab planning and design project is getting the equipment list correct. Traditionally, the end users provide an initial list to our lab planning and design team that includes each piece of equipment they need for their work. The list should include the size and weight of each piece of equipment, as well as all electrical, plumbing, and gas requirements. We review the list for accuracy with the client and then against a database we have developed. The content is adjusted so that it’s formatted correctly and ready to integrate into our Revit Model. For existing equipment, if the equipment list is insufficient, our design team can survey the equipment to create an accurate list that includes any computer requirements, UPS or backup power, special exhaust requirements, or waste streams. This is also beneficial to the design process because it provides a look into the existing lab and confirms which pieces of equipment are adjacent to one another or directly connected.
For startup client’s advancing from the incubator environment and leasing their first new space, the equipment list is still a critical piece of laboratory planning and design. The design team can work with the end users or procurement team to help develop and maintain their equipment list, even working through projected growth and workflows for equipment that may be purchased later. There are also specialized lab procurement companies that can help procure the equipment to get client’s operations up and running.
Overall, the equipment list becomes a central design tool for the project. It’s used to layout the different sections of a laboratory. Once it’s loaded into Revit, it helps determine the size of each room or clearance requirements, as well as how many adjacent laboratory spaces are needed. We have developed a plugin integrated with our Revit software that loads the equipment list into Revit and creates detailed individual items called “families” for each piece of equipment. These “families” automatically show the utilities needed on the equipment drawing itself. The Revit plugin also creates a 3D visual for clients to view the lab, including the lab equipment. This helps end users visualize how their space will look and how the lab is laid out.
The Revit file is then sent to our MEP engineering partners to reference the information in a single document. This makes it less likely that there will be inconsistencies between the architectural and engineering drawings. BIM360 is also used to integrate consultants’ drawings with the architectural drawings. Prior to developing this approach, engineers had to reference both the equipment plan and the equipment matrix or schedule to see all the details of the equipment, often resulting in conflicts. Since the MEP drawings are the primary resource that the subcontractors on-site use to install the utilities, accuracy is critical. The contractor also can use a 3D view of the lab to coordinate where lab benches, equipment, and other components will be located. It can be shared with the subcontractors that otherwise may not look at the architectural drawings but often will reference a 3D view of the lab if it includes equipment to inform their work on-site.
The value of this process becomes evident at the end of the project when the space is built out and the owner moves in their equipment. These laboratories are critical to the success of our clients. Avoiding delays in operations is paramount. Because the utilities are installed in the correct locations to service the owner’s equipment, the company can begin operations on time, avoiding costly delays.
BOSTON – March 7, 2022 – Margulies Perruzzi (MP), one of New England’s most innovative architectural and interior design firms, today announced the addition of seven new professionals to support the firm’s growth in its workplace, healthcare, science, and real estate practice areas. This roster of new employees will add their respective talents and strengths to MP’s team of more than 50 creative and client service-oriented professionals. MP is pleased to welcome:
Jonathan Bailey-Francois ~ Project Designer
Jonathan has explored the importance of interdisciplinary coworking, master planning, the impact policy has on architecture, the introduction of new technologies in a professional environment, and the benefits of volunteering as a designer. Jonathan’s passion for craft, thought, and sustainability led to his Master’s Thesis winning the Thesis Award for Excellence; he will use this passion to develop and grow as a designer with intentions to become a licensed architect.
Michael Fortunato ~ Marketing Coordinator
Mike is a marketing professional within the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. He specializes in client-facing communications, content creation, graphic design, and proposal planning and development. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Public Relations from Suffolk University.
Marissa Meads ~ Interior Designer
Marissa brings a balance of creativity, forward thinking, and innovative designing skills to the MP team. She is talented interior designer with over five years’ experience and strives to design unique and transformative interiors spaces for workplaces and life sciences companies. She helps clients achieve their vision through a structured design process by balancing colors, textures, and lighting to create spaces that reflect their unique qualities.
Alvaro Ribeiro, AIA ~ Senior Architect
Alvaro has over 22 years of experience designing spaces for life sciences, medical device, and technology clients. His portfolio spans projects providing cutting-edge facilities for clients across New England’s expanding science and technology industry. At MP, Alvaro is a valuable asset to any project, leveraging his experience to provide insight that helps guide the project team and deliver innovative design solutions.
Jessica Sulprizio, RA ~ Architect
Jessica is a registered architect with experience in both the interior design and architecture of a variety of mixed-use residential, academic, and workplace projects. She is passionate about design and creating spaces that are attuned to the vision and values of her clients. Skilled in both Revit and Enscape, she produces 2D and 3D drawings for all design phases.
Colin Whalen ~ Project Designer
As a project designer, Colin specializes in master planning as well as new construction and renovations for core and shell building projects in life sciences and other sectors. He strives to create welcoming and engaging facades that help support the goal to attract and retain tenants.
Joshua White, AIA ~ Project Manager
As a project manager, Josh is a collaborative and team-oriented leader, taking projects from conceptual design through completed construction. His portfolio spans a range of different project types, including mixed-use developments.
“We believe a successful design is one that not only satisfies a company’s space needs, but also creates transformative experiences that enhance and transform the way work is done,” said Dan Perruzzi, AIA, LEED AP, principal and senior partner at Margulies Perruzzi. “We remain steadfast in its commitment to design excellence, cutting-edge technology, and superior client service. We are thrilled to welcome new designers and professional staff that espouse these values to help grow our practice and build on the strength of our core studios.”
Alvaro Ribeiro and Jessica Sulprizio have both rejoined Margulies Perruzzi. “Both Alvaro and Jessica have contributed to some of our most innovative design projects over many years, and we join our clients in their excitement to welcome them back to MP,” continued Dan.
Since its founding in 1988, MP has evolved into an award-winning design firm that creates buildings and workspaces that inspire creativity, attract, and retain talent, and enhance mission engagement. The firm collaborates with clients in the corporate, professional services, healthcare, science/technology, and real estate communities to design productive and inspiring work environments.
Margulies Perruzzi is hiring! Please visit the firm’s careers page to learn more or to apply.
By Daniel P. Perruzzi, Jr., AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Senior Partner at Margulies Perruzzi
Predicting the future in real estate is tricky in the best of times. The continuing uncertainty posed by the pandemic makes any prediction that much more difficult. However, we have learned a lot about how real estate and the real estate industry will respond, based on emerging trends.
You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube, just like you cannot make everyone recommit to five days in the office any longer. For many industries, some tasks can be performed better in remote mode. Teamwork and higher quality collaboration tools will be the reasons for maintaining office space, but the hybrid model is here to stay. That does not mean the office goes away. On the contrary, companies will continue to assess their current workspace and upgrade it to meet the higher demand for voice/video calls and meetings that can integrate those who are remote with those present in the office.
According to a recent industry panel, there is a regional demand for six million square feet of new lab space. Even if that’s wrong by 50 percent, it is still a staggering number. Look for office-to-lab conversions to continue to pick up speed, especially amongst newer, but less fully occupied, office buildings.
GMP space, where the drugs and therapeutics are manufactured, is also at a premium. Because of their demand for services and high-bay space, these will compete for suburban space with industrial uses as that market looks to expand its “last-mile” portfolio.
While we were all distracted by the pandemic, alarms have been raised on the accelerating deterioration of the environment. All of us in this industry have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future. Buildings account for nearly 70 percent of the emissions in urban centers. Boston is embarking on an ambitious plan to convert buildings to full electrification. Look for other cities and towns in the region to follow suit.
At the same time, a renewed emphasis on health and well-being will mean new challenges in building design.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The pandemic has exposed the economic and social inequities that afflict our society, including our industry. All the stakeholders in the real estate sector – contractors, engineers, architects, brokers, designers, project managers – have to reevaluate how they source staff, who they choose to work with, and how they procure products. The industry has already begun that effort and must continue in a positive direction. Real estate can provide tremendous, long-term economic opportunity. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure all sectors of our community can reap the benefits.
Will there be curveballs and unexpected challenges? Of course. Look no further than the current supply chain crisis and the impact it is having on construction costs. Very few saw that coming. Inflation also is a problem today that few predicted. If supply chain issues extend well into 2022 and if inflation does not abate soon, we could be in for an easing of this growth period.
Partnering with Array Architects, a leader in healthcare planning and design, Margulies Perruzzi focused on incorporating as much access to daylight and nature as possible to leverage its clinical benefits. The team collaborated to situate activity rooms and common areas along the exterior walls of the building to bring in natural light and views of the Maine landscape for both patient and staff areas. Windows were maintained at patient areas while safety glass and borrowed light concepts were used to bring daylight deeper into the building. Art highlighting nature is incorporated at various seating areas throughout the unit to bring nature inside the building.
The new inpatient unit is secured with access through an interlocking sally port and features 20 double occupancy rooms, each with its own bathroom. To ensure the safety of patients, each room is designed to minimize ligature risk to provide both privacy and safety. Anti-ligature fixtures were used in the bathrooms and bedrooms as well as vandal proof ceilings. The design team used institutional materials with a residential look and feel to help reduce stress by providing a home-like feel for patients on the unit.
BOSTON – November 4, 2021 – Margulies Perruzzi (MP), one of New England’s most innovative architectural and interior design firms, announced today that it has added five new design and professional staff: Staci Barber, director of marketing; Kellyn Biela, project designer; Claude Greenberg, architect and technical specialist; Grace Santos, interior designer; and Ethan Webb, project designer.
“We are always looking for talented professionals. We do not hire for specific project requirements. Instead, we seek to build our staff by selecting professionals who can make a long-term impact on how we work,” said Daniel P. Perruzzi, Jr., AIA, LEED AP, principal and senior partner at Margulies Perruzzi. “We are pleased to welcome these talented individuals to our design and professional staff as we continue to grow our team and services.”
Staci Barber, Director of Marketing
A strategic marketing professional offering broad qualifications in targeted brand messaging, collateral creation, content management, proposal planning and development, B2B marketing, and team management, Staci will direct all the marketing initiatives. She brings a reputation for skill in balancing fast-changing priorities, managing projects, developing and implementing marketing plans and budgets, and supervising marketing staff. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in business from Saint Anselm College and an MBA with a concentration in marketing from Suffolk University.
Kellyn Biela, Project Designer
Kellyn is a project designer with broad experience working on projects, including providing initial design studies, preparing construction documents, and preparing LEED documentation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in art history with a minor in archaeology from Rollins College and a Master of Science in architecture from Roger Williams University. Kellyn is an associate member of the AIA.
Claude Greenberg, Architect and Technical Specialist
Claude is an architect with 39 years of experience in design, construction document preparation, and team management. With exceptional strengths on the technical side, he enjoys molding interesting design concepts into tight architectural solutions. He has experience in a multitude of project types, including institutional (health care, educational and judicial), and podium-type multi-family housing. Projects with complex, challenging designs, building envelope technology, and core/shell detailing are prominent specialties. His attributes include design detail problem-solving abilities, and reliable quality control with regard to both contract drawings and specifications. Other work experience included positions as a senior technical architect, project coordinator, and consulting architect. Claude received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oregon and is a member of the AIA and BSA.
Grace Santos, Interior Designer
An interior designer with five years of experience, Grace has worked on a variety of projects for corporate, higher education, and life sciences companies. Previously, she worked as an interior designer for three design firms in Boston where she was responsible for building Revit models, developing test fits, creating concept presentations, renderings, construction documents and selecting finishes for projects. Grace holds an Associate degree in art and design from Mount Wachusett Community College and a Bachelor of Science in interior design from Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Ethan Webb, Project Designer
Ethan has spent most of his design career working with science and healthcare clients. Most recently, his focus has been on planning, design, and project delivery for various projects in the life sciences sectors. He earned a Bachelor of Science in architecture from the Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Margulies Perruzzi is hiring! Please visit our careers page to learn more or to apply.
About Margulies Perruzzi
As one of New England’s top architectural and interior design firms, Margulies Perruzzi (MP) designs Workplace, Health, Science, and Real Estate projects that inspire and nurture human endeavor. More information may be found at https://mparchitectsboston.com.
By Imran Khan, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Principal and Director of Science at Margulies Perruzzi
One of our clients recently asked which scientific processes must be performed in a lab versus what can be performed in office space. This question is a game changer when it comes to making space allocation decisions.
According to CBRE in their 2020 U.S. Life Sciences report, Boston / Cambridge, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego represent the country’s top three regions for life sciences clusters. Growth in this market sector has been steady for the past five years, but COVID-19 has pushed it to new heights. As a result, the demand for lab space has intensified concurrently with an increase in available office space, leading to a wave of office to lab conversions.
More recently in a July 27, 2021 article in the New York Times, more than 20% of the laboratory spaces being built within the top six U.S. markets are conversions from offices. It is a lucrative business trend for the commercial real estate industry, with rents for lab space up by 60% since Q1 2016, versus a 15% to 30% rise in office rents for the same period. In a report by Newmark, they cite new construction (ground-up and conversions) as getting even higher pricing and driving rental rates upward, with rent premiums on new space in mature life science markets being “20-40% above current asking rents.”
Laboratory environments are considerably more expensive to build, operate, and maintain. They require specialized air conditioning and exhaust systems, a higher level of energy use (lighting, plug loads, equipment), and robust finishes that can withstand chemical use and frequent aggressive cleaning. With the average tenant-improvement cost to create lab space roughly quadruple the cost of an office fit out, the ratio of lab to office space has cost consequences over the life of a lease.
As to the question of which processes could be performed in an office environment, there is no specific industry guide or code that answers it fully. In general, however, any activities that can be considered hazardous, require safety equipment, are regulated, or have environmental criteria above and beyond a standard office environment, should be performed in a lab to facilitate controlled conditions.
Most experiments, procedures, and commonly used equipment are easy for owners, designers, and specialty lab consultants to assign to a space type, thanks to well-established industry best practices and Environmental Health and Safety guidelines. Equipment manufacturers also reinforce the process by stipulating environmental and safety criteria and providing guidance on the use and operation of their products.
How a prospective tenant chooses to allocate its science space will have a profound effect on many factors that must be considered before signing a lease. Among them are site selection, building systems infrastructure, floor-to-ceiling heights, floor load capacity, space allocation, regulatory requirements, building codes, and local ordinances.
With the help of an architect and/or a lab planner, the tenant will gain a distinct advantage in finding a building that will truly meet their immediate scientific and future operational and budgetary needs, by spending time at the onset of a project, to analyze their current space use and consider moving appropriate science activities to less expensive office space.
By Monica Moreira Audette, AIA, LEED AP, Associate Partner and Senior Project Manager at Margulies Perruzzi
A lot more goes into renovating an older Class B building into a Class A than just adding a coffee bar or flat screen TV in the lobby. If it were that easy, all Class B building owners would upgrade. A big part of the decision to renovate a Class B building is the owner’s appetite for risk and how far they are willing to go to achieve a higher rate of return on their property.
It is not a decision any owner can make quickly. Owners will have to methodically weigh the pros and cons of trading the safety and stability of a Class B building for the cachet of Class A. The indicators are nearly endless – tenant demand, the economic forecast, sector growth, businesses that are expanding and/or contracting, emerging space trends (open floor plans, high-end amenities), and changing work styles that require more flexible space.
Office, industrial, retail, warehouse and biotech space have different conditions and variables that cannot be compared across the board. For instance, renovating warehouse space in one region makes sense to accommodate the demand from large retail tenants like Amazon that have specific needs, while in another market it would be a poor investment. The same goes for biotech space – upgrading buildings in a bullet-proof market like Cambridge is a no-brainer but biotech tenants have very specific needs that make renovating a building a costly endeavor.
What to Weigh
Given that the conditions can vary so dramatically from market to market, owners need to look closely at both the micro and macro conditions before considering future renovation plans. They should avoid basing their decisions on what their neighbors are doing given that the building condition, access to capital and the type of tenant improvements will differ.
Converting Class B buildings to A in fail-proof or constrained markets reduces risk. Property owners and managers should pay close attention to market research for leasing trends and supply and demand. The vacancy rate of a property is a crucial factor in the decision-making process for owners who may want to stagger improvements.
Class B buildings in markets where there are high vacancy rates may have a better chance at adding value by making minor changes like upgrading mechanical and operating systems to increase their building’s efficiency rather than a full-scale renovation. If the building is in a market where there is weak demand for Class A space, staying put in Class B until there is a shift could be the best strategy.
Property owners whose buildings have not been properly maintained or have fallen into disrepair are unlikely to be able to justify retrofitting buildings with touchless, digital technology that will play a big role in landing a tenant. Property owners who are planning to retain assets for the long-term have more financial cushion to make investments that will pay off in the future, increasing rents and elevating the class of the property. Those in the game for the short-term who do not have access to capital will favor less costly facelifts over renovation, leaving the new owners the opportunity to add value.
Building owners and managers should enlist a team of experts who can assist in determining the best course in repositioning office buildings. Evaluating the real estate market, comparable properties, and tenant demand will provide a solid starting point to formulate a plan for repositioning a commercial property.
A Medical Makeover in West End
When asset manager DWS Group decided to renovate 50, 60, and 62 Staniford Street in Boston’s West End neighborhood to transform the 70’s era complex into a first-class medical office building they hired Margulies Perruzzi to outline the process from navigating construction with tenants in the building to the Boston planning process.
DWS’ goal was to improve the tenant experience, increase access and add high-quality building features near medical/research institutions such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, and Mass. Eye & Ear to attract new tenants.
We evaluated every detail and devised a design scheme that included reducing disruption to tenants to securing city approvals to increasing the building’s Planned Development Area.
Our strategy included connecting 50 and 60 Staniford Streets which increased the ground floor and first floor by 20,000 SF. It also created new space for medical office, dry research, and retail tenants.
The Staniford complex now features a 10-story medical office tower and a new, two-story medical office building with space for retail tenants. The investment by DWS created a premier medical/office space, increasing the value of the complex, and improved access to high-quality space ideal for medical office/retail users.
By Janet Morra, AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Partnerat Margulies Perruzzi
Launched in July 2020 by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the WELL Health-Safety Rating is a concept whose time has come, especially as businesses, institutions and organizations strive to return to an updated version of pre-pandemic normalcy.
IWBI defines the WELL Health-Safety Rating as “an evidence-based, third-party verified rating focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols and emergency plans to address a post-COVID-19 environment now and broader health and safety-related issues into the future.”
The idea was forged during the pandemic’s first wave, one of the earliest results of IWBI’s Task Force on COVID-19. According to IWBI, “nearly 600 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders, architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals” participated.
The WELL Health-Safety Rating contains a subset of relevant features from the WELL Building Standard that were adapted for a facilities and operations focus. It promotes indoor safety by providing a means to guide, validate, recognize, and scale management of health and safety issues in shared spaces. IWBI states that “third-party review ensures integrity and consistency, and results in a WELL Health-Safety seal for buildings and spaces that meet the rating’s requirements, communicating leadership and a commitment to the health and well-being of the people who frequent the space.”
At Margulies Peruzzi, we believe that this rating system is to health and safety what LEED is to sustainable design, and that it will gain the same traction among design professionals and owners. Directed towards facility operations and management, the rating is applicable to all new and existing building and facility types across an array of markets and large and small organizations alike. IWBI cites some recognizable names among those that have achieved the rating: Prudential Center, Fairfax County Public Schools, Yankee Stadium, Empire State Realty Trust, JPMorgan Chase, T-Mobile, Four Seasons, Citi, and Brookfield Properties.
IWBI recounts numerous advantages to owners: attracting and retaining employees, clients, and investors; building brand equity through leadership and innovation; and promoting employee health and well-being and in doing so, maximizing productivity.
The rating system examines more than 20 features across six main themes – Cleaning and Sanitization Procedures, Emergency Preparedness Programs, Health Service Resources, Air and Water Quality Management, Stakeholder Engagement and Communication, and Innovation. For a facility to earn a WELL Health-Safety seal, a minimum of 15 criteria must be met, including as many as three submissions under Innovation. IWBI provides collateral material, a detailed online guide, and an extensive checklist to help participants through the process. Like the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED project certification, there is a cost attached to earning this rating. It ranges from a low of $2,730 for a small business at a single location to a capped high of $166,000 for a company with up to to 10,000 locations.
In another similarity to LEED, Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI) in collaboration with IWBI developed a rigorous process for individual accreditation. Becoming a WELL AP (accredited professional) signifies advanced knowledge in human health and wellness in the built environment, and specialization in the WELL Building Standard.
As part of our firm’s commitment to workplace health and safety for our clients, Margulies Peruzzi supported interior designer Alison Buckley, Associate IIDA, in her successful quest to earn the WELL AP certification.
Workplace Research in the Time of COVID
The workspace is an important physical asset within which a high degree of ingenuity and productivity is enabled. Thus inspired, we launched our first workplace strategy research in 2016, drawing on more than two decades of working with countless companies to help them create optimal work environments. Research continued, and in early 2020 when the world as we knew it changed, we shifted our focus—much like IWBI’s task force—to examining the ramifications of COVID-19 on physical work environments and their occupants.
Kicking off a series of five reports that share current thought leadership on the nature of work and how it and office environments are evolving during this health crisis was Volume 1: COVID-19 and the Future of the Workplace, published in May 2020. It presents the results of a survey we conducted of thousands of industry professionals to gain an understanding of the virus’s impact on the physical office environment. We received more than 500 responses to several fundamental questions:
When asked what most excited them about the prospect of returning to their workplace, 90% of respondents cited collaborating in person again and reuniting with colleagues. Coming in second was accessing office resources and equipment (64%), followed by returning to a well-designed, ergonomic workspace (58%), and working in environment that allows them to focus (47%).
Regarding their concerns, 80% cited safety in common spaces, followed by social distancing in meeting and collaboration space (70%); work environment cleanliness (68%); interaction with the public, visitors, and vendors (66%); workspace density (60%); and air quality (38%).
Working from home provided valuable lessons learned. “Space to concentrate is important” garnered 87% agreement. Other feedback acknowledged the desirability of face-to-face interaction (83%); value of engagement with company culture and mission (82%); ability to be productive remotely (82%); importance of ergonomics (75%); and ability to manage teams remotely (73%).
The report features a 10-page section, “Re-Thinking Office Building & Workplace Design,” that contains product reviews and explores various options that align with WELL Health-Safety Rating features under Air and Water Quality Management, Stakeholder Engagement & Communication, and Innovation. These include MEP improvements; UV lighting for treatment of air and surfaces; screening devices and sensors; information technology; wellness standards that go beyond FitWel, LEED and WELL Building; social changes; furniture solutions; antimicrobial surfaces; infection control risk assessment; and HR strategies for remote and hybrid work.
Volume 2: Reshaping the Workplace was published in August 2020. It asks the key question, “What does the future of office design look like?” in a post-COVID future, and explores impacts on real estate, space metrics and ratios, new concepts in space design, and technologies for space management. Among the challenges that owners and facility managers can look forward to are increases in workplace utilization rates, safety protocols, and need of technology for collaboration; management of a reduced in-person population due to continued remote work; and restoration of employee engagement and culture. It was around this time that the concept of a hybrid work model began to emerge, which intersects with features under four of the six WELL Health-Safety Rating themes.
Rethinking the Corporate Office Building
With a total inventory of over 5.5 billion square feet of office space leased or available for lease in the United States at the end of June 2021, landlords are in the vanguard of building owners who must adapt their assets to support the health and safety of current and prospective tenants. Margulies Peruzzi’s Volume 3: Building Design Reimagined/How Will COVID-19 Affect Building Design? published in September 2020, provides practical guidance to landlords specific to market challenges, tenant needs, building improvements, and space management. The primary logistical and financial challenges we foresaw as tenants returned were the ability to comply with social distancing in common areas, the need to increase security and safety protocols, improving HVAC performance and outside air intake, providing hands-free options, and reductions in public transportation and on-site employees.
Predicting that tenants would have many questions of landlords, the report provided a substantial list that included “What WELL/LEED standards do you have in place?” We forecast that traditional building amenities such as serveries and fitness centers would take on new forms and procedures, and that other innovations such as refrigerated marketplaces and moving conference areas close to lobbies to reduce foot traffic through office spaces would become more common. Presented in two categories (existing and new buildings), the report contains recommendations for potential improvements to parking and building entrances; building lobbies and security desks; elevator lobbies; elevator technology; restroom layout and design; grab-n-go, cafes, and food pickup; markets; fitness centers; HVAC systems and the energy code; and building control systems.
The Path Forward
The shape of future office environments will be largely determined by three factors: the ability of company leaders to direct and manage change; the subsequent development of organization-wide policies concerning remote work, safety, and occupancy; and the financial implications of those policies on facility decisions. A successful transition from the peak pandemic work-from-home scenario to a return-to-office scenario will require a spectrum of expertise and depend heavily on corporate agility and flexibility. Features of the WELL Health-Safety Rating’s Emergency Preparedness Programs theme, in particular the development of emergency, business continuity, and healthy re-entry plans, have a direct bearing on future space planning and allocation.
Margulies Perruzzi’s January 2021 report, Volume 4: Post-COVID Workplace presents four workplace models that corporate leaders can adapt to their own company’s unique blueprint. They are traditional, flexible, balanced, and lean, and range in 25% increments from 100% of the workforce returning to the office in the traditional model, to 25% in the lean model. Each model comes with its own financial and logistical considerations, especially if more space is needed to accommodate social distancing. The graphic below demonstrates how the models compare in terms of cost and space.
The New Hybrid Environment
Long a staple in certain high-tech industries and made possible through advancements in digital technology, COVID-19 has pushed the hybrid work environment model to the mainstream. Now, as the world grapples with the delta variant and new facts about its transmissibility to and by the vaccinated, Margulies Perruzzi’s just-released Volume 5 Workplace Strategy Report: Embracing the Hybrid Workspace affirms the logic of transitioning from a traditional to hybrid model. A survey of 8,600 people across multiple business sectors revealed that 44% of workers plan on being in the office three days a week, and 25% plan on two days. Only 9% responded that they would return to a pre-pandemic office presence.
Corporate leaders are becoming more receptive to the idea that work environments must embrace change as a constant and evolve in response. Catalysts include an increase in workplace utilization rates and safety protocols; restoration of employee engagement and culture; continuation of remote work and subsequent management of a reduced in-person population; and an increased need for collaboration technology and training.
Planning a return to the physical office under ever-changing conditions and advisories from the CDC is yet one more challenge for C-suite executives, facility managers, and employees. The numbers are significant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2021, there were 153.6 million people aged 16 and over in America’s workforce, of which 82.2 million are office based. Of those, 13.2% of full-time workers in all industries engaged in remote work. Although this is down from a high of 35.4% in May 2020, it nevertheless represents more than 10 million workers. That’s a lot of people, square footage, furniture, equipment, and associated costs to consider while simultaneously prioritizing health and safety.
Change is difficult, but meaningful change cannot happen in a vacuum or without confident leadership. Approaching it in an analytical and positive manner can diminish fear of the unknown and promote inclusivity. Informed corporate leaders are adopting sequential steps for creating a practical, sustainable strategy for their companies, the first one being the creation of a framework that identifies employee type profiles and their correlative space needs.
Once the framework has been established, the next steps are to:
Determine corporate willingness to change and how to build consensus around change.
Set guidelines for remote work and HR policies.
Confirm the financial implications.
Introduce property technology to manage space utilization on an ongoing basis.
Develop architectural, design, and engineering principles.
Form an implementation plan.
There are many different options available for implementing a safe return to the office, but there is no “one size fits all” solution. The most successful solution will be that which is uniquely tailored to a company’s business model, strategic plan, and corporate culture. Flexibility of both thought and design are the keys to cultivating a successful hybrid work environment.
Drawing a final correlation to LEED, many companies opt to have their facilities designed to various LEED certification levels without pursuing registration. The same approach can be taken with the WELL Health-Safety Rating. Although we advocate participation in both programs, only an owner can weigh the value of either investment against their project goals and budget.
Health & Safety Efforts Backed by Science
Program participants are in excellent company. According to IWBI, globally there are 20,950+ assets enrolled totaling 1.8 billion square feet, with 13,340+ and 1.3 billion square feet rated. At the end of the process, the WELL Health-Safety seal is a tangible and visible reminder that your building’s health and safety efforts are backed by science and validated by a third party. Seeing the seal outside tells employees, visitors, clients, and customers that they will be safe inside.