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Improving Workplace Amenity Spaces

How real estate companies build revenue by building community.

If you’re following commercial real estate even a little bit, you’ve probably seen the articles. The ones about return-to-work policies. The ones about rethinking workplace design. The ones about increased vacancy rates. They all boil down to the same thing. Creating meaningful workplace destinations that people want to use.

According to Gensler, office workers want to spend more time in the office than they currently are. So, clearly the desire is there. It’s just a question of what these environments can offer. Work Design Magazine reports that hospitality-inspired lobbies and amenities are some of the most in-demand spaces in commercial real estate. One reason is the value those spaces add.

IMAGE CREDIT: Leah Rae Photography

“Being able to just get outside of the four walls of their actual rented space, allows for tenants to just tap into this different environment to be a bit more collaborative or creative,” says Angela Wu-Kemp, Director – Leasing at GWL Realty Advisors.

That tenant value directly translates to increased occupancy for building owners.

The groups that were finding successes in leasing their buildings were offering their tenants some amenity space.

ANGELA WU-KEMP, DIRECTOR – LEASING AT GWL REALTY ADVISORS

Angela Wu-Kemp, Director – Leasing at GWL Realty Advisors

Licensed interior designer Lori Cox agrees. “These spaces are becoming more and more important,” she says. “It's now becoming an expectation, almost even a demand from a lot of tenants…. Because if you have the choice to go to building A or building B and one has amenities and the other one doesn't. Which one are you going to pick?”

“People really want to provide a workspace for their employees with the comforts of home, nice modern design finishes, and the ability to create an experience throughout their workday,” says Crystal Lehoux, the Director, Property Management (Edmonton) for GWL Realty Advisors. “Not just a box the employer supplied them to do their jobs.”

Lori Cox, licensed interior designer

CRYSTAL LEHOUX, THE DIRECTOR, PROPERTY MANAGEMENT (EDMONTON) FOR GWL REALTY ADVISORS

Theory into practice

This was all in play when Cox, Lehoux, and Wu-Kemp set out to redesign the lobby of one of GWL’s buildings in Edmonton. With bright colors and timber post-and-beam accents, they created the framework for a variety of touchdown points. Glass walls separate a java station from multiple seating areas, but the whole space can be connected in seconds by opening a Leaf™ Folding Wall. For more formal applications, there are a handful of technology-enabled meeting rooms and a large conference room. In the back, a locker room, and a gym.

The goal was to achieve something more like a resort than an office building. And it worked. In no time, Wu-Kemp saw tenants using the lobby, chilling in the lounge area, and booking out the meeting rooms.

“One of the tenants actually said, ‘This amenity space is so perfect because it allows for us to keep the heads-down work in the actual space that we lease and then collaborate in the tenant lounge and the meeting rooms,’” says Wu-Kemp.

Connect space in seconds with a Leaf Folding Wall

A modular solution

The other thing those future of the workplace articles often talk about is the importance of adaptable space. Given the future of work is widely unknown, designing spaces that can evolve is a key consideration.

“You want to get longevity out of the design, because design is subjective,” says Lehoux. “If you have a strategy and you want to change something down the road, you want to prevent having to spend more money at that time, right? You want it to have longevity so that it can grow with the building.”

That was part of the reason that GWL used the DIRTT Construction System to build out their amenity spaces. Modular prefabricated assemblies allow for easy adaptive reuse. So instead of ripping down and starting from scratch when changes arise, DIRTT can be reconfigured to optimize the space.

“We had some forethought around future tenancies,” she says. “Maybe a change in the tenant experience where we can easily move furniture and do some simplistic type of construction without a full-blown construction job.”

“This is a landlord space,” says Cox. “So, in theory, this space has more chance of something moving versus an actual tenant space.”

Using modular construction to get longevity out of the design

IMAGE CREDIT: Leah Rae Photography

A home away from home

Wu-Kemp notes, because of investment in these amenities, there’s been more interest in the building. “The new space has changed the interaction with existing tenants… They were no longer just huddled up in their own space,” she says. “It allows for the tenant to just kind of sprawl out. Making themselves at home.”

And that feeling of comfort is at the core of the need for these kinds of designs.

“I think amenity spaces are key now and going into the future, because people don't just want spaces anymore where they're going to a tower, going to their office, and sitting in a cubicle,” says Cox. “Even if they've got a beautiful office space, people want other spaces to go to, to work, to collaborate with people, and to meet with people.”

Amenity spaces are key now and going into the future

IMAGE CREDIT: LEAH RAE PHOTOGRAPHY

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