Vlado Paunovic, Pexels.
Vlado Paunovic, Pexels.

Designing the Future of Work with Adaptable, Plug-and-Play Offices

ROOM and Canoa pilot an evolving construction-free workspace for real estate developer TF Cornerstone

In today’s hybrid workworld, your office must be more. It must be flexible and ready for anything. It has to be inviting and sustainable, and you must have the ability to change on a dime. 

Enter: ROOM, which has pioneered a new mode of adaptive architecture that lets companies shape and then reshape workspaces with ease, alongside sustainable furniture firm Canoa which offers sustainable office furniture and fixtures. The two companies partnered to create the first-ever construction free workspace for developer TF Cornerstone at 1090 Vermont Ave. in Washington D.C. so developers, landlords and their future tenants can envision and experience  the evolving possibilities of a fully flex workspace. The 5,000-square-foot space in D.C. includes everything from hybrid conference rooms, wellness rooms, phone booths, hot desks to open lounge spaces and “thinking chairs.” The project showcases multiple prefabricated office floor plans that TF Cornerstone and its tenants can use to quickly create flexible, sustainable office designs that cater to the needs of the company in the space. 

Did we mention the workspace is construction free?

That last part? It’s a big deal for landlords and employers today. Traditional construction build-outs are expensive, time-consuming and inflexible to change. Those projects typically involve a web of multiple contractors, building permits and construction waste that goes into the landfill. In the end, drywall rooms leave companies with a limited number of work environments that don’t always offer much privacy or space for collaborative work.

A render of the ROOM and Canoa created workspace for TF Cornerstone’s Washington D.C. property.  

Modular can cut costs, save time and money.

Modular architecture changes the game. It has also been shown to cost less per square foot. Traditional construction of a room can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000.  A modular approach, on the either hand, can save an average of $20 to $35 per square foot and be set up in days or hours, rather than months. When work needs change, companies can modify modular floor plans, adding or moving walls, rooms and furniture as needed. 

Modular designs also save time. ROOM’s soundproof phone booths, for instance, can be installed in less than an hour, while its larger meeting rooms can be installed in three hours. All of ROOM’s modular products come fully equipped with built-in desks, energy-efficient lighting systems, power outlets, sound insulation, ventilation fans and more. “It’s easy to install within a few hours, helping businesses move things around without making permanent, costly and environmentally damaging adjustments to its office space,” says ROOM cofounder Morten Meisner-Jensen.

The changing office requires new designs.

Even before 2020, employers weren’t effectively using all of their office space and only used 30% of their work areas. Meanwhile, office vacancy rates continue to rise, and employees want more from the office. Companies are cutting their office footprint and seeking spaces that enable flexibility and easily adapting as work changes.

Today’s office must offer employees more than what they can get at home, whether that’s technology, space to build culture, drive collaboration, offer socialization or to create space for mentorship, training, onboarding and team-building. Businesses need dynamic offices that can adapt to constantly changing needs and improve the employee experience.

Landlords are devising strategies in which tenants can reduce construction expenses and promote experimentation. They’re also hoping to attract and retain tenants in an office market that’s embracing the concept of modular, flexible office space. “There’s definitely more interest now and we’re talking to a number of landlords about pre-built modular architecture,” says Lance Amato, Canoa’s head of customer experience.

TF Cornerstone’s Washington D.C. property relies on modular and sustainable furniture that can be easily altered for the changing needs of tomorrow’s workplace.

ROOM and Canoa are an ideal fit, says Amato. Canoa sells pre-owned office furniture, lighting and new products that are made and shipped in a sustainable fashion. ROOM’s company ethos also centers on flexibility and sustainability: ROOM’s prefabricated products can help a company reduce their carbon footprint by as much as 33%, according to research by Columbia University.

“We realized this was a great collaborative project between both brands, as Canoa’s mission is to build less, buy better and waste nothing,” said Amato.

The collaboration also made sense for TF Cornerstone, which has a portfolio of 2.5 million square feet of office space and a deep focus on innovating to deliver the highest-quality workspaces to its tenants. The modular office space allows TF Cornerstone to easily transition a workspace from tenant to tenant. There’s no additional permitting, no time-consuming architectural plans, no lengthy construction projects, mess or waste. Tenants can select among a variety of floor plans that best work for their businesses and quickly get up and running. “We were excited to discover what ROOM and CANOA were working on and proud to offer this unique offering combining unparalleled flexibility with a highly productive workspace,” says Ken Houle, vice president of TF Cornerstone.

ROOM and Canoa designed seven sample floor plans, such as this one, which show various ways modular partitions, rooms and sustainable furniture can be plugged in for immediate use, without the hassle of a long construction project.

The TF Cornerstone project embraces the growing trend of flexible workspaces and leases, so new tenants can easily plug-and-play modular architecture kits to their liking, much like putting together Lego parts. All the components are portable and come pre-installed with built-in audio-visual components and plug into standard electric outlets, which makes it easy for tenants to start with one floor plan and then change as time goes on. It’s also easy to swap out pieces tenant-to-tenant. For TF Cornerstone, there’s no hassle of worrying that new construction is code-compliant or swapping out lighting, ceilings, HVAC, plumbing and zoning; it’s all taken care of. Tenants can also feel good about reducing waste and knowing that the rooms, furniture and components are made out of either recycled or sustainable materials. The upshot: less mess, less waste, less money, less time and more flexibility, all which today’s hybrid world demands.

The ultimate goal, says ROOM’s Meisner-Jensen, is to enable companies and building owners to pave the way for tomorrow’s workplace. “Our mission is to inspire a better way to work, for all.”