The second of the four major sessions at GCUC USA’17 CAMP this year was taken by Jerome Chang. He has been designing coworking spaces for almost a decade now. He founded Blankspaces in 2008 and also co-founded LExC.co and COSHARE.co in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Jerome shared his views about phone booths, windows and more concerning their contribution to the overall efficiency and privacy of the coworking space.
The majority of this session was about the advantages, disadvantages and the smartest substitutes for the most popular item of coworking space design – the phone booth. Jerome recommends against using phone booths because the money it requires to install and operate, surpasses the few benefits it offers.
Coworking: A designer’s perspective
Jerome stated, “The design field is complex.” According to him, from his designer point of view, coworking is how one uses the office space among entrepreneurs, freelancers and other members as a shared environment. The main aim of coworking is to bring these bright people together so that their ideas can diverge and converge spontaneously.
Phone Booth: Pros & Cons
Phone booths are mainly used for coworking spaces to provide privacy to its members’ conversations. To ensure their members’ visual and auditory confidentiality, most of these spaces mess up ventilation. If you are at a booth for longer than an hour, you will feel suffocated. So, there should be some method to let the air circulate in the cabin. Also, many of the all-glass structures adds to the echoing and thus the sonic transparency of the office decreases. Jerome encourages noise cancellation systems to achieve an optimum buzz for space. He then mentioned how Buzzispace uses felt and other material around the head area to mitigate the sound.
Phone Booth: Added Revenue
Then he introduced a way for the space to profit from this. He pointed out that a company has to follow the ADA rules and in doing so, the phone booth is bound to be of a minimum circumference of five feet turning circle or 60 inches to allow all kinds of disabled people move freely inside it. Thus, by increasing the radius a few more inches, you can make room for a shelf and two seats converting it into a small meeting room. This way, members can use it for the phone calls as well as meeting. As a result, you can earn revenues from it because a conference room is more viable than a booth regarding build out, value and operation.
Architect – Yes? No? When?
An audience member asked Jerome about whether he recommends going to the architect with a plan or allowing him to navigate on his own. He responded either could work, but one should bring on the designer before signing the first space to help with the feasibility analysis.
Another member brought up DIRTT, which is a brand of a prefabricated wall system. While they do look great and are of high quality, their cost is astronomical. Jerome’s solution to this is to categorize this system as a piece of furniture. That way, it can be a part of the FF&E instead of the capital expense, which means you can pay for it portion by portion.
Design Vs. Community
For someone who has space but cannot decide on which one to do first – fixing the design or establishing the community, Jerome suggests going for the design. The ambiance of the office is a physical manifestation of the brand. It tells the story of the experience and culture of your brand. So it has to be on point.
Among the audience, Sajid Islam of Hubdhaka Coworking mentioned how his space used the website called Opendesk. They made a customized phone booth from the machine diagram provided by the site. It is a solution to using the traditional phone booth since it needs a lot of room for ventilation. Another audience member suggested that buying used furniture for space can save a lot of money for people on a tight budget.
Say ‘No’ to windows
Jerome ended the session by showing a few more examples of a phone booth and talking about the insignificance of windows in a coworking space. He stated, “Windows inspire people to look at the view outside the space, while they should be looking at each other for increased interactions.” Besides, sitting by the window makes the member unproductive for that time being. Overall, having windows have more cons than pros. So Jerome prefers using skylights. They encourage incoming enough daylight and scenic beauty in the space without taking away the members’ focus from work.