In this office, there are no cubicles, no lavish corner suites for executives and very few filing cabinets.

Employees hustle about, plugging in laptops and hooking into phone lines at any desk that’s convenient. A giant video screen overlooks a cafe where employees can conduct business in an informal setting, grab a bite or maybe catch an inning or two of the San Francisco Giants game.

This could be the headquarters of Google, Facebook or maybe Apple. But it’s not. It’s the 24th floor of 500 Capitol Mall, where the Sacramento office of commercial real estate services firm CBRE is test-driving an emerging concept in workplace design. Can a modern, perk-laden, almost-paper-free office be better for business? Los Angeles-based CBRE Group Inc., which has more than 40,000 employees and 300 offices worldwide, thinks so.

The transformation of its Sacramento office is part of a global CBRE initiative, known as “Workplace360”. It was implemented last year in Los Angeles and earlier this month in Orlando, Fla. The Sacramento office makeover is the fifth CBRE transition in the United States; more than two dozen CBRE offices worldwide are converting to the model in 2014. It’s intended to save space, promote collaboration, offer more flexibility, trim costs and even help attract the next generation of younger employees.

It’s also part of a trend in workplace design, commonly referred to as “untethered” or “free address” office space. With the advent of mobile technology, some companies are abandoning traditional office cubicles, in favor of shared or communal workspace. In a 2008 survey of 950 companies, about 60 percent said they had some kind of “unassigned workspace,” according to the International Facility Management Association, a trade group of facility managers.

For the local CBRE office, the recent move represents a major shift, physically and philosophically. In its first Sacramento office relocation in more than 40 years, the company only moved across the street but entered into a completely new way of operating. At its former offices, at 555 Capitol Mall, CBRE was spread out over three floors, with most employees working in traditional cubicles. High stacks of paper and rows of filing cabinets were the norm.

At its new address, all operations are on one floor, encompassing about 17,500 square feet. Mountains of paper have been all but banished. Each employee was allowed to bring one filing cabinet to the new office, which meant purging, scanning and recycling old files. With no assigned desks, CBRE’s Sacramento employees – about 100 in all – can plug in anywhere. Each has a company-issued laptop with Wi-Fi access to printers and digital files, as well as a virtual private network that lets them securely connect to their office documents from anywhere in the world. According to the company, ahead of the move, employees purged 500,000 paper documents, many of which are now accessed digitally by “key word” searches from their laptops.

Each desk is fully equipped with pens, highlighters, notepads, even a bottle of hand sanitizer. When employees leave at night, every desktop is “100 percent clear,” except for a phone, computer mouse, blue-tooth headsets and dual computer monitors. That “clean desk” policy applies to everyone, from top executives to junior staffers. David Brennan, senior managing director of CBRE Sacramento, said the everything-on-one-floor concept alone “was huge for us. It encourages a more collaborative environment.” Additionally, the firm’s new offices serve as a “real-world example” for corporate clients, who often seek advice on incorporating new workplace technologies, he noted.

“Workplace360” was launched after CBRE officials did extensive research on office designs that would foster mobility and flexibility, but also consolidate workspace to encourage more teamwork, as well as reduce square footage requirements. CBRE officials believe there’s a payoff in collaboration among the company’s many commercial real estate divisions, which range from financing and property management to a unit that specializes in auto dealership transactions.

Research showed that its brokers and staff typically spent about 50 percent of their time working with others and the other half working alone. Employees are encouraged to work in “neighborhoods” of colleagues doing similar tasks. There are seven “huddle rooms,” where small teams can meet for conferencing and video presentations. There are also single-person “focus rooms” when privacy is a must.

It can be an adjustment for longtime employees used to sitting at the same desk every day, perhaps surrounded by personal photos and mementos. “There was some anxiety at first,” said Chris Schempp, who oversaw hundreds of details as director of CBRE’s in-house project team during the 15-month planning and moving process. “But as things started coming together, you could tell that more (employees) were buying into the concept.”

Each employee has a personal, locked filing cabinet, which some use to keep family photos that they prop up on whatever desk they’re using that day. There also are banks of lockers for storing laptops, briefcases or other personal items and a coatroom where suits and ties can be stashed for client meetings.

Amy DeAngelis, the CBRE Sacramento senior vice president who brokered the deal for the 24th floor space and the 11-year lease in the office building owned by Tsakopoulos Investments, said care was taken to make sure CBRE workers could utilize space efficiently, “which affects the bottom line financially.” The elimination of nearly 1,320 square feet of filing cabinet space alone will yield an estimated $453,000 savings in storage costs, during the lease term.

The new office design also takes into account employee health and wellness. Desktops, which have an antimicrobial coating to prevent retention of germs, can be height adjusted at the touch of a button. Stand-up work stations give employees the option of taking a break from their self-adjusting ergonomic chairs. Strategically placed treadmill “walk stations” enable employees to burn off nervous energy without bothering others. Subtle white noise fills the office, muffling what could otherwise be an annoying cacophony of dozens of brokers talking to clients on phones. The building also has a fitness gym and bike-to-work lockers and showers.

Perhaps the most eye-popping perk is the cafe area’s video screen that can, with Google Earth technology, zoom in on virtually any spot on the globe. Brennan said the ability to scope out every angle of a commercial real estate site – remotely – saves enormous amounts of time and money. “Think of all it would take to make a trip to, say, Chico, and do all that work on the ground,” he said. “Here, we can get a detailed look at any property and its surroundings in minutes.”

CBRE is pursuing “green building” certification for its 24th-floor office, under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, which requires meeting stringent environmental standards in construction and operation, including reduced water use and renewable energy sources.

The “Workplace360” model also is designed to attract the next generation of employees – particularly young, tech-savvy workers who are likely to be drawn to offices similar to those of high-powered, Bay Area tech companies. “If you have the resources to remake your office setting, it’s a good way to go,” said Peter Schaub, a New York-based marketing and branding expert. “Talented millennials who have the skills to be in demand aren’t necessarily thinking like their parents. Pay and benefits still count of course, but they put high emphasis on the look and feel of a workplace. “It could make the difference between landing talent, or not,” said Schaub. “If you have a recruit say, ‘Wow, I get to work in a place that looks this cool,’ you’ve probably got them hooked.”

The company doesn’t divulge what it spent on all of its new office technologies, but considers it a long-term investment. “It was not so much a cost-saving initiative but an investment in our employees and the workplace of the future,” said CBRE consultant Matt Fritsch. Now, when he visits the company’s traditional offices in Roseville and Stockton, those office environments seem so “foreign,” he said. “For employees who enjoy a clutter-free environment, this is a beautiful place to be.”


Source: The Sacramento Bee

We’ve all seen them hanging from the side of a building and thought to ourselves, “Man, I would never do that. Those guys must be crazy.”

Well, to be honest, some of them are, but most are not. The fact is, the profession of washing windows on high rise buildings is actually very safe when all of the standards and regulations are followed properly. Of course, it still takes a tremendous amount of courage to climb over the side of a building and into a boatswain’s chair or to power that stage down when there is nothing separating you from the ground other than a thin aluminum floor.

So how do these folks do it? What makes them secure enough to make a cognitive decision to walk off of a perfectly good rooftop and into thin air, where, for the next hour or so, they will be suspended from lines as thin as your thumb, all the while cleaning the glass of your office or condo building?

The answer is, or should be, safety. Safety is the most important factor when any suspended maintenance work is being performed. Who is responsible for this safety, and what does working safely really mean?

The first question is being asked all across the United States every day with respect to window cleaning, particularly window cleaning done from a boatswain’s chair. Up until now, there was no clear definitive rule with respect to boatswain’s chair work under Federal OSHA. Federal OSHA does address cleaning windows using a powered platform. While some of those rules can be applied to chair work, there are so many areas of uncertainty that Federal OSHA has made proposed changes to Sub Part D – Walking Working Surfaces where they include some rules with respect to this common form of window cleaning.

The new document and the existing ANSI Standards clarify that it is the responsibility of the building owner to provide anchorages for these window cleaning professionals to attach their suspension and safety lines. This is important when the workers are utilizing boatswain’s chairs because more often than not, they are rigging directly to the rooftop anchors for both the suspension and safety lines. The rules and regulations both state that the suspension (the line supporting the worker) and safety lines (used in the event the suspension line fails) should be attached to separate and independent anchorages.

The standard form of anchorage is a rooftop anchor attached to the building’s structure that has been ideally installed during construction. We do know, however, that most building’s do not have these permanent rooftop anchors. Thus, the window washing professionals are required to make do with what structure is available on the rooftop.

We cannot expect a window washing contractor to obtain permission to drill through the roofing and down into the structure and attach a rooftop anchor as, quite simply, they are not qualified to perform this type of work. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the owner of the building to ensure rooftop anchors are available for workers to attach to prior to commencing their work.

The next burning question, assuming we have rooftop anchors or some other form of structure, is how are these workers to attach safely?

Many buildings, maybe even yours, have some form of window washing system installed. Unfortunately, more often than not, they are not in compliance with today’s rigid standards and proposed regulations. We often see derelict davit bases at an unprotected roof edge. These davit bases were originally designed to be used for suspended stages. However, as you know, most window cleaning operations are performed using a boatswain’s chair. So, how do the window washers work safely if there are no independent rooftop anchors available? The workers do what they must to ensure they can complete the work as safely as possible. This does not mean they complete the work in compliance with all the codes and standards. It means they do what they must, which, at times, really is crazy.

They will attach to vent stacks, stair railings or cinder blocks piled on the roof, none of which are designed to take the applied loads of a fall. Further, if these davit bases are existing at the roof edge, often the window washers will attach a tag line between the davit bases and attach both the suspension and safety lines to this line. The problem is the tag line has not been engineered, and in the event of failure of this line, both suspension and safety lines are attached to the same “anchorage.” The failure of one line leads to a catastrophic failure of this unengineered system, resulting in serious injury or death of the worker.

Now, realizing this is a lot of information to take in, I expect you have a lot of questions about the codes and standards. What is required? How do I know? Etc. The test is simple. Take a walk out onto your rooftop and ask yourself, “If I had to,would I attach my entire life to that anchorage?” If there is any doubt in your mind at all, contact a rooftop anchor design professional and have your building assessed for compliance and safety. Once you have the building assessed and certified and when someone asks you if those window cleaners are crazy, you can confidently answer, “Not as crazy as you think.”


Source: Facilities Magazine

Miami-Dade County has started a series of water and sewer rate hikes to pay for $12.6 billion in proposed improvements to its water and wastewater systems, including a $3 billion project to drastically reduce the amount of treated sewage the county discharges into the Atlantic Ocean by 2025.

The county’s Water and Sewer Department raised rates 8% for the fiscal year that started last October. Annual increases of 6%, 5%, and 5% are planned for the next three fiscal years, department Deputy Director Douglas Yoder told Miami Today.

And there should be more increases in the future – wiping out Miami-Dade’s longtime reputation for low water and sewer rates to raise money to fix an underfunded system that has been rife with unlawful discharges from weak and leaky pipes and system overflows, described by critics as an environmental nightmare. “Rates will continue to be impacted as we get into the actual construction, which is where you spend money quicker,” Mr. Yoder said.

Miami-Dade’s water and sewer rates have been among the nation’s lowest for many years, according to the department. Even with the 8% increase that’s already in effect, a customer using 6,750 gallons a month pays a monthly average of $45.39 – up $3.36 from the previous average. That’s still the lowest among the nine major municipal systems in Florida, the department said.

Under federal and state pressure for years to improve its wastewater system, a centerpiece of the department’s capital improvements plan for the next 15 to 20 years is the $3 billion “ocean outfall” project. The outfall project, Mr. Yoder said, is in response to a state law approved in 2008 that will ban Florida municipalities from flushing treated sewage into the ocean and will require them to reuse 60% of their wastewater by 2025. The law was eased last year, allowing municipalities to discharge up to 5% of their annual treated sewage flow into the ocean, but only due to “peak flow events” such as storms. It also gave municipalities more ways to meet the 60% reuse threshold.

Most of the cost of Miami-Dade’s outfall project – about $2 billion – will involve building a fourth wastewater treatment plant inland, somewhere near the west end of the county. It will also involve improvements to the county’s existing plants closer to the coast, including adding another layer of filtration and other cleansing steps, Mr. Yoder said. He said he expects construction for the outfall improvements to start in three to five years. Currently, he said, the county typically discharges 180 million gallons a day of treated sewage into the ocean – and sometimes 250 million gallons a day or more during peak flows – through two outfall pipes.

One pipe goes out from the Central District Wastewater Treatment Plant on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay near downtown Miami and empties about three miles offshore, and the other pipe goes out from the North District Wastewater Treatment Plant and empties about two miles offshore, Mr. Yoder said. The central district plant was built in the 1950s and its outfall pipe was extended to its current length in the 1970s. The north district plant at Northeast 156th Street was built in the late 1970s, he said.

Before being discharged into the ocean, he said, the sewage entering the plants goes through a “biological treatment system” that removes about 90% of solids. The sewage also is disinfected with chlorine. The outfall pipes discharge into water about 190 feet deep offshore, where the outflow is swept up in the swift northern Gulf Stream current. “It’s a high volume of water that’s continuously moving,” he said. “It’s like the equivalent of eight Lake Eries going by the coast every day.”

There’s also the South District Wastewater Treatment Plant south of Cutler Bay, but treated sewage from that plant is not discharged offshore. Instead, he added, it’s discharged about 3,000 feet underground into “the boulder zone” amid the Florida saltwater aquifer. That doesn’t have affect drinking water, according to Mr. Yoder, because any saltwater from the aquifer that’s used for public consumption requires a high enough level of treatment anyway that other contaminants also are removed.

Meanwhile, the outfall plan calls for greatly increasing the amount of treated sewage that is reclaimed for reuse. A lot of the reuse, he said, will come from an agreement to send treated sewage to Florida Power & Light Co.’s enlarged and renovated Turkey Point nuclear plant for cooling its reactors.


Source: Miami Today


A scam in which cons call people asking to collect “debt” for the electric bill has moved Miami-Dade police and Florida Power & Light to issue a warning to the public.

Police say there’s been an increase in the scam calls. Similar cases were reported in 2012, said police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta. “They’ll call you, they’ll identify themselves as FPL employees and try to collect outstanding debt,” Zabaleta said.

The fraudulent callers claim that the victim’s electrical service will be discontinued unless they purchase a prepaid card for amounts ranging from $150 to $500. The scammers then ask for the account and PINs from those cards.

But it’s not only homeowners falling prey to the swindlers. “Lately they’ve been targeting businesses,” Zabaleta said.

Police are reviewing evidence and talking to witnesses, Zabaleta said, but their main focus is to get the word out about the scam. “We want the community to know. Don’t provide any information,” Zabaleta said.

Utility scammers also are hitting Key West customers. Three Key West businesses have reported being targeted by a telephone scam and one, Blossom’s Grocery, is out $1,300.

Keys Energy Services, the Key West-based electric company, is warning customers of a so-called phone spoofing scam. Spokesman Julio Torrado said customers have received phone calls that show up on caller ID as coming from the power company’s main phone number.

“Customers then hear an automated voice alert … to an electrical emergency within their home and the need for a crew to be dispatched,” the utility said. The automated system attempts to capture personal information that can jeopardize the identity of the resident.

Torrado said the Blossom’s incident happened Feb. 15. Faced with what it believed to be a power cutoff threat, store management paid $1,300, although Torrado said he didn’t know with what or to whom.

Miami Subs and Blackfin, a Duval Street restaurant, were also targeted. Miami Subs employee Sean Wright reported the attempted con to Key West Police Officer Thad Calvert on Feb. 11.

Wright said a caller identifying himself as a Keys Energy employee asked for $3,000 to avoid a service interruption and wanted payment by way of six $500 gift cards. Still on the phone with the apparent scammer, Wright called Keys Energy and was alerted to the issue.

If customers are unsure of the authenticity of a call and need to verify its legitimacy, they should hang up and call Keys Energy at 295-1000.

Keys Energy provides service to around 29,000 customers south of the Seven Mile Bridge. It’s overseen by a five-member elected board created in 1965 by the state Legislature.

FPL also urges customers to call the police if they get a suspicious call. Customer can also call the number at the bottom of their FPL bill and report the call to either the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (800-435-7352) or the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (

“FPL will never call and ask for credit card info or take prepaid cards as payment. Also, FPL will never ask for any personal information from you unless you initiate the contact,” said FPL spokeswoman Heather Kirkendall.

Customers wary of whether a call or visit is legitimate, should call the utility for verification.

For further information and safety tips visit


Source: Miami Herald


The reduction and elimination of the tax on commercial leases continues to gain considerable support.

The Florida CCIM Chapter and active CCIMs , which represents more than 1,200 commercial real estate industry professionals, join the efforts of a number of industry groups and large associations including the 127,000 member Florida Realtors, the Miami Association of Realtors (more than 31,000 members), NAIOP, ICSC, and SIOR in support of the Governor’s 2014-2015 “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget,” which highlighted his commitment to eliminating $500 million in taxes and fees for the upcoming legislative session.

“The Florida CCIM Chapter is happy with Governor Scott’s initiative, as its members represent the leading commercial real estate brokers, lenders, developers and numerous other commercial real estate practitioners.  This proposed sales tax reduction will help to drive more companies to establish or expand their operations in Florida and promote community development and jobs,” commented Florida CCIM Chapter President Peter J. Barnett, CCIM.

Florida is the only state that imposes a state-wide sales tax on commercial leases.

A state tax of six percent (6%) is imposed on the total rent charged under the lease, however the Department of Revenue (DOR) has taken the position that any payment required to be paid as a condition of occupancy under a commercial lease is taxable as rent. This means that in addition to the base rent being taxed, “passed through expenses” including building insurance, common area maintenance, and ad valorem real estate taxes themselves are taxed (double taxed). In addition, individual counties and taxing authorities may impose additional taxes, such as Miami-Dade County, which charges one percent (1%) additional, for a total of seven percent (7%).

Florida Statute §212.031 addresses sales tax on leases and Florida’s DOR interprets the provisions in Fla Administrative Code Rule 12A-1.070.

It is argued that this additional tax places Florida at a competitive disadvantage when attracting new businesses to the state. Opponents contend that the tax forces landlords to charge more for rent than comparable facilities just across state lines. In addition, it increases their record keeping burdens as they become tax collectors for the state.

Governor Rick Scott announced on January 28th that his budget proposes reduction of the tax on commercial leases by one-half of a percentage point for a savings of approximately $104-million the first year. According to all research, the impact of this reduction would be $500-million gain in terms of jobs and economic activity.

Additionally, two bills filed for the 2014 Florida legislative session push for more and would begin a complete phase out of the tax.  SB 176 by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), Senate Finance and Tax Chairwoman, and HB 11 by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Bradenton) would lower the rate from 6 percent to 5 percent.

“With the support of the governor, these efforts are gaining considerable traction. Compelling cases have been made that the increased economic activity more than offsets the decreased collections,” said John Dohm, CCIM, SIOR, CFP. 

Dohm, a licensed real estate broker for more than 25 years, tirelessly analyses important issues affecting the commercial industry.

John currently serves on the board of the CCIM Miami District, is past president of the CCIM Broward Chapter and served for several years on the board of the Florida CCIM Chapter.

Dohm also served as President of the Realtors Commercial Alliance of MIAMI in 2012 and is one of fewer than 700 individuals in the world to hold both the CCIM and SIOR (Society of Industrial and Office Realtors) designations and the only one to have also been awarded the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) certification in addition to all major securities licenses.

# # #

A CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) is a recognized expert in the commercial and investment real estate industry. The CCIM lapel pin is earned after successfully completing a designation process that ensures CCIMs are proficient not only in theory, but also in practice. This elite corps of CCIMs includes brokers, leasing professionals, investment counselors, asset managers, appraisers, corporate real estate executives, property managers, developers, institutional investors, commercial lenders, attorneys, bankers, and other allied professionals. The mission of the Florida CCIM Chapter is to provide the highest quality of marketing and networking opportunities, services, and education that will enhance our members’ ability to conduct business successfully. For more information, please visit or contact Florida CCIM Chapter President Peter J. Barnett, CCIM at 813.351.2791.

The New Year brought big changes to the lighting industry.

The final step of the Energy Independence and Security Act took effect January 1, 2014, which means that incandescent 40- and 60-watt bulbs can no longer be manufactured. According to Osram Sylvania’s Socket Survey, only four out of ten Americans are aware of these changes.

Facility managers have dealt with light bulb phase-outs before with the 100-watt in 2012 and the 75-watt in 2013.
See tips for dealing with lighting phase outs.

According to Lowe’s, here are five things you need to know about the change:

1. You Can Keep Your Current Bulbs
According to the legislation, consumers can still use their existing incandescent light bulbs and retailers are allowed to sell bulbs they have on their shelves and in stock. Manufacturers are simply required to stop producing non-compliant products. Some specialty types of incandescent light bulbs, such as reflectors, three-way, appliance, and some decorative bulbs, are exceptions to the law and can still be manufactured.

2. You Won’t Notice A Major Difference
Halogen light bulbs are a popular pick by interior designers because of their crisp, white light and welcoming ambiance. For customers who love the look and feel of incandescent light bulbs, there is no need to worry. Manufacturers have developed halogen light bulbs that both meet the new efficiency standards and offer the characteristics of traditional bulbs. While these bulbs may cost more up front, they pay off in the long run by saving 28% in energy costs over the life of the product.

3. You Won’t Replace Your Bulb Until Your Baby Graduates From College
It’s a great time to upgrade to LED light bulbs as prices have steadily decreased while performance and appearance have improved. According to Lowe’s manufacturers, an average LED bulb will last more than 22 years (based on three hours of usage per day), and over its lifetime will cost about $30 to operate, whereas an incandescent bulb will cost $165 over the same period of time. Lowe’s carries a wide variety of LED bulbs for almost every household application with prices starting under $10.

4. These Aren’t The CFLs Of Years Past
CFLs, one of the most popular replacements for incandescent bulbs, have changed dramatically with recent technological improvements. Manufacturers have addressed common customer feedback so that these bulbs now create better light output and turn on faster when you flip a switch. Once considered a safety concern because of mercury content, today’s CFLs contain less mercury than a common household thermometer.

5. There’s A Full Light Spectrum For Different Applications
Light bulbs are available in a variety of color temperatures and should be selected based on application and personal preference.




By the numbers, office development still remains a shadow of its former self.

But, the few corporate and multi-tenant buildings that are coming out of the ground are raising the bar on class-A standards.

These new buildings—which some have dubbed “class-AA”—are packed with amenities and features that aim to meet the needs of a changing workforce and shifting workplace trends. “The market in general is showing that tenants have a growing awareness of how the office environment can be used as a means to draw and retain talented employees,” says Sabrina Kanner, senior vice president, design and construction, U.S. commercial operations at Brookfield Office Properties in New York City.

As such, the task at hand for developers these days is more than just building a generic stand-alone office tower. The emphasis is on creating a vibrant community that combine a variety of amenities both inside and out such as park spaces, retail, restaurants, fitness centers and rooftop gardens. Office buildings need to embrace the new urban paradigm that fits the “live/work/play lifestyle” of today’s workers, adds Kanner.

Case in point is the first phase of Brookfield Place Calgary in the heart of downtown Calgary. Brookfield broke ground on the 1.4-million-sq.-ft. east tower in October. The building houses a number of amenities including a Winter Garden. The 27,000-sq.-ft. indoor park-like pavilion will host a variety of events and programs such as art exhibits, speakers and concerts. The intent is to have those events as an added offering to building tenants at lunchtime or after work. It also pulls in other neighboring office workers and residents to create more vibrancy and activity for the building’s retail tenants, says Kanner.

Real estate has become a big recruiting tool for companies today. “That is really driving tenants to step up into these more state-of-the-art buildings,” says Philip Croker, director of development for Hines in Houston.

Hines is in the process of putting the finishing touches on the design for 609 Main at Texas in Downtown Houston. Site prep work on the 1 million-sq.-ft. building began in early November. The 47-story commercial office building will sit next to the 46-story BG Group Place that was completed in 2011. Both buildings were designed by New Haven, Conn.-based Pickard Chilton. Even though the two projects are a scant few years apart, there are distinct design changes being made to 609 Main.

The design on BG Group Place was done in an era when it was still early in the game when new workplace trends were emerging, notes Croker. For example, the 7,500-sq.-ft. gym at 609 Main is three times larger than the gym at the neighboring BG Group Place. Fitness centers that for years have been seen as a scarcely used token amenity are in high demand and are getting a big makeover. Not only do these gyms feature state-of-the-art exercise equipment, but they have added features such as yoga and cycling studios, full-size basketball courts and virtual golf. “That is probably the number one amenity that people are asking for is the ability to get out of the office and go do something to break up the day,” says Croker.

Tenants also are asking for conference centers that are not in their own space, but part of the base building. Hines will build a 7,000 to 8,000-sq.-ft. conference center at 609 Main that overlooks Main Street. In addition, Hines plans to transform the traditional formal lobby space into a more informal meeting space. Employees are asking for spaces where they can come down from their own floor and be able to collaborate, relax or just hang out, notes Croker. So, rather than the lobby just being a place where people pass through to go to the elevators, it will be a more vibrant common area space, he adds.

Sustainable building and LEED certification is a standard component to the next generation of office buildings. But, tenants view that as more than a requirement that they need to check off the list. Tenants want natural light and fresh air, and they recognize that those are important qualities for workers and can be a real asset and not just a marketing gimmick, adds Kanner.

Modern designs clearly reflect the shift to a higher density workplace and different work styles. New office buildings have to include all of the infrastructure that supports that shift to higher density space in terms basic infrastructure such as floor loading, restrooms and HVAC systems, as well as space that allows for more collaboration. “The next generation of employees feed on proximity to each other,” says Kanner. It is a very collaborative work model that the office space now has to support.”


Source:  NREI

Is your office design hostile to your employees’ mental health?

While companies invest in many strategies to support the physical health of employees, from flu vaccinations to filtered air systems, ignoring employees’ mental health means businesses risk losing any gains they make in physical health support. Depression, stress, substance abuse, financial distress, work-life balance, ADHD, and, yes, even workplace bullying are all issues with which workers are dealing and that have a large drain on productivity.

Creating a healthy culture that supports employees’ mental health, though, may not be as complicated as some think.

Room To Work

Performance pressures, noise, distractions, and fast-paced deadlines can be stressful for workers.

Creating tranquil places to concentrate, especially in open-office environments, allow staff to choose their engagement level without losing the benefits of collaborative opportunities.

Positioning workstations away from busy aisles and work areas reduces distraction and noise, which glass panels also can help reduce. Respite rooms are gaining popularity, especially with customer service workers who need a quiet place to recharge from noisy phone work.

Seen And Connected

Environments where employees are physically seen and connected to coworkers allow people to feel like they are part of an organization and not isolated. Good workplace design causes employees to “bump into each other” frequently – at the printer, the copier, the coffee maker. These are important opportunities for social engagement.

For good behavioral health, design elements can promote a culture of transparency and increase communication: lower workstation walls, glass windows to offices, and a view to leadership.

In an open environment, leaders not only can demonstrate good behavior, but they can have a better sense of employees that might be struggling. An open environment also encourages staff self-policing, since it is harder for employees to hide bad behavior.

Creating A Home For A Mobile Workforce

Teleworkers can face unique challenges: social isolation, presenteeism, and undefined boundaries between work and home life.

When mobile workers come into the office for face-to-face connections, supporting their needs can be as important as supporting those who regularly work in the office.

Space can send a message about how important their physical presence is: Are there adequate drop-in spaces near teams with whom they interface? Are spaces “second class?” Do office meeting rooms have the technology for remote workers to see, hear and participate in meetings? Are there social spaces for team members to interact on a personal level?

These design strategies can communicate personal as well as professional value to an employee.

More Than A Perk

Regular exercise and providing access to daylight has not only shown to help reduce depression, but also improves absenteeism, increases productivity and is high on the list of employee satisfaction. Design workspace to maximize daylight for all workers. Provide a fitness area, outdoor walking paths or discounted gym membership.

Strategies that help employees balance work and personal demands sometimes have the greatest return as time is often the most precious gift. Flexible work schedules can help achieve such balance, as well as offering dry cleaning pick-up, access to food trucks, and even employee-of-the-month parking spot – all low or no cost strategies.

Lastly, workers want to be engaged, have access to leadership, and want to work for companies that have like-minded values. Having similar size workspace and workspace “perks” sends a message of “we’re all important to company success.”

Use your workplace to creatively reinforce corporate values and goals, providing subtle clues that tell staff what’s really important to a company. If marketing materials talk about environmental concerns, don’t overlook recycling containers or have a fleet of gas-guzzling cars.

With mental health issues affecting so many of us, companies are thinking beyond the stigma of mental health and developing strategies to improve the workplace. In the end, companies and employees can benefit from that.


Source:  SFBJ

Walking through the General Services Administration’s remodeled headquarters, you’d never imagine the building was built nearly a century ago.

Natural light floods across an open-plan design through floor-to-ceiling windows more reminiscent of Silicon Valley than Federal Triangle. Rows of offices have been replaced by low-walled cubicles, punctuated by enclosed “huddle rooms” where employees can work quietly or meet with a colleague or two.

“GSA has tried to make this a showcase of 21st-century workplace design, to maximize our productivity, to understand how to employ open and collaborative workplaces, and to help our customers do the same,” said Casey Coleman, GSA’s CIO. “The nature of work is more collaborative than ever, and people are more mobile than ever.” The headquarters redesign was driven by the desire to use GSA’s office space more efficiently, facilitate collaboration and serve as an example for other federal agencies whose real-estate needs GSA serves.

Across the U.S. workforce, employees are at their desks only about half the workweek, thanks to travel, meetings, time off and work-from-home arrangements, said Janet Pogue, a principal at Gensler, which led the redesign of GSA’s offices. “People are mobile given the technology and how work gets done today,” Pogue said. “That has been a driver of how we make the real estate work better.” A whopping 65 percent of GSA employees now telework at least one day per pay period, up from 28 percent in 2011, said Charles Hardy, GSA’s chief workplace officer.

To maximize the use of the new headquarters space, some GSA employees no longer have assigned desks but instead use a cubicle, huddle room or conference room depending on their needs — a practice referred to as hoteling. As a result of the increase in shared, flexible space, the new headquarters will be home to 3,300 employees, compared with just 2,500 before the redesign. That consolidation in office space will save GSA $24 million in lease payments each year.

Accommodating a mobile workforce

The experiences of GSA and other agencies at the forefront of work space innovation offer valuable lessons for federal leaders across government who are looking for ways to save money on office space and utilities, encourage telework, and stimulate innovation and collaboration. Executives who have been through the process emphasize the importance of thoughtful planning and implementation with a team that includes stakeholders from real estate, facilities management, technology, environmental sustainability, human resources and other areas.

They say it is important to emphasize the benefits the new design provides in terms of flexibility and cost savings, and take steps to alleviate any concerns when employees are asked to give up their designated office space. “This was a real-estate strategy to begin with, but now it’s become a business model,” said Richard Kadzis, vice president for strategic communications at CoreNet Global, a professional association for corporate real-estate executives. “Government executives could add a lot of value to taxpayers by getting their employees more involved in the decision-making process as it relates to real-estate and workplace practices.”

A year ago, employers typically allocated 170 square feet per person in office space. Now the trend is toward 150 square feet, Kadzis said, and the Office of Management and Budget has set a goal of 130 square feet per person for federal workplaces that want to renew or obtain a lease. OMB also has a goal to increase the level of telework among federal employees. “You do have a lot of wasted space,” said Kadzis, who estimates that cutting-edge employers now designate about 60 percent of real estate to collaborative space, 20 percent to quiet, focused space and the balance to a combination of social and learning space.

To ensure the success of its headquarters redesign, GSA put technology tools such as email and videoconferencing in the cloud so employees could access them while working remotely, whether they are at home, traveling for work or in another federal office. The new building has ubiquitous wireless, with no break in service between floors. Coleman’s team also supports lightweight mobile phones and tablet PCs, giving employees choice and flexibility.

By staggering employees’ move into the new space, GSA officials were able to continue testing, experimenting and learning. They put coffee bars and large conference rooms in the same spot on each floor to facilitate impromptu meetings and make it easier for employees to find available space on another floor if necessary. The agency also decided to share the Interior Department’s cafeteria across the street to trim costs and provide an opportunity for employees to intersect, interact and build networks.

“We’re seeing people constantly moving around and having a wide variety of work settings that provide choice,” Pogue said. She added that complex projects typically involve a number of teams, agencies and individuals, so “if you’re trying to speed up that process, those spaces need to be in close proximity. They need the availability, and you need to be able to quickly move from individual to team space and back again.”

To prepare for a more flexible and open work environment, GSA’s redesign team considered factors such as the acoustics of larger conference rooms, how to make every participant in a virtual meeting feel included, creating quiet zones away from more noisy activities, and even the weight and functionality of furniture, which employees can now move around to create different work spaces. Occupancy sensors not only turn off lights and electrical outlets when they’re unused for a certain length of time, they also provide data on the use of work spaces so GSA can continue to make adjustments.

Knocking down more than physical walls

The GSA redesign built on principles and insights Gensler developed through previous workplace transformations, including a headquarters remodeling for travel technology firm Sabre Holdings in 2007. Before the redesign, the company’s offices held 3,000 employees in 4,000 seats. Badge data showed that 35 percent of the workforce did not enter the offices on any given day. By moving to flexible, unassigned space for all employees, including the CEO, the company consolidated five office spaces of 1 million square feet into two buildings that total 470,000 square feet and are certified under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

The transformation cut Sabre’s global real estate costs by more than 25 percent, saved $10 million in operational expenses and reduced the previous average of 350 square feet per person to 185. The new headquarters fit 1.35 employees per cubicle, a significant increase from 0.81 previously. In addition, Sabre has slashed its energy consumption by 61 percent, reduced its carbon footprint by 54 percent and saved more than 22 million gallons of water.

“We needed to accommodate more people and be smarter about our use of space,” said Leilani Latimer, who was Sabre’s senior director of sustainability initiatives at the time. “When the physical walls came down, a lot of other walls came down, too…. Not having the physical walls opened people up to a lot more collaboration.”

Now employees might meet on the comfy couches in the building’s lobby or in the break room, or they might “touch down” at a bar stool in the break area to work between meetings. Although employees were initially assigned rolling sets of file drawers, many preferred to switch to digital records. An internal social media site with space for personal pictures and corporate recognition replaced the old habits of photographs on desks and plaques on walls. “Conversation was one of the learning moments for us — how loudly they speak on the telephone,” Latimer said. “People’s behaviors and manners changed by being in open space.”
Dealing with ‘separation anxiety’

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) have also saved money and increased employee satisfaction through office designs that rely heavily on hoteling. At USPTO, the dominance of quiet, focused work drove the decision to switch to hoteling and increase telework rather than move to open floor plans, said Danette Campbell, the agency’s senior telework adviser.

Since 2006, USPTO’s workforce has grown from 7,800 employees to 11,700 without requiring any additional office space or parking spots. Now more than 7,500 employees do some level of telework, and nearly 4,000 full-time teleworkers have relinquished their desk space at the office. “When they do need to come in, they reserve space in a shared on-campus hoteling office,” Campbell said. “Because our full-time telework program has become so successful and employees are so productive, when they come in they’re not spending eight hours. It becomes a touchdown place for them.”

To date, the agency has given back $24 million worth of office space and reduced the number of hoteling offices from 200 to 91, with two desks in each. “Like everything else at this agency, we monitor very closely the utilization, and that helps build our business case for giving back space,” she said. As a result, USPTO maintained 70 percent productivity during Hurricane Sandy and more than 82 percent productivity during the snowstorm that hit the Washington metro area in late March. And employees are happy with the arrangement. Ninety-two percent of full-time teleworkers report higher overall job satisfaction and work/family balance, 77 percent of them report higher productivity, and 93 percent of all survey respondents said the program has had a positive impact on employee satisfaction.

Hoteling is also a core component of TIGTA’s real-estate strategy, which includes offices, bullpens and cubicle space available by reservation. The agency reached a goal of 157 usable square feet per person thanks to a 2011 renovation and move that shrank the overall footprint from 60,597 square feet to 52,145 square feet. At TIGTA, 58 percent of employees telework two days or more a week, nearly double the Treasury Department’s average of 30 percent and more than five times the governmentwide level of 10.8 percent.

“We have a multitude of tools to cope with the separation anxiety of not being in an office anymore,” said George Jakabcin, TIGTA’s CIO. “That was key to the successful transition.” Employees at all 70 offices have laptops equipped with cameras and Wi-Fi access, videoconferencing, instant messaging and virtual whiteboarding. “We’re trying to not lose too much of the office environment in terms of being able to collaborate with people,” Jakabcin said.

But TIGTA officials also considered the downside of all that openness. “We’re conscious of ambient noise, so all the materials were selected to ensure we could keep it as private as possible when people are working,” he said. “We also have huddle rooms that are scattered around the space where you can talk to your doctor, children, spouse if you don’t want that conversation to even have the possibility of being overheard.” The hoteling program saved $6 million over the course of TIGTA’s office lease. Furthermore, job satisfaction climbed from 78 percent in 2011 to 79.8 percent in 2012, and self-reported work/life balance increased from 87.3 percent to 89.3 percent.

To help provide the interpersonal connection that might be missing in a telework-heavy workforce, TIGTA leaders start virtual meetings with a few minutes of socialization. Managers also specify and track performance more rigorously than before and always look for opportunities to increase efficiency, Jakabcin said. Indeed, workgroups that have moved to flexible space and more virtual meetings find that it’s often easier to have an impromptu conference call than it was in the past to find a time for everyone to meet in person. “You have to think about what does the technology provide for in the way of opportunities to change and improve the process,” Jakabcin said. “We were able to eliminate some steps that might not otherwise have surfaced if we had kept doing it in a physical presence environment.


Source: The Business of Federal Technology


The South Florida Office market ended the third quarter 2013 with a vacancy rate of 13.5%.

The vacancy rate was down over the previous quarter, with net absorption totaling positive 551,507 square feet in the third quarter. That compares to positive 769,100 square feet in the second quarter 2013. Vacant sublease space decreased in the quarter, ending the quarter at 722,903 square feet.

Tenants moving into large blocks of space in 2013 include: Miami Herald Media Company moving into 158,266 square feet at 3511 NW 91st Ave; Management Resources Institute moving into 40,000 square feet at 550 LeJeune Rd; and Aldridge Connors moving into 39,788 square feet at 1615 S Congress Ave.

Rental rates ended the third quarter at $26.04, a decrease over the previous quarter.

A total of three buildings delivered to the market in the quarter totaling 31,512 square feet, with 812,735 square feet still under construction at the end of the quarter.

This trend is compared to the U.S. National Office vacancy rate, which decreased to 11.6% from the previous quarter, with net absorption positive 23.48 million square feet in the third quarter. Average rental rates increased to $21.75, and 244 office buildings delivered to the market totaling more than 12.2 million square feet.


Source:  CoStar