Opening Up the Office

In modernizing the general offices at the Rosemead, Calif., campus of Southern California Edison (SCE), the decision to move to an open office environment was driven by the desire to improve utilization rates, bolster interaction among workers and deal with a high "churn rate"-a measure of how often employee office locations change over a period of time.

12/01/2000


In modernizing the general offices at the Rosemead, Calif., campus of Southern California Edison (SCE), the decision to move to an open office environment was driven by the desire to improve utilization rates, bolster interaction among workers and deal with a high "churn rate"-a measure of how often employee office locations change over a period of time.

"If you structure [the offices] right, you can foster more communication," says Kenric B. Stone of the design-build firm The Austin Co. "And SCE has a reasonably high churn rate, and the cost was significant for them" prior to the upgrades, he explains.

"You want to be able to accommodate quick changes to respond to your internal or external clients' needs," says Glen C. Donley, SCE's manager of facility operations, explaining why traditional gypsum-board offices were not an option. "Our biggest dollar savings is not having to rebuild offices when we move people-just that concept saves us 80 percent overall."

The officing concept was developed by SCE and The Austin Co. with Beverly Namnoun, a corporate account manager with Los Angeles-based Westfall Interior Resources, a space planner and distributor of proprietary office systems and furnishings. "The benefit of [SCE's] system is the ease of change," she explains. "You don't have to tear everything down to change anything, and an employee move can be done in less than an hour. They only have to move boxes, people and computer and phone devices."

Key to the flexibility of the workstations is their coordination with the underfloor ducts and raceways, adds Brenda Laffin, project manager with SCE. "We don't build on the telecom trenches, so we don't have to tear down the furniture to access them." .

Personalization is another benefit of the selected office system, says Gregory S. Clamp, director of design with The Austin Co. "The users get to individualize their workstation and choose a configuration for one partition wall, as well as a color for the shelving unit," he notes.

The major challenges for SCE moving to an open plan were technical details-and a sort of culture shock, says Donley. "Each department now has its own supply room, break room, photocopier and fax in central locations, and everyone shares in an uplifting atmosphere compared to what it used to look like," he says. "Overall, the company now has the ability to change a dime. But the real challenge was taking a 30-year-old building that wasn't designed for [this kind of installation], and 'backing it in.'"





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