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Flexibility, technology and security drive office designs

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Design trends in San Diego's corporate office scene are forever evolving. As 2004 unfolds, companies look toward designs that provide open, technologically advanced, flexible, comfortable and secure spaces -- all the necessary components to attract and retain high-caliber employees and maximize productivity.

Karen Tom

To achieve this type of environment, several trends have emerged as popular features of today's contemporary office environment.

Color schemes

Offices are incorporating a range of color selections, based on the intended look and feel of each space. Warmer tones, for example, are being used to create more comfortable environments. For relaxing and quiet areas, natural materials are used to define a soothing space.

In contrast, bolder colors, such as oscillating reds and oranges, are added to spaces to evoke an upbeat, energetic atmosphere.


Natural lighting remains popular because of its proven energy efficiency and ability to enhance productivity. One current office design trend is to open up a space with as much natural light as possible, incorporating taller windows, skylights, solar panels and atriums.

For other sources of lighting, uplights and LED lighting are popular because they are more energy efficient and last much longer than standard fluorescent lighting.

Materials and finishes

Natural materials and finishes, such as stone, slate, medium-to-dark wood finishes, are growing in popularity. Environment-friendly recycled carpets in earth tones also are becoming more common.

With the use of "green materials" there has been substantial reduction in the off-gasing of pollutants into the interior environment. This is true of carports as well as systems furniture finishes.

Rooms and amenities

With the continued popularity of open office space comes the need for more conference rooms, both formal and informal. Common requests are for one large boardroom and several smaller conference rooms or meeting areas.

High-tech conference rooms continue be a strong trend, complete with such features as video conferencing capabilities, flat screens and gas plasma screens that offer brilliant images.

Also, liquid crystal display (LCD) flat screens, although expensive, continue to gain stride over the standard CRT monitors. LCDs take up less space and power and also provide clear-cut imagery.

Offices now feature more spacious lobbies that have a strong visual impact to create that first impression. Lobbies are highlighted by sophisticated lighting and finishes, high-end reception desks and less guest seating.

Other amenities incorporated into corporate office campuses include workout gyms, higher-end staff lounges and outdoor lunch areas. For example, the world headquarters for data capture and conversion company ADCS in Poway features a full cafeteria, sleep lounge and exercise areas so employees working on a deadline can work 24 hours around the clock.


Now more than ever, businesses look to create more efficient workspaces that achieve a sense of comfort and flexibility. In terms of providing quality, flexibility and durability, systems furniture in particular have become more advanced than ever before.

Ergonomic chairs also continue to be in demand due to reduction employee in stress and injury, while also enhancing comfort and good posture -- both of which can significantly impact a company's productivity.

Advanced information technology

Speed requirements of information technology devices are driving the communication infrastructure of businesses. Advanced fiber-optic cable and the sharing of broadband Internet access has accelerated e-mailing, browsing and downloads.

Computerized communication and information storage systems have become so sophisticated that increasingly smaller, more efficient computers are becoming the standard.

Security features

In the post-Sept. 11, 2001 business world, security has become an immense issue, and more companies are cautious about how secure they are in their environment. Many office designs now incorporate highly advanced security systems -- from mini-cams, to access cards, to X-ray and screening stations (for larger companies), to ultra-sensitive alarm systems.

Some offices even go beyond access cards to biometrics, which involves thumb, hand and retina scanning; proximity cards, which track employees and monitor access; as well as specialized ventilation systems at mail distribution sites. These systems are controlled and monitored through a central security station.

Tom is director of interior design for Smith Consulting Architects. More information about the company can be found at www.sca-sd.com.>

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