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By Rob Judd, Managing Director

Rob Judd

As 2017 has now drawn to a close, and in spite of some uncertainty, it appears that our sector is still growing well, suggesting there might not be the dip that people at first expected. Global companies such as Google, Apple, Warner Brothers, Facebook,Goldman Sachs and others are still choosing to invest in the UK. In fact, Optima is actually predicting a bigger turnover by the end of 2018 compared to the end of 2017. Perhaps a more concerning issue for businesses like ours is the effect that a change of government might have. Only time will tell how the political landscape will shift.

There was a considerable focus throughout 2017 on the changing nature of the workplace. Many companies now choose to share office space with other companies, rather than occupying the whole building. With the huge growth in coffee shop culture, there is now much more of a focus on collaborative working, communication, and the flow of ideas and information throughout organisations.

Central staircases linking floors, break-out spaces for informal meetings, cafés and recreational areas feature heavily in modern office fit-outs. We have seen some excellent examples of this with the stunning projects we have delivered for The Francis Crick Institute,Havas and Bloomberg to name but a few.

A new way of working

Agile working has also become a key consideration for companies, as they look for ways to empower their people to work where, when and how they choose, to optimise their performance and deliver a more productive working environment. When designing the layout of an office, it’s imperative to get the balance right between the collaborative and open agile spaces with more enclosed quieter areas. Our glass office partitions have enabled design teams to create layouts that provide privacy without compromising an agile working agenda. The unique and innovative project for AECOM is a prime example.

There has also been a big emphasis this year on the creation of workplaces that embrace wellness. Happy workplaces can have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing, but equally, healthy and well-motivated employees can have a positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of a business.

Free standing meeting pods

The growth in buildings with no ceilings coupled with a general design requirement for freestanding pods has been considerable throughout 2017. In response to this trend, Optima developed a new product specifically for this market. These beautifully engineered pods have been installed within the new Bloomberg HQ in London. The critical function was to maximise acoustic absorption, rather than the usual requirement to obtain a high RwdB rating.  The specically designed structures have many unique features and look visually outstanding.

Industrial look

As a business, Optima shaped the partitioning industry in the early 1990s by introducing frameless glass partitions to the market. This was a dramatic change from the heavily framed partitions that had, until then, dominated the workplace. However, there has recently been a resurgence of more heavily framed partitions, and the trend for a raw, industrial look has continued to grow throughout 2017.

We have seen innovative design schemes such as Dunnhumby, where suspended ceilings have been removed and soffits exposed, and Havas, where carpets have been removed and raised floors exposed, or magnetic timber floors installed. This, of course, has thrown up a number of design challenges for our industry – how to fix securely to the soffit; how to maintain the acoustic integrity of the glass partition, and how to make exposed services look aesthetically pleasing!

The success of our Shoreditch glazing system is an indication of the popularity of this industrial design trend. We have been privileged to have been involved in some beautiful schemes throughout 2017 for companies such as Exigiere, AKQA and TTSP, installing a range of our stunning Shoreditch systems. 

Looking forward

I believe that the acoustic performance of glass partitions will continue to be a strong focus throughout 2018. With modern office fit outs commonly featuring an abundance of open spaces and breakout areas for informal meetings and collaboration, there is also a need for meeting rooms for private, focused work, conference calls or confidential meetings. A high acoustic performance in these areas is essential.

At Optima, our technical expertise; our investment in product development, and our passion for excellence, has enabled us to create exceptional partitioning systems that offer market leading acoustic performance. We will continue to innovate throughout next year and beyond as we commit to driving acoustic standards forward.

The industrial trend looks set to continue into 2018, and we are excited about the imminent launch of a range of new aluminium ‘rust effect’ finishes which will perfectly complement this look.

Technological advances in the workplace will be sure to continue, with the rise of tech panels, room booking systems and integrated technology in meeting rooms. We also expect the rise in popularity of sliding glass doors to continue. Ideal for saving space, our Kinetic sliding glass doors can also offer high levels of acoustic performance, thanks to advances in door sealing technology and our investment in product development. 

Where fire rated partitions are concerned, there will undoubtedly be a huge expectation, rightly so, for companies to only supply products that have been thoroughly and properly tested. We have adopted this ethos for many years and moving forward throughout 2018, our goal is to become the go-to company for professional advice on fire rated glass partitions.

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