THE BUILDING WELLNESS TRENDS SHAPING THE POST-COVID OFFICE ENVIRONMENT

  • 03/12/2021

By Kerri Panchuk for Bisnow Dallas-Fort Worth
March 7, 2021

A year into the pandemic — and a year into subsequent client requests for changes in design and amenities — developers are getting a better feel for what offices will look like in the future.

Developers working on projects yet to break ground when the pandemic began had the opportunity to go back to the drawing board with tenants and designers to figure out what tomorrow's end user really wants in a society shaken by the coronavirus.

The outcome from these discussions was a quick and definitive move toward more wellness-focused office designs that go beyond sustainability and air quality and incorporate more green spaces, collaborative work areas and the idea that office users coming back to brick-and-mortar buildings will want the ability to immediately access outdoor areas and even work outside.

De La Vega Development is one of a few Dallas developers that had a major mixed-use project, The Central, underway when the pandemic first hit last year.

The developer was able to revise plans for retail, restaurant and office spaces inside The Central to refocus design around the idea of quick outdoor access, health and wellness.

"On the ground plane, we already had quite a bit of open space with the park and we already had patios [in the designs]," De La Vega Development CEO Artemio De La Vega said. "But with the second floor, the top floor and some of the floors in between, we've added more terraces and more open space with an emphasis on having these terraces become private gardens that connect with the pubic garden downstairs — that being the park."

De La Vega said health and wellness is now a top priority when it comes to new development, forcing designers and developers to pay more attention to a facility's overall feel.

"We are incorporating a lot of natural materials such as wood, and we are including a lot of light, also a lot of green space," De La Vega said.

The Central's design ensures a restaurant planned on the ground floor of one of the first buildings opens up through a patio and faces the development's central park area.

Two Legacy West, a Gaedeke Group project, also became a test case for how the pandemic has impacted new Class-A office projects. The group has been meeting with architect Gensler to get the right mix of collaborative workspace and open outdoor spaces to satiate tenants' newfound need to get outside.

"There is more of a focus on the outdoor environment, where we [are trying to create] a place for community," Gaedeke President Glenn Lickstein said. "We have a little park that we are going to build along with Two Legacy West."

Lickstein said the new office building will incorporate an outdoor environment between the buildings while ensuring WiFi access is available in all outdoor gathering locations so employees can work, gather and communicate outside.

Developers and designers evaluating square footage and office design no longer believe future office space will be designed to accommodate social distancing trends that isolate people in personal bubbles.

Instead, the past year has revealed an office environment that will focus more on flexibility and safe collaborative areas and less on individual space, Crescent Communities Director of Design and Development Amy Bezanson told Bisnow.

"A lot of signs are pointing to the companies really prioritizing collaboration space over individual office space and that is partly because of anticipating more of a need for collaboration and wanting to be able to spread out more when that does happen, but also knowing there may be a little more flexibility with how people are working," Bezanson said.

Prior to the pandemic, there was already some pushback against the mentality of cost savings through the reduction of square feet per person, Bezanson said.

"I think it is going to be more flexible workspace, your office may have less individual work areas, but more collaborative workspaces knowing that people have the ability to work in these various locations," Bezanson added.