Not too long ago a window office was deemed a sign of prestige by co-workers confined to Dilbert-like cubicles in the office bullpen. Natural light and a view of the outside world give windowed office occupants a feeling of well-being that a recent study indicates contributes to better health. The study also indicates that workers in windowed offices have more physical activity and a better quality of life than those without windows.
A summary of the study reported in a Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine release noted that “Architects need to be aware of the importance of natural light not only in terms of their potential energy savings but also in terms of affecting occupants’ health.” A recommendation was to make sure that workers are within 20 to 25 feet of peripheral walls containing windows.
The benefits of natural lighting are widely acknowledged by organizations such as the International Interior Design Association, the American Institute of Architects and CoreNet Global, and are a strong contributor to a facility accumulating points toward a LEED certification.
Extend Natural Light with Demountable Glass Walls
Locating offices and workspaces within 25 feet of windows may not be achievable in facilities with extensive floor areas. The answer, then, is to move away from workspaces enclosed by drywall construction and more toward glass demountable walls. When properly designed and installed, glass wall systems serve as a “window to the windows” bringing natural light and visual contact with the outside world to all company personnel. Now everyone can have a “window office.”
Benefits go beyond imparting a feeling of well-being to office personnel
Open plan systems with low panel dividers are the current design of choice with the stated purpose of encouraging employee collaboration and team building. But these types of office designs have come under increased criticism because of noise distraction and privacy issues.
For example, an indoor environmental quality survey conducted by the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California Berkeley looked at noise levels and sound privacy levels. The survey disclosed that people are more dissatisfied with sound privacy than noise level. Participants’ self-rated job performance shows that more than 60% of cubicle occupants think acoustics interfere with their ability to get the job done. The noise distraction issue is covered more extensively in our post on collaboration and socialization.
Floor-to-ceiling demountable glass wall offices come to the rescue here as well. In the case of private offices they admit natural light but eliminate distracting outer office noise. When used to construct team areas or common areas such as meeting rooms and break rooms they contain noise instead of letting it spill over to adjacent work areas. ALUR demountable glass walls, constructed of ½" thick tempered glass, have a 36 STC (Sound Transmission Class), making normal speech practically inaudible.
A Solution as Beautiful as it is Practical
The ALUR glass wall system was designed from the start to set it apart from traditional glazing. Traditional butt glazed solutions are characterized by bulky, unattractive framing, silicone wet joints and lack of door seals. The silicone joints will shrink and discolor over time and do not provide the necessary rigidity to meet building code deflection standards, especially at taller ceiling heights. Doors without proper sound seals result in significant sound loss by allowing the sound to “leak” through the gaps around the door. Some of the features found on the ALUR design include:
- Slim, elegantly designed wall, floor and ceiling channels with integral compression seals for better sound control and stability
- Scratch and fingerprint resistant bead-blasted aluminum finish
- ½" butt- glazed glass panels joined by 93% clear, non-shrinking, non-yellowing polycarbonate for noise suppression and enhanced rigidity
- Frameless floor-to-ceiling hinged or space-saving, quietly operating sliding glass doors
- Sound seals on doors, including compression seal options on both pivot and sliding doors for optimal sound attenuation
Visual privacy issues can be addressed in several ways without seriously impacting the flow of natural light. An example is printing digital images on the glass, allowing light to pass through but providing privacy for office occupants. Decorative films and the use of solid or patterned frosted glass are other examples.
Solid Demountable Dividing Walls
Ideally interior glass walls should be positioned to provide maximum exposure to the building’s windows. Solid demountable dividing walls used to separate individual offices and conference areas should be perpendicular to outside walls whenever possible.
ALUR Dividing Wall is available in two configurations, both of which provide excellent sound suppression while adding attractive design elements and outstanding practicality to the office space. Tile options include thermofused melamine, fabric wrapped, markerboard, tackable acoustical and premium “wood look” laminates. The panels are able to conceal integrated voice, data and power cabling.
Horizontal panels are designed to support off-modular office furniture elements including worksurfaces, shelving, bins, tackboards, whiteboards, and AV screens. These are suspended from tracks at 28.5 and 69 inch heights. Vertical panels have tight seams for an elegant monolithic look ideally suited to finish off the wall at the end of run or as simple space dividers between offices. Both configurations are 3.5 inches thick and provide a seamless transition to floor-to-ceiling glass wall panels. The ALUR Dividing Wall also provides an exceptionally high 42 STC. (i.e. 5” drywall with insulation is a 39 STC)
As another attractive design element is the seamless connection between the ALUR glass nib wall (i.e. sidelight in sidewall) and the ALUR dividing sidewall. A similar application is accomplished with drywall sidewall but with a post where the glass meets the drywall. This attractive feature makes offices seem larger to occupants with the added benefit of admitting more natural light to the work area.
Stunning Office Designs with Spectacular Tax Advantages
Properly designed glass wall systems can handle two of the largest objections to conventional open office designs: lack of natural light and noise distraction. As we have seen, measures can also be taken to address privacy issues through the use of frosted glass, decorative films and digital images.
But these systems are also highly advantageous from strictly a financial viewpoint. Because they are considered furniture demountable walls can utilize a greatly accelerated 7-year depreciation schedule vs. the 39 years that apply to conventional drywall build-outs. And unlike plasterboard-on-stud construction demountable walls are movable. Adapting to changing requirements in the office does not require the cost, mess and disposal challenges associated with conventional design demolition and rebuilds.
Natural light, sound management, privacy and physical attractiveness are among the reasons modern demountable glass and dividing wall offices help companies recruit and retain qualified personnel.