Movable Walls Are Disrupting Office Design
The movable walls revolution was in slow motion for close to half a century. Companies of all sizes are realizing the wisdom in designing spaces which can quickly change to accommodate temporary or permanent staffing fluctuations. As these companies utilize movable wall systems to increase competitiveness, they’ve also discovered they can save a bundle on construction and utilities versus conventional drywall.
What took movable walls so long
The pioneers: When movable walls entered the market over 40 years ago many companies looked at the price tag and considered them an exciting concept, but with no real-world application. Construction costs were relatively low at that time. Some of the earliest users were the corporate giants with their half-acre multilevel offices that cried out for practical methods of dividing and rearranging space. Government offices were quick to implement movable walls for the same reasons.
The broader market: At a time when the term “global market” only applied to a tiny amount of industries, the business climate was considerably more static than it is today with little need for reconfiguring space (a key point in selling movable walls). Small and mid-sized companies were reluctant to adopt movable walls because at the time it was more expensive than using drywall and it required a new thought process in terms of design.
Change happens: Many events over the past couple decades have contributed to movable wall systems viewed as the indispensable office technology they are today. First, global trade barriers were broken down, and suddenly businesses were no longer competing with Frank down the street. Their competition is people they’d never heard of on the other side of the world. Companies were forced to embrace flexibility or go the way of the dinosaurs. What made the transition to movable walls even easier was each evolution of the product was better engineered and affordable. At the same time, conventional construction costs hit the roof.
Once trendsetters like Google and Facebook started sharing their office design concepts using movable wall systems, the wall industry finally caught fire.
Maybe the last time you looked at movable walls, they were considerably more expensive than standard drywall. How long ago was that? In the past several years “standard” construction materials have skyrocketed while the movable wall industry has improved its technology. At the same time, reducing costs now make them a more viable option. The main advantage of movable walls is flexibility, and for facility managers, it’s what justifies paying any first-cost premium. Change is a constant in business, so finding solutions that are considerably less expensive is key.
Weighing the costs of movable walls
When looking at initial values for a project, and comparing standard construction and movable wall installation, there are several variables to consider. Depending on the type of movable wall used costs can run up to $3.00 per square foot more than standard drywall construction. However, the cost difference is offset by a few factors.
- Schedule: Movable wall installation will save you three to four weeks on your construction schedule.
- Potential tax savings over the lease term: Talk to your CPA or CFO, but often the movable wall costs can be structured so that tax savings over five years is possible.
- Future reconfigurations: There are significant savings when reconfiguring an office space using movable walls. A typical budget to reconfigure space in an office can run around fifteen thousand dollars. Movable walls will reduce that by roughly sixty percent.
Considerations for landlords
Standard construction is messy, disruptive and time-consuming. It can take several weekends, even for only an office or two. When using movable walls, it would be possible to reconfigure in a single weekend. Without issues like drying time, fumes and dust from debris installation is easier. The likely outcome is fewer, if any, complaints from occupants. It can mean significant savings for firms that will reconfigure office space more than once or twice every five years.
Movable wall manufacturers are continually upgrading their designs. What was once a product with limited design flexibility is now offers a wide range of finishes and component options. Having aesthetic options are appealing to companies looking for ways to lower project costs. Creating a working environment that will be enticing to the next generation of employees demands flexibility.
Movable walls allow design options that effectively blend with an open office environment. It’s a key draw for younger generations of workers. With new terms like “collaboration areas” and “flex space” in today’s office culture, building products that fit the design rather than limiting design to match the process is a natural choice.
Beyond flexibility, movable wall manufacturers design their products for functional and efficient work environments. An example of this is built-in electrical, telecommunication, and data distribution.
Moreover, entire office furniture systems are manufactured to be compatible with specific wall systems by providing attachment and support points. These systems enable easy reconfigurations without the added expense and hassle of ordering new furniture.
Movable walls are also available in full glass panels or as solid panels allowing for your desired level of privacy and aesthetic look.
The goal has always been to provide adaptive wall systems while offering an attractive and modern design. With the challenge of maintaining the project completion schedule, movable walls were hyped as the future of office space design in the ’60s. While they certainly took a long time to catch on, we believe the hype is real.
If you’d like to see demountable, movable walls up close, plan a visit to our showroom at 8 Greenway Plaza, Suite 200, Houston, TX 77046. Contact us beforehand and we’ll be sure our experts are available to answer your questions.