2. Workplace design

The application of consistent design principles to office fitout will:

  • support and enhance service-delivery objectives, workplace adaptability, and ecological sustainability
  • deliver a healthy, safe and productive workplace.

Best-practice design needs to acknowledge that fitout objectives involve both initial project outcomes and the ongoing management and use of fitout.

The layout and construction of office fitout depends on both the nature of work being performed and work practices. Different work practices will influence the amount of space required and how the fitout is configured, depending on whether work practices are conventional (office-based) or alternative (working from home, hot-desking, free address, etc). In addition, different fitout types are required for a general administrative office compared with a call centre or a customer service centre. The nature of work (service delivery) and workplace practices (conventional or alternative) are organisational matters to be established by agencies in the business planning stage in terms of service delivery strategy and human resources strategy.

Although the nature of work and workplace practices influence the physical appearance and layout of office fitout, the same basic set of workplace outcomes must be met for all accommodation projects. The objective is to deliver a workplace that is:

  • safe and healthy
  • equitable
  • cost-effective
  • productive
  • ecologically sustainable
  • comfortable and ergonomically responsive
  • adaptable
  • technology-receptive
  • socially interactive.

The above factors involve legislative obligations, policy compliance and best practice.

The key characteristic of office accommodation in the future is likely to be the provision of a more flexible workplace. It is suggested that the office will become a place of creativity and ideas rather than a centre for routine processing activities. To achieve this transition, the workplace needs to facilitate high levels of interpersonal communication for teams and project groups, and also maintain a work environment that supports individual tasks. In addition, the workplace must support organisational reconfiguration and be adaptable to new ways of working.

The implication is a move away from workplaces that reflect organisational hierarchy and towards a definition of space, accommodation standards and fitout design based on users' needs. This outcome also needs to be achieved within space and cost benchmarks.

There are appropriate design principles that should be applied to the design of office fitout and a number of design strategies that support these principles. Appropriate design principles and their practical interpretation include

  • Design for standardisation not customisation. Practical examples include using generic fitout, standardised workstation components and layout planning to match the building's modular system.
  • Design for connectivity not integration. As a practical example, technology and communications systems should be separable from furniture systems, and visual and acoustic screening should be separable from furniture and technology systems so that each part can be readily disconnected and replaced or upgraded. Integrated fitout elements can be interdependent and may require either total system replacement or very complex disassembly and reassembly.
  • Optimise hubs, nodes and zones. In practice, optimising zones refers to planning layouts as a series of zones such as locating partitioned spaces in the inner zone adjacent to the building core and open-plan workstations around the perimeter and in middle zones. In addition, support functions can be planned as efficient, centralised service 'hubs" for surrounding users rather than planning less efficient decentralised locations. Optimising nodes refers to including informal or formal meeting facilities to deliberately attract workers for interaction and information sharing.
  • Optimise multi-purpose space usage. Practical examples include designing spaces for multiple uses through subdivision/expansion using movable partitions and/or providing furniture that can be reconfigured or readily relocated for different uses.
  • Design for minimised impact on a building's structure, finishes and services. In practice, this principle involves avoiding functions that are not compatible with an office building (such as archival storage), avoiding overloading any building component or service and minimising the fixing of fitout components to walls, ceilings and floors.
  • Compliance. The requirements of this principle is that fitout design must comply with applicable legislation and government policy and also must be consistent with best practice and approved benchmarks.
  • Sustainability. In office fitout terms, this principle refers to designing for both ecological sustainability (through appropriate choices in terms of materials, construction techniques, equipment purchases, waste management, energy conservation and maintenance regimes) and also for organisational sustainability by ensuring cost-effectiveness, long-term effectiveness and that workers' expectations are met.

The Department of Housing and Public Works is guided by the Green Building Council of Australia Green Star Rating system for the inclusion of ecological design principles in fitout design and management.

The Queensland Building Plan (PDF, 1MB)  and the Climate Change Transition Strategy (PDF, 2.6MB) provides mandatory requirements for the efficient use of energy, energy reduction targets and greenhouse gas emissions reporting to Government. Additional information on this policy is shown in Guideline 4: Occupancy sections 6. Building related issues and 7. Management of internal office accommodation changes.

These design principles and supporting strategies are described further in the supporting reference office accommodation workspace and fitout standards (PDF, 917 KB)