Architecture & Design, Human Resources, and Technology

Software company visualizes offices of the future

Configura’s annual conference is about gathering input from users.

October 31, 2014
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Configura CEO Johan Lyreborn, center, chats with attendees at the conference. Courtesy Configura

What is the most underused space in your office?

That would be the hallways.

During the seventh annual CET Designer User Conference held in Grand Rapids last week, keynote speaker Primo Orpilla, a San Francisco-based designer and principal of Studio O+A, talked about activating hallways, among other trends in the office workspace arena.

The conference was hosted by Swedish-based Configura, which has had an office in Grand Rapids since 2006.

Configura is the developer of CET Designer, a visualization software program that helps commercial interior designers to design and specify office space and furnishings.

Commercial interior designers and furniture manufacturers including Steelcase, Haworth, Teknion, KI and Inscape, to name a few, were in attendance.

The conference has two main focuses: to solicit feedback from CET Designer users so Configura can enhance its product the following year, and to hear about workspace design trends.

Configura invited Orpilla, whose company has worked with several West Coast businesses including eBay, Facebook, Square Inc. and Yelp!, to talk about designing workspaces to attract today’s top talent.

Orpilla noted hallways could be so much more than just a way to get from point A to point B.

“You have a big, long corridor. In the past nobody has done much with it, but that is underused space,” said Molly Klimas, public relations counsel at Configura. “That could become a giant blackboard where people can write ideas on.”

In addition to activating hallways, Orpilla highlighted the importance of providing today’s workers with avariety of spaces they can move between throughout the day as they accomplish different tasks.

“The classic office furniture environment has been the suite of executive offices, bunches of cubicles and the occasional conference room,” Klimas said. “That is changing to become a multipurpose kind of environment.”

Klimas said some of the types of spaces Orpilla identified include a cafeteria that serves as a multipurpose room where people can gather, a library-type setting for quiet work and research, workshop and lab spaces, and a “war room” for focused brainstorming sessions.

Johan Lyreborn, Configura CEO, said the way people work today is the catalyst for the workspace changes.

“Technology has made it possible for less people to serve more people. The pace in an office today is different,” he said. “The formal meeting — a meeting that you book — is going away. You don’t have time to book meetings — it slows you down. You can’t wait.

“The informal meeting is more valuable because it happens when you need it to happen. Because people are connected in a different way, you work in a more open space.”

Focusing on the product side of the conference, Lyreborn said being able to visualize the spaces is important to interior designers and furniture manufacturers, and Configura is always trying to evolve its product to fit its users’ needs.

“We made the software so you can see the future before it’s produced,” he said. “You get a virtual experience of what the office space will look like before you have it.”

Lyreborn said while there are other visualization software packages out there, Configura’s is unique because of its commitment to working with its product’s users to improve the software.

Lyreborn said one of the important lessons his company has learned from its conferences and conversations with clients is just how much the role of the salesperson and designer are changing within office furniture dealerships.

“The traditional way is that you have someone working with sales and then another part of your organization working with design,” Lyreborn said. “Because of technology and requirements from customers, sales and design is melding together.”

He said now, sales professionals have to be able to function in the design role and designers have to function in the sales role.

“Definitely the speed of how customers get help is much faster today,” he said. “They don’t have time to go back to the office and talk with another part of the organization and wait for them to do the job.”

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