Redefining the Corporate Look

Rapid globalization has transformed design and planning norms for corporate interiors

Five years ago, a signature design office done by a celebrated interior designer architect, was the ultimate in ambience for corporate offices. In the present scenario where office buildings follow the steel glass fortress formula, factors like IT efficiency, functional ease, space management, cost effectiveness and flexibility in design have taken over. Architects and interior designers now explore alternate materials with an environmental tag before visualizing the facade.

Recent corporate office projects like Bank of America, Lucent Technologies, Oracle Software, Microsoft, Coke, Cisco Systems, British Gas, Gillette, Nestle, etc. have been exercising to ensure that clients get a functional, efficient and modular office in optimum time and cost. 

 Earlier, a building used to be a product that you sold and then forgot about. Now, with multi-national companies buying office space in a big way, a building is a working product that has to be efficiently serviced round-the-clock. Multi-national corporate houses have strict requirements and attach great importance to the efficient servicing of all their needs. They will not consider a space which does not have cent per cent power back-up with an additional stand-by facility. Communication services have to be built into the building and should cater to the needs of a computer network.

They want a fully serviced building; in effect, everything that five star hotels used to have: Uninterrupted water supply, water treatment, highest level of fire management, and modern security systems - complete with closed circuit television, electronic locks and computer controlled access to certain areas like parking. One of the reasons why Pepsi and Coke moved out of Delhi and into Gurgaon is the parking problem around most office complexes in the capital. Besides of course, the fact that office space in Connaught Place is particularly bad.

Buildings have to be pre-wired with satellite dish antennae on top. With most operations getting computerized, fibre optic cables are put in to provide a telecom backbone in new buildings. Even speculative corporate office builders - those who build office space without knowing who they are building for - want fibre optic cables in place.

Most buildings in Connaught Place have a couple of toilets per floor and occupants have to construct makeshift toilet and pantry space for their employees within their own premises. Now, we provide dummy water connections at various points so that future occupants can convert these spaces into a toilet/pantry without too much trouble.

Corporate Identity: All corporate houses with a strong global identity require their signature in some form in their working environment. This may be reflected in corporate colours, usage of in-house material or featured in artwork, logos and other presentation material. An example is E. I. DuPont (India) Ltd. who used "Corian", a speciality material which they manufacture, to laminate their worktops.

Space Planning and Efficiency: Para-meters like number of people, functional hierarchy, location of various services are factored in the design. Employee motivation may also feature by providing gyms, recreation areas, cafeteria etc. 
The services required are supposed to be 200% efficient.

They include-

1)     Efficient floor plate-- presently the most important client for the developers is the software industry. And their first and foremost demand is an efficient floor plate.

Not only the software people but all corporate offices require a layout which provides maximum efficiency in terms of furniture layout etc.

It is argued that Unitech's signature tower is a failure as compared to the Dlf corporate towers. The reason for this lack of enthusiasm for acquiring office space in the signature towers is largely attributed to its inefficient floor plate.

Presently rectangular blocks, which appear as machine cut buildings with good services, are preferred over handcrafted buildings.
Moreover such intricately detailed out building take more time. And time is of utmost importance here. "Time is money"

Similarly Hafeez contractor's gateway tower is also not doing well for itself.

2)     Security

3)     Parking space- presently corporate offices are going in for double and triple basements due to lack of space available on the surface

Cost and aesthetics have to go hand in hand.

Infact each and every aspects has to be studied for its pro's and cons before settling for certain issues.

For example the common perception is that curtain glazing is very expensive and that its use can be avoided.

But curtain glazing is being used on a wide scale because it has certain very definite plus points as well.

Namely-

q       It provides an aesthetically pleasing outlook

q       It helps create a visual linkage with the outside, which is a very important, psychological requirement for the office goers who spend extended hours at their work place.

q       It saves on the ac and running cost…….thus cutting down significantly on the operational and maintenance cost

If one is able to cut down on the aluminum section then he can cut down significantly on the cost of curtain glazing.

After all curtain glazing consists of glass and aluminium. The cost of glass is hardly anything significant as compared to that of aluminium.

So it is actually possible to cut down on the expenses and at the same time not to compromise on the aesthetics aspect.

An example of an aesthetically pleasing building is the statesmen house on kasturba gandhi marg. But its floor plate is such that it has limited use. Presently it is quite suitable for serving as a newspaper office building. But it might not function that efficiently if it is converted into a software company office building.

The idea is to invest in areas where it adds to the value.
Glass Offices: A trip down Gurgaon roads where most new corporate offices are based illustrates the glass curtain wall international norm that has taken over despite being unsuited to Indian climatic conditions. Large glass fronts are as per Europea n requirements where natural daylight is scarce, says Marc Vanoverbeke, Technical Director, Eternit Everest adding in India, glass fronts merely add cooling costs. 
Time and Money: Organisations growing at electronic pace insist on fitted-out, ready to use interior spaces. Builders too set up structures where basic services like air-conditioning, power backup, IT infrastructure, security and facility management services are part of the package. A corporate taking up around 20,000 sq. ft in such buildings can furnish it from design to occupation in about 90 days. Costs range from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 per sq. ft for blue chip interiors.

Modular Plans: Almost all-corporate houses opt for modular furniture, as it allows them to restructure their interior plans with restructuring of manpower.
A new corporate office building today has many components that used to exist only in five star hotels earlier. Now that employee welfare has become an integral part of corporate culture, it is reflected in the architecture of a building. They would want a convention centre, an exhibition hall, an information centre, an auditorium for dealer conferences, an executive dining room, a canteen, a health club for employees and a recreation centre for the staff. Some even have luxury suites for the top brass who might not want to check into a hotel.

Since image means a lot, corporate houses invest a lot in spatial arrangements outside the building, landscaping, and providing a well-maintained and expensive-look to their lobby. Ever wondered why granite is used so lavishly in corporate establishments? Granite is easy to maintain and will look new five years later. It is the same case with material like aluminium panels. Low on maintenance, these panels provide the high visibility corporate houses want.

Maintenance is something corporate houses are very particular about. Most want the owner of the building to manage its maintenance. Rental contracts these days have penalty clauses and multinationals are uncompromising if there is any lapse in the services that are to be provided by the owner. If there is a power breakdown for even an hour, MNCs are known to cut a certain amount from the rent as penalty. They will not accept slipshod service.

Property management firms used to be an alien concept. But today, with MNCs refusing to rent a building which does not have such a firm to look after its services, property management firms are gaining currency. These firms are paid to maintain every service of the building.

There is another curious aspect about corporate culture. When it comes to building a new structure, the corporates would want a steel and glass building.

There are many reasons why they are making that choice. Cost and aesthetics have to go hand in hand. Infact each and every aspects has to be studied for its pro's and cons before settling for certain issues. For example the common perception is that curtain glazing is very expensive and that its use can be avoided.

But curtain glazing is being used on a wide scale because it has certain very definite plus points as well.

Namely-

q       It provides an aesthetically pleasing outlook

q       It helps create a visual linkage with the outside, which is a very important, psychological requirement for the office goers who spend extended hours at their work place.

q       It saves on the ac and running cost…….thus cutting down significantly on the operational and maintenance cost

If one is able to cut down on the aluminum section then he can cut down significantly on the cost of curtain glazing.

After all curtain glazing consists of glass and aluminium. The cost of glass is hardly anything significant as compared to that of aluminium.

So it is actually possible to cut down on the expenses and at the same time not to compromise on the aesthetics aspect.

An example of an aesthetically pleasing building is the statesmen house on kasturba gandhi marg. But its floor plate is such that it has limited use. Presently it is quite suitable for serving as a newspaper office building. But it might not function that efficiently if it is converted into a software company office building.

The idea is to invest in areas where it adds to the value.

But they will go to any lengths to conserve old architecture while moving into a traditional space. This is because conservation is current; a modern sentiment.

A case in point are the two buildings occupied by Standard Chartered and ANZ Grindlays, in Mumbai. These bankers spent lakhs in restoring the old ambience of these turn-of-the-19th-Century buildings. Sadly, unlike Calcutta and Mumbai - which served as mercantile centres during colonial days - Delhi does not have a stock of old buildings that can still be used as office space.

The long and the short of it is that the arrival of corporate culture in India has brought about an improvement in the quality of buildings. No longer can a builder hope to build the low quality speculative office buildings that were built in Delhi in the 1970s and the 1980s and get away with it. You won't get a buyer for such buildings.

Keeping in tune with changes creeping in the design market, lot of innovations have come in the way facades of homes, offices, complexes etc. are done as the first impression of a building is determined by the façade. Today, the choices are unlimited. Where earlier stone, be it the Kota stone, Dholpur stone, clay tiles or mosaic were the rage, today the market is ruled by tiles and paints which help in retaining the look for years. Cladding i.e., coating the exterior wall of a building to insulate it from the environmental fluctuations is also a new technique.

Ceramic and stone tiles have been used for centuries, the first examples date back to the Babylonian civilization. Since then, the technology and performance has improved greatly with development of new materials, types of glazes and fabrication systems. Spurred by their aesthetic and maintainability attributes, tiles have been used widely for furnishing both external and internal facades and floors.

Aakash Tyagi, Project Engineer, Rockart says, "Tiles have become famous for doing facades as compared to stone, these are strong and retain their look for 15 years. Though expensive, people are opting for them as they can have a colour option - terracotta, saffron terracotta, green etc. - as well as a variety of design combinations."

Painting the exterior of buildings is another way of protecting the structure. The paint resists the scorching sun, battles torrential rain and withstands the toughest tropical fungi. Superior resin and higher 'rutile' content checks chalking, ensures long life of the building and renders a glow. The 'film' (coating of paint) therein expands and contracts with the structure, thus, preventing the film from cracking during vibrations and extremes of temperature.

Corroborates Seema Kapoor, an interior decorator and who got her home façade painted, "By painting the exterior surface, you can say goodbye to fungi, as a combination of protectants prevents the algae and fungi growth. The resin used in paints is thermoplastic which can withstand cracking caused by minor structural movements due to extremes of temperature and vibrations. Unlike cement texture, the paints have a smooth finish, which reduces the accumulation of dirt, a major problem in India."

Another trend that is currently used for high rise buildings are claddings which provide protection against harmful ultra-violet radiations and weather vagaries. According to Vivek Sabherwal, an architect, "A façade needs to be an integral ornament of a building making the structure articulate. Curtain wall system used for high rise buildings is just like a skin. There are many options like glazed steel curtain walls, glazed aluminium curtain walls, glazed stainless steel curtain walls and structural glass curtain walls. The new technology in glass allows high performance energy efficient glass for glazing which closely matches the look of clear glass and has excellent thermal properties."

A façade tells the story of the building and expresses the desires and ambitions of people working/living in the building. It should therefore, be appropriate to the environment and should make a statement.


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