Open for Business: Full-Scale Prototypes for Evidence-Based Design
On October 27, Clemson University will break ground on a new leading-edge building for the College of Business. This 176,000 SF building will double the University’s business education space, and will enable the College of Business to build a new paradigm of 21st century learning based on collaboration and creative collisions in our increasingly interconnected world.
Clemson’s existing College of Business is located in Sirrine Hall, constructed in 1936 with a traditional layout of enclosed faculty offices. Dr. Robert McCormick, Dean of the College of Business, wanted to encourage the faculty to explore a more contemporary business environment, a far cry from the traditional academic ivory tower of solitude and archives. With the intent of testing culture change among the faculty, Dean McCormick and the design team worked closely to design workspaces spaces which reflect a new model of collaboration- fewer silos and closed offices, and more “collision space.”
To give faculty a chance to experience and contribute to the design of this new contemporary workspace, the team took an unusual first step: building a full-scale, 1800 SF prototype workspace within the existing Sirrine Hall space, and encouraging faculty to try it out. The workspace mockup includes five enclosed offices, common spaces, a four to six person conference room, informal gathering areas, a reading room, and a treadmill work station. At 55-110 SF, the new office footprints are smaller than the traditional 140-160 SF, but the configuration and state-of-the-art furniture and wall systems improve work flow in the enclosed offices while allowing for generous collaboration areas.
The prototype features a variety of room sizes and layouts and a combination of traditional drywall construction coupled with modular wall systems. The team invited three different furniture and wall system vendors to participate, and the installation includes products from each for comparison.
Over the course of the four-month trial period, the Dean has assigned faculty to rotate through the space in two week blocks. During these residency periods, the faculty will be able to familiarize themselves with various features and provide feedback on how well the space meets their needs. The team will change out components of each system to study privacy features, writable wall surfaces, acoustical materials, white/pink noise systems, and A/V technology. The team is also testing out samples of eletrochromic glazing in the space: glass that changes levels of opacity via the application of an electric current in response to daylight and solar heat gain environmental conditions.
Dean McCormick has been a great collaborator on the prototype process, telling the designers, “With the groundbreaking on the horizon, we want to ensure our new work and learning space is designed to meet our needs, and to prepare our people to use it in the best possible way.” We believe that end user engagement with this type of mockup can be a powerful tool in helping us to address deficiencies or dislikes prior to implementing construction. Ultimately, this is a fantastic opportunity for evidence-based design- design that responds to user needs, wants, preconceptions, and culture change.