In April 2015, the General Services Administration (GSA) team in Atlanta approached Carson Design Associates with an interesting challenge: Reduce 275,000 square foot office space to 110,000 square feet — lowering their utilization rate to 136 square feet per person. The project came in response to GSA’s Total Workplace Furniture & Information Technology (FIT) program, which strives for full optimization of federal office spaces.
As a result, the GSA team in Atlanta had a lot of changes to make, and we accepted the challenge.
Analyzing Employee Behavior Through Space Utilization Studies
The GSA employs a rather large workforce nationwide, but the majority of employees work remotely due to telework schedules and work-related schedules. Our goal was to create an environment that encouraged collaboration and openness, while utilizing a smaller space more efficiently.
Over the next two years — April 2015 launch to July 2017 opening — we analyzed space utilization studies, interviewed each department, put together new furniture standards or typicals, developed an entirely new space plan for the GSA team, and issued a furniture bid package.
And as employees reoccupied the floors, they wrote messages on the collaborative markerboards in the social hub expressing their feedback:
“Love, Love, Love the New Space!”
“Everything looks wonderful! Great job!”
“This place is awesome! Love the ‘Cool Factor.’ Welcome to the future!”
“Very Nice! Great work, team!”
From Tall Workstations to Open Office Plan
The further we got into the project, we realized that our job was as much about designing their workspace as it was changing the way GSA employees think about and use the space. With 780 employees sharing 423 individual work spaces, a new way of working would be needed.
In the end, our final plan included replacing rows of tall workstation cubes with a 1:1 ratio and creating an open floor plan with a variety of low workspaces that support open and flexible collaboration. Specifics of the project included:
- Reduction of GSA building occupancy from nine floors to three.
- Assignment of only 20% of workspaces, with remaining 80% shared at a 1.84 ratio.
- Addition of six types of individual spaces — touchdown spaces, work lounge, 120 workstations, benching stations, L-shaped workstations, and 12 private offices — designed to offer greater flexibility on how and where to work.
The finished environment — with its open layout and access to natural lighting — now provides greater energy and offers GSA a more exciting, vibrant workplace.