Q&A

M/W International believes in Green Initiatives as detailed below. . .

Green Initiatives

Green Initiatives

What have been the biggest changes in office design over the last 5 years? 

Over the past 5 years, 2 factors affecting the changes in design of interior office space:

  • The reduction of real estate
  • Increased collaboration between employees.

These changes did not occur overnight and I believe them to be functions of one another.

With smaller spaces and less employees, companies and organizations are looking towards collaboration and technology to bridge the gap in productivity.  Every office works differently, however there is certainly a trend over the past 5 years favoring open floor plans versus private offices; and benching systems over cubicle systems.

The open floor plans allow for low height partitions and benching for collaboration.  With rapidly changing technologies in cloud computing, security, and cabling, implementing these open spaces allows for these organizations to adapt and adopt such advances.  Flexibility and function is paramount for these organizations to be highly productive.

More and more offices are being designed with open plan, modular furniture, and movable walls to prepare themselves for change and adaptation.  Movable walls are certainly able to aid in this adaptation process by allowing integration and change.

What do you see as the major benefit of demountable wall systems or movable walls? 

Obviously movable walls are movable, but it is what that movability and flexibility allows an organization to achieve that is important. With movable walls, an organization’s office space becomes dynamic, allowing for integration and changes of technology.

If conventional construction was in place it could not be changed or adapted as necessary, or as frequently. This leads to decreased productivity, with either not adapting; or relocating employees while renovation is completed to do so. Being able to move your walls allows change, and in today’s world, change is frequent.

With the option of “movability,” M/W International’s clients realize flexibility leading to increased productivity and bottom line performance.

What is the major push back from clients who are not positively inclined to consider movable walls?

It is no secret that movable walls are more expensive than conventional drywall.  The initial investment can be anywhere from 30%-60% more than conventional drywall construction.

Over time, the return on investment that movable walls provide creates a more positive return from this initial investment. In many situations, one reconfiguration of movable walls will pay for themselves.

Short sightedness also deters the use of movable walls not allowing organizations to see future savings that come with this building practice. Owners will tend to skip to the bottom line of a project and see where costing can be reduced.  Movable walls are almost always one of the first items to be deleted from a project. This is short sightedness when future cost savings are always feasible with movable walls.

How do you answer the question that the price of movable walls is an upfront cost that is too expensive?

With M/W’s potential clients that have not embraced the movable wall building method, I try to start at the beginning and get an understanding of how the client is currently handling reconfiguring of office space and try to see where movable walls would benefit them.

No two companies will ever operate in the exact same way.  Each organization is unique and will benefit differently from using movable walls. Once an organization is able to see where movable walls will add value and savings for them over time, they can make an informed decision rather than solely basing it on initial cost.

One organization may realize a financial benefit due to the movability and decreased downtime from their employees when renovating space. Another entity may have schedule compression or the accelerated tax benefits at the top of their list.  For whatever reason, movable walls are selected, in most cases they will aid in adding to the bottom line over time when used appropriately.

Over time and the average number of office configurations that a company will go through, approximately how much can a company save by not having to tear down and re-build walls?

I cannot specifically calculate, however a very simple example would be the scenario as follows with one move providing a substantial return on investment.  This example does not even consider the increase of employee production, schedule compression, and tax benefits; just the movability factor.

In its simplest terms, if an office space is built out in drywall for $100k (about 500 lineal feet), it can be expected that when a reconfiguration is scheduled, an organization must pay for demo and reconstruction of that space.  Another expense will include $100k in new materials and construction, and also $30-50k in demolition.

This project is now a total of around $150k in addition to the initial $100k.  That organization is now paying $250k in utilizing drywall.

The same initial price for the movable wall would have been approximately $150k for 500 lineal feet.  The math is obvious.  An organization will need to prepare and plan for these moves and pay for the reconfiguration, however the savings is realized with a single reconfiguration of an entire space.  A realistic budget number on the labor to reconfigure 500 lineal feet of movable wall is about $25k.

This is much less than complete demo and new drywall construction.  $250k (Drywall) – $175k (Movable Wall) = $75k in savings with one reconfiguration.

In what ways do decision makers decide to go for movable walls when they are considering the environmental impact?

The entire building methodology of using demountable partitions in design is sustainable itself. You are not only going to realize an environmental considerate space with movable walls in place, but operationally as well.

With each reconfiguration, the end user is realizing a cost savings by not having to purchase new materials that involve demolition and reconstruction of drywall.  The movable walls are reused over and over. This is the definition of sustainability; using resources that are not depleted or damaged. This benefit and concept is the environmental factor that many forget or fail to realize. It is our job at M/W to educate clients on this methodology. Typically clients are more interested and get caught up in the materials that go into the products.

While the materials that are used to manufacture movable walls are environmentally friendly, such as steel, which can be recycled, and low VOC adhesives, which help indoor air quality, I believe the true environmental benefit is planning of the movable wall process to streamline and sustain what is existing.  Reduce, reuse, and as a last resort, recycle. Modular and movable walls allow for this.

Movable wall companies like M/W International always give the benefit of being able to reformat and re-use a client’s movable walls for another project when changes are being made. Is this really accurate? (Give an example)

This is totally accurate.  Movable walls are movable and every client is an example. They are made to be reused and easily reconfigured to redefine space.  Hence “movable.”

With a unitized movable wall system clients are inclined and capable to reconfigure their space more frequently, adapting to changes and grow as an organization. With drywall this would not be possible.

Even with non-unitized partition systems, the full benefit of being able to move walls is not realized. It becomes more expensive to move non-unitized systems due to the number of parts and pieces. In most cases during reconfiguration of non-unitized systems, parts become damaged and not reused. They are typically fastened to the existing structure, which also hinders the movability.

I have been involved in projects where layouts of movable walls have been changed by the end user and architect during the installation process. There is no way this could happen if drywall construction were being used and the company would not be able to adapt to whatever change they were wanting.

One client whom had never utilized movable wall in his facility was reluctant to make the switch from drywall to movable walls is now a believer. Once he was able to see the installation and how the walls go together, he was amazed and has been now using movable wall exclusively over the past 5 years.

He jokes with me now saying, “I used to think that all movable wall companies were snake oil salesmen, but I now see the amazing benefits of this type of construction and am a believer.”

The latest configuration in offices is trending to the “Open Office” design. How do movable walls add a feature/benefit to this design?

With the trending of open floor plans, private office space is being pushed to the perimeter of the building against windows, leaving the core of the building open.  Designers are using glass elements on these perimeter office fronts allowing daylight to come through from the exterior windows, adding natural light to the open areas.  It is a current trend to use glass movable walls for the office fronts only and construct the demising walls of the perimeter offices in drywall.

This gives the office fronts and doors a consistent look, compressed construction schedule, and eliminates the number of trades required for construction.  Typically this type of application will not be moved in the future, but the aesthetics, consistency, day lighting, and tax benefits compensate for the movability.

What industries or business places have totally embraced the movable wall design?

Movable walls have been utilized by organizations across many market sectors, however where I see the biggest acceptance is in Fortune 500 companies, Government, and Higher Education.

Fortune 500 companies have the resources to calculate and justify the financial benefits with the initial expenditure. They have long-term foresight and are able to understand that the initial investment is outweighed by the benefits their organization will receive in the future. In some cases, this justification by highly sophisticated companies spans a timeline of 20+ years.

Government and Higher Education environments are both ever changing and environmentally responsible. The government and military understand this change and adaptability is part of their office culture.

Colleges and universities are becoming more environmentally conscious and many college students now weigh the environmental features a university has to offer, such as energy efficiency and green building practices, as a deciding factor of which school to attend.

What are some new trends with movable walls?

With advances in manufacturing, the sky is the limit in aesthetics and function with movable walls. Customization is more prevalent now with movable walls than ever before.

Designers wish to add their own signature to the spaces they design and movable walls allow them to do just that. In the past, movable walls were available in white, gray, or tan. Finish options have come a long way with glass elements including eco-resin options, renewable and recyclable fabrics made with bamboo, and technology integration such as flat screens and security options such as biometric hardware. Today, movable walls can achieve most applications that were once limited to fixed construction.