Shorter project schedules are driving greater collaboration among designers, dealers and vendors, and that’s a good thing says Karen Dahlstrom, senior associate/interior designer with global architecture and design firm NBBJ. In between servicing corporate clients for NBBJ’s Seattle office, Dahlstrom took time out to chat with OfficeMax Workplace℠ Interiors General Manager Mark Paul.
MP: As clients continue to find ways to cut costs, how has NBBJ adapted?
KD: Clients are asking for increasingly condensed project schedules, and this seems to be driven by efforts to keep down costs.
MP: Have these shorter project schedules affected how you work on projects?
KD: Industrywide, schedule constraints sometimes limit the number of vendors and material suppliers available to participate on a project. However, it also has been beneficial because it has prompted us to partner more closely with dealers and vendors to meet short deadlines.
MP: How is this new collaboration with vendors and dealers positive?
KD: Historically, there is competitiveness between dealers and design firms because we offer some of the same services. But a few years ago, NBBJ started to work more closely with local dealers to take advantage of their expertise. For example, on one project I worked on, the furniture manufacturer flew in its designers, who sat with us as we made product modifications. We’d throw out ideas, and they would develop concepts. It was a very streamlined and positive experience, as new ideas happened at the table with the client, NBBJ and the furniture dealer.
MP: It sounds like working more closely with vendors and dealers has yielded some very dynamic work. Speaking of collaboration, tell me about the growing number of spaces you are designing for clients to encourage communication among employees.
KD: We have been designing a lot of collaboration spaces, such as informal seating and casual lounge areas where employees can meet and converse. At NBBJ, we designed some of these collaboration spaces for ourselves, and it’s been great.
MP: What types of collaboration spaces have been successful at NBBJ?
KD: We have this giant staircase that connects our first, second and third floors. It’s amazing the amount of interaction that takes place on these stairs. We also have a long series of tables where people can work, and there are often multiple meetings going on simultaneously. It’s been exciting to experience this collaboration space in our own offices. We’ve always wondered how often these spaces get utilized, and now we know they really do work.