Approximately six months ago, Latin American design firm AEI decided to open a Miami office, AEI U.S. Studio. Founder and principal Juliana Fernandez, who has done design work for Microsoft and Coca-Cola, felt there was a need in the city for the type of cutting-edge commercial design that global brands seek, and she hoped to offer it at a competitive price. Locally, AEI has designed the interiors of the 137-unit condominium Naranza at Edgewater, Paramount Residential Mortgage Group’s Miramar offices, offices for Holland & Knight and the headquarters for a dermatology practice. Fernandez said more than anything, clients want flexibility from their interior spaces, and she pointed out a few key trends. Sensors in the office can track how much time employees actually spend in the office or at their desks. This allows managers to use the space accordingly, or even save money on leases if they find that smaller spaces will suffice. They do not come without controversy. Fernandez said, “We use them in all of our projects as part of the design process. By understanding how clients use the space, we are better able to suggest new ways of working that can help them be more productive.” Clients are seeking rooms or floors that can be transformed to meet different needs during the workday. Companies are asking for movable walls, or cocoon/pod-type structures that let some workers wall themselves off for small-group sessions. Fernandez said, “Spaces today have to just as flexible as the companies we are designing for. Real estate and the cost of built out is expensive, it makes no sense to design spaces that aren’t used at least 80% of the time. We design multifunctional spaces that can be modified during the day to support different types of activities.” As workers hop between desks and meetings, laptops in hand, all workstations need to be able to access power, no matter the configuration of walls or furniture. A good design tip, Fernandez said, is to have electrical outputs strategically placed all over the floor. “We try to design the space in a very flexible manner. The infrastructure has to be just as flexible,” she said.
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