A Rather Thorough Guide to Design Ideas for Your Office Interiors, based on your Budget
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Let's face it, the last couple of years have been pretty rough for most businesses, and with the world in lockdown over Covid-19 (I'm looking forward to the day I can update this post and change this sentence to past tense), a lot of us are going to be changing offices, renegotiating rent, moving to coworking spaces or vice-versa, depending on what makes most sense from a cash flow perspective.
So let's look at a bunch of categories to focus on when designing/building a new office space: office interior design that reduces setup costs, and even office interior design that might cost a few extra percentage points now, but will save you money in the long run. Disclaimer: Each of these materials comes in a wide range of price points; you'll find very expensive variants of otherwise-low-cost materials, and cheap variants of the priciest materials. We're only talking averages here. And, of course, some of these are very technical topics, of which we're only skimming the surface!
1. Quality/type of Workstations and Tables.
What kind of material should your workspaces use - laminate, veneer or solid wood? Here's a great guide. Here's another. Laminate is the cheapest option of the three. Let's summarize the differences in the three materials, so you can see if laminate works for you:
- Laminate is a synthetic material. It's low-cost, it's easy to maintain and clean, it's pretty durable. It gives you lots of color options. It's very light. It's flame-retardant. Laminate workstations can be assembled and disassembled easily. However, laminate won't give your office that "opulent" or fancy look that comes with a high-quality natural wood. That's a call you get to take - typically, we've seen that law firms and high-end boutique consultancy firms want a more opulent look than tech startups.
(Our project for Techjockey in Delhi)
- Veneer features a very thin layer of actual wood, covering a synthetic base. Thanks to this layer, you can get the rich, plush look of solid wood at a lower price point. It also gives you a more uniform, consistent look than real wood. It's pretty much just as light as a fully-laminate table, and thus significantly lighter than wood. On the flip side, veneer is prone to scratches, and very difficult to repair. Also, the edges might chip during movement. A chipped edge is not a pretty look - it'll instantly make your office look old. Typically, we use veneer for management/directors' offices and for board rooms, areas that are likely to see lower traffic, and also benefit from the rich look. Veneered tables are likely to be the middle ground, price-wise, between laminate and solid wood.
(Our project for Techjockey in Delhi)
- Solid wood is all about the aesthetics. It's fully natural, some woods look great, and you can look up sustainable options if you're environmentally-minded, as we all should be. It's a very strong material, and scratches and dings are repairable. It's the most durable by far. However, some woods are more prone to humidity/temperature damage than others. Also, watch out for quality variation - you won't get the consistency that comes from a synthetic material. It's also expensive, and likely very, very heavy.
2. Quality/cost of Flooring Material.
Flooring can form a large part of the cost of your new space. Let's look at the available options:
- Carpets and carpet tiles are great for insulating sound. Are people going to be walking around a lot in formal shoes and heels? You're much less likely to hear them on a carpet floor. They also give a nice, plush feel to your office interiors, and come in a very wide range of patterns, colors and styles. However, carpets require a lot of cleaning. Stain removal is pretty tough too. Carpet tiles are a convenient option - in case of a bad spill, just replace that single tile rather than the whole thing. Carpets/carpet tiles come in a wide range of prices, from ~Rs. 70 per square foot to a few hundreds.
(Offices at Delhi Airport Terminal 2, done by us in 2019)
(The office of Texas Instruments in Delhi, done by us in 2018)
- Laminate flooring is easy and quick to install over virtually any surface, it's available in a VERY wide range of looks and options, and it can emulate the look of hardwood, and increasingly even stone, ceramics and cement. It's pretty durable. It doesn't take well to water, though - a major water leak can lead to the material getting warped and you might have to replace it. If you're planning to put this in an area where water can reach, then you should specifically go in for one of the water-resistant laminate floorings. Laminate flooring comes in a very wide range of prices, and you can get some very nice-looking yet economical options, though they might wear out quicker.
- Vitrified/Ceramic Tiles are a very common and highly economical option, vitrified tiles being preferred for office floors. The difference between the two is the composition - ceramic tiles are made from clay, while vitrified tiles are made from a mixture of clay and silica and quartz. Vitrified tiles are much stronger, and water-resistant. They also give a much more consistent look, and come in a wider range of patterns and styles - you can emulate stone floors, wooden floors, marble and more, at a much lower cost. Ceramic tiles will give you a much more natural look, but aren't as strong, and typically come in rather small sizes.
(Coworking space done by us for 91springboard Gurgaon)
3. Lighting Options.
We're only going to focus on a couple of things here, the first of them being LEDs vs. CFLs vs. incandescent bulbs. Incandescents are pretty much not even considered a viable option these days, given their power usage, so the real question is, CFLs vs. LEDs. This is a great guide on the topic. They've mad such a great graphic, I'm not even going to bother trying to summarize it:
Here's another great guide that goes deep into the savings you can get from using LEDs.
So whenever possible, just go in for LEDs. We'll discuss color temperatures in a future post one day.
The second subject we're going to touch upon is the importance of natural light. This one is tricky - on one hand, there are so many studies (see here, here, here, here) that say that a lot of natural light means happier employees who sleep better, work better and are generally going to live better lives and like you more. Also, you're going to be saving on your lighting bills.
However, too much glare and direct sunlight means higher air conditioning bills, which is a common problem in India's all-glass-and-concrete look commercial buildings. Summers in Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida can get crazy hot. So look for a place which has a lot of natural light, but if possible, a place with sunlight coming from the North or South direction, which works better than from the East or West in terms of glare reduction. Also, you can use film on the windows to reduce direct sunlight.
4. Choice of HVAC systems: VRV or split units?
This is a big, big, big contributor to your office interiors design cost, and here you're going to be making the choice between short-term capital expenditure cost savings or long-term electricity bills savings.
- VRV, or variable refrigerant volume systems, allow you to control temperature for different zones. So you're only cooling the areas where people are sitting, and ignoring areas which are sitting empty. That makes a lot of sense for office interior spaces where usage is not uniform, for example coworking spaces.
- Split AC units are the traditional system. In a very small office, you could just have many individual 1.5 or 2 ton wall split units. For a larger office, you'll have a few large external split units and run ducts throughout the office ceiling.
If you have a lot of cabins and individual zones, VRV makes sense. If you're planning to have one massive open-plan hall, the gains of a VRV system won't offset the high initial setup cost. And the initial setup cost of a VRV system vis-a-vis a split AC system can be as much as 30-40% higher.
Keep in mind though that whatever system you opt for, in an open plan space, people are going to be fighting about the temperature. Some people prefer 18-19 degrees, others prefer 23-24 degrees. 23-24 is going to be more comfortable, and of course result in lower electricity bills.
5. At least paint is simple enough? No technical decisions there? It's just....paint, right?
Well, yes. The main decision here is an aesthetics decision - what colours to go with, and we wrote about that in this article on how to pick the right wall colours for your office. So be sure to have that discussion with your interior designer/architect.
(The conference room at Texas Instruments' Delhi office. They loved our suggestion of the contrasting colour)
On the technical side, paint isn't going to form a large part of your cost, so you're better off leaving the decision of what kind of paint goes where to the designer or contractor. If you're interested in learning more, though, this is a great and simple guide.
That's that for part one of our guide on how to understand what goes into the budget for your office interiors and office renovation. We'll do a part two covering areas such as open vs. false ceilings, glass vs. gypsum partitions, wi-fi vs. LAN, blinds vs curtains and the use of smart devices in another post soon.
In the meanwhile, if you're thinking of upgrading your office and not sure about what your requirements are or what your budget should be, drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me (Vineet) a call at +91 9315 772280! We're based in NCR (Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida), but we've done plenty of projects all across India, including in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Indore, Dehradun, and lots of other cities.