Designing human-centric office spaces at the periphery


Suburbs have an important role to play in the post-pandemic work environment, with these areas poised to become prime business locations offering unique advantages over the CBD.

Compared to the traditional CBD office, decentralized office centers offer multiple benefits to employers and workers, says Nik Tabain, partner at Gray Puksand. Offering a convenient location, easy commuting, cheaper rents, and increased space for diverse work typologies and amenities, suburban offices are now becoming sought-after hubs amid shifting attitudes as employers look to entice staff back into the office with contemporary lifestyle-focused workspaces. which are closer to us.

With more companies expected to follow this trend, Tabain believes architects and designers will play a big role in shaping the future of the suburban office.

Delivering commercial projects nationwide for a variety of stakeholders, Gray Puksand leverages research-driven architectural design to deliver new era workspaces and business districts centered on key pillars of the amenity, well-being and community.

“Earn the ride” with a holistic enclosure design

While suburban office centers may offer the advantage of conveniently located workplaces for people living on the outskirts of town, location is not enough in a post-pandemic world. Suburban workspaces also need to move away from an office model just to encourage workers to “earn their ride,” i.e. give them a compelling reason to come to work.

Design firm Hassell’s 2022 Workplace Futures Survey, a global survey of 2,500 office workers, found that “home is more like the office, so the office should be more like the home”. With fresh air, gardens, greenery, cafes, and purposeful workspaces high on the list of worker demands, Tabain suggests a holistic commercial precinct design to create vibrant environments for workers who blur the lines between work and lifestyle.

For example, Gray Puksand planned the Ferntree Business Park in Melbourne’s southeast based on information gathered from visits to commercial areas and university campuses around the world; the master plan includes plazas, cafes, hotels and outdoor Wi-Fi enabled exercise equipment, all within walking distance and shared by tenants and the community.

Bringing health-focused design to the suburbs

Designing healthy spaces that incorporate fresh air, daylight, and biophilic features has become the standard benchmark for workplace design projects. Although suburban and regional areas enjoy better access to open space than cities, many commercial areas in these areas still lack pedestrian-friendly green space, Tabain says.

Research-based master planning and architectural design to place greater emphasis on health and well-being can be leveraged to reactivate existing neighborhoods and support healthier spaces.

Gray Puksand’s recent expansion of Nexus Corporate Park in southeast Melbourne is an example of human-centred design with the removal of cars from the wider precinct. Two new commercial buildings benefit from an exclusive and expansive people-oriented plaza with much-needed access to light and green spaces, while parking has been moved underground.

Community Login

Contemporary offices have become a place of connection and collaboration: smart architectural design can support this connection, not only inside a building, but also outside by engaging the local community.

In commercial and workspace projects designed by Gray Puksand, amenities such as business lounges, meeting rooms, reception areas and hospitality areas are shared among tenants, creating a sense of community and increasing employee appeal.

One of the company’s upcoming projects in Geelong for a regional Victorian center includes plans for a winter garden with a fresh air meeting room on each level of the building, in addition to a roof with a bar and a restaurant accessible to the entire community.

The building will provide a valuable “third space” for workers – a space between work and the office that is an important setting for leisure, relaxation and connection, both during and after working hours.

With people-centered design at the very heart of Gray Puksand’s architectural approach, the practice will continue to emphasize the importance of human-centered architectural design in elevating the role of the suburban office, says Tabain. Providing architecturally designed suburban office compounds that meet the needs of a contemporary workforce will ensure these areas continue to thrive as prime business destinations in a post-pandemic landscape.

Based on the article “Rethinking the suburban office – how architects can design human-centric business districts for the future of work”, authored by Nik Tabain, partner at Gray Puksand.

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Rozella J. Cook