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Archive: May 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A new line of research examines what happens in an office where the positions of the cubicles and walls—even the coffee pot—are all determined by data.

By Ben Waber on May 15, 2013  View full report

Can we use data about people to alter physical reality, even in real time, and improve their performance at work or in life? That is the question being asked by a developing field called augmented social reality.

Here’s a simple example. A few years ago, with Sandy Pentland’s human dynamics research group at MIT’s Media Lab, I created what I termed an “augmented cubicle.” It had two desks separated by a wall of plexiglass with an actuator-controlled window blind in the middle. Depending on whether we wanted different people to be talking to each other, the blinds would change position at night every few days or weeks.

The augmented cubicle was an experiment in how to influence the social dynamics of a workplace. If a company wanted engineers to talk more with designers, for example, it wouldn’t set up new reporting relationships or schedule endless meetings. Instead, the blinds in the cubicles between the groups would go down. Now as engineers passed the designers it would be easier to have a quick chat about last night’s game or a project they were working on.

Human social interaction is rapidly becoming more measurable at a large scale, thanks to always-on sensors like cell phones. The next challenge is to use what we learn from this behavioral data to influence or enhance how people work with each other. The Media Lab spinoff company I run uses ID badges packed with sensors to measure employees’ movements, their tone of voice, where they are in an office, and whom they are talking to. We use data we collect in offices to advise companies on how to change their organizations, often through actual physical changes to the work environment. For instance, after we found that people who ate in larger lunch groups were more productive, Google and other technology companies that depend on serendipitous interaction to spur innovation installed larger cafeteria tables.

In the future, some of these changes could be made in real time. At the Media Lab, Pentland’s group has shown how tone of voice, fluctuation in speaking volume, and speed of speech can predict things like how persuasive a person will be in, say, pitching a startup idea to a venture capitalist. As part of that work, we showed that it’s possible to digitally alter your voice so that you sound more interested and more engaged, making you more persuasive.

Another way we can imagine using behavioral data to augment social reality is a system that suggests who should meet whom in an organization. Traditionally that’s an ad hoc process that occurs during meetings or with the help of mentors. But we might be able to draw on sensor and digital communication data to compare actual communication patterns in the workplace with an organizational ideal, then prompt people to make introductions to bridge the gaps. This isn’t the LinkedIn model, where people ask to connect to you, but one where an analytical engine would determine which of your colleagues or friends to introduce to someone else. Such a system could be used to stitch together entire organizations.

Unlike augmented reality, which layers information on top of video or your field of view to provide extra information about the world, augmented social reality is about systems that change reality to meet the social needs of a group.

For instance, what if office coffee machines moved around according to the social context? When a coffee-pouring robot appeared as a gag in TV commercial two years ago, I thought seriously about the uses of a coffee machine with wheels. By positioning the coffee robot in between two groups, for example, we could increase the likelihood that certain coworkers would bump into each other. Once we detected—using smart badges or some other sensor—that the right conversations were occurring between the right people, the robot could move on to another location. Vending machines, bowls of snacks—all could migrate their way around the office on the basis of social data. One demonstration of these ideas came from a team at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom. In their “Slothbots” project, slow-moving robotic walls subtly change their position over time to alter the flow of people in a public space, constantly tuning their movement in response to people’s behavior.

The large amount of behavioral data that we can collect by digital means is starting to converge with technologies for shaping the world in response. Will we notify people when their environment is being subtly transformed? Is it even ethical to use data-driven techniques to persuade and influence people this way? These questions remain unanswered as technology leads us toward this augmented world.

Ben Waber is cofounder and CEO of Sociometric Solutions and the author of People Analytics: How Social Sensing Technology Will Transform Business, published by FT Press.

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From MIT Technology Review 
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Sitting in an office chair for 40+ hours a week can be torture to your spine if you don’t have the right chair. Mesh office chairs can be just as comfortable as leather ones with the added benefit of being breathable.

If you find that you often sweat while sitting in your chair at work, a mesh chair may just be the thing for you. Some are made with not only mesh backs, but mesh seats as well. Even those that have foam seats covered in mesh can be a bit more breathable than other chairs.

Not all chairs are made the same. Your bargain office chairs will often be pretty basic; if you don’t care for a lot of bells and whistles, you can get a chair for pretty cheap that still ends up being comfortable. However, if you are willing to pay a bit more, you can get the Cadillac of chairs.

Features to Look For

First of all, you want to be able to have the ultimate in adjustability. All chairs come with the ability to raise, or lower the seat, but many come with more adjustments like tilt tension control. This will give you the chance to change the tilt of the seat for a more ergonomic fit. There are even some that will let you move the seat forward and backward as well, depending on the size of your backside.

Sometimes the back of the chair can be adjusted for more of an upright position, or more of a reclined position. Armrests are a big one for me, I love being able to move mine up and down depending on what I am doing in the chair. You can even take it a step further with some high end chairs by having the option to turn the armrests more inward or outward as you see fit.

The last thing you will want to pay attention to is the casters. Many chairs have durable casters that can roll on any surface, even thick carpet, but you will want to check all product descriptions to make sure that this is the case. There are several models of chairs that indicated that the casters are not good for carpet. In most cases here though, the manufacturer will sell different casters to fit your needs better.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ergohuman Mesh Ergonomic Office ChairAeron Chair by Herman MillerOffice Star Space Professional Deluxe ChairFlash Furniture GO-6057-GG Computer ChairBoss Mesh Back Task ChairOffice Star Space Professional Air Grid Managers ChairHON Lota Work ChairLexMod Focus Office ChairBasyx by HON VL700 Series ChairHigh Back Mesh Office Chair
Ergohuman Mesh Ergonomic Office Chair
Ergohuman Mesh Ergonomic Office Chair

Best and Top Rated Executive Ergonomic Office Chairs

Best Executive Mesh Office Chair - Best Ergonomic Office Chair

If you have the money to spend, this Ergohuman Mesh Ergonomic Office Chair is one of the best you can find. This top of the line chair features all the adjustments you can imagine. This is a great choice if you share the chair with others since you can adjust it to fit different frames. It comes in several subtle colors to choose from, and features a fully mesh back and seat. You get tilt tension control and tilt lock so you can keep your posture in just the right position by locking it in place. It also features a back angle adjustment. The seat and the backrest tilt together though the backrest tilts more than the seat a bit. Both of them have tension controls as well. You also get adjustable armrests as well. I have been very impressed with the lumbar support, as well as the headrest. This chair can comfortably sit a very tall person with no sacrifice made to comfort. It can take a few adjustments to ensure that the chair is just right for your body, but once you get it down, you can sit easily for hours with little, to no, spinal or leg fatigue.

Top Rated Ergonomic Office Chair by Herman Miller

Another chair that is worth the money is the Aeron Chair by Herman Miller. It is also covered completely in mesh to be breathable. It has a mid-sized back, but be advised there is no headrest. The contoured back is nice and wide so pressure is taken off your spine. The adjustable armrests slope a bit in the back for a more natural position when your arms are resting on them. It features a waterfall edge which helps reduce leg fatigue. It is made with a graphite base and graphite frame to be ultra-strong. Adjustments included are a tilt limiter with seat angle adjustment, and then as mentioned before, adjustable armrests. I do wish that the height of the backrest was adjustable, but unfortunately, it is not. The casters that come with this chair are made to work well on carpet as well. Assembly is quite easy and I was sitting in my chair in about 20 minutes or less.


Best Professional Office Chair for 2013

Coming down a bit on price, this Office Star Space Professional Deluxe Chair gives you all the ergonomic features of the more expensive ones. It features an all mesh back with a mesh padded seat that is contoured for comfort. It also has a slight waterfall design as well. I have found the seat to be very cushy and comfortable. Mesh seats can also be comfortable but I like a bit more padding; this does not disappoint. It features a height and depth adjustable headrest, lumbar support that can be adjusted and height adjustable armrests. The padding on the armrests is bit firm for my liking however, but I type a lot and don’t often need them. You also get pneumatic seat height adjustment with locking capabilities. The casters are made with two wheels so you get a bit smoother of a roll, even on thick carpet. I would probably not recommend this specific chair to people who are quite short; the adjustments don’t go low enough to properly let your feet rest on the ground if you are 5’3” or shorter. I love that it easily reclines when you need it, and pops back up when you are ready to sit upright. Overall, this chair has been just as comfortable as ones that cost twice as much.

Top Rated Ergonomic Office Chair Review

For those on a budget, the following chairs are all under $100. This Flash Furniture GO-6057-GG Computer Chair is pretty good for the price and will still give you good back support when sitting in it for several hours. This chair swivels well, like the rest, and features a mesh back with a mesh upholstered seat. There is some passive lumbar support, though it is not as intense as other chairs that cost more. I have found that those in my office that don’t have lower back issues find this chair to be quite comfortable. If you do have lower back issues due to injury, or pregnancy, you might want to look for a chair that gives more lumbar support. You get up and down adjustments to the seat as well as a spring tilt mechanism. The armrests are covered in a hard plastic but are curved for a more natural feel. They are not adjustable however. This chair does lean back but it feels a bit stiff. However, since we’ve broken in the chair for several months, it seems to be easier now to lean back into. Assembly was pretty easy as well, with only 15 minutes or so taken out of my day to do put it together. I like this chair because it does seem to promote good posture. Other chairs that I’ve tried that lean back too easily, often leave me slouching in it. But this chair sits upright quite well, with just enough support for my frame.

Best Mesh Executive Office Chair 2013

This next very affordable chair is the Boss Mesh Back Task Chair. It features a breathable mesh back with a LeatherPlus seat. I have found that my bottom gets a bit warm in this chair, but my back does well and does not sweat. It is made with a metal pewter finished base for a nice look and a sturdy design. The armrests are circular and fixed in place with no padding. It has an adjustable tilt tension control and pneumatic gas lift seat height adjustment. There is an elastic strap in the back that will help support the lower back, but this is not adjustable and might be uncomfortable for taller people. The casters are double wheeled and move fairly well on thick carpet, though medium thick carpet is best, if not hard flooring. If you are an overly large person, you might find that the chair does not have a wide enough seat for you. The manufacturer claims a weight limit of 250 pounds. This chair is very sturdy and I like that it comes with pre-drilled holes for easier assembly. I would recommend this chair for someone who needs to use it in a small space since the small wheel base doesn’t take up much room.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

The design and placement of commercial and office buildings is an important consideration in the development process.

Whether an infill site or a greenfield site, such private investment should benefit the public in terms of its geographic location, the quality of its design and materials, and its positive impact on the city’s economic base. In addition to providing jobs and services, such new investment should serve as anchors for traditional and emerging high density, mixed-use neighborhood centers and commercial corridors.


  • Commercial and office development provides jobs, with office development providing some of the highest net income tax revenue for the city.
  • Retail development provides goods and services, and plays a critical role in stabilizing and enhancing adjacent residential neighborhoods.
  • New investment provides an opportunity to improve the built environment through high quality architectural design and materials.


  • Buildings in neighborhood centers, commercial corridors, and/or employment centers should have a floor area ratio (FAR) that meets the minimum threshold to support transit.

Building Design and Materials

  • Buildings should incorporate contextual architectural design that considers the surrounding building, design and material patterns, such as reflecting local conditions and history.
  • All sides of a building should be coherently designed and treated. A consistent level of detailing and finish should be provided for all sides of a building (“four-sided” architecture).
  • Buildings should utilize natural building materials, particularly on front facades and facades visible from a public right-of-way or residential structure.
  • Building design should incorporate patterns and materials that provide visual interest. This should be accomplished through changes in color, materials or relief, such as the inclusion of beltlines, pilasters, recesses, and pop outs. Flat, plain building walls should be discouraged.
  • Building designs should incorporate a base tying the building into the ground, a midsection, and a top that terminates the building.
  • Building surfaces over 20 feet high or 50 feet in length should be relieved with a change of wall plane or by other means that provide strong shadow and visual interest.
  • Buildings should be appropriately scaled relative to existing or proposed street widths.
  • Front elevations should be designed to reinforce pedestrian access and scale, such as, consist of 50% or more glass windows at the street level and utilize a variety of treatments and human scale details.

Building and Site Orientation

  • The appropriate commercial overlay standards should be applied to the commercial corridors whenever possible, whether or not the overlay has been adopted. These standards emphasize consistent building setbacks, façade orientation to the street, and clearly demarcated entrances facing the street.
  • Parking should be hidden to the greatest extent possible (located to the rear or side of a building).

Large Format Retail Development (any retail development 50,000 GSF or larger in size)

  • All facades of a building that are visible from adjoining properties and/or public streets should contribute feature design characteristics complimentary to a front facade.
  • Predominant exterior building materials should be of high quality. These include brick, wood, limestone, other native stone, and tinted/textured concrete masonry units appropriate to the building location. Smooth-faced concrete block, tilt-up concrete panels, or pre-fabricated steel panels are not recommended as exterior building materials except on rear and side elevations that do not face a residential use, residential zoning district, or public street or right-of-way. In cases where these materials are used they should be painted to be complimentary to the primary elevations.
  • The use of high intensity colors, metallic colors, black or fluorescent colors are not recommended. Building trim should feature brighter colors than facade colors, but neon tubing is not recommended.
  • Facades greater than 100 feet in length should incorporate recesses and projections a minimum of three feet in depth and a minimum of 20 contiguous feet within each 100 feet of facade length. Windows, awnings, entry areas, and arcades should total at least 60 percent of the facade length facing a public street.
  • Building facades should include a repeating pattern that includes no less than three of the following elements: color change, texture change, material module change, or expression of architectural or structural bay through a change in plane no less than 12 inches in width, such as an offset, reveal, or projecting rib. At least one of these elements should repeat horizontally. All elements should repeat at intervals of no more than 30 feet, either horizontally or vertically.
  • All sides of a principal building that face an abutting public street should feature at least one customer entrance. Where a principal building directly faces more than two abutting public streets, this requirement should apply only to two sides of the building, including the side of the building facing the primary street, and another side of the building facing a secondary street.
  • Each principal building or tenant space should have a clearly defined, highly visible customer entrance with a minimum of three of the following features: canopies, porticos, overhangs, recesses/projections, arcades, raised cornice parapets over the door, peaked roof forms, arches, outdoor patios, display windows, architectural details such as tile work and moldings which are integrated into the building structure and design, integral planters or wing walls that incorporate landscaped areas and/or places for sitting.
  • Roof lines should provide variations to reduce the massive scale of these structures and to add visual interest. Roof lines should have a change in height every 100 linear feet in the building length. Parapets, mansard roofs, gable roofs, hip roofs, or dormers should be used to conceal flat roofs and rooftop mechanical equipment from public view. Alternating lengths and designs may be appropriate. Standing seam metal roofs are encouraged where appropriate.
  • Smaller retail spaces that are part of a larger principal retail building should be transparent between the height of three feet and eight feet above the walkway grade for no less than 60 percent of the horizontal length of the building façade. Windows should be recessed and should include visually prominent sills, shutters, or other such forms of framing. Smaller retail spaces should have separate outside entrances.
  • Public gathering spaces should be provided with at least two amenities such as a patio/seating area, pedestrian plaza with benches, outdoor play area, kiosk area, water feature, clock tower, steeple, or other such deliberately shaped area and/or a focal feature or amenity that adequately enhances such public gathering spaces. Any such areas should have direct connectivity to the public sidewalk network and such features should not be constructed of materials that are inferior to the principal materials of the building and/or landscape.
  • Outlots for large format retail buildings should be developed in a manner that hide the larger building’s parking lot and help the overall development to address the primary thoroughfare.   

Historic Buildings and Neighborhoods

  • Historic structures should be preserved and incorporated into new development.
  • In historic neighborhood commercial districts, the height, scale, massing, window size, roof line, and other design details of commercial buildings should be compatible with existing pre-1940 buildings.

Pedestrian Access

  • Public sidewalks are provided along all public streets per code and private sidewalks are provided along private streets.
  • Sidewalks should be provided along the full length of the building along any facade featuring a customer entrance and along any facade abutting public parking areas. Such sidewalks should be located at least six feet from the facade of the building to provide planting beds for foundation landscaping. Within the Urban Commercial Overlay, this requirement should be fulfilled by the public sidewalk.
  • Pedestrian connections between commercial uses and adjacent residential development should be considered in cases where there is no sidewalk system or it is incomplete (example: retail shops with a walkway connection to residential development to the rear).
  • A continuous internal private pedestrian walkway system should be provided from the perimeter public sidewalk to the principal customer entrance(s) including bus stops. The internal pedestrian walkways should be distinguished from driving surfaces through the use of special pavers, bricks, scored concrete, or striping to enhance pedestrian safety and the attractiveness of the walkways.
  • Internal walkways should be provided within large, multi-building developments, such as office or multi-family complexes, providing safe connections separated from vehicular traffic and allowing for recreational uses.


  • On-site landscaping should be provided in clusters that breakup the building façade of larger buildings, based upon the following plant material for each 50 linear feet of building face: one deciduous tree, one evergreen tree, two ornamental trees, and ten shrubs in bark mulch beds.


  • Report and Preliminary Recommendations, Retail Discussion Group , City of Columbus, 2006
  • Regenerating Older Suburbs, ULI, 2007
  • Developing Retail Entertainment Destinations , ULI, 2001
  • Planning and Urban Design Standards, APA, 2006


Planning Division, City of Columbus, Ohio

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

There are a few steps involved in cleaning a cubicle.  At Capital Choice Office Furniture, we use a commercial cleaner and products to remove stains and dust from panel walls.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


We have been going to Capital Choice for last few years.  We used to go to other places, but kept coming back to Capital Choice Office Furniture because they had the best selection of what we were looking for, the best prices, fast delivery and a great crew that did the delivery and set up for us.  They are a one stop shop, so that’s why we use Capital Choice Office Furniture.

~Carrie Hiatt, COO of Homeport Columbus Housing Partnership

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Low business sentiment and high unemployment adversely affected the industry during the recession, as demand for office furniture remained low; nevertheless, with the improved job market, demand will revive slowly in the five years to 2018, spurring growth for office furniture manufacturers. For these reasons, industry research firm IBISWorld has updated a report on the Office Furniture Manufacturing industry in its growing industry report collection.

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) April 30, 2013

The Office Furniture Manufacturing industry has suffered during the five years to 2013 as businesses cut back on expenses in the midst of the recession. With declining demand, companies within the industry were forced to lower prices to remain competitive, hampering industry profit. Furthermore, the surge of low-cost imports continues to adversely affect the industry. “Countries like China have lower labor and overhead costs allowing they to offer lower prices on comparable products, effectively eroding domestic demand for US-made products,” IBISWorld industry analyst Brandon Ruiz says. Consequently, industry revenue is expected to decline at an average annual rate of 4.1% in the five years to 2013.

Volatile input prices have also adversely affected the Office Furniture Manufacturing industry. The price of steel, a major input for office furniture, plummeted 25.1% in 2009 and jumped 16.0% in the following year. “These price fluctuations made it difficult for manufacturers to anticipate future spending and control costs,” Ruiz says. Furthermore, as a result of declining demand and prices for new office furniture, profit decreased from 3.3% of revenue in 2008 to 1.9% in 2013. Consequently, many firms were forced to exit the industry completely. Despite these challenges, IBISWorld expects industry revenue to grow a modest 0.4% to $23.2 billion in 2013, fueled by US enterprise growth and the expansion of corporate profit. The more businesses there are, the more office furniture is needed.

During the five years to 2013, the number of office furniture manufacturers decreased. Overall, the Office Furniture Manufacturing industry has low market share concentration. In 2013, the industry’s three largest players are Steelcase Inc.HNI Corporation and Herman Miller Inc. The remainder of the market is captured by a large number of small and privately owned businesses that successfully supply the local community's retail demand.

As the number of US businesses increases, industry revenue is forecast to rise in the five years to 2018; however, some mitigating factors will remain. Higher import penetration will lower domestic demand and increase price pressures on domestic manufacturers, which will slightly constrict growth. Also, raw material prices are projected to continue increasing, which will adversely affect profit in the same period. Manufacturers can pass the additional costs on to buyers, but in doing so, they risk losing business to low-priced foreign imports. For more information, visit IBISWorld’s Office Furniture Manufacturing industry in the US industry report page.

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