Presented by: Sennheiser

#Meetings & collaboration

Why coworking isn’t just a shared workplace and how your meeting rooms can be turned into efficient places of inspiration in no time

Interview with Pascal Scheidegger, founder and managing director of the architectural firm konzeptS

Beautiful Zurich has a new and forward-thinking coworking lounge, right at Tessinerplatz. In addition to sustainability and design, the selection of the most innovative technologies for the premises played a major role in its development. Pascal Scheidegger is the founder and managing director of the architectural firm konzeptS, which was commissioned with the project.

We talked to him about meeting rooms, sustainability, and the work of the future. And, of course, about the Sennheiser microphone TeamConnect Ceiling 2, which was built into one of the meeting rooms.

Mr. Scheidegger, readers will find a wide variety of projects on your website – from coworking and office buildings to energy-efficient apartment buildings. Could you briefly introduce yourself and your architecture firm?

We are a small architectural firm in Switzerland and implement office and coworking spaces, among other things. Our focus in all our projects is on sustainable architecture. We’re constantly looking for the perfect balance between ecology, economy and sociology. Our decisions are not only based around investment and life cycle costs, but factor in energy performance and ecobalance. This kind of thinking can be applied to various types of buildings; for example, we take on projects in the hospitality sector and build residential buildings.

Exciting – have you always had this strong focus on sustainability?

Yes, you could say that. I wrote my degree thesis in this area and started the company in 2012 with precisely that focus. We employ BIM planning (Building Information Modeling) i.e. model-based planning as our method of choice, which makes us pioneers in Switzerland.

To what extent has your customers perception of sustainability changed over the last eight years?

There has been a substantial shift in perception. I conducted many interviews with companies as part of my degree thesis. The general tone was that sustainable construction was far too expensive and not realistic. Today, sustainability is no longer optional. This includes compliance with sustainability standards such as the DGNB in Germany (German Society for Sustainable Building) or the SCdS in Suisse (Standard Construction durable Suisse).

But that’s not all. Sustainability has another aspect. As part of the VillageOffice cooperative, we are developing coworking spaces in rural parts of Switzerland. Some people really want to live in cities. But there are these beautiful villages in Switzerland that are slowly dying out because professionals have to move away from the country to find good work. Or they have to deal with long commutes. In today's digital age, however, this is often no longer necessary.

We therefore believe in the vision of revitalizing these smaller towns by creating attractive coworking opportunities. We work together with the townships in order to accomplish that mission.

Coworking Lounge Tessinerplatz 

Did the Tessinerplatz project also come about through this cooperative? The location of the coworking lounge is rather urban.

Correct. The Tessinerplatz project is a showcase project for us and the investor Swiss Life. Here, we wanted to present the concept of sustainable coworking and make it accessible. Our rural projects are comparable to the coworking lounge at Tessinerplatz – despite lower budgets. They all rely on sustainable construction and combine the coworking area with other opportunities for use, such as cafés (as with this project), restaurants, or shops.

The Tessinerplatz Coworking Lounge has numerous meeting rooms and common areas. From an architectural point of view, what should you pay particular attention to when planning such a room?

There are three very important areas:

    1. Acoustics, light and indoor climate are what is most important. The acoustic quality, good lighting and a pleasant room climate (room temperature, humidity) are central to a good meeting room. If one of these three points isn't met, the meeting room will not work. For example, we always recommend letting as much daylight as possible into the room. If this is not possible, neutral lighting similar to daylight should be used.

    2. The room must be equipped to a high standard. This includes solutions for lighting, ventilation (air conditioning) and furniture, as well as technology. In a room, you must feel comfortable and cheap solutions are usually simply not good.

    3. The room should be multi-functional. It should be able to be changed around and modified with ease. The space must adapt to the requirements and shouldn’t exist for purely self-serving reasons.

    4. Colour selection is key as well. Painting the walls white or grey isn’t the greatest idea, whereas subtile colours such as pink can have a very positive effect on people’s psychies. We recommend using only one colour per room and it should not be too intense or overwhelming.

Related to this: what was particularly important to the customer of the coworking space Tessinerplatz during the implementation? (e.g. energy-efficiency, design, technology, etc...)

Each project is a little different for us. At Tessinerplatz, there was an investor (Swiss Life AG) and the operating company of the space itself. Each party brought specific requirements to the table. Swiss Life really focused on only using the latest technologies of the highest quality in all areas. The operating company did a test run and found out that a large number of meeting rooms and a café would be needed for the space to work. We had to put all those ideas together. You can picture the collaboration like a game of ping pong, in which proposals and drafts are volleyed back and forth between the parties.

You have mentioned the high quality standards for the coworking lounge several times. When it comes to selecting suitable technology solutions, to what extent are you involved in the decision-making process as an architect?

We are no computer scientists or technical experts. That's why we work with partners, with multimedia experts. We see our responsibility in drawing up the requirements for the space.

For example, in the case of the Tessinerplatz project, screens were to be installed in each meeting room. After some consideration, however, we decided that screens are not particularly “sexy” and not necessary in every room. One of the rooms therefore has a large whiteboard instead. The problem with whiteboards, which everyone knows, is the perpetuation of the collected information.

Often the camera phone is used to take pictures which are then distributed via email. These are rarely helpful. Our whiteboard room therefore has a built-in camera that takes high-resolution photos without any distorted angles and automatically sends them to the room user.

We would develop such an idea as an architecture firm and then pass on the requirements to various multimedia partners. They work out concepts and present their ideas to us. We work with the partner who can best meet our needs.

Meeting-Room with TeamConnet Ceiling 2 

Understood. How did Sennheiser come into play in this project with its TeamConnect Ceiling 2 ceiling microphone?

In this case, we worked with the multimedia partner Supravision. They recommended Sennheiser as an acoustic solution. Personally, I had not installed any Sennheiser products before. After an evaluation by Supravision, however, this solution proved to be of great quality. It meets the requirements we had for the rooms.

Can you tell us a few secret architects tips for good acoustics in meeting rooms? What should you look for when exchanging furniture in meeting rooms, for example?

First of all, really think about how you would like to use the space. We follow the motto “form follows function.” Think about what the meeting room needs to do for you. On this basis, a concept can be developed.

If new furniture is to be purchased, I recommend paying particular attention to its quality. "Healthy furniture", as we call it, absorbs sound, is well processed and, above all, does not emit any toxic vapours.

Additionally, at least half of the floor plan area should be covered with acoustic elements. Curtains, acoustic ceilings and wall elements are also helpful. Even very modern rooms, such as those made of glass only, can use these tricks to create good acoustics.

And what mistakes should be avoided when designing meeting rooms? Are there even typical mistakes that you encounter again and again?

Yes, unfortunately, there are. I believe that a meeting room without good acoustics and adequate lighting cannot serve its purpose. Of course, in a 1:1 meeting on Skype, acoustics and light play a minor role. But for multi-participant conferences the acoustics must be very good, otherwise the meeting room simply cannot be used.

Many companies save on acoustics. If budget is tight, I would rather equip one less meeting room or avoid hanging a large screen in every room. But what is being done should be done well.

I'm not a fan of additional frills. It's all about simplicity and creating a space that works. Technology solutions that “can do everything” are therefore not all that great sometimes. I would rather work with solutions that do their job well and integrate with other technologies.

It is very interesting to focus on light and acoustics and perhaps to equip a room less for it. Do you often have to convince your customers, or are most of them aware of the importance of acoustics and light?

Of course, we often have to provide a bit of education around this topic. Ultimately, we make recommendations and our clients make the final decision. In the Coworking Lounge Tessinerplatz project, we had a large scope for decision making and were able to ensure that really good rooms were created, in which acoustics, light, and technology were just right.

Finally, we are eager to know which other projects you are currently working on. Are there any plans for similar coworking spaces in Germany?

We are working on really exciting projects. We might build coworking spaces according to a similar model in southern Germany. In addition, we are currently working on the conversion of an office community into a coworking space, which goes hand in hand with the expansion of many common areas. Furthermore, one of our projects revolves around a landmark building. And we are working on other combination buildings, such as a production facility for vegetarian “chicken” with an attached coworking lounge.

The TeamConnect Ceiling 2 ceiling microphone was chosen for the Tessinerplatz project - click here for information on the product.

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