Title:
Workspace
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A work space 10 is provided which incorporates structures 12 in order to flexibly divide the workspace 10 into areas 14. The structures 12 are moveable to adjust the prospective sizes of the areas 14 as required by differing business teams over a commercial project lifespan. The structures 12 incorporate a plurality of facilities normally required by staff such as telephone and power connections etc.



Inventors:
Swaab, Roger Henry (Shrewsbury, GB)
Application Number:
09/938764
Publication Date:
02/28/2002
Filing Date:
08/23/2001
Assignee:
SWAAB ROGER HENRY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B83/00; E04B2/74; (IPC1-7): A47B53/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KATCHEVES, BASIL S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHERNOFF, VILHAUER, MCCLUNG & STENZEL, LLP (Portland, OR, US)
Claims:
1. A workspace structure which, in use, defines a boundary which divides the workspace into at least two areas, the workspace structure being movable to allow the boundary between the areas to move, wherein the structure houses a plurality of facilities required by staff in each of the areas and to which access is maintained in the event that the structure is moved to change the relative sizes of the areas.

2. A workspace structure according to claim 1, in which the facilities include a workstation for use by staff in one of the areas.

3. A workspace structure according to claim 2, in which the facilities comprise workstations for use, respectively, by staff in each of the areas.

4. A workspace structure according to claim 2 or claim 3, in which the or each workstation provides all of the facilities required for a member of staff to work.

5. A workspace structure according to any of claims 2 to 4, in which the or each workstation has a stowed condition stored within the structure, and a working condition in which the workstation is accessible for use.

6. A workspace structure according to claim 5, in which at least some of the features of the or each workstation fold out from the structure to reach the working condition.

7. A workspace structure according to claim 3 and any of claims 4 to 6 when dependent on claim 3, in which the structure provides a plurality of workstations for each area.

8. A workspace structure according to claim 7, in which the workstations in an area are different in the facilities they provide.

9. A workspace structure according to any of the preceding claims, in which the structure is generally elongate in plan, to provide facilities to each area along the length of the boundary formed by the structure.

10. A workspace structure according to any of the preceding claims, in which the structure comprises coupling means operable to couple the structure to another like structure to extend the boundary and provide additional facilities to the areas.

11. A workspace structure according to any of the preceding claims, in which the structure comprises connection means operable to provide connections between the facilities and external services such as power, environmental control services, lighting, communication and drainage.

12. A workspace structure according to any of the preceding claims, in which the facilities provided by the structure comprise one or more of the following: a) computers or other electrical or electronic equipment; b) storage facilities; c) storage for equipment which can be removed for use within the area, such as furniture; d) partitions, such as partitions which can be stowed within the structure, preferably in collapsed condition, and removed to provide partitioning within the area, either separately from the structure or while attached to it, and either mechanically collapsible or inflatable; e) a canopy which can be stowed within the structure and extended from the structure to provide overhead screening; f) food or drink preparation facilities; g) lavatory facilities; h) one or more spaces for receiving interchangeable modules containing facilities to be provided to the areas.

13. A method of dividing a workspace, in which at least one workspace structure as claimed in any of the preceding claims is provided in the workspace to define a boundary which divides the workspace into at least two areas, the workspace structure being moved when the relative sizes of the areas is required to change.

14. A method according to claim 13, in which a plurality of structures are provided for use within the workspace as required, and for storage when not required.

15. A workspace structure substantially as hereinbefore described and with reference to the accompanying drawings.

16. A method of dividing a workspace substantially as hereinbefore described and with reference to the accompanying drawings.

17. Any novel subject matter or combination including novel subject matter disclosed herein, whether or not within the scope of or relating to the same invention as any of the preceding claims.

Description:
[0001] The present invention relates to the design and provision of workspace.

[0002] In many traditional work situations, workspace requirements remain relatively static for long periods of time. Permanent buildings or buildings divided in a semi-permanent manner are appropriate for use in these situations However, other situations arise in which workspace requirements can change significantly and quickly, perhaps cyclically. For instance, industries such as television production and other media industries may depend on the output of teams of people, but the size of those teams and the facilities required by them may vary at different stages of the operation. For instance, the number of personnel involved in the production stage of a television programme or film may be significantly different to the number involved in the editing state, and the nature of their tasks will change, with consequential implications on their requirements for space and facilities.

[0003] The present invention seeks to address the consequent problems of workspace provision.

[0004] The invention provides a workspace structure which, in use, defines a boundary which divides the workspace into at least two areas, the workspace structure being movable to allow the boundary between the areas to move, wherein the structure houses a plurality of facilities required by staff in each of the areas and to which access is maintained in the event that the structure is moved to change the relative sizes of the areas.

[0005] The facilities may comprise a workstation for use by staff in one of the areas, and preferably comprise workstations for use, respectively, by staff in each of the areas. The or each workstation may provide all of the facilities required for a member of staff to work. The or each workstation may have a stowed condition stored within the structure, and a working condition in which the workstation is accessible for use. Preferably at least some of the features of the or a workstation fold out from the structure to reach the working condition The structure preferably provides a plurality of workstations for each areas which may be different in the facilities they provide.

[0006] Preferably, the structure is generally elongate in plan, to provide facilities to each area along the length of the boundary formed by the structure. The structure preferably comprises coupling means operable to couple the structure to another like structure to extend the boundary and provide additional facilities to the areas.

[0007] The structure preferably comprises connection means operable to provide connections between the facilities and external services such as power, environmental control services, lighting, communication and drainage.

[0008] Preferably the facilities provided by the structure comprise one or more of the following:

[0009] a) Computers or other electrical or electronic equipment;

[0010] b) storage facilities;

[0011] c) storage for equipment which can be removed for use within the area, such as furniture;

[0012] d) partitions, such as partitions which can be stowed within the structure, preferably in collapsed condition, and removed to provide partitioning within the area, either separately from the structure or while attached to it, and either mechanically collapsible or inflatable;

[0013] e) a canopy which can be stowed within the structure and extended from the structure to provide overhead screening;

[0014] f) food or drink preparation facilities;

[0015] g) lavatory facilities;

[0016] h) one or more spaces for receiving interchangeable modules containing facilities to be provided to the areas.

[0017] The invention also provides a method of dividing a workspace, in which at least one workspace structure as defined above is provided in the workspace to define a boundary which divides the workspace into at least two areas, the workspace structure being moved when the relative sizes of the areas is required to change.

[0018] Preferably a plurality of structures are provided for use within the workspace as required, and for storage when not required.

[0019] Various embodiments of the present invention, and the manner of use, will now be described by way of example only, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0020] FIG. 1 is a schematic perspective view of several structures in accordance with the invention, in use;

[0021] FIG. 2 is a perspective view, partly schematic, showing structures open for use, and another like structure when closed;

[0022] FIG. 3 is a part diagrammatic perspective view illustrating a modular adaptation of the structure;

[0023] FIG. 4 is a highly schematic cross-section through a workspace in which the structure is in use;

[0024] FIGS. 5a and 5b are schematic plan views of a workspace in which structures in accordance with the invention are in use.

[0025] FIG. 1 illustrates a workspace indicated generally at 10 and in the form of a large open plan area around which various services are trunked under the floor or above the ceiling, as will be described below.

[0026] Within the workspace 10, a line of three structures 12, in accordance with the invention, are aligned to define a boundary which divides the workspace into at least two areas 14a, 14b. The structures 12 are movable, such as by means of wheels, rollers or castors 16 or by lifting by appropriate handling equipment (not shown). This allows the structures 12 to be moved to move the boundary between the areas 14a, 14b.

[0027] Each of the structures 12 houses a plurality of facilities required by staff in each of the areas 14a, 14b as will be described. Access to these is maintained in the event that the structure 12 is moved to change the relative sizes of the areas 14a, 14b.

[0028] FIG. 1 shows a line of three structures 12. Each houses within it a number of facilities which face one or other of the areas 14a, 14b and are therefore available to personnel within the corresponding area 14. The facilities may be stowed in the structure 12 in a usable form, or may be opened out into the area 14 for use, in which case they would normally be stowed back in the structure 12 if the structure was to be moved, following which they could then be reopened subsequently.

[0029] The overall size of the structures 12 is indicated in FIG. 1 by the presence of personnel. The structures 12 are taller than the personnel in order to screen each area 14 from the other, thereby providing the illusion of separate offices or office suites. The structures 12 have a width which provides an internal capacity sufficient to provide the facilities required, but envisaged to be approximately in the range of 1 m to 3 m. The length of the structures 12 can be selected as is convenient, taking into consideration that a boundary of a given length will require a greater number of structures 12 in the event that the structures are shorter, but that longer structures may be more difficult to manoeuvre when they require to be moved. A length in the region of 4 m to 6 m may be appropriate for many purposes.

[0030] A first structure 12a nearest to the viewing position of FIG. 1, has a long side facing the viewing position and which incorporates a door 18 of substantially the same length as the structure 12 and hinged at one end to one end of the structure 12 so that it may be swung out to the position for use, shown in FIG. 1, or swung back to lie along the side of the structure 12, thereby closing the structure 12 and shielding other facilities provided on that side of the structure.

[0031] The free end of the door 18 may be provided with a ground wheel 20, to assist in handling.

[0032] When opened out, the door 18 and structure 12 define a small office area 24a. Opening the door 18 uncovers a workstation 26 housed within the structure 12. The workstation 26 may comprise a desk area 28 which folds down from a vertical, stowed position to a horizontal position for working and which, in so doing, exposes other facilities 30, such as shelves, storage, computer screens or other electrical or electronic equipment for use by the member of staff 32 working at the workstation 26. The degree of enclosure provided by the structure 12a and door 18 provides an office environment adequate for performing tasks for which the workstation 26 is equipped. Additional facilities can be provided by the face of the door 18, such as a flap 34 which can fold down to be used as a shelf, additional desk area or the like, and which can expose an area of the door 18, or open an aperture forming a window through to a neighbouring office area 24b. Another hinged panel 36 can provide a connecting door between the areas 24a, 24b. The workstation 26 will be provided at a convenient location, such as 38, with services such as heating, lighting, ventilation and air-conditioning. In addition, the structure 12 internally providing for communication facilities, such as cabling for computers, telephones and other communication.

[0033] On its other side, the structure 12a provides only a single feature which is a partition 40, having a stowed condition in which it is stored within the structure 12a, and an extended position in which it projects out from the partition 40, generally perpendicular to the structure 12a and from one end of the structure 12a to define a square or rectangular office area 24c. The partition 40 may be mechanically collapsible for storage, such as by folding, or inflatable to allow convenient storage when deflated. The office area 24c may be much simpler in the facilities provided than the office area 24a and maybe therefore be useful for other roles, such as a meeting room. The structure 12a may incorporate storage facilities for furniture for use in a meeting room environment. This can be moved out into the area 24c, when required.

[0034] The office area 24b is provided by the second structure 12b and again incorporates a work station generally at 42, incorporating a fold-down flap 44 at which a member of staff 46 may work. Additional facilities in the workstation 24b also include canopies 48 which can be unfolded or unrolled from a stowed position within the structure 12b, in order to shield the workstation 42 from above. This may be important, for instance to shield computer screens, video editing screens or the like from extraneous reflections from other lighting. The canopies 48 and the work surface flap 44 can be stowed within the structure 12b when not required.

[0035] The other side of the structure 12b not clearly shown in FIG. 1, faces onto an office area 24d which is simple in form, but benefits from screening provided by the inflatable partition 40 and may thus be usable as part of another meeting room.

[0036] The third structure 12c provides two office areas 24e, 24f. The office area 24e incorporates a fold down desk flap 50 which may fold down to uncover other facilities such as TV, computer or video screens, shelving, storage or the like. Additional storage 52 is provided in the form of a set of shelving mounted on wheels 54 and thereby able to roll in the directions of the double-headed arrow 56 between a stowed position, in which the storage unit 52 is stowed within the structure 12c, and a position illustrated, for use, in which the storage unit 52 has rolled out from the structure 12c to expose shelving 58 and the contents thereof.

[0037] On its other side, the structure 12c defines an office area 24f which has a partition 60 able to fold out from the structure 12c somewhat in the manner of the door 18, but being hinged part way along, at 62, so that the partition 60 and structure 12c together bound three sides of the office area 24f, providing a more private meeting room and for which furniture may be stowed within the structure 12c. Alternatively, the areas 24d and 24f may be used together as a relatively large meeting or conference room shielded by the partition 60 and the partition 40.

[0038] FIG. 1 also illustrates an additional partition member 64 which is free standing and located at a distance from the structures 12. The partition 64 may be mechanically expandable or preferably inflatable, to define a small zone having an entrance at 66, which can provide a private workspace, meeting room or the like, away from the office areas 24. Provision for storing the partition 64, when collapsed, is preferably provided within one of the structures 12.

[0039] FIG. 2 illustrates, more schematically, three structures 12d, e, f. The structures 12d, 12e are abutted end to end, as were the structures 12a, b, c. Preferably, any structure 12 is provided with mutually compatible coupling arrangements by which the structures can be releasably coupled for secure positioning during use.

[0040] The structure 12d can be seen to provide a variety of facilities to either side, including extendible storage 68, partitions 70 which can extend, unfold, inflate or otherwise be provided on the structure 12d, and various flaps 72 which can unfold to provide desk space, canopies, shelving, additional screening or the like.

[0041] The structure 12e is similarly provided with a variety of facilities on both sides, but it can readily be seen that the selection of facilities provided by the structures 12d and 12e is not the same. Thus, the structures 12d, 12e can be used next to each other each to augment the facilities provided by the other A third structure 12f is illustrated in FIG. 2. The structure 12f is not in use. Consequently, the structure 12f has been closed by retracting all of its facilities into their stowed condition within the structure 12f, and closing all external flaps, doors and cupboards, to leave all of the facilities of the structure 12f safely stowed within the structure 12f, which can then readily be moved away by means of its wheels 20, either to another location where it is required, or to storage.

[0042] FIG. 2 illustrates the structure 12e as having various empty cavities across its side face. The reason for this is illustrated schematically in FIG. 3. FIG. 3 illustrates the structure 12e and a range of modules 74 which can be interchangeably installed in the structure 12e to vary the selection of facilities which the structure 12e can provide. The modules 74 may comprise service modules such as a kitchen module 74a, having washing up facilities, storage and perhaps cooking facilities such as a microwave; a seating module 74 having chairs or a sofa, and a sleeping module 74c having a bed. Other service modules could be devised. Partition modules 76 house collapsed folded or deflated partitions of various types, for use as required. Storage modules 78 incorporate types and combinations of types of shelving, media storage, cupboard space, racks and the like.

[0043] It will thus be apparent that in addition to the variation available by different combinations of structures 12, the facilities provided within an individual structure can be changed by replacement of modules 74, 76, 78.

[0044] It will be apparent from the description set out above that a number of the facilities provided by the structures 12 will require connection to external services such as power, environmental control services (heating, cooling, air-conditioning etc.) lighting, communications and drainage. Appropriate wiring, pipework and the like is provided within the structure 12 and there are connection means provided for connection from this wiring and pipework to external services in a manner illustrated highly schematically in FIG. 4. FIG. 4 is a vertical section through a workspace 10 which has, in conventional manner, a void 80 beneath the floor 82, and a void 84 above the ceiling 86. The voids 80, 84 contain services 88 such as pipework for water supply and drainage, wiring for power, telephone and computer communication, and ducting for ventilation, air-conditioning and heating. When the structure 12 is placed in position, appropriate umbilicals 89 are unstowed from the structure 12 and passed through the floor 82 or ceiling 86, as appropriate, in order to make connections with the services provided within the voids 80, 84, thereby connecting those external services to the facilities provided within the structure 12.

[0045] FIGS. 5a and 5b illustrates schematically the workspace 10 when viewed from above, during various different arrangements. In FIG. 5a, the workspace 10 is provided with six structures 12, arranged in two lines of three structures each and positioned to divide the workspace 10 into three areas 14 of approximately equal size. This would suit a situation in which the staff working within the workspace 10 are divided into three teams of approximately the same size, which will therefore require approximately the same area within which to work. Each area 14 is divided from neighbouring areas along its boundary, by the presence of the structures 12. In the manner which has been described above, the structures 12 provide the areas 14 with facilities appropriate to the tasks of the teams working in those areas.

[0046] As the tasks being performed in the workspace 10 develop, the space requirements of the teams (and the composition and therefore the size of the teams themselves) may change. The workspace 10 can then be readily reorganised, for instance to an arrangement illustrated in FIG. 5b. In this arrangement, three structures 12 have been removed for temporary storage at 90, while the three remaining structures have been moved to the centre of the workspace 10 in order to divide the workspace 10 into two areas 14. These areas are shown as being of equal size, but the structures 12 could be located elsewhere, to provide different ratios of area to either side. Two working areas 14 are therefore provided by this arrangement, each provided with facilities from the remaining three structures 12, the choice of which will therefore depend on the tasks to be performed in the areas 14. This reconfiguration of the workspace may require only the simple task of selecting three structures from the six available in FIG. 5a, moving the remainder to store at 90, and repositioning the remainder. Alternatively some further adjustment may be necessary by changing modules of the type illustrated in FIG. 3. However, it will be readily apparent from the above description that the process of restructuring the workspace 10 requires only the selection and movement of structures 12, their connection to themselves and external services as required and then reopening them to expose the facilities which they provide. It is therefore expected that this operation can enable the workspace 10 to be used in a manner which is extremely flexible and can be speedily reconfigured.

[0047] Reconfiguring the workspace is made easier by designing the structures 12 so that the facilities they provide are substantially self-contained, other than requiring connection to external services in the manner described above. Thus, a workstation provided by a structure should preferably provide all of the facilities required for a member of staff to work, so that they can work at any workstation provided by any structure, and the concept of the individual having their own office space is no longer required.

[0048] It will be readily apparent from the above description that very many variations and modifications can be made to the apparatus described, without departing from the scope of the invention. In particular, the facilities and combinations of facilities provided by the structures can be chosen according to the tasks to be performed by staff in the workspace and are not limited to any significant degree by their implementation by means of the structures 12, so long as those facilities can be designed in a manner which allows them to be collapsed, folded or otherwise stowed within the structures when not in use. While some indication has been given of typical sizes for the structures 12, it is to be understood that many other sizes could be used, according to the proposed use.

[0049] The structures could provide computer or other electrical or electronic facilities, storage (including storage which can be removed for use within the work areas, such as furniture), partitions or other barriers which can be stowed within the structure, preferably in collapsed or deflated condition, canopies, food or drink preparation facilities, lavatory facilities, storage facilities and space for receiving interchangeable facility modules.

[0050] Whilst endeavouring in the foregoing specification to draw attention to those features of the invention believed to be of particular importance, it should be understood that the Applicant claims protection in respect of any patentable feature or combination of features hereinbefore referred to and/or shown in the drawings whether or not particular emphasis has been placed thereon.