BENCHING IS RELATIVELY NEW TO NORTH AMERICA
In fact, it’s only been around since the early part of the 21st century.
The recent recession and lingering economic challenges driving cost reductions, combined with a strong emphasis on collaboration and increased focus on sustainable office design, are all powerful forces behind the emergence of workplace benching. The convergence of these three factors has placed benching in the spotlight as an important part of today’s workplace. There are multiple benching solutions available in the market today. For discussion purposes, they tend to fall into one of three broad categories.
- Benching 1.0
Large stand-alone benching solutions designed for the open plan with limited acoustical and visual barriers and limited flexibility.
- Benching 2.0
(Table-Based Benching): similar to Benching 1.0, except these recent solutions are designed to integrate with other products, such as lower storage, panels, and height-adjustable tables. Newer benching solutions have a smaller footprint than earlier versions, and are designed to better address user needs specifically related to flexibility, mobility, and storage.
- Hybrid Panel-Based Bench
This solution is simply a new application of the tried-and-true panel-based cubicle; it incorporates lower-height panels, rectangular worksurfaces, divider partitions, and mobile storage units to create a layout that reduces the footprint and drives greater interaction and were larger, table-based products with limited flexibility and mobility, which resulted in the products taking a larger footprint than today’s options. Additionally, they were not designed to integrate with panels and other furniture components. Another limiting factor of first generation workbenches was that they were relatively expensive when compared with other furniture solutions such as cubicles.
Many of the early North American office benching products were unique, stand-alone solutions that did not integrate well with other office components. These initial benching solutions were designed to target a niche segment of the office furniture market, specifically industries and functional areas where the work style tended to be more collaborative. Success depended on drawing from the experience and ideas of the collective team, more so than on the brilliance of any single individual. Early adopters included IT project teams, product development teams, advertising and marketing agencies, and other cross-functional groups that needed to become more collaborative in order to succeed in a rapidly changing world. These benching solutions were larger, table-based products with limited flexibility and mobility, which resulted in the products taking a larger footprint than today’s options. Additionally, they were not designed to integrate with panels and other furniture components.
Another limiting factor of first generation workbenches was that they were relatively expensive when compared with other furniture solutions such as cubicles.
By 2010, a new type of benching solution was emerging in North America. The new workbench is a hard- working, table-based solution designed to integrate with the entire office environment. The design is more rectilinear and its mobility and flexibility allow designers to create a myriad of solutions to accommodate a wide range of needs. Early research by Kimball® Office, indicates that new benching solutions occupy less space per worker than Benching 1.0 products, and 20 to 50 percent less space than a typical panel-based cubicle workstation. Actual space utilization savings vary by customer application, depend on the size of the current workstation, and the goals and objectives of the client. Additionally, table-based workbenches tend to be priced slightly lower than panel-based cubicles.
As corporate America moves away from the tall cubicles that dominated the office landscape in the or latter part of the 20th century, and migrates to more open solutions, the panel is finding new relevance in the form of a hybrid panel-based workbench. The essence of this newly morphed solution is its capacity for power and data distribution along the center spine, and its ability to support long horizontal worksurface spans. Facility managers’ familiarity with this solution, along with designers’ years of experience specifying panel solutions, makes hybrid panel-benching a natural fit for clients that seek the advantages of benching but are not quite ready to make the full leap to table-based products.
Benching–An Important Piece of Today’s Workplace
by Terry Carroll, Senior Product and Market Intelligence Manager | Kimball Office
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