Tech Office Layout Blowback: Partitions Weren’t So Bad After All

English: The RedBalloon office - an example of...

In a refreshing push-back against all things currently trendy in office layout, ad agency creative Lindsey Kaufman takes to the pages of the Washington Post today to rail against the now-popular “open office” design.  Inspired by the tech industry, the open office configuration takes away partitions and emphasizes shared space for a whole host of now-familiar reasons. Kaufman writes:

Despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country. Now, about 70 percent of U.S. offices have no or low partitions, according to the International Facility Management Association. Silicon Valley has been the leader in bringing down the dividers. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs and American Express are all adherents.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisted famed architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers. And as a businessman, Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. He famously carried the model into city hall when he became mayor of New York,  making “the Bullpen” a symbol of open communication and accessibility to the city’s chief.

Calling out the “false sense of improved productivity” that bosses take away from office layouts lacking dividers and partitions, Kaufman cites a study published last year in the Journal of Environmental Psychology that finds nearly half of all office workers attribute lack of sound privacy to frustrating distractions leading to poorer performance.

Further, the study finds that the open office provides a solution to a problem that basically nobody ever had — ease of interaction with colleagues. As anybody who’s heard the pitch on the open office layout can recall, office layouts that divide workspaces with walls or partitions tend to interfere with “collaboration” and “the free exchange of information and ideas” about the workplace mission.  Hogwash, says Kaufman:

The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.  Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness. In addition to the distractions, my colleagues and I have been more vulnerable to illness. Last flu season took down a succession of my co-workers like dominoes.

As the new space intended, I’ve formed interesting, unexpected bonds with my cohorts. But my personal performance at work has hit an all-time low. Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults. Those who have worked in private offices for decades have proven to be the most vociferous and rowdy. They haven’t had to consider how their loud habits affect others, so they shout ideas at each other across the table and rehash jokes of yore. As a result, I can only work effectively during times when no one else is around, or if I isolate myself in one of the small, constantly sought-after, glass-windowed meeting rooms around the perimeter.

Adjust your noise-cancelling headphones and read Kaufaman’s entire piece here.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

30. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: office | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sears CEO Downbeat On Its Property Portfolio

In a recent CNBC video, Sears CEO Eddie Lambert issues a shocking, yet apt comparison between Sears retail properties and those imposing telephone company central office buildings that house the landline telephone network. Both are windowless bunkers, and both are temples of the way things used to be instead of the shape of things to come. This clip captured some conversation following on this notable utterance from the bridge of a troubled retail ship.

Because I like a challenge, here are my thoughts for rescuing Sears and bringing crowds back into the stores. Two words: classic showcases. Restoration Hardware, the chain mentioned by Jim Cramer in the clip, employs throwback and vintage product design, but the irony with Sears is that what’s cool now at Restoration Hardware used to be Sears’ bread and butter inventory in past decades. If I was the turnaround consultant of record for Sears, I’d advise them to dig into catalogs past and reintroduce midcentury-modern merchandise styles using a series of in-store events across departments to create buzz.

Of course, not every vintage product works. They should skip the vintage landline telephones.

22. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Retail | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Commercial Real Estate News Roundup For December 18, 2014

English: Downtown Wichita, Kansas

Suburban office campuses are opening downtown spinoffs in a chase for youth, 20 simple rules for success in commercial real estate, and the Wichita Lineman is still on the line – it’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for December 19, 2014.







19. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
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REITWorld: John Case, CEO of Realty Income

John Case, President and CEO of Realty Income Corp (NYSE: O)  talks sustainability and durability of its acquisitions and how they drive dividends.  Year to date, the REIT has sourced $20B of acquisitions and expect to close $1.4 billion more by year’s end. The clock’s ticking on that, but let’s not forget how much holiday shopping is put off until the last minute.

15. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: REIT | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brick that Snaps Together Like LEGOs

Picture of 3-d Printed Polybrick

While the 3D printing revolution continues to rewrite the rules of construction, what’s beginning to emerge are some seriously mind-bending structural possibilities using the technology. Bricks printed using ceramic powder and epoxy can take nearly any physical form, including forms designed for maximum structural strength and design flexibility with minimum weight. How many more ho-hum cookie-cutter strip malls should we expect to see built in ten years from an industry that revolutionizes its building blocks in previously unimagined and economical ways?

The answer is: fewer. With apologies to anybody who actually likes those cookie-cutter designs, let me say that it’s about time.

These bricks come to us from the Sabin Design Lab.  From the great blog

The lightweight interlocking PolyBricks were developed by the Sabin Design Lab in collaboration with Cornell and Jenny Sabin Studio. It is the first mortarless 3D-printed wall assembly that maximizes structural strength and allows for the production of complex curved structures. PolyBricks feature tapered dovetail joints that have unique positions within a whole. The algorithms that interconnect the components allow aggregative systems to use the force of gravity to lock the bricks in place and strengthen the structures. The team claims that this technique can ensure the construction of entire buildings without generating waste.

Research on the PolyBricks project is based on experimenting with the production of non-standard components and curvilinear forms found in nature. Cost-effective and lightweight, PolyBricks seem to be superior to conventional solid bricks. The project pioneers the development of ceramic as a viable building material, which went from manual and mechanical to fully digital production.

Read more: Students 3D-Print a Better Brick that Snaps Together Like LEGOs | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building 


10. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Construction | Leave a comment

Commercial Real Estate News Roundup For Dec. 8. 2014

Waterview, Chicago along Chicago River

A Navy town’s central business district moves full speed ahead, Chicago’s hard hats ask “what recession?” and the drawbacks of rising rents in Denver.  It’s all here in the national commercial real estate news roundup for December 8, 2014.






08. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: News | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 comment

SEC Talks Federal Crowdfunding Regs At Two Events

Stephanie Speer, NAR’s Commercial Regulatory Policy Representative would like to let you know that Uncle Sam is grappling with all the implications of the 2012 passage of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. But this isn’t another case of “the government bureaucracy expanding to meet the needs of the expanding government bureaucracy”.  This is about legally raising capital using crowdfunding techniques on the internet, a topic near to the heart of every dealmaker faced with stiff credit availability in a banking environment dominated by, well, banks.  Enjoy Stephainie’s guest post on a pair of SEC events on crowdfunding.  - WG

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) held a two-day event in Washington D.C. focusing on small business capital creation, with a special emphasis on the implementation of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012. The SEC Government Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation kicked off the event with a roundtable discussion featuring panelists from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and SEC, followed by a second day of panel discussions and work groups.

For context, regulators view the JOBS Act as partner legislation to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Both were created in response to the Great Recession to focus on bank regulations. The JOBS Act was designed to provide more avenues for small businesses to raise capital, expand their operations, and create more jobs. Most of the JOBS Act provisions are in place but there is one provision not yet finalized that is generating a great deal of buzz among many groups of people: crowdfunding.

Much of the discussion at the event focused on how to make crowdfunding regulation work at the federal level. The SEC has proposed regulation that is not finalized and there isn’t yet an anticipated date of completion. Many states already have state-specific crowdfunding laws, but those are limiting to businesses because they only deal with activities occurring within a state. Businesses, investors, and state regulators are clamoring for the federal regulations to be completed so that crowdfunding can legally expand across state borders.

NAR has been monitoring the proposed crowdfunding regulations and working with experts and regulators in the field, as it views crowdfunding as another potential source of funding for commercial real estate. For additional information, check out our recent article in the fall edition of Commercial Connections on the subject (available here) and please contact me at with any questions.

05. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Government | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Condo Liens – And How Powerful They Are

Architectural model promoting highrise condomi...


The common areas of a condominium property — think swimming pool, yards, elevators, etc. — are commonly owned by the all unit owners in the condominium. Owners of units in the condo make “common expenses” payments in order to maintain (and maintain an interest in) the common areas.  But what happens when non-payment of common expenses by a unit owner occurs?


That’s the topic of today’s post at JD Supra, also known as my favorite legal blog in the commercial property market space. In Matthew J. Wilson’s post, we learn that  non-payment of common expenses is a matter usually resolved by the condominium corporation exercising a lien right against the non-payer’s unit, such lien to cover unpaid amount, collection and legal costs, and interest.

But as is so often the case in the legal arena, little happens automatically and much is about dotting I’s and crossing T’s. In the case of non-payment of common expenses, a Certificate of Lien is essential to obtain – and hoops need to be jumped through to obtain it:

In order to facilitate this form of communal ownership of property, individual unit owners have to make “common expenses” payments in order to maintain the common elements of the condominium.  Since each individual unit owner depends on the others to make their payments in order to maintain the property, the Condominium Act, 1998 provides assistance in enforcing the payment of common expenses.  If a unit owner defaults in payment of his or her common expenses payments, the condo corporation has a lien right against the defaulting owner’s unit. The lien covers the unpaid amount of common expenses as well as the interest, reasonable legal costs, and legal expenses incurred by the corporation in collecting the outstanding payment.

Registration of Liens

While the corporation’s lien arises immediately and automatically upon default, there are several legal steps that must be taken.  First, a Certificate of Lien should be registered within three months after the default first occurred.  A lien is only enforceable for non-payment going back three months prior to registration.  For instance, if default began on January 1, but a lien was only registered on April 30, the condo corporation would only have an enforceable lien for arrears owing after February 1. However, once registered the lien is effective for any continued non-payment that occurs after registration.

As well, notice of the lien should be provided to the unit owner 10 days before registration personally or by registered mail.  It should also be provided to any others who have a legal interest in the unit, such as a bank holding a mortgage, on or before registration.

Read Wilson’s entire post at JD Supra here.  And remember: nothing you read here at The Source should be constituted as legal advice.


04. December 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Condominium | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commercial Real Estate News Roundup For Nov. 24, 2014

Map of Oregon highlighting Washington County

Map of Oregon highlighting Washington County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Multifamily values, investors reaching for the solidity of commercial real estate, and greater Portlandia (Washington County) embraces a new industrial development. It’s all here in the Commercial Real Estate News Roundup for November 24, 2014








24. November 2014 by Wayne Grohl
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Tenants, Taxes, Insurance And Maintenance: Triple Net Leases Explained

Commercial property ownership doesn’t have to come with the classic landlord obligations of taxes, maintenance and insurance.  As some investors will tell you, success in property investment can be measured by net trips to the mailbox: if a property owner is writing more checks than she is receiving, there’s often a way to improve that situation by offloading costs onto tenants. In a nutshell, that’s what the triple-net lease does — assigns the costs of property taxes, insurance and maintenance to the tenant as enunciated in the lease agreement.

While the idea seems revolutionary to those who are first hearing it, it’s important to remember there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Triple net isn’t appropriate in every case. The fact is that the creditworthiness of tenants — related usually the degree to which they are backed with guarantees that come with national corporate presence — is the hinge point around which a triple net proposition revolves.

Another reason triple net might not work for the landlord is the fact that tenants who pay taxes, maintenance and insurance necessarily seek lower rent payments. What this does to an owners NOI (net operating income) on the property is of course lower it, which means putting pressure on downstream cash flow requirements that may have been put in place as a result of some portfolio management technique.

Looking for more perspectives on net lease agreements? Check out these short videos from experts, agents and brokers around the US on the subject. It’s useful to hear the different angles on net, double-net and triple-net leasing structures all in one handy spot.


Wherein Chris Mirabella, a financier of triple-net properties based out of Carlsbad, CA gets into his company’s history with triple net and what the leas structure means at various stages of the deal.



Here we find Michael Bull of the Commercial Real Estate Show delivering intel on the net tenant lease sector interviewing CE Hutton of the Hutton Company.



Giving a shorter, more street-level perspective is Edina, MN’s Scott Miller of Keller Williams.

21. November 2014 by Wayne Grohl
Categories: Leases | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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