By Jennifer McEntee
Craft beer taps and espresso machines. Badminton courts and outdoor movie screens. Futuristic seating and strong Wi-Fi signals.
These might sound like amenities at your favorite hipster nightspot. But, they’re also some of the fun elements being incorporated into San Diego’s newer office and residential spaces. The target audience: millennials, a generation that grew up with the internet and doesn’t mind blurring the lines between work, home and play.
Paul Basile of Basile Studio designs both office and residential spaces with an eye toward millennials. Basile is in his mid-40s, so he doesn’t identify as a millennial himself, but he says most of his staff fits within this younger demographic. While trying to figure out what makes them tick, he’s had some revelations.
“They’re not motivated by money,” Basile said. “I’ve learned it’s more about quality of life. It’s working together, not hierarchies and labels.”
Flexible hours and workspaces let millennials feel equally able to play or work, whether at home or at the office.
“The whole point of these creative offices is the employees don’t want to go home,” Basile said, explaining that the typical workday can often land anywhere between 6 a.m. and midnight. “They have that freedom if they just get the job done.”
Millennials are most often defined as those born after 1980, so called because they were the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials have recently surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. It’s a generation that appreciates innovation. Millennials are 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters of new technology than those of other generations, according to FutureCast’s millennial marketing research arm.
When the digital marketing company Underground Elephant wanted to set up shop on J Street in East Village, it called on Basile to design a space that would attract top young talent. The Google-esque office includes flexible workstations, a “whiskey bunker” for private meetings, a pool hall, a full in-house Ballast Point bar and a conversation pit for brainstorming sessions.
Underground Elephant's sunken living room
“There are a lot of firms doing game rooms, with pool tables and bars,” Basile said. “Our concept was to make it comfortable. It has that playfulness, while it can be a home away from home.”
Basile Studio has been called upon by Alliance Residential Co. to design the common areas for Broadstone Makers Quarter, a 269-unit apartment complex that is the residential anchor for the Makers Quarter mixed-use project at 16th Street and Broadway.
Basile is taking the project’s common areas beyond the gym and outdoor grill amenities typical of apartment living. In keeping with the “makers” concept, Basile is designing for Broadstone Makers Quarter a 3-D printing room, a recording studio, a commercial kitchen and a community garden. Basile suspects his industrial-style projects appeal to millennials because they’re a generation that appreciates handmade details.
“It’s more about the craftsmanship,” he said.
Artist rendering of Makers Quarter lobby
Research indicates that millennials are driving the “gig economy,” with entrepreneurs and freelancers eschewing 9-to-5 jobs and staid cubicles in favor of project-based work that lets them work from anywhere. To that end, downtown San Diego has a growing number of co-working office facilities, including Downtown Works, Desk Hub, The Vine and the latest, WeWork’s new six-floor location on B Street. The 88,000-square-foot space could eventually support 1,700 workers who prefer the flexibility of renting a community-like workspace on a monthly basis.
Jesse Lyons, business development manager for Murfey Construction, said his team took into account the more flexible work styles of the younger generation when designing the residential and commercial construction company’s new Hancock Street headquarters. The 2,400-square-foot converted warehouse has an open floor plan with flexible workstations and collaborative workspace for reading plans and hosting small meetings.
Murfey Construction made sure its intranet was fast and cloud-based, its sound system was optimized for digital music services such as Pandora, and its common areas were stocked with creature comforts, including snacks, an espresso machine and beers on tap.
“We designed for keeping folks happy and motivated. We get more work out of them this way,” Lyons said. “Late nights happen sometimes.”
Murfey Construction's new headquarters
Lyons has had a window into how millennials like to live through Murfey’s mixed-use projects. He said they want more than nice apartment finishes and cool communal spaces. They want to be close to public transit and bike lanes and within walking distance of restaurants and gyms.
“It comes down to placement,” he said. “Millennials want to walk to things. They don’t want an acre in the suburbs.”
Bre’an Fox, president of San Diego-based commercial office design firm FS Design Group, said millennials are forcing designers to think differently about design elements such as storage, seating and transitional spaces. For instance, millennials who bike to work want a secure place to store their bicycles, but they don’t need a lot of paper storage such as file cabinets because so much of their work is online. Adjustable standing desks are gaining popularity, as are conference rooms that foster impromptu collaboration, Fox said.
“You might have a room where the walls are all writable surfaces, or where you can pin up ideas,” she said.
FS Design's fitness and entertainment center
Today’s millennial-driven companies want internet connectivity indoors and out, and shared spaces that promote collaboration, fitness and entertainment, Fox said. Sometimes that means space to throw a football; sometimes it means an outdoor movie screen.
While modern-day workspaces bear a strong resemblance to the wide-open, freewheeling spaces Fox designed for companies such as Sony during the late-1990s dot-com boom, Fox said millennials have added a layer of practicality. Yes, they want open, collaborative workspaces, but they also want more private space for “heads-down concentration time” and undisturbed phone calls, even if it’s just a semi-enclosed lounge chair, she said.
“To take a phone call, sometimes it’s more private in a hallway than inside an office,” Fox said. “We encourage clients to incorporate a few niches and nooks in the common areas to have a quick call.”
Millennials are also starting to consider what the design of their spaces means for work-life balance, and even if mixing business with pleasure meshes with their corporate culture, she said.
“What’s happened is our technology and our connectivity has made it so you really don’t take a break. If you don’t work more hours, at least you work more unusual hours,” she said. “We have to make choices about work-life balance, so now what we’re trying to do is design spaces that consider what is the culture of the company. It’s fine to have spaces with cool amenities, but if their culture says it isn’t the kind to use them, it’s a waste.”