Acoustics are vital in the ‘coffice’ age

What do you get when you mix an office workspace with a coffee shop or café? The answer is a ‘coffice’.

The unique office environment Eminent, which is situated in the Malmö district of Hyllie, has such a coffice. Mixing work and relaxation requires considerable thought and care, explains one of the architects behind the project.

If you have ever tried to get work done in a café, you know that you rarely feel particularly productive. The tables are not designed for laptops, the chairs give you a backache, and you find it difficult to concentrate because of all the movement and noise around you from the other café-goers.

However, if you visit the café in the office building Eminent in Malmö, Sweden, there is every chance that you’ll actually be able to tick off some of the tasks on your list. This is because the café is not just a café, but a ‘coffice’ – half coffee shop and half office in both name and reality.

“The café, which is located on the ground floor, is a coffee shop and office rolled into one, literally. The entire ground floor with large glass sections offers views of the surroundings while welcoming passers-by who fancy a freshly brewed cup of coffee inside. But the café area is also open and welcoming for those working in Eminent, explains Åsa Jentsch, architect SAR/MSA from the company Kanozi Arkitekter.

Kanozi Arkitekter was responsible for the design of the Eminent office building which, as you can read in this article, is the first of its kind in Sweden to be certified according to the WELL Building Standard (WELL). It is a standard that focuses in particular on the health and well-being of people.

Exposed installations below acoustic panels

But how does one, as an architect, create a comfortable environment for work and relaxation in a building which, like Eminent, is characterised by an industrial look with exposed steel structures, raw concrete surfaces and brickwork?

“Creating a good acoustic environment is imperative. Not least because the ground floor where the coffice is situated is intended for both socialising and work. Therefore, we chose Troldtekt acoustic panels for the ceiling. Troldtekt is a material with a textural surface that goes extremely well with the industrial character of the building,” explains Åsa Jentsch. She adds that the panels are installed above the MEP installations in the ceiling to preserve the industrial look.

Challenge of large open spaces

The acoustics of modern office buildings and restaurants both require careful consideration, says Åsa Jentsch:

“Generally speaking, you need to think very carefully about the layout of the building and how the rooms and functions interact with each other. In open-plan offices, for example, quiet rooms should be available for meetings and tasks that require concentration,” she says.

“In addition, one should choose sound-absorbing materials to ensure good acoustics. This applies to materials that form the fabric of the building such as floor coverings and suspended ceilings, but also to the choice of furniture, textiles and so on,” she says, adding:

“In a restaurant environment, we need to work even more with the acoustics, as the rooms are often large and open. Due to their size, ceiling and wall surfaces are fantastic as the right cladding can be used absorb a lot of sound. The effect is also enhanced by adding upholstered furniture and other textiles,” says Åsa Jentsch.

Corona changes requirements

The merging of work and relaxation, as reflected by the coffice concept, has only become more relevant in light of the corona pandemic.

“We’re seeing different trends as a result of corona. Teleworking has become a matter of course for many people, which might mean that traditional offices will not be needed to the same extent in future. On the other hand, we believe that the vast majority of employees want to be part of a social context and will therefore need to meet physically. But it’s quite possible that meetings in future will take place more often in, for example, cafés and restaurants as an alternative to traditional workplaces,” says Åsa Jentsch, and continues:

“Today, it’s clear that people expect to be able to work in cafés and restaurants everywhere, and they naturally expect enough power sockets to be available etc.”

Åsa Jentsch, architect SAR/MSA from the company Kanozi Arkitekter.

Facts: Eminent

Project: Eminent office building near Malmö, Sweden
Architects: Kanozi Arkitekter

Troldtekt products:

Ceiling panels: Troldtekt acoustic panels
Colour: Natural grey
Structure: Ultrafine (1.0 mm wood wool)
Edge design: Square edge and rebate for exposed profile, K0-FS
Installation: With T24 profile system

>> Read more about Eminent in the Troldtekt reference section