Divide and Rule

Vladimir Korolkov
”100% office”, No 3, 2004

Demountable partitions have become an integral part of the Russian office fashion, a way to form a special atmosphere of brevity, lightness, and comfort.

In the office, like in life, freedom is never absolute, and excessive openness may sometimes be a disadvantage. People soon realized that the “open space” principle should not be taken literally. The life of every office is a sum of parallel processes, which should be delimited. Modern office partitions will easily outline the necessary borders and offer a great number of elegant solutions for the working space. Owing to new materials and technologies, the private space of the employees remains intact, and at the same time the important advantages of free layout are preserved - all this making the staff members feel players of one team in a single information space. It is all is only a matter of specific business tasks and of … your imagination.

Modern office – a way to create image

Dynamic business requires adequate HR decisions and fast changes of office functional zoning schemes. In other words, redesign, and even reprofiling, of the rooms is made more and more frequently. Managers realize that the right arrangement of the office space helps increase productivity. In such a situation, capital partitions and walls are no longer suitable. More and more offices are equipped with demountable structures. There are some other reasons, such as the shortest assembly time, simplicity and ease of assembling, absence of construction waste and, finally, a modern look. It is also important that the total cost of the set, materials and assembly of new partitions is little more than the cost of traditional structures of bricks, plates or drywall.

Masons are having a rest

Office partitions – nonbearing and non-permanent walls – are divided into non-relocatable, mobile, and transformable (sliding). As a rule, these are metal modular or framed structures “filled” with various materials - from drywall to glass. An office-corridor system is built in the office with the help of non-relocatable partitions. Such structures are in no way inferior to bearing ones by their characteristics. They have high load-carrying capacity and good sound insulation, and divide the room from floor to ceiling. Partitions may be made of solid or transparent materials. In the latter case, they are often equipped with blinds systems. Door blocks, teller’s windows, modules of different design and functionality can be easily built into such partitions. Mobile partitions are up to two meters high, and are frequently used in open space offices. Their primary purpose is to limit visual contact between the employees within the room; the secondary one is to provide sound insulation. Such partitions are either fixed to the furniture or to the wall, or are installed as an independent structure, sometimes furnished with castors. Sliding (transformable) partitions are used in conference halls and show rooms, where it is often necessary to change the area and functionality of the room. Modules may be folded, moved aside or transported by special guiding lines to the parking areas.

Beautiful does not always mean expensive

Office partition is a universal frame, which can be filled with any “material” content. The frame is usually made of aluminum or steel, the former being 5-20% more expensive. Steel is more durable, but the aluminum profile can be shaped in a more complex way, which significantly increases its load-carrying capacity. Aluminum is regarded as a much more aesthetic material, so it is usually used for decorating partitions in A and B class offices. The framework can be “filled” with any finishing materials. Drywall covered with polymers or drapery, plastic lining, or panels belong to the reasonably priced materials. Chipboard, MDF, and laminated plastic belong to the higher cost category. The most expensive and exquisite materials are veneer sheet, tree body, leather, aluminum or glass, which may be frosted, tinted, sputtered, or combined. The door section is 2-3 times more expensive than an ordinary block. Wing and swing doors are often used. Sliding or foldable modifications save space, but are not soundproof.

Quality factors

Sound insulation of partitions is achieved by using special panels and pads between the structure elements. Specially selected combinations of materials also contribute to reducing the sound wave energy. Special hinges used in the door blocks automatically move forward when the door is closed. Most frequently used multilayer partitions provide the best sound insulation (up to 50 decibel) and can be equipped with an inner cable duct. Depending on the design, it can be located both on the floor level and on the level of the desks. Plate glass single-layered partitions are most suitable for entry zones, receptions, and halls. Their soundproof capacity is lower, about 26-28 decibels. In the rooms where people stay the fire resistance qualities of the partitions are of great importance. There is a unified system of fire-prevention certification. For example, partitions complying with EI-30 standard are able to resist fire for 30 minutes. The best modifications comply with EI-90 standard. The partition vertical surfaces are frequently used for shelves and office accessories. The rail system is very convenient, because it allows for random arrangement of the accessories. Partitions lined with drapery are good for fastening notes and small objects.