August 20, 2019

Unlocking New Rentable Square Feet In Historic Office Buildings Utilizing Technology

Technology enhances our buildings and workspaces in countless qualitative ways: think improved productivity, engagement and collaboration. But what about when architects and designers leverage technology to expand the rentable square feet within an existing office building – while uncovering new angles and spaces that activate classic historic features? We call that a win for designers, tenants and owners alike.

In historic buildings, the bulky mechanical equipment of yesteryear required a significant amount of space, and was usually stashed in out-of-the-way spaces like basements and attics. Modern mechanical equipment is typically many times smaller and can be placed on the roof. When owners today upgrade building infrastructure, they typically open up spaces that could be occupied by tenants. But the design challenge remains: how to transform dark, oddly shaped areas into modern spaces. Here, designers and architects can creatively apply virtual reality (VR) and 3D modeling technology to help prospective tenants envision the redesigned space.

At the historic 231 S. LaSalle building in Chicago, Wright Heerema was tasked with designing an amenity lounge and fitness center in concert with a significant revamping of the tenant spaces, including an expansive roof deck with an outdoor bar and grilling area, all geared toward creating a tenant-friendly, amenity-rich building culture. At the same time, the owners engaged our team to help visualize how they might use a space previously occupied by outdated mechanical equipment that was to be freed up when new mechanical equipment was installed on the roof. The owners needed a way to portray how the space might be used while it was still filled with outdated equipment and furniture.

Our team applied VR and 3D modeling technologies in new ways to the challenge of 231 S. LaSalle’s mechanical attic. WHA produced 3D renderings and fly-through videos of the 21st floor (above) to demonstrate the viability of renovating the space to the building owners. Since the former space was so unusual and previously taken up by mechanical equipment, the VR visualization was essential to illustrating how the space could function as rentable office space. The VR tour allowed the building owners – and then later, the national coworking company that now occupies the space – to see the potential exactly as we did.

View the technology we’ve used in this project and others here.

See the design we implemented on the first floor of 231 S LaSalle here.