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State to revamp office spaces

Posted: June 29, 2013 - 11:12pm
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Symmetrical computers

The State of Alaska is revamping office spaces in Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage in an attempt to save $125 million over the next 10 to 20 years.

Department of Administration Deputy Commissioner Curtis Thayer said that the state owns over 1.5 million square feet of office space and leases another 2 million.

“We found it’s cheaper to have people in the building we own,” Thayer said.

So the state commissioned a study and came up with a plan for how offices should be laid out. The plan addresses how much space an employee should have, what kind of equipment is allowed in their cubicle and the kind of furniture they can have.

“In the Atwood building here we have one department that occupies nine floors of a building,” Thayer said. “Utilizing space standards we thing we can bring them down to six floors.”

Thayer said that particular change will save the department over a million dollars annually.

Many private offices will be eliminated to not only save space, but to allow natural light into spaces where all employees work, Thayer said. Twenty private offices near windows at the Atwood building in downtown Anchorage have already been eliminated.

The plan is also an attempt by the state to modernize its offices.

“We have people who have workstations that are 30 years old,” Thayer said. “They no longer make parts for them and they weren’t designed to have computers and printers.”

Thayer said the new standards will also have an impact of energy use.

“In some of these buildings we’re realizing that as soon as you take down walls, you’re affecting the heating of the building.” Thayer said. “The complaints about offices that are too cold or too hot are going away because this allows for more efficient heating of the building.”

But some employees might still complain about new rules that ban microwaves, mini-fridges and coffee makers in personal spaces. Thayer said when surveying the Atwood Building in downtown Anchorage they found 80 microwaves, over 130 personal refrigerators, close to 90 coffee machines and two George Foreman grills in the offices and cubicles of state employees.

“We wondered why our electrical costs are so high and we wondered why in some buildings the power is tripping,” Thayer said. “We had some employees with 30-gallon aquariums in their cubicles.”

Thayer said the space standards plan increase the size of employee break rooms and adds more appliances.

Stricter standards for which employees can have personal printers will also be enforced.

Thayer said the new standards will be implemented over time.

“Some employees I know are nervous about this but we’re looking at office buildings and space where the lease is up for renewal,” Thayer said. “If their department’s lease is not up for two to three years, then we’re not looking at it right now.”

Thayer said the plan isn’t going to apply to all offices. He said offices in Fairbanks and Nome will have more customized adjustments made to their space.

“If we look at rural Alaska, space standards won’t apply to them. Those are small office spaces and it wouldn’t make fiscal sense,” Thayer said. “(The plan) is not a one-size-fits-all. It’s guidance to help us with all 14 departments.”

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