As demand for engineering expertise grows exponentially, will open-office plans keep up? Learn how a new design

approach might help facilities teams improve response to specific space requirements of technology engineers.

Technology Engineering Workspaces


From the perception of privacy to full collaboration, research studies exploring the impact and potential of the open-plan office abound. These studies fail, however, to account for the differences and unique qualities in workflow and types of spaces necessary to support distinct industries. Additionally, these studies often fail to account for differences in controlled variables. For example, a study on privacy might not take into account roles or genders. These shortcomings lead to discrepancies in results. A 2018 study published in the journal of Royal Society argued that open-plan office decreases collaboration whereas a 2017 research project (recipient of Certificate of Research Excellence from Environmental Design Research Association) showed the positive impact of the open-plan office on collaborative behavior. Both studies used sensor network technology to measure collaboration before and after moving from closed offices to an open plan environment. Considering the differences between workstyles across various industries, as well as differences in controlled variables across research studies, one should be cautious about relying on broad generalizations. Prompted by the explosion of engineer-rich companies in Silicon Valley, our study examines the specific impact of open-plan office design on software engineers – with a focus on their values, needs, and behaviors. It explores and recommends multiple planning and furniture options arrived at through cocreation workshops reframing the role of user from research subject to research and design partner, ideating around new choices through tapping into the expert knowledge and creative potential. Our research is aimed at presenting an alternative framework to the duality of open vs closed office and to support facilities departments’ decision-making processes. The study engaged with a group of engineers, designers, and layers of facilities departments in engineering companies to explore these new alternatives. The project goal is twofold: to provide unique insights into Silicon Valley software engineers’ behavior and work habits within the realms of privacy and collaboration. And to demonstrate efficient and effective strategies for facilities departments to co-create future workplaces in partnership with engineers, to create innovative options rather than mandating generic and often stereotypical industry assumptions.

Meet the Research Team

Lisa Macaluso

Principal / Vice-President, IIDA, LEED AP

Susan Foong

Design Principal / Vice-President


Adaheid Mestad

Design Anthropologist, Organizational Leader

Amin Mojtahedi
Design Strategist, PhD, Assoc. AIA

Christa Galbraith

Design Coordinator