Power of Place - Live from Austin, TX.

On Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 PDR kicked off its Austin expansion by hosting PDR Perspectives, a lively symposium addressing the ever changing landscape of workplace design.  The topic of discussion was “Collegiate to Corporate: Workplace Insights from Learning Environments.”  The event drew a crowd of over 50 Austin area experts who came to listen and learn from an all-star group of panelists Eric Carville, Liz Elam, Drew Jones, Lauri Goodman Lampson, and Doug Lowe.  The event was hosted in downtown Austin, at the celebrated coworking hub TechSpace.  Techspace currently has 8 locations around the country.  PDR is designing the first Houston location, scheduled to open early 2017.   

The discussion focused on the changing nature of work, due in part to generational influences and the blend from higher education to the corporate world, and offered insightful discourse to the diverse crowd of commercial real estate professionals.

PDR’s Workplace Strategist, Allyson Patterson, moderated the discussion.  Here are a few highlights from the panel discussion:

Doug Lowe, President of Facility Programming and Consulting started off the panel discussion by walking into the crowd as a visual example that college education is changing. "One of the things that is striking about a college environment is that for centuries the professor stood in the front of the room and imparted knowledge to you.  Today college education is no longer directed from the front of the room," said Lowe. Lowe went on to list the most important aspects that are changing which include some of the following: 1) New teaching modalities, including the ability to incorporate remote, asynchonous content. 2) Advancements in software for higher education. 3) Increased connectivity, making greater access possible. 

Students today are entering school and are learning in active working environments.  It’s what they know and it will be what they expect from their employer.  Principal + President of PDR, Lauri Goodman Lampson, added that "The best part of that is their having that influence on the entire workforce.  They are bringing that attitude, their tech knowledge, and their desire to learn to the workforce and that's influencing those of us that are already in the workforce.”  In a later portion, Lampson shared a great statistic stating, “Employees that have some flexibility and power of choice in where they work give an additional 20% more effort in their work.”   

Drew Jones, Partner at OpenWork Agency shared that the main reason we still need offices is because "people still need to collaborate" and although we can work virtually from anywhere, anytime what we are seeing is the creation of better spaces. "People identify with where they are physically over time," said Jones.  Therefore, the culture that a workplace offers is important to draw those individuals.   

Most of my tenants are tech folks and they, "[sic] want to be downtown, where all the music is, where all the food is, where are the hiking and bike trails are," shared Eric Carville of Sr. VP for JLL.  Carville shared a client story about a bank who wanted their space to look and feel more like a tech space and less like a traditional bank, so it was designed as such and the bank president initially wasn’t convinced that it was going to work. Fast forward to today, and the bank considers the design of the space to be very successful.  Its employees are loving it, and the space is focused on how they want people to feel.   

Liz Elam, founder of Link Coworking and self-titled as the "Outlier of the Group", shared that although she agrees that what people want is community that it doesn't have to be downtown. Elam opened her first coworking space outside of downtown 6 years ago where she spent every day explaining to people what coworking was. At that time there were about 4 coworking spaces and today there are over 40 in Austin alone. "With large corporations having 70% of their employees reporting to be disengaged and unhappy providing an alternative space where people can go that is closer to where they live is a really important thing," said Elam.  

Click here to view the Facebook Live panel discussion in its entirety. 

Click here for more information on PDR and Coworking. 

Shawna Hills



Austin Designer, Shawna Hills has rejoined PDR as our Regional Director to lead the broader Texas market.  Hills has over 20 years of design and management experience including being a Principal at PDR for 8 years, before leaving the firm to relocate her family to Austin in 2008.  “We’re excited to answer the unmet demand for high performance workplace engineering in Central Texas” says Hills.