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In the late 1980s, then-president Ronald Regan famously stated, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’ He was talking, of course, about the Berlin Wall, that most famous of barriers between east and west Germany, which came down in 1989, televised internationally and with much celebration. Businesses were watching too, and starting in the early 1990s, the office environment was never the same.

Businesses got rid of their walls on a grand scale. The first boom was the harbinger; tech companies with loads of venture capital invested in giant boiler room type layouts, creating open spaces wherever and whenever they could. Open concept was de rigeur, and any company who claimed to be forward-thinking avoided walls, any walls. Whether or not this was actually influenced by international events is up for debate, but the timing is undeniable. As quickly as the walls came down, businesses realized there are times where a wall is, in fact, necessary.

It was a messy back peddle; as a quick fix to regain private spaces, stick-built walls of lumber, steel and drywall were commissioned, often hastily, on protracted schedules and at great cost, both financially and in terms of business interruption. They achieved separation, but at the expense of sensible design and budgeting. It was ugly, and the vestiges of the Great Wall Exodus remain with us today, in the form of badly thought-out private offices, conference rooms and other closed areas that permanently take up huge amounts of space, hoard natural light, and limit interaction.

The furniture industry responded to the wall-less trend by engineering and producing demountable wall systems that have evolved today into the easiest, most cost effective way to achieve separation in the workplace without sacrificing… anything. These modular systems and their flexible kit of parts are not only beautiful, they can be installed, moved, and stored for a fraction of the cost of traditional walls. Conference rooms, private offices, team pods, even entrances and lobby spaces- all can be defined with modular partitions that include:

  • Glass, solid and combination panels

  • Preassembled units

  • Tip-in installation

  • Attachments for grid or finished ceilings

  • Removable wall tiles

  • Plug-and-play power and data

  • Laminate, veneer, markerboard and other panel materials

  • Multiple door options

We at burkeMICHAEL+ have been among the loudest voices in the story about open concept office space layouts. Removing walls establishes places for ideas to flow, supporting casual interactions which become collaborations, resulting in better communication, increased productivity, and happier teams. And yet sometimes… you gotta have a wall. We’ve seen a serious uptick in the number of companies investigating this limitless, flexible, efficient and FAST way of integrating modular wall systems in their workspaces. We have dozens of case study demonstrating how companies saved hundreds of thousands of dollars using modular partitions in place of traditionally built walls. So much so, we’ve created a whole presentation, with real numbers to share. And we’re going on the road.

We are offering complete wall audits at no cost to any company seeking to regain control of their space, while retaining flexibility and budget. Specialists from our showroom will visit your space to show exactly where, when, and how much money you can save with Haworth’s Enclose wall systems, in real time, with no obligation.

Modular walls are finally having their moment. Contact us to schedule a free audit. We’ll even bring sledgehammers.

The burkeMICHAEL+ Team

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