Southern California Edison


“You can’t drive a ’70 Chevy into the new millennium,” says Claire E. Spence, manager of Facilities Planning and Construction (FP&C) for Southern California Edison. “Nor can you face the challenge of a competitive new market without a state-of-the-art workplace.”

Faced with deregulation of the electric utility industry in California, Southern California Edison wanted to ensure that it was positioned to become a leader in the domestic as well as international energy markets. The company needed a progressive new office environment, one that would reflect its strategic vision and support its evolving work processes.

“We were looking for an environment that reduced facility operation costs and enhanced the culture of our competitive utility business,” says Ms.Spence. “With their hard-wall construction, our offices were designed for the kind of work we did in the early 1970s, when these facilities were built. But the company and the work we do have changed. Now, we have to think differently about our jobs and what our office environment should do for us.”

The Edison F&PC organization began to articulate a vision for a “high-performance” work space–one that would increase tenancy by using space more efficiently, reduce the cost of moving employees and reconfiguring departments, create a pleasant, ergonomic environment while helping employees to work more effectively and encourage teamwork and “over-the-back-fence” conversation.

To accomplish these goals, Edison formed a strategic partnership with Herman Miller, Office Pavilion/Interior Resources, the local Herman Miller dealer, and Interior Space International, the design firm.

This team drew from Herman Miller literature and research as well as from the expertise of Advanced Applications specialists who acted as consultants on everything from suggestions for integrating technology to scenarios for the office of the future. The Herman Miller team also identified outside resources for consultation and design help.

A “beta site” was installed in a quadrant of Edison’s main headquarters building to test drive their “Universal Office Plan,” a concept designed to (1) optimize the use of space while supporting a variety of work processes in standardized workstations and (2) decrease the cost of reconfiguring.

Workstations are arranged along a stationary spine that can be quickly and economically reconfigured by moving the wing walls on the spine. The environment also encourages impromptu conversation and informal gathering with a more open design that provides privacy yet allows eye contact.

The foresight and spirit of exploration that has marked Southern California Edison’s drive into the new millennium also characterizes the relationship the company has formed with its strategic partners. “When I accept advice and counsel from an outsider, it’s someone I need to trust,” says Ms. Spence. “I could not have predicted that we would benefit so much from the research, experience, and insight that Herman Miller has brought to the table.”

© Herman Miller 2007, Zeeland, Michigan

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