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WEST ORANGE, NJ-When devising office layouts for today’s workers, designers should keep in mind the desires of future employees. That was one of the points made during a panel on “Space Trends and the Needs of Today’s Tenants,” sponsored by NAIOP-NJ.

Andrew Garnar-Wortzel, principal and strategic director at Gensler, said that once the baby boomers retire, offices will be populated by a younger generation that is accustomed to a different kind of work environment. Therefore, he said, offices designed today must take into account the needs of tomorrow’s labor force, which is embracing the concept of a mobile workplace.

His colleague and fellow panelist, Dana M. Jenkins, principal and design director at Gensler, agreed. “Mobility is important to the upcoming generation of workers,” she said.Such mobility, however, could signify “the need for half of the real estate we have today,” Garnar-Wortzel said. “But it also requires a better performing workplace.”

Joining Garnar-Wortzel and Jenkins on the panel, which was held here Monday evening, was Frank D. Campana, senior vice president of corporate real estate and facilities for Wyndham Worldwide Corp., and Edward S. Walsh, president of the Walsh Co. LLC. The discussion was moderated by Richard D. Marchisio, principal and president of Lee & Associates.

Much of the discussion revolved around the creation of Wyndham’s headquarters facility in Parsippany. Back in 2007, Mack-Cali Realty Corp. agreed to build a 250,000-square-foot building for the hotel company.

Jenkins said that one of the main goals of the Wyndham project was to create a flexible work environment that facilitated information sharing among the different business units. Before development kicked off, Wyndham staffers participated in an online poll of what they would like to see in a new headquarters, Campana said. “The culture has to mesh with the workplace,” he noted, adding that employees were kept abreast of the building’s progress through meetings and a website.

Marchisio asked the panelists if the current recession is forcing businesses to operate in less space. Garnar-Wortzel replied that even before the current economic slump hit, companies were looking to do more in fewer square feet. “There was a steady trend toward smaller individual footprints,” he said. “That did not change with the downturn.”Walsh noted that the Wyndham project is striving for LEED certification. Doing so, he admitted, does add significant cost to a project. Yet in the future, the expense of building to LEED standards will not increase and will become just an accepted cost of development. As for whether to move or retrofit an existing space, Walsh said it is “shocking” how much it can cost to revitalize an outdated building and that it can sometimes be cheaper to move.

The subject how to handle the empty spaces that are left after employees are let go–a phenomenon known as “swiss cheese”–also came up. Garnar-Wortzel said there are several options. A company can condense its footage and sublet unused space, or it can convert those empty pockets into open, collaborative areas, he said.

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