Maars Launches New Wall Product to Create Privacy in Open Office

THIS SIMPLE-TO-USE, HACKABLE PRODUCT 15 DESIGNED FOR WORKERS TO CREATE THEIR OWN PRIVACY IN OPEN-OFFICE STRUCTURES AND PERSONALIZE THEIR OWN WORKPLACES.

The whole point of an open office, is, well, to keep it open. But a truly open office comes with a high price. Workers get distracted, the space can seem cavernous and impersonal, and the workplace becomes a fishbowl.

Striking a balance between open, collaborative paces and the exhausting noise and lack of privacy that ill-designed open spaces create is a difficult task. The right tools certainly help. That's where M923, a new concept from Maars Living Walls, comes into its own.

This simple-to-use, hackable product is designed for workers to create their own privacy in open-office structures and personalize their own workplaces. M923 is a modular panel system, though not in the sense of Dilbertville panels of old.

Instead, M923 creates a flexible and versatile system. The concept combines modern wall decoration, functional office furniture and movable walls. The result is a complete system that provides privacy in what Maars calls "an aesthetic and ergonomically responsible manner."

Flexibility and versatility played a major role in the development of M923. The panels are available in different colors and materials (including moss, cork, absorption panels, whiteboards and textiles). Users can easily change the panels and design the wall themselves. Because the panels are easy to change, it's possible to adjust the appearance of a room very quickly and inexpensively. And because the panels are 99% reusable, the system is sustainable and environmentally friendly. With its many possibilities, M923 not only can be used in an office environment but also at events or in restaurants and shops.

As a product, it is a bit of a departure for Maars  Living Walls, the Dutch company best known for its high-end modular wall systems. Chief Executive Officer Menno de Vries acknowledged M923 is a unique offering from the company, but early adoption by the company's dealers and designers means it is the right product for the right time for offices where concentration can be difficult - and where workers don't want to be bothered to call facility managers when they want to change the look and feel of a space.

"This product allows you to create your own wall panels," he said. "It is a very modular system. It can be used for offices, of course, but also for shops, restaurants and many other applications."

The speed at which a space can be redesigned using M923 is impressive. A structure holds the panel pieces, which snap in and out of place using a simple magnetic click-and-snap system. The layout of the panels is determined by the user. It is informal and lets the worker control his or her own space, de Vries said. The panels themselves are light and easy to move.

Maars understands architects and interior designers make the best designs, but within these designs people want to create their own workplaces. More and more companies are encouraging employees to do just that. M923 is a flexible system that allows people to easily create their working environment, but still within the architect's design intent.

That takes a bit of education on Maars' part. Managers need to be open to allowing workers to hack the space and make it their own. When they do, it opens up a world of creativity.

Despite conflicting evidence of its benefits or disadvantages, the open office is here to stay. Spaces need to retain their open character because these environments ensure better communication and collaboration. But people who work in open spaces also desire some privacy; a more defined workplace. So it's important the positive aspects of open space aren't lost by applying permanent separations. It's important for the space to remain semiopen. Existing solutions have been project-based and inflexible, unsustainable and not reusable. Even more problematic, they don't offer interaction with the user. M923 solves all of these challenges, according to Maars.

Creating a product so different from anything else on the market has its challenges, de Vries said. Giving architects and designers such flexibility can be paralyzing to their creative process. Where does one begin to design using M923? Maars made it easy by creating an app for users and architects. Users and architects can discover the possibilities of M923 with an augmented reality app available on the App Store and Google Play. The AR app allows the customized wall with all available panels to be placed virtually in a room. The selfassembled wall with accessories  then can be easily forwarded to order.

"The app can be used to change a work area virtually," said Sanneke Horstman-Peffer, PR&D manager. "It is possible to modify the work environment, scan the floor, scan surfaces and reconfigure the product, all using the app. The app contains finishes and colors as well and once the wall is created, it allows you to order it through our system."

With M923, Maars offers a flexible solution for an ergonomic workplace that promotes productivity and enhances the working atmosphere. Because M923 makes it possible to design and organize one's own workplace, the slogan "the wall is yours" has been chosen.