Modular Wall Systems vs Drywall: Which is Best for Your Office Renovation

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Haworth Enclose Modular Walls

What do you do when you need to change your office layout?

You may assume that drywall is the most cost-effective choice for making office layout changes. And if you only consider the up-front dollar-cost of installing drywall, you may be right – but the overall cost of installing drywall quickly surpasses the value of moveable walls when you take long-term ROI into account.

By taking a holistic approach to office layout changes, you can develop a moveable wall solution that empowers your office to respond to business demands flexibly. Unlike drywall, moveable wall systems are portable – your office layout remains a valuable asset even if you move from one rented building to another.

The Hidden Costs of Drywall Installation

Drywall installations in Canada can cost anywhere between $5 and $6 per square foot once taping, mudding, sanding, sealing, and cleaning are taken into account. Some drywall contractors charge minimum rates that can reach as high as $1500.

And this is just the cost of the drywall itself.  Once you start to add in painting, running electrical and data cables and the days or weeks that the area being worked on is unuseable, the cost continues to creep upwards.

Partitioning a meeting room into two medium-sized offices would qualify as a low-cost job, but there are not many opportunities to lower prices since drywall installers still need to buy and transport gypsum board and then perform the labour necessary to hang the drywall.

Drywall installers have costs of their own that must be compensated by the prices they charge. These include salaries, insurance, tool maintenance, and other factors. Manufacturers of modular walls have to cover the costs of doing business as well but are often able to operate with lower overhead thanks to the modular nature of the product.

But the real hidden cost of drywall installation involves the time spent mounting the drywall (and tearing it down).

Drywall installation is a labour-intensive process that typically results in gypsum dust finding its way into everything.  To keep the dust at bay, drywall installers need to move furniture and lay down protective plastic sheets before starting, rendering a significant portion of your office unusable for a short period. 

The hassle and mess is only compounded if we start to consider adding glass to our interior walls, as has been the trend in recent years. 

Due to their modular nature, glass moveable wall layouts creates no mess and avoids disturbing nearby workstations. For the entire office, business, as usual, can continue unabated.

When Drywall Doesn’t Work

If the change to your office layout is something you have sufficient time to plan for, you can usually compensate for this installation period; but this becomes a powerful disincentive for implementing layout changes quickly.

Drywall projects also become an investment that can only pay itself off over the period your office remains in that specific location. If your organization’s office needs to scale up or down, you may find yourself paying for drywall projects from which the company never truly benefitted.

This makes drywall a poor choice for rented offices, particularly in cases where altering the layout of the building’s interior requires owner approval. Drywall is a permanent, expensive, difficult, and dirty solution to a problem that can be solved more efficiently with moveable wall systems.

Being able to pack up your office walls and take them with you upon moving from one rented building to another ensures that the company does not lose its investment. This potentially adds savings by reducing the cost of moving, making the company far more flexible in its response to office real estate conditions.

Modular Walls vs. Drywall – Building Flexible Office Spaces

A moveable wall system lets office managers respond to office layout needs with flexibility and agility. In an office of 30 or 40 employees, a large executive office could be created out of several smaller offices without disturbing other employees the way a drywall installation would.

Moveable wall systems save money when compared to drywall solutions because they encourage flexibility.  Although they typically cost more up-front than a single drywall installation project, they steeply reduce ongoing costs.

  • Moveable walls allow companies to make optimal use of their office space, reducing the amount of wasted area.
  • Moveable walls allow the creation of project-specific configurations, such as dedicated space for seasonal temp workers – that can easily be absorbed back into the primary floor plan after the project is complete.
  • Moveable walls have built-in electrical and data cabling, allowing panels to removed, replaced and reinstalled in a plug and play manner.

With drywall, specialists must build and remove office interior walls in a time-consuming process. That means that most drywall projects include one of two extra costs – the cost of eventually removing the drywall, or the cost of keeping the office layout in its current arrangement.

While you may not believe that there are any costs to leaving your office configuration in its current state, the factors that combine to generate expenses are there.

According to the Harvard Business School, workplace configuration can make a significant difference in the productivity of individual employees. An ad-hoc office configuration cannot address potential value-added configurations, largely leaving these considerations up to chance.

By implementing a moveable wall system in your office, not only can you design and implement a layout that fosters employee productivity with minimal downtime, but you can rest assured that you have the flexibility you need to adjust to ever-changing business conditions.

Want to learn more about the benefits of modular walls? Download our free White Paper on Moveable Walls today!

Cory Porteous
Marketing Manager
Office Interiors

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