Muhanad Ajinah is a seasoned Design Director and Architect with a demonstrated excellence working in the real estate development sector. He is currently the Design Director at International Capital Trading LLC, a leading developer of distinguished properties and a provider of prime real estate management services. 

Looking at the evolution of the office market and the changes it has gone through in the last year, we can see that the pandemic impacted it in multiple ways. Muahanad emphasises the widespread adoption of remote work, which has lead naturally to a reduced demand for traditional office spaces: 

“Many companies have realised the benefits of remote work, including reduced operational costs and increased employee satisfaction. 

As a result, today’s tenants are often looking for flexible and hybrid workspaces that can accommodate both in-person and remote work. This of course depends on the nature of work. 

It is noteworthy that although employees may enjoy the balance of work and family time, employees may lose track of their shift and work most waking hours. I felt this personally and on occasion missed the face to face interaction which sets the vibe of a productive and buzzing office environment.”

Focusing on what commercial spaces might look like in the future and what are the trends we should keep an eye on, Muhanad talks about biophilic design and multipurpose spaces:

“Currently, biophilic design is gaining traction in commercial spaces. This approach incorporates natural elements into the workspace, such as indoor plants, natural light, and organic materials, to enhance well-being and productivity. 

Another trend is the emphasis on creating multipurpose spaces that can be easily reconfigured to serve different functions, offering flexibility to businesses. The incorporation of outdoor to indoor spaces, the use of sustainable materials and designs that reduce energy consumption is also in vogue. 

Furthermore, a work environment that is designed as a cafe where employees enjoy their time and feel the warmth of a cafe vibe which eases the pressure and adds a feeling of enjoyment to the work environment. That, in addition to merging outdoor spaces with indoor spaces, creates a sense of freedom and mobility where an employee is not restricted to a desk for the whole day.”

The design is not the only one that’s changing. With ESG criteria being increasingly influential in the workspace design, the source or materials, and the scope of the design, for example, becomes critical:

“Environmentally, there’s a push towards sustainable materials, energy-efficient designs, and waste reduction. 

Socially, designs are focusing on inclusivity, accessibility, and employee well-being. 

From a governance perspective, ethical sourcing and fair trade practices are becoming more prevalent in the materials and services procured for workspace design.” he adds.

If we’re shifting our perspective and looking at designers’ work, AI seems to have a big impact, similar to other industries. It brings a wide range of advantages and can contribute to the design industry in a significant way:

“From leveraging AI in optimising space layouts to using virtual reality (VR) for mockups and simulations, these tools can streamline and enhance the design process. 

In addition, AI can be used to analyze employee movement and space utilization, providing insights to improve workspace efficiency and effectiveness. 

I am very excited to see the full potential of AI in design and work efficiency as a tool of progress and development, empowering firms and shortcutting the time required to achieve their goals. I believe we are about to see revolutionary changes in all industries.”

Finally, as with all our guests in this series of specialists from MENA, we asked Muhanad Ajinah to describe the future of the office industry in the region, in one word or phrase:

“Adaptive.” Given the ever-evolving nature of work and the rapid technological advancements, the office industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will need to continuously adapt to changing demands and expectations.” he concluded.