As a work place, the office is unique in the manner in which those working there interact. While factory floors have operators working singularly or in teams to complete physical tasks, and studios are the type of venue for more creative work by artistic employees that often work silently alone, the general commercial office has a lot more going on. For office interior designers, this means an array of spacial and organisational problems that need to be negotiated.
While manufacturing spaces are almost cavernous, ruled by the typically large machinery that is being used and practical issues relating to moving products, and studios are far quieter, manned by a small number of individuals, the modern office can have dozens of staff all working in close proximity. Therefore, office planning requires a very different approach than the other work areas.
While there is a wide range of styles to choose from, the actual commercial design chosen must serve several basic needs which can be divided into four main categories, namely the office network, communication practices, the regulations that must be complied with, and future office needs that may require attention.
The office network is basically the required network of individual work areas, executive offices, meeting rooms, reception area, boardroom and non work related areas like break room, kitchen and toilet facilities. Of particular importance is how this network of office facilities relate to each other, especially which departments should be closest to each other.
The provision of executive offices, boardroom and meeting rooms means that the overall available space for general office staff is reduced dramatically, but these facilities must be provided. While the toilets and reception area can be reduced to the minimum space necessary, some imaginative designs are needed to ensure the remaining space accommodates the general staff needs.
This relates to how the flow of work in the office is channelled between different departments, and between workers themselves. The idea is to avoid a crisscross motion of work, to ensure traffic in the office does not crash into each other. The movement of reports and use of meeting areas by specific workers come into the equation too so as to ensure the most relevant organisation is applied. In essence, the individual workers that need to be located close to each other are, and are placed closest to the relevant executive office. Also, sections that are likely to cause noise, and therefore a distraction for office staff, are also accounted for with specific photocopying and printing rooms established to place office equipment out of sight and keep noise levels as low as possible.
Every type of working area is affected by building and safety regulations, which must be complied with. These regulations need to be taken into account at the initial planning stage too, with aspects such as the position and number of fire extinguishers, position of exits and an ensured clear passage towards them all figuring in design calculations. Style of office sprinkler systems may also need to considered, and by extension the style of lighting system.
Another regulation that need to be complied with is that of easy access for those with physical disabilities, which generally means wider isles between desks, and greater back to back spaces between workers, so as to accommodate wheelchair users.
Possible Future Needs
Finally, with the knowledge that an office can change quite dramatically over a short period of time, particularly if business has to hire new personnel, allowances are often made for the future needs of the business. For example, more generous desk spacing and aisle widths are applied than is necessary, thereby keeping extra space in reserve.
In order to ensure future needs are accommodated, office interior designers will usually carry out yearly space analysis, usually at the time that the client is preparing their budget, allowing them the opportunity to make factor in any necessary costs. All of these areas of consideration are necessary if the commercial design to be used is to be efficient.
After all, establishing efficiency, and in doing so creating a workable, organised and overall enjoyable working environment, is the principal offpoint of ice planning. For the designer, the task is a detailed and rather complicated one, but brings its own satisfaction when completed successfully.
Sarah Shore writes articles for Interaction, a respected provider of high quality, unique and bespoke commercial design services to large and small organisations in the UK. Interaction’s highly qualified and professional office interior designers have a portfolio of well known clients, and specialise in office design including the implementation of new furniture, colour schemes, art, lighting and much more whilst complying to the latest health and safety standards.
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