Most of us are "shell-shocked" by the rate of change these days. Every organization seems to be starting or ending, growing or shrinking, combining or subdividing, reorganizing - and doing it all rapidly.

Facilities are one of the key concerns when changes occur. Usually they get in the way. Moving steel, concrete and gypsum board isn't easy or cheap. But better design can help to facilitate the organizational changes.

USABILITY BY OTHERS - Design the facility as though you will move out tomorrow and have to find a new tenant or buyer. Don't make the facility so unique that it only works for one particular existing organization. Avoid highly specialized rooms where possible.

FLEXIBILITY - Design the facility as though you will completely reorganize everything tomorrow. It happens. We have seen facilities that have become obsolete before they were even constructed.

MODULARITY - Use regular shapes and sizes for rooms. Don't make them too small. Make larger rooms multiples of smaller rooms so they can be easily subdivided (i.e. changing 2 large offices into 3 smaller ones). Design with the realization that the use of a room may need to change in the future.

Incidentally, the ceiling is a key here. Many times the cost of changing the sprinkler heads, light fixtures, and diffusers exceeds the cost of the partition changes. Using a regular, modular ceiling layout will help.

OPEN PLAN - Open plan areas with systems furniture can be changed more easily than areas with fixed walls, and there will be less demolition required. Consider using fewer "hard-wall" offices or put support functions, such as work areas or libraries, in the open.

COMBINE USES - Combining uses (i.e. putting supply storage in the work room) reduces costs and increases flexibility.

SYSTEMS MYTH - Systems furniture is supposed to facilitate change, but the reality isn't so great. With the specialized installers and all of the electrical, telephone, and computer wiring, it gets to be a big job. As a result, when there is a reorganization, people usually end up living with the old layout and making functional compromises.

Incidentally, there are some interesting new furniture systems and components coming out now that are easier to change.

SYSTEMS MODULARITY - We think the answer to this problem is to be modular with the systems furniture, just as with the rooms. Use simple-shaped, regular, standard-size task stations that can be suited to different functions by simply changing a few components.

CEILING PLENUM - Leaving the space above the ceiling (the "plenum") open makes it much easier to change wiring and ductwork. We have some simple, innovative techniques to provide sound separation while allowing partitions to stop at the ceiling.

TELEPHONE ROOMS - They aren't just telephone rooms anymore. Put computer network equipment with the telephone equipment, provide plenty of space for growth, and put them in an enclosed room for security.

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Ambrose Design Group, Inc., 99 Pratt Street, Hartford, CT 06103
Tel.- (860)727-8031   Fax.- (860)527-6444
Last Updated 1/2/99