Conference Room Interior Design
If conference room walls could talk. Designed to hold confidential conversation behind closed doors, these spaces must be adequately sized, comfortable and designed to allow people to connect. Flexibility is key in a facility where a presentation can be among a few to a large group.
The original facility for this fortune 500 technology company has several small conference rooms that were architecturally tired and able to handle up to about dozen occupants each at a time. The facility desired a large conference room that could easily hold up to 2+ dozen participants, technologically current and bring a bit of grandeur to a space which harked back to the 1980’s.
The solution was to combine two rooms into one large space. New finishes and furnishing were a must. A feature wall was incorporated (Interlam). One large continuous table (Nucraft Flow) was provided seating a total of 18. Additional benches (Steelcase Regard) around the perimeter allowed for additional seating. Floor finishes on a raised access floor included carpet tiles (Interface).
The accent wall was incorporated with color changing LED lighting allowing for a flexible mood of the space. If it is the dead of summer, a cool blue hue can achieve a cooling effect. On a cool wet winter day, a bit of red light can bring warmth. Wanting to focus on the bottom line, add a bit of green. If you looking to celebrate the holidays, add a bit of revolving color to add a little festive vibe.
If your conference room interior design is in need of an update, new finishes, furnishing and technology can bring your facility into the 21st century.
As an Architect, I interact with clients, engineers and contractors who have acquired bits of information about Building Codes. Sometimes, those bits are misconceptions and regurgitated information. The building codes can be intimidating and have no beginning or end. To learn the code, the best way is jumping in feet first.
Upcoming Blog Posts
In the next series of blog posts, I will explore common simple and more complex Building Codes. Each City has adopted a code but most in Arizona use the IBC (International Building Code).
The issues to be addressed in the following Blog Posts are:
- Door swing direction. Which way should the door swing, out of a room or in?
- Number of exits within a room?
- Size of the door. Who said “size doesn’t matter.”
- Exit corridor width. How wide or narrow can a hallway be?
- Clearances around a door? Door arrangement between two doors.
- Door fire ratings. Is your door fire rated?
- Exit Travel Distance.
- Do I need an Elevator?
- Should my door have panic hardware?
- Do I need a drinking Fountain?
- Minimum size of a single person toilet room?
- Small commercial space, is one bathroom enough?
The item in bold to be addressed in this post. As an Arizona Architect, most City’s jurisdictions work with the IBC (International Building Code). The code analysis is based upon the IBC.
Door Swing Direction
A buildings exit pathway typically consists of and exit pathway with hallways containing doors from offices, restrooms, mechanical rooms, leading to the exterior. In certain scenarios, the doors can swing either in or out. In some cases, functionality within the space dictates a swing direction unless code overrides. Below is a graphic showing door swing IN versus OUT.
There are sliding doors, roll up doors, revolving doors, however ‘most’ of those do not meet code requirements. I say ‘most’ because there are some exceptions and some manufacturers who have come up with creative solutions around this issue. Note in the graphic above, the door swinging out or into the hallway would block circulation. There is code requirements for clear hallway width, which will be discussed in upcoming blog posts. In this scenario, swinging into the office was preferable. Each office was small enough to allow doors to swing in.
Hinged (swinging) doors required unless:
- Private garages, office areas, factory and storage areas with an occupant load of 10 or less.
- Group I-3 Occupancies used as a place of detention
- Critical or intensive care patient rooms within suits of health care facilities
- Doors serving single dwelling unit (apartments/child care) under specific occupancy count (see code)
- Doors serving a bathroom in Occ. R-1 (residential)
- etc. The code goes into more details with exceptions
The factors which typically dictate the direction of the door swing are as follows:
- Number of occupants.
- Type of Occupancy
- Hazardous condition of room
Number of occupants is determined by Occupancy type. For instance, the code has a table which calculates the number of occupants per s.f. For example, an office space of 4,000 s.f. would have an occupant load of 4000/100 or 40 occupants. See example below.
When occupant load is 50 or greater, doors shall swing in direction of travel or ‘out’.
In the example below, each office may have less than 50 occupants. Those individual office doors swing in. The accumulation of all office occupants however exceeds 50 occupants. The door out of the general office area to the main exit corridor (in dark red) would need to swing ‘out’.
Other factors such as hazardous conditions can dictate the swing of a door. For example, within an electrical room, when the overall power exceeds 1200A, doors must swing in direction of travel.
What is the reasoning for swinging doors in the direction of travel in larger occupant loads or hazardous conditions? Imagine you are at an event with over 50 people and an emergency occurs, such as a fire. If you are the first person to reach the door and all 50 people rush in panic to the exit door at the same time, it would be difficult to swing the door towards yourself. Everyone would be pushing to move forward and out of the space. Therefore, swinging out would be easier to open. The code is created, reviewed and modified from years of learning from past mistakes.
When learning building codes, once you begin digging into the code, it begins to make sense. In regards to door swing, swinging in the direction of travel or outward will work for all conditions in the code. However when it is not required, such as in a small office, storage room or bedroom, functionally it may make sense to swing into the room. Look at how many occupants are within the room and determine if the room is a hazardous condition. When in doubt, rely on an Arizona Architect to explore the code and assist you.
Office Architecture in Arizona
When finding an office Architecture in Arizona for rent within existing real estate, some research should be completed before signing a lease. Relying on a Realtor may not provide you with the full spectrum of issues regarding your office improvements. If you are making modifications and doing a tenant improvement, hiring an architect to do this initial research can inform you about potential modifications required by zoning and building code requirements. Even if you are looking at merely changing some finishes, other factors may affect the project scope.
Items to look at:
- Building code of original construction
- Current Building code and its impact upon proposed use
- Type of occupancy at time of construction vs. type of occupancy proposed for your use
- Zoning and intended uses
Because each building and space is unique within office architecture, the architect will need to look at the original set of approved drawings and determine what changes may be required. Changes in occupancy or changes in code can affect the project.
Below is a Case study (example) of a past project. The client initially thought it was mainly going to upgrade some finishes and adding a few walls and doors. However once some research was done, the project scope grew.
Project desired scope: Lease approximately 4,000 s.f. office space within existing building with minimal modifications. Upgrade to finishes as needed.
Office Architecture in Arizona – Existing building space available (shown in red)
Office Architecture in Arizona – Proposed space (shown in green)
The area in green is the desired quantity of space the tenant desired and which sensibly works with the division of the space due to existing walls allowing for a future tenant to be located within the center suite. This allows for each tenant, to remain unaffected, to have accessibility to entry lobby and existing restrooms.
Issues to Address
- Restrooms not accessible to proposed office space unless you travel through middle suite.
- Verify if restrooms (# of fixtures or toilets) meets current codes.
- Potential issue with exiting. # of exits and travel distance to exits will need to be analyzed.
- Determine if mechanical system zones (area the mech unit serve) is not affected by proposed leasable space.
- Determine if electrical systems are distributed properly for a division of the space into 2 separate suites.
- Verify number of parking spaces required/available affected by the proposed modification.
It was determined that the existing building, constructed about 25 years ago, was initially designed as a product showroom, not offices. It was initially established as an Occupancy A (Assmebly) Proposed use of the new tenant was to be Occupancy B (Office). Based upon our code analysis, it was determined it had an affect on conflict 2 or quantity of toilets as explained below.
Conflict 1 – Restroom not accessible to space. A corridor was added to allow for access to the existing restrooms while adding a second exit from the space.
Conflict 2 – Verify restrooms meet code. Because Assembly occupancies do not require as many plumbing fixtures than Office space per occupant, the existing quantity of restrooms were adequate in the original use. With the change of occupancy to ‘B’ Office, the # of plumbing fixtures was not adequate. Therefore, one additional toilet stall was added to satisfy codes. (see calculations below). To minimize affecting the original restroom (not affecting its use by existing tenant and affecting existing finishes), it was decided that a 1 person restroom would satisfy the requirement of an additional toilet fixture. This was not a desired addition to scope because of the additional construction cost, but solely to satisfy the building code requirements.
Conflict 3 – Potential issue with existing? The office space as proposed met all exiting requirements. Quantity of occupants did not exceed the number to trigger additional exits. However, because of the accessibility to the restrooms, a second exit was provided.
Conflict 4 – Determine if mechanical system zones need modifications. Because of the original layout, the mechanical zones were not exactly divided into the zones that were established by the new wall creating the future tenant space. Therefore, ductwork modifications and a new mechanical unit was required to allow for the mechanical systems to function properly. This was an unknown addition to the project that the real estate agent would not be able to forsee.
Conflict 5 – Determine if electrical systems are distributed properly. It was determined, not to our surprise, that the electrical systems required separation of power to the 2 suites created. In reality, it could have remained more or less the same but by isolating the power, it allows for the building owner to clearly understand how much power each individual suite utilizes.
Conflict 6 – Is the number of parking spaces required/available affected? Fortunately because the occupant load from Assembly to Office reduced the number of occupants within the space, the number of existing parking spaces were more than adequate. No changes required.
Additional code analysis information
When finding an office space for rent, even in a simple remodel as shown in the case study, you can see how important research of issues are prior to signing a lease. The analysis will provide you with a more clear understanding of the possible scope due to modifications to the existing building systems, required updates due to current building codes and occupancy changes.
If you are considering an office architecture in the near future, hiring an architect can help you make good choices.
Renovation of Data Center buildings
Since, 2004, or the past 15 years, Serbin Studio has been re-designing Data center buildings in Arizona. As computer storage and computing continues to grow due to new technologies, buildings are requiring more data storage. Since 2004, data hungry companies have been adding to the required storage on the web, such as Facebook (2004), Netflix (1997), Wikipedia (2001), Amazon Cloud Computing (2005), Apple / Iphone (2007), Black Friday web (2005), Youtube (2005) etc. During the life of these buildings within existing colocation (cloud) facilities, tenants move in and out of leases. This creates opportunities for data centers to refresh and update their systems to meet current demands and upgrade to new equipment for better efficiency. Prem Data Centers also need to be refreshed or expanded to meet current and future needs as companies grow or change.
Colocation Data Center or Cloud computing – “Multi-tenant environment that is contained within a building outside of a company’s facility. It can house all the companies data or be a backup facility for disaster recovery. The data hall environment can be maintained by the tenant (triple net lease) or all operation of the systems (ie. power distribution, mechanical cooling etc.) can be maintained by the Colocation Facility. Cloud computing allows a company to minimize infrastructure of onsite while having a backup to their data in a maintained secure environment”
On Prem Data Center – “Refers to private data centers that companies house in their own facilities and maintain themselves. Benefit to onsite is ultra controlled environment with minimal latency. It is measured in Mbps or Megabytes per seconds.“
Latency – Delay of transfer of a packet of data from one designated point to another. This can be affected by number of router hops. Since data centers can be physically located anywhere in the world, a customer may want to consider the geographic location of their data to minimize delays.
In Colocation facilities, when tenants move in/out, the new tenants needs are unique and the Data Halls are updated internally. Improvements to Data Center facilities don’t just stop at at the Data Hall. Common meeting spaces such as Lobby’s, customer lounges, conference rooms, common hallways, restrooms etc. need refresh as well. Exterior of buildings also require updates to be competitive with new facilities.
Raw space within Data Center building prior to remodel
Data Hall remodel prior to Colocation tenants moving into space
Data Center restroom prior to remodel. Circa 1980’s design
Restroom remodel in progress prior to completion. Terrazzo flooring, ceramic tile full height walls, solid surface counter with undermount sink etc.
Installation of new mechanical systems can upgrade the cooling capacity of the Data Hall. New power distribution systems and lighting systems can provide additional power and improve building efficiency.
Two types of Architects are required for a successful Data Hall environment.
Data Center Network Architect – “Design and support in the network planning, network architecture design, hardware and software, transmission and signaling links and protocols for a complete computer network. They evaluate new products and perform network problem resolution. Develop technical standards …… etc.”
Data Center Building Architect – “Design of building systems to support the Data Hall environment including a safe and secure invironment with adequate power and cooling required within the space to support server equipment. Buildings are designed to structurally support the equipment as electrical equipment can be quite heavy. Architects specialize in the design of support spaces (ie. lobby, offices, conference rooms, restrooms, customer lounge etc.) to provide a comfortable working environment.”
Serbin Studio specilizes in Data Center Building Architecture. We have put together a highly experience team of architect, Mechanical, plumbing , Electrical Engineer and structural engineers and other necessary design support to ensure quality, efficient and timely designs. Projects can be design-bid-build and design-build. The design team can handle all aspects of renovations to existing Data Center facilities and New builds. From small power upgrades to a rack, building cooling upgrades, Common space remodels, to conceptual space planning, our team is ready to handle any task. Since 2004, we have facilitated over 300+ projects ranging from several thousand dollar upgrades to multi million dollar upgrades to existing facilities.
Data center’s are used to house computers which store information.
The information is stored away for ongoing importing and exporting of information, long term safekeeping and storage for future retrieval. Because the majority of this information is “for your eyes only”, the environment has to be secure from others and available to you whenever you desire it.
The information stored varies from personal to business. Banks store financial information, companies store information relating to their business, Facebook has your photos and posts, Twitter holds on to your tweets, Amazon stores your past orders, Apple Icloud stores your photos, your online retailer stores your credit card numbers, your kids snapchat floats in the cloud, this post is stored there etc.
Most people don’t realize where this information really goes or where it is stored. The term ‘cloud’ makes you look up in the sky, like a scene from Avatar, but it is all rooted firmly on the ground in Data Centers.
A Data Center therefore must be a highly secure environment which allows for oneself to access that information on a moments notice. For the most part, it is instantaneous. There are two main scenarios. (1) A company can build and operate their own data center or (2) rent space, called a colocation Data Center. Colocations Data Centers manage the facility, similar to renting space within an office building. The rental of space may be as small as one computer server, a rack which may store a dozen computers, a cage of any size storing 100’s of computers or a room storing thousands of computers. The top 4 Wholesale colocation Data Center providers as recognized by Data Center Knowledge are
- Digital Realty
- Global Switch
- China Telecom
The typical data center is comprised of a large room anywhere from a few thousand feet upwards to 40,000 s.f. The room is supported by a large electrical and mechanical infrastructure to maintain power to the computer servers while keeping them at a desired temperature. Computers use energy which give off a lot of heat. This heat if not removed will build up in a room which eventually will shut down the servers.
The power consumption within a Data Center is similar to how one uses power within our homes. At times, you have peak power when everyone is at home, turning on lights, cooking something in the oven, running our A/C to keep ourselves cool while watching television show. At other times, your power consumption is low, when your not home or asleep at night. Power companies need to supply enough power to handle the peak times a Data Center has when its servers are in heavy demand or else outages occur and clients are not happy. Therefore, data centers are similarly designed to handle higher than expected use so they can ensure that any demand is met. Data Centers use approximately 4% of the energy consumption within the U.S.
The quantity of Data Center is surprising. There are 40+ colocation Data Centers within Arizona and 100’s of privately run Data Centers.
Serbin Studio has been specializing in Data Center Design since 2004. The data center building is usually inconspicuous, not one to stand out and draw attention to. They have a level of secrecy so they can float under the radar. Most projects require the designers to sign a Non-disclosure agreement so the secrecy of the design methods are not shared with the competitors.
Within that 14 year period, we have worked on over 300 data center projects relating to conceptual designs, data center renovations, commercial office renovations, elevator renovations, exterior facades etc.
Our most recent projects in 2018 which I have sworn to secrecy include:
- Master planning for a new facility
- Exterior renovations to enhance an existing facilities tired facade
- Lobby, Customer lounge, restroom, offices and conference room renovations to enhance the customer experience
- Power upgrades to an existing facility
As buildings age, there are many factors which may spark the need for an office improvement. If you have a feeling that the space could be better utilized or that the finishes create a underwhelming environment, it may be time to update your offices to create a more productive and exciting place to work. If needed a finance for office improvements you can check this site https://www.onepayday.com/.
I recently met with a client and below are some recurring themes which make a company want to improve their work environments.
- Our office feels outdated
- We could better utilize our space
- First impressions from the lobby is lackluster
- The used office furniture we acquired when we first started our company is not an efficient use of space, aesthetically tired and in need of replacement
- As our workforce ages, we want to lure millennials into our offices and retain our current millennials
- Outdated system furniture
- unmatched office furniture with various chair styles within one room
- Desire Modern office interior
- Unmatched interior from multiple project throughout the years
- Lobby needs a refresh
- Restrooms need a refresh
Utilizing an architect to orchestrate the design should be your first stop. They can put together the necessary design team of engineers and contractor to ensure a successful project. For example, if structural changes are required or building systems such as Mechanical, plumbing or electrical need to be altered, the architect can find the right team. If your in need of a contractor, the architect can suggest the right type of contractor for the project. The best approach is when client, architect and contractor work together as a team.
Commercial office building – After remodel
During Construction, especially improvements to an existing buildings, opening up walls, ceilings and floors may uncover unusual construction, items concealed from prior projects or even failure in construction systems. Abandoned sinks, ductwork and wiring is common. Even faulty floor slabs or failed plumbing can be uncovered. Fire rated wall conditions may be altered and not satisfying the code or even worse, creating a unsafe environment. Restrooms may need new plumbing, not just the sink or toilet, but what is behind the wall. Over time, the piping may have become corroded.
During construction, quick logical decisions by the design team and contractor ensure that the project is completed efficiently and correctly, satisfying all current codes and creating a safe environment.