What are the key ingredients to a good customer lounge?
Taking a break from the daily grind is important. Getting up from your chair, your cubicle or just out of your working environment and relaxing your eyes on a different environment other than the screen 1 foot away from your face is a great visual relax.
Now that your out from behind the computer, don’t let the lure of your smartphone take you to another screen merely inches from your face. If you can take a walk outside to decompress, then get some fresh air. If you’re in a neighborhood where taking a walk could be a health risk, the weather is not conducive or you just want to hang out with friends, hopefully your office has a comfortable customer lounge with nice amenities to decompress.
Elements to the Perfect Lounge
What are some nice elements to have in a customer lounge? Below is a wish list I put together for the ultimate break room to allow for someone to blow off some steam at work. But every project and client has their unique desires. Let me know what would be on your list.
My desired list of the perfect Lounge
Variety of seating arrangements. Places to recline, like a couch or large comfortable armchair. Small Tables with Bench seating or movable chairs for eating a snack or chatting with colleagues. Barstool with table for a quick bite, drink or chat.
Water and ice dispenser. Important to have clean cool refreshing water at your disposal. Ice for those who want a cool drink on a hot day.
Insta hot water dispenser. For those tea drinkers, having a readily available hot water to seep the tea bag is wonderful on a cold winter day.
Coffee. A Coffee dispenser, such as an automatic dispenser with a variety of options for mochas, lattes, hot chocolate, milk, sugar etc.
Refrigerator. This item would work if there were some rules established so there aren’t items left in there for scientific reasons. Establish a purge on Friday’s to keep things in order. It’s difficult enough to keep the refrigerator at home purged of expired items. But for those who want to bring their lunch or a snack, a nice feature to have.
Vending machine for important carbs or candy urges. A good bar of chocolate can help you through the day.
Ping pong or pool table. A quick game of nonsense can relieve stress of the brain grind.
Television. Try to put something light on, not CNN. Hearing about the latest stock dip or catastrophe isn’t the best way to relieve tension. How about some Joe Gatto with Impracticable Jokers or the Family Guy. Or in my case, car shows.
A box full of kittens. Kind of joking about that, but just imagine the stress they could release.
Customer Lounge Design
I just recently designed a customer lounge for a client. It was lacking a few of my wish list items but with the amount of available space we had to work with, the finishes and furnishing we were able to incorporate, it would be a place I definitely would enjoy hanging out in.
Currently working on another lounge, for a client’s corporate offices. Most likely have seating areas, water and coffee station, refrigerator for beverages, television etc. I’ll forgo presenting the idea of a box full of kittens though.
Let me know what would be on your list.
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.