by Thomas Dionne, Matthew Lawton, and Harry Samolchuk
The early planning phase of a construction project is an exciting time for commercial, industrial, and institutional business clients. It is also a time when unconscious choices, laden with unwanted interior impact, may become baked into a project if careful forethought is not applied to all details. Here are a few common unintended consequences that can arise in the absence of proper professional guidance, as well as tips to avoid these missteps via careful planning and design.
Give Yourself Enough Space.
Simple as it may sound, one of the most common early mistakes, especially on manufacturing sector projects or warehouse spaces, is not allowing for adequate clear heights. For instance, important machinery might narrowly fit within the specs of your walls, but will they clear that sprinkler system or intercom speaker you want to install? To avoid this, be sure to verify the dimensions of your largest machinery and build in extra room for “X-factor” physical objects.
Perform a “Soundcheck.”
Failure to consider acoustics can leave you with a beautiful space to work in that is too loud for anyone to get their work done. In situations where loud equipment must coexist with quiet office space, soundproofing and sound-dampening solutions should be considered early on. In healthcare facilities or HR spaces, minimal sound transmission is a required privacy safeguard. It is important to understand how design choices will impact your aural landscape; as many restauranteurs have discovered, exposed ceilings are a stylish look, but they also amp up the volume. If noise is a concern, budget for materials with an appropriate sound-transmission class (STC) and consider situations where additional insulation may be necessary, using products with a suitable noise-reduction coefficient (NRC).
Plan for the Realities of Day-to-day Usage.
Everyone loves a stylish design, but not at the expense of practical functionality. For example, big, open spaces are popular, however if taken to an extreme, they may also come with a gnarly mess of extension cords upon day-to-day usage, as a lack of columns and walls may translate to a lack of conveniently located power ports. This practical dilemma can easily be avoided while retaining an “open” look and feel by utilizing a minimalist (as opposed to a nonexistent) approach to columns, which can be seamlessly and attractively integrated into open floor plans. Such a method is also likely to be significantly less expensive than clear-span spaces and their accompanying long-span trusses.
These are just a few of the many design considerations when planning a new construction project, and the more you know, the better prepared you will be to bring your vision to reality without undesirable repercussions. Ultimately, however, the good news for owners is that you do not need to intuitively understand all these calculations when you hire an experienced design-build firm, which should anticipate and educate clients on such matters and steer you toward design choices that are both stylish and sensible.
Thomas Dionne is vice president of preconstruction services; Matthew Lawton is assistant vice president of architecture; and Harry Samolchuk is vice president of planning and design at Connolly Brothers.