One of your first steps after signing the lease for your new coworking space will be to hire an architect to help with your coworking space design. Your contractor will need plans from which to work and you’ll need your architect to help provide the plans to submit to the city to get permits to do your build-out.
You get a referral from an architect and after recovering from the estimate he provides for what you need done, you assume this guy knows what he’s doing. You know what assuming does.
Large firms like Gensler and (insert other large architect/design firms) have designed countless collaborative spaces. But you are likely hiring a smaller, local firm or independent architect that might not have a lot of experience with the type of space you are creating. In that case, you will need to know what to ask for and what the common pitfalls are when designing a collaborative space with diverse workspace types.
Here’s what you need to know before you hire your architect and the watch-outs for the project:
- The wrong lighting. Make sure you use commercial-grade lighting hardware and bulbs. Non-commercial-grade hardware and bulbs are not designed to run 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. Go with LED bulbs. They are more expensive up front, but they save you in energy costs and hours of handyman time replacing the bulbs.
- Not enough HVAC coverage. Yes, those ducts get expensive but if you don’t have enough running from the main source, the air will peter out before it gets to its final destination such as far-off offices or meeting rooms. Then you’ll be using band-aids fans and spaceheaters.
- Not enough outlets. Collaborative spaces need easy, flexible access to power in every nook of the space. An architect may be used to the traditional layout of private offices on the perimeter with common areas in the center that don’t require as much power. If possible, include power outlets in the center of the space, not just on the perimeter. If you can get it in the floor, that’s the best design solution, but that can be difficult depending on your building and codes. Run it down every column possible in the middle of the floor.
- Meeting rooms too far away from the front desk/entrance. I picked up this tip from my favorite coworking space owner/architect, Jerome Chang. He designs his LA coworking spaces to position his meeting rooms in close proximity to the front desk so that they are easy to monitor, a short walk for guests and the foot traffic isn’t disruptive to more focused work areas in the space.
- Putting bathrooms in the space. This is probably not your architect’s decision but I feel compelled to mention it on this list. Avoid bathrooms in the space at all costs. You do not want to be responsible for bathroom issues nor have the associated smells and sounds of said issues anywhere near people trying to work or meet. If at all possible, you want those bathrooms in the common area where the building’s management company has to deal with them.
- Putting the meeting rooms on the perimeter. Your architect might be used to designing for the corporate office of yesterday where everyone was in meetings all day and the executives get the sunlight. In collaborative/open plan spaces, you likely want to give a variety of workspaces access to the natural light and keep meeting rooms/refuge rooms, kitchens, etc. in the middle of the space.
- Planning for only one thermostat. If you include private meeting rooms or offices without their own thermostats, all that time you thought would go to enlightened interactions with members will be spent talking about solving the temperature ware between the open space and the offices. Yes, your architect will create plans that provide for the appropriate air in and out, but without multiple thermostats, you’ll be back to fans and space heaters. If you haven’t heard of the Nest thermostat yet, I highly recommend them over standard commercial options. Amazing user-interface and they can be controlled remotely by your smartphone.
- Bad acoustics. If you don’t get some professional help with this, you will screw this one up. Get advice on acoustics from an architect or a designer. Make sure your office/meeting room walls have a sound-proofing element. Get advice on the right fixtures and furniture to use to absorb sound in the space. There are also “noise eating” solutions that you can also install. All of this is much easier to do up front than to retrofit so put this on your list. The designer behind AirBnB and Soundcloud offers tips on acoustics and other design considerations in this article.
What do you wish your architect had done differently? Share with us so we can avoid those mistakes as well!