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50 Beyond: The Behind-The-Scenes Decisions

25 July 2019

As designers, we create spaces that fully encompass each client’s goals and vision – so much so that we don’t always realize what other decisions they are making behind the scenes that don’t require an architect’s expertise. By stepping into our client’s shoes during the design and construction of our new office, it was a friendly reminder of what else clients have on their plates in order to get to Day 1. Below are a handful of examples that made us pause and think:

The Hydration Station (aka the Pantry)

When we design a café or pantry, we need to be aware of certain power and plumbing requirements, but we aren’t always helping pick out the desired beverage machines. Who knew there are 7,782 different types of coffee machines? They vary in width, height and capacity… there’s bean-to-cup vs. single-serve pods, industrial vs. residential machines, plumbed vs. non-plumbed, recyclable vs. non recyclable options, milk vs. no milk vs. dried milk (no thanks!), espressos and latte options. Some let you have only two coffee choices, some have way too many choices. We knew that we wanted a great cup of coffee, and after comparing all the bells and whistles, we decided that a commercial-grade, single-serve dispenser was the best solution for our needs and company size. It gives us a variety of coffee flavors so people can have their Dark Roast, French Vanilla, or they can bring their own fancy crème brûlée flavor. We also have a kegerator of iced tea and cold brew for the extra ‘kick’ needed in the morning or afternoon.

We also drink a lot of water… ‘fizzy’ water to be precise. This led to a lot of plastic water bottles being used, and as a firm who practices sustainable design, we wanted to do our part to help the environment. We decided to go with a Bevi machine that provides filtered still and sparking water (flavored to the intensity of your choice), and provided each employee with a DBA-branded tumbler. As of July 24, 2019, we have saved 5,195 bottles!

We enjoy a good beer (and wine) hour on Friday afternoons. We’ve also got a handful of beer connoisseurs in the office. Instead of getting a beer kegerator that would risk going bad, we designed the pantry’s central island to include an undercounter beer/wine fridge that holds craft brews, white wine and rosé, while the opposite counter includes custom millwork for the red wine lovers.

So, Where Do We Dry Our Feet?

We’ve put in shower rooms for large offices, small offices and fitness centers, but we’ve never had to worry about the laundry services. When you really think about it, does it really make sense to get a laundry service for a 50-person company, averaging 5-10 towels a week? That seems expensive. And what about the damp bathmat? If we have a BYOT policy (bring your own towel), do we have a BYOB policy (bring your own bathmat)?

We wanted to find something that was disposable, but not bad for the environment. After a lot of research, Amazon to the rescue! We found disposable paper bathmats that were also absorbent(ish). Turns out, these are used in some hotel chains instead of the small linen bathmats. We’re giving these a try to see how well they do. It’s no step-onto-a-cloud feeling you get with a luxury memory foam mat, but at least it does the trick!

Ain’t No (Trash Bin) Mountain High Enough

As our DBA move team shuffled through the tedious tasks during move weekend, we were hit with one (literally) giant obstacle – what do we do with this smorgasbord of trash and recycling bins? It was as if we had spent the past 50 years collecting as many different shapes, sizes, colors as we could – some even providing somewhat of a different odor!

We stood there strategizing and realized both the visual and workflow impact the bins would have on the space and its users. We wanted the focus to remain on the striking new design elements – not an eyesore of a trash bin.

From a workflow perspective, we needed them to work for our team, but needed a universal system. Previously, it was as if each individual had their own personal bins as they saw fit at their workstation (you can see how this created what became a sea of black and blue bins on move day). Long gone were the days of sporadically placed individual trash bins! Now each workstation pod would have one trash and one recycling bin tucked neatly toward the window side of their stations.

The Walkthrough with Maintenance Staff

As our team moved closer to our move weekend and Day 1, planning was in full-force and so was coordination with the building. Yes, we would need trash bins. And, of course we needed to make sure the AC stayed on for move weekend. No, we won’t need security on-site, and oh – we definitely should show the building maintenance team how our new space operates.

We designed a space that works for our wants and needs, but we also realized there was another layer to this – the building, and specifically, their cleaning crew. Our walkthrough with them brought about every detail of how our space operated. We started in the bathrooms where we needed to show that the vanity modesty panels are, in fact, removable to allow for maintenance and replenishing soap. In the pantry, locating the trash and recycling was a must! We had designed them to be built-in options along our island base cabinets which made them very hidden. We also included two soap dispensers at our sink which would require different soap – dish soap and hand soap. In our marketing and print space, we had to talk through where our incoming mail would be and how that was different than where all extra empty boxes/bins would be located. And of course, our walk into the shower room brought about each and every question that could be imagined (see shower room excerpt above for reference!)

Welcome To The New Office, Stay A While!

With a new office comes many, many questions. How could we get ahead of the game and provide answers to questions that people probably hadn’t even thought of yet? We wondered what would be most helpful for Day 1 when our team experienced the space for the first time. We were as transparent as we could be during fit planning and coming up with the design concept (without giving everything away!), but with 10+ new reservable rooms, some of which are a brand new concept for people, we needed a tool that explained not only the functionality of the room, but when you would consider using it throughout the day. We also wanted an informational piece for clients and visitors to understand the concept behind the design. A small group of us created the Welcome Guide, consisting of the design concept overview, background info on the room naming process (we are now experts on crystal energies), a floor plan, description of work modes, a floor plan with work modes located, flow diagrams, and (what we assumed would be) frequently asked questions. It’s still taking some time to remember all the conference room names, but after a short four months, we’re already seeing people utilize the spaces as intended.

Creating our new office has been a very rewarding process, and also a great reminder that clients have many other things their plate. In addition to their day jobs and major design decisions, they’re dealing with a whole host of things, some of which we outlined above. What ended up being some of the most time-consuming decisions actually had nothing to do with design. But we had these discussions because our clients (in this case, our coworkers), came first, and we wanted the best for them. We’re proud to see how this process has made us better equipped to bring these (not so little) decisions to light for our clients in the future.

Post authored by

Alex E. Dupnik
Project Manager
Dyer Brown Architects

Alessandra Susi
Assistant Project Manager
Dyer Brown Architects

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