Let us assume that you are the CEO of an exciting new business. Your business has a retail component supported by a sizeable office based work force. You have 50 employees in varying roles. You need to sculpt a space to house your business and make the type of impact on the market necessary to become wildly successful. You understand that the interior design of these spaces is critical to creating the right impression on your soon-to-be adoring public, keeping your energetic and professional staff happy and maximizing the utility of your expensive square footage.
Being the savvy business person, you have already found premises at just the right size and in the best location, with high visibility, good public access and with ample parking for both staff and customers. Your Landlord has been more than welcoming, offering you assistance with your leasehold improvements including provision of basic ceilings, general open office lighting, ample air conditioning capacity, sufficient and well-designed washrooms and full generator support for your business.
Now what do you do?
Hire a Professional!
There are so many elements critical to the smooth rollout of a commercial interior that the first rule-of-thumb should be to budget for the hiring of a competent professional in this field. Poor planning and the lack of consideration of a host of factors (e.g. from the inclusion of sufficient infrastructure for data/voice/technology/power requirements, to selecting the right type of furniture in each space) can lead to unnecessary stress and cost overruns. Hiring a professional and benefitting from the value-added of the design process would ensure the best return on your investment.
Understand What You Want and Get What You Need
Of paramount importance is to understand what the business requires, the impression to be created in public spaces and the ability to articulate this to your design professional. Time can be wasted if the brief keeps changing and if plan after plan is rejected, due to some unforeseen consideration not previously identified or not clearly explained.
Allow Sufficient Time
The most important initial factor in the planning process is for the allowance for adequate time to design, construct and occupy your new premises. Many businesses fall into the trap of making false assumptions regarding the length of time required to outfit new premises. Simply put, most construction materials and furniture have to be imported. The selection, placement of orders, shipping and installation can take as much as 12 weeks and this is after completion of the design process, the signing off of plan/layouts and determining which contractor/providers to work with. The process is longer than most anticipate and is on average never shorter than 20 weeks.
Commercial interiors may need to have an element of flexibility to them. You would need to determine if your spaces need to change configuration, either due to growth or lateral adjustments, over time. Flexible spaces need to make use of the right components, such as demountable wall systems, modular and non-handed furniture components, stackable partitions, sliding or folding walls and even furniture on wheels! If it is unlikely that changes, either in terms of staff or space utilization, is anticipated within the next 5 years, then fixed walls (e.g. drywall or masonry construction) and built-in furniture can be successfully installed.
The current “green” movement has made a considerable impact on commercial interiors, but having a “green” operation must be more than a marketing plug. Decisions regarding the embracing of sustainability should be made at the outset of a project. Not only is sustainability a responsible corporate policy to pursue, it has been proven that the incorporation of sustainable elements in commercial interiors can lead to effective cost-cutting over time. Sustainable components for consideration would include LED lights, VAV/VRV a/c systems, installation of a BMS, daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors, timers and PV systems.
A new office is an exciting prospect for any business, but it is vitally important that the business understands the money involved. Construction is never inexpensive. Walls, floors, doors, ceilings, lighting, air conditioning, electrical systems, data and voice cabling – all these add up to a sizable cost commitment. Add to this new furniture, new window coverings, accessories and art work and the cost can seem prohibitive at first blush, but many of these elements can be amortized over time and, done well, may make the difference between a profitable, energized business and a failing one.
There are many key factors when considering commercial interiors and the list may seem daunting but here in Barbados, you can rest assured that there are experienced and trained professionals to help you through what can be the most critical undertaking in the life of a company.