As an architect, it’s often difficult to get quality time with the end users when it comes to designing details, like storage. Although these details are immensely important, they are a small (minute even) piece of the project when designing an entire building. But for the end users, the design of something like their storage room can be hugely important and can change the way they work or even how they feel about their job. It’s personal.
There’s really only one way to get the details absolutely perfect: spend time with the end users who own the storage areas. A lot of time. The people in these positions are passionate about their job, and they are going to want to get it right. On top of that, they may be sensitive or even apprehensive about the big changes that come with moving into a new space and the effect that it will have on their daily lives. Therefore, any lack of attention to detail will not be tolerated.
Unless you’re looking for a new job, it’s a pretty safe bet that you don’t have the bandwidth or passion for designing storage solutions, so here are the five things you need to know when designing storage for a client:
Familiarizing yourself with the employees’ daily activities may seem obvious, but it’s crucial to designing storage. Make sure to understand how many people access the items and how often those items are pulled from the room. Is it a high stress environment like healthcare, where there needs to be multiple storage rooms and employees need to access items quickly and often? Or is it a law office where the files are shared and stored in one large room that is being accessed by multiple people? Either way the information will help you determine some key details such as room size, type of shelving, number of aisles (if using high density) and security needs.
In order to avoid going down a rabbit hole, there is a way to simplify all of those details that will make sure the space works for the client. It’s as simple as small, medium, large, fast and slow. What percentage of the items fit into each of the first three categories, and are those items fast or slow moving? Smaller, fast moving items can be stored in bins near the door or on the end caps of shelving. Larger, slower moving items, like bulk storage or bankers boxes, can be stored in the back of the room on shelves. The key here is to not over complicate it,. 80% of the work can be done with this simple formula. The remaining details can be tweaked later during the project.
It’s a joke that everyone who works in healthcare is under 5’ tall, but when it comes to storage it’s no joke. Be wary of filling a room with shelving and calling it a day. So often we see storage rooms with seven levels of shelving, but the staff is only using the first five due to the depth of the shelving (the deeper the shelf, the harder it is to access items high and in the back!) or the weight of the items being stored. There’s no getting around maximizing height is the best option if you’re dealing with a small storage space. But taking the time to smartly organize the room will make it more user friendly.
From locks on the doors to locks on the cabinets, how fast and how often they access items will determine what kind of security is necessary, if at all. A card swipe at the door may be universal in the project’s setting. If the items need to be secured out in the open though, card swipe technology may be cumbersome and cost prohibitive on multiple cabinet doors. Lower cost RFID readers that look like knobs are great options that can tie directly into their current card reading technology. RFID is also advantageous if audit tracking is necessary. However, a keypad may be more practical if only a small group is accessing the items and all of the cabinets are keyed alike.
Great design will stand the test of time. There is no truer statement when it comes to storage areas. Your client’s storage will never look better than it does on the first day the building is open. There are few keys in helping them keep it that way. Using the organization tips mentioned above will not only maximize efficiency but will also ensure that everything has a place — so everything stays in place. Also, don’t leave the flexibility conversations to the workspaces. When choosing the right shelving solution, the storage room should be equally as flexible — allowing the employees to make minor changes as their work environment progresses.
It’s refreshing to work with passionate employees, but that passion sometimes can eat up a lot of time on a project. With these five steps, you can save valuable time but still give the client exactly what they need. Can it really be that simple? Yes, it can. That’s the way we like to keep things.