Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Commercial Design Tips For Livening Up Your Workplace

Anyone who works in commercial design will be familiar with the client who walks in and quickly becomes stuck with the direction of the project. Most of the time, this is because there is simply so much you can do with a workplace that they have no idea where to start. Other times, it is because the client is more familiar with residential design and are, therefore, completely unaware of the potential that their workplace holds. Here are some tips that can help you to liven up a commercial space:


Most clients envisioning a 'professional' commercial design will automatically steer towards white or grey colour palettes; fortunately, professional doesn't have to equal dull. You should try to pick a colour that embodies the personality of your business - bold shades can actually be quite energizing, whilst calm hues can help to create a serene environment.


This is often an area that many clients tend to neglect until the end or forget about altogether. Try using a variety of light sources and even fixtures to create points of interest within your workplace. Why not install some creative pendants in your reception area simply for a decorative touch? Or add some coloured lighting to the walls to add that special touch.


Many clients will be looking for ways that they can prevent their commercial design from becoming too flat and uniform; this is where the use of multiple textures comes in. You could paint some of your walls and cover others with wooden slats or embossed panels. Just make sure that you use similar materials on all of your surfaces to tie the whole design together.


When clients have quite a large workplace to work with, space dividers are often a vital part of the commercial design, as they can be used to stop the space from feeling cavernous. Use glass partitions or screens to separate areas without cutting off their natural light sources; use opaque or more solid ones for areas that require an amount of privacy; and use unexpected materials for added pop.

When it comes to putting together a commercial design for a client who really has no idea what they want, you should try incorporating one or more of the above points in the plan to see how they are achieved. Whilst some clients will still want to stick to something stark and plain, it is likely that you will find other clients who are very open to these changes and are willing to make them work for their business.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Are the Benefits of Having in-Plant Offices?

Construction takes a lot of time and is usually expensive; many companies have to put construction projects on hold for precisely this reason. If there is a need to have an additional room built, or there is a need for more cabins to be made, the company will have to put the project on hold because it will take up time and cause a hindrance in the routine business activities. As a solution to these problems, the concept of in-plant offices has been introduced.

These modular constructions have been beneficial for all those who have wanted to maximize the use of space they have access to. Many businesses have wanted to maximize the use of floor space, and the space in warehouses and in-plant offices has proved to be beneficial for this purpose. These modular constructions are best for businesses that are restricted because of time limit and have few resources at their disposal to allow any construction projects. It's actually possible to construct a complete office within a few hours using these modular constructions!

There are other advantages linked to in-plant offices. Let's take a look at these. Firstly, when normal construction takes place, it's very disturbing and disruptive for the working environment. People are unable to work because of the noise and mess created by the construction taking place. This is not the case with modular construction. Construction does take place but without the noise and the mess created in the regular construction process.

Secondly, the process is a quick one. Those businesses who are pressed for time and have to make sure construction is completed quickly will find modular construction to be the best option for them. The time taken for regular construction is about 5 to 6 times more than the time needed for modular construction, so you can imagine the advantage you are at, in terms of time, with modular construction.

The use of modular wall panels in this construction allows these walls to be redesigned or changed later on, without any trouble. If you want to shift the cabin to another area of the room, you simple have to call the professionals who will take it apart and set it up for you once again, within a few minutes. This just goes to show that there is room to accommodate any sort of requirements that might come up later on, after the construction takes place.

Modular offices have a lower rate of depreciation in businesses because they are termed as furniture in the accounts of any company. This allows businesses to make savings and higher profits than they would have reported otherwise, if they had used the regular construction procedure for their business.

The maintenance required for these structures is low-cost and minimal, plus you can have any kind of designing that you want with these models, the models allow you the flexibly of choosing colors to paint them with as well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Access Audit Advice

What is an Access Audit?

An Access Audit (also known as a DDA audit, Disability Discrimination Act Audit or Disabled Access Audit) is an assessment of a building, an environment or a service against best practice standards to benchmark it's accessibility to disabled people.

The audit should set out clear recommendations with priority ratings and costs to enable you to plan and budget for necessary adjustive works.

An access audit consultant should focus on reasonable adjustments, as is required by the Equality Act, thus avoiding unnecessary and costly measures which can often be seen within Audits prepared by less experienced and unqualified auditors.

So what is the DDA/Equality Act?

The Disability Discrimination Act came into force in 1996 and made it illegal to discriminate against a disabled person for reasons related to his or her disability. This covered the fields of employment, service provision, transport and education. The DDA required employers, service providers and education providers to make reasonable adjustments to avoid discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 brought together all anti-discrimination legislation into one Act and covers disability, race, gender, religious, sex and age discrimination and supersedes the DDA but the requirements remain much the same.

The Equality Act has different requirements depending on whether you are an employer, service provider or an educational establishment. The best way to establish these is to speak to an Access Consultant who will advise how the Act applies to you.

How is the DDA/Equality Act enforced?

Unlike other statutory law there is no Local Authority or Government Officer who enforces the legislation it is left to an individual disabled person to bring a civil action against an organisation where they feel aggrieved.

Why do I need an Access Audit?

An Access Audit helps you to understand your obligations under the Equality Act. It identifies barriers to access, sets out options for removing these barriers, assesses which option is the most reasonable and then makes a clear recommendation as to which option to implement, when to do it and how much it will cost.

By having a DDA audit and then implementing it's recommendations you will be able to demonstrate that you have adopted a reasonable approach which will help you to defend a complaint or action brought against you by a disabled person but, more importantly you will be improving access for disabled people and, in all likelihood many other users.

The Equality Act Code of Practice states that the completion of an Access Audit by a 'suitably qualified person' will 'help service providers to meet their obligations under the Act'.

What should an Access Audit cover?

The scope of the audit will depend on how the Equality Act applies to you which an access consultant should discuss and agree with you before quoting. A thorough audit should generally cover all elements of your building and environment following the 'journey' of a disabled user. Typically an audit would cover:

    Approach and Car Parking
    Horizontal Circulation - corridors
    Lifts and Stairs
    Internal Doors
    Signage and Wayfinding
    Means of Escape for Disabled People

There are usually many other site specific elements which may also need to be covered so ensure you check these with your access audit consultant.

As section 3 of the Equality Act covers all elements of your service we can also offer audits of other services such as:

    Communication Audits (leaflets, menus guidebooks etc)
    Website Access Audits - checking accessibility for users with visual impairments and learning difficulties
    Policy and Procedure Audit - checking that you policies and procedures do not discriminate against disabled people

Our audits are presented in a user friendly format using photographs to illustrate each issue with clearly defined recommendations which are prioritised and costed. We are happy to supply an example on request.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Proper Setup And Execution For Dry Ice Blasting Historical Structures

Dry ice blasting any historical structure is a huge responsibility for a cleaning contractor. The owners are counting on your expertise and professionalism to...

A) Salvage their historic structure without the cost and time delays of replacing the classic, original materials with new, more modern, but less artistic building materials and...

B) Protect the job-site from flying debris, secondary waste and potentially hazardous, airborne dust, debris, toxins and hazardous wastes.

As a professional dry ice blasting contractor on a historical restoration project, your safety and compliance responsibilities include (but are not limited to) the following:

    Protect your Employees with the appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PE's). Be sure that all employees have been trained in proper PPE use and are aware of what contaminants they might be expected to encounter on the job. Hold daily 'Toolbox Talks' to reinforce good behaviors and curtail bad practices before they become dangerous habits.

    Protect all other Trades and contractors by containing and isolating your work area. Construct appropriate work partitions and control pedestrian traffic, directing trades away from or around your work zone. Never allow other trades inside your work area unless absolutely necessary. Insist on detailed orientation sessions for any trade scheduled to work within your work zone and always include these trades in your daily Toolbox Talks and safety meetings for as long as they are working alongside you and your crew.

    Minimize Dust, flying debris and airborne particulate. Tight ambient controls are mandatory. Use filters, back-stops and seal all possible exfiltration potentialities. You are responsible for any and all debris you create and it will always be on your best interest to contain and control all the dust your create before it infiltrates other work areas and damages other structures.

    Air Quality! You are responsible to capture and treat all ambient air and control all air-flow in your work area. Dry ice blasting creates no breathing or safety hazards on its own, but the contaminants you are cleaning will likely become airborne. The air you contaminate is always your responsibility. Control every aspect of your work zone for maximum safety.

    Contain & Collect all hazardous materials such as lead-based paints, asbestos, heavy metal coatings, mold, mildew, char and misc contaminants. Wherever hazardous materials are present, tighten up your control methods to ensure job-site safety at all costs.

Of course, as important as containment and segregation is to ensuring the safety of your employees and the other trades on the building restoration site, it is also imperative that all modes of safe egress are maintained at all times.

Post exit strategies and alternate egress pathways at any place where your work zone interferes with the normal traffic routes, pathways and exits.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Before Building or Leasing a Building in Miami - 8 Point Checklist Prior to Purchase or Lease

I met with a prospective client yesterday who is looking to lease space for a pre-school facility. This space is going to need substantial remodeling in order to bring it to code. Here in Miami when a the use of a building is going to be changed, as in this case, from office space to a pre-school facility, the entire area must be brought up to the current building code. In the case of Miami, this means complying with the Florida Building Code.

What parts of the building may be affected? The Florida Building Code may require installing a new fire alarm system, a sprinkler system, increasing the number of plumbing fixtures, revamping the electrical and air-conditioning systems, adding accessible doors and entrances, and even adding insulation to the existing walls where there was none before. It may even require upgrading the structural system if a substantial portion needs to be revised due to the new programmatic requirements of the new use.

As I went through the list of things which had to be reviewed as noted above, I also remembered those things which prospective building owners fail to look at until they have already leased or purchased the building.

It is important that the following checklist be used, as a minimum, to analyze the potential of a building and its potential cost in remodeling:

    The zoning for the building. Would the use being considered for the building be acceptable in the zoning district in which it is located?

    If a later addition is being considered, then will the setbacks and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) allow for such an addition?

    Is the building on sewer line? If a building is presently on septic tank, and it is a commercial building, any substantial remodeling or addition would likely require that the building be connected to the sewer line. If the nearest sewer line is two blocks away, for example, that cost, which is in the many thousands of dollars, needs to be factored into the budget for the project. I have seen projects cancelled due to the exorbitant cost of bringing a sewer line to a commercial building. And is the sewer line of sufficient capacity for the proposed use? If an addition will be considered in the future, is the sewer line of sufficient size for the new addition?

    If it is an existing building and it dates from the 1970's or earlier, make sure that an asbestos report is done. Also consider doing lead and mold inspections as well. The building may be full of asbestos. This is quite costly to remove and should be factored into the buying price or in the budget for remodeling, if it is to be leased. You can read more about asbestos abatement in the Florida Statutes, http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0400-0499/0469/Sections/0469.002.html.

    Is the building in a flood zone? The Federal government is the exclusive seller of flood insurance in this area. And they have a rule called the 50% rule. The 50% rule says that a "substantial improvement" cannot be undertaken to a building in a flood zone without raising the ground floor to the base floor elevation. A substantial improvement is defined as an addition or remodeling that will cost more the 50% of the building on the lot. Note that the cost of the lot is not included in the calculations.
    For example, suppose a two-story building with the lot appraises for $3,000,000. Let's say that the building itself is accessed at $700,000 then an addition or remodeling could be built that costs $350,000. However, it cannot cost $350,001, or the ground floor would have to be brought up to the base flood elevation. Suppose the ground floor of the building was originally built at 6'-0" NGVD and that the new base flood elevation calls for the new ground floor elevation to be at 10'-0". Bringing up the ground floor elevation 4'-0" higher is likely to be impossible because the existing second floor is still where it was. There will not be enough headroom when the ground floor is raised.

    Is the electrical service of sufficient capacity for the new use?

    Does the building have an entrance which is accessible to the handicapped? If it does have a ramp where the handicap can enter, does the ramp have the right slope?

    If the building is going to be subdivided, is there an elevator to the upper floors accessible to all the areas in the building?

Although each project may have more specifics which are important, these few questions, if answered in the affirmative prior to closing on the purchase of a building, or signing a long-term lease, will go a long way towards a good purchase or lease and a feasible remodeling project.