November 10, 2006

Which Building Shape Is Best?

From Ask The Expert:

Q. My building started out 60 X 40. Told the builder I needed about 3200 sq ft. I would prefer the building be made longer, wider or both to make the size.The builder wants to make the building the size I need by adding a 25 by 30 extension on the back (he had his architect draw this in with a kitchen, Dr offices and Flex Future Lab). I faxed this plan to your office and want to get your help with my design.

My question is this, am I correct that a square or rectangular building will work better (better design potential and less heating/cooling problems because the addition has 3 exposed walls) than a building with an addition on the back. Next, if I can't have the exterior design changed, because of building position, set backs or what ever, how much of a problem do you see designing a well working building with the back addition.

A. Regarding the plan you sent, an L-shaped building footprint would not be my first choice. An "L" shaped plan cannot be as efficient as a rectangular or square shape. It will require more hallway space. That creates extra steps for you and your staff.

Heating and cooling an L-shaped building should not be a problem as long as your architect gets a good mechanical engineer to design the system properly. You might want to consider having a system with 2 or 3 zones that can be regulated separately.

If there is no other choice because of setbacks or other factors, I can certainly work with that shape and give you the most efficient patient flow possible within those confines. Putting staff rooms (lab, breakroom, private offices, storeroom, etc.) in the back leg of the "L" is usually the best solution. We'll keep all the patient traffic in the main part of the building so you'll still be super-efficient where it counts.

A rectangular or square shape is preferred because it enables me to make the best use of every square foot. It requires less hallway space which means more space devoted to patient care and less steps for you and the staff. The closer the shape of the building is to a perfect square, the easier it is to achieve the coveted one-way circular patient flow that is a big contributing factor to high productivity.

Sometimes the final shape of the building is dictated by factors that we cannot change, such as set-backs, irregular lot shape, easements, driveway requirements, etc. If that's the case I will wrestle the footprint of your building into the most advantageous size and shape possible despite the restrictions.

I'm delighted to be working with you and I'm very glad you brought me on board at the beginning of the project. Now I'll be able to coordinate my work with your architect to make your patient flow perfect and your dispensary a visual drawing card for your practice.

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