The finishes in a building are what your end users will see. The construction of a building is funny, we spend all this effort and time in coordinating electrical, mechanical, structure just to make sure the finishes line up.
I’ve noticed in my time within this industry that sometimes there isn’t a lot of forethought that goes into the finish selection based on the end users. Today I have included some guidelines on finishes to use depending on the end users.
High Traffic Areas (Public)
High traffic areas are any space that sees a lot of foot traffic moving through it. This could be areas such as a mall, entrance hallway, or a food court. These types of spaces get higher than average walking usage and wear and tear.
When designing for these types of spaces it’s important to keep the aesthetics in mind. However, at the same time product durability needs to be understood and taken into account.
Floors – stick with hard surfaces that have a high durability rating. Flooring materials such as granite (hard stone), terrazzo or ceramic tile are ideal. Avoid soft and porous stones as dirt has a way of getting into them over time. If carpet is desired, consider something with a low pile and utilize a carpet tile system to make replacement easier if needed in the future.
Walls – as with the floors, try to avoid usage of any material that is too soft. Consider avoiding exposed drywall and instead clad walls in a harder material. Steel, wood, tile or other materials can be used. Try to avoid soft woods and steel that scratches easy (ie painted or zinc). If the budget can’t afford these types of materials look to a wall covering (though if tearing occurs this can be a challenge to replace properly). Lastly a high durability drywall and high durability paint can be used such as a scuff master.
Back of House Spaces
Back of house spaces should be designed and treated as such. These are the highways and subway tunnels of buildings – moving people and material behind the scenes. These areas need to be treated as such and function should take place over aesthetics. Focus should be on creating highly durable, easily cleanable spaces.
Floors – epoxy floors, sealed concrete, vinyl tile or ceramic tile should all be utilized. These finishes provide high durability, while at the same time allowing building maintenance staff to clean them easily if they become dirty. Avoid fancy stones, carpet, or soft tiles. Anything expensive will get broken so avoid it at all costs. For baseboard consider rubber base or a cheap ceramic tile. Chances are it will get wrecked so your want something that is easily replaced.
Walls – wall finishes need to be durable and easily repaired above all else. The important thing to remember is that you need to be able to protect any soft materials and replace any damaged materials easily. Light gauge stainless steel sheeting, ceramic tile, acrovyn wall protection.
Lobby and Focal Point Areas
Areas that are intended as entryways into a building or key high finish spaces, are often times where architects go crazy. While these spaces are intended to provide a bit of wow, there are some key items to take into consideration here.
- When designing these areas keep in mind – they are the transition point between the exterior and interior. The building will naturally attract dirt and grime, but try to reduce that in the design. Add a vestibule with a floor grille and hard surfaces to reduce the element impact on your entrance area.
- It’s important people know where to go when they enter your building. Include directional signage, reception desks, security desks, or clear visual cues on where go go.
- Remember, no matter how well you design a vestibule, dirt will make it into the building. Choose flooring materials that are easy to clean and don’t absorb dirt (i.e. Limestone is always a difficult material to clean due to it’s open pores).
- Provide seating or durable areas for people to sit and linger if the space is public. Keeping people in your building is important if that is the intent. Provide engaging areas for people to use.
Office space should have the comfort of the users in mind. The space should be designed to be functional and at the same time promote sharing and working together. Finishes should be durable but should also take acoustics into consideration, no one wants an echoey work place!
Floors – carpet is the key material to be considering here. There are different types of carpet but my recommendation would be to go with a carpet tile. Office spaces are often reconfigured and utilizing a carpet tile allows you to replace less carpet every time you move. Common corridors and gathering areas can be something other than carpet but it’s very common to see this material used throughout.
Walls – painted drywall or a wall covering is fine. For feature areas go crazy but but office space has been characterized by simple cheap finishes. Allowing people to paint the walls in their office is always fun, and one of the newest creations I have found is IdeaPaint which turns any wall into a white board.
There are obviously lots of other areas that need to be considered when designing a building and selecting your finishes. This article was just intended to provide a starting point and to provide some thinking points. What do you think? Have any horror stories? Share them with us in the comments below.