The workplace project
The spaces intended for work activities require careful planning since these are environments lived by users for most of the day. With the aim of ensuring workers' mental and physical well-being, the design process must comply with current legislation and follow ergonomic, acoustic and technical lighting requirements. Each activity must be carried out in complete safety and freedom by all users of the corporate offices. Depending on the type of job and work carried out within the rooms, during the design phase it is good to choose the most appropriate spatial organization and distribution type. Finally, the choice of design and furnishings makes the spaces aesthetically pleasing and comfortable, in order to ensure optimal work performance. It is therefore clear, how the project that concerns these spaces is very complex since it must meet different needs, accommodate a varied user base and ensure security and accessibility. For this reason, it is good to divide the design process into real phases that follow one another and upon completion of which it is possible to achieve the set objective:
- Choose the type of office according to the activities that must be carried out there
- Study the expected flow of users in the rooms
- Organize spaces according to specific needs
- Design a "basic" working cell in the case of multicellular offices
- Choose the furniture in order to ensure comfort and functionality
- Provide paths and accessory spaces
First of all, therefore, it is good to define the place according to the activities that will take place there as the needs change and consequently also the spatial organization and the necessary furnishings. For example, a professional technical study will require a division between the customer reception area and reception rooms, while a corporate office will be more complex given the larger size and the greater number of workers it will welcome. In fact, it is really important to consider the flow of people who go to the work space in order to ensure functionality and comfort. Furthermore, depending on the activities that take place, the organization of the spaces will be determined: individual units for tasks that require concentration, open space for the continuous exchange of information between colleagues. Furniture will also have to meet the target's needs in order to guarantee functionality and flexibility. All the steps concerning the design must be based on the regulations in force regarding the safety and health of the worker. In this regard, some rules are established to be followed faithfully: these are technical precepts that deliberate the quality standards for ventilation, microclimate, lighting and acoustics proper to the environments.
The specific regulations are:
Legislative Decree 81/2008 Annex IV - Requirements of the workplace
It protects the stability of buildings that house offices and work spaces, their solidity, the maximum expected loads and their correct maintenance. Furthermore, the minimum dimensions that each room must respect are listed, the openings necessary for correct lighting and ventilation and all the devices designed for the safety of the users. Finally, the correct design of the connecting elements (stairs, elevators) and those that make up the rooms (walls, floors and floors).
Legislative Decree 242/96 relating to the protection of the health and safety of workers in the workplace
The types of office
Each type of organization is able to meet the requirements necessary for a specific work activity so that it is carried out at its best. One of the first criteria that is used to determine the spatial organization of an office is represented by the type of work that is carried out within the rooms. If it is an activity that requires attention and is carried out individually, cellular distribution will be preferable. The latter is made up of individual units separated from each other and often overlooking a common corridor; the rooms are intended for one person and sometimes for small groups of workers who work closely together. In this case, a design module can be established that acts as a matrix and can be multiplied by projects with variable dimensions. This scheme can be considered as a "type aggregation" consisting of a support surface (desk), a seat, a light source and a shelf useful for arranging documents and folders. In addition, depending on the company policy, a fixed computer may be provided (not always because some companies provide laptop employees in order to also facilitate smart working) usually placed on the table. If the separation between individual cells does not provide for partition walls but a single distribution within a large environment, it will be necessary to insert flexible and shielding elements, in order to ensure greater privacy.
The second most common type of office is characterized by open space environments: open rooms, without functional subdivisions, which enclose numerous workstations. This organization is perfect for all those activities that require close collaboration between different people and sometimes between groups of workers who perform their duties in teams. Of course, the absence of physical screens between one area and another presupposes that the office activity in question does not require too much concentration and autonomy. A different situation is instead that affecting the offices divided into zones and with a floor plan divided according to the functional areas. The work that takes place there is not independent but requires the continuous exchange of information between one department and another. The design of these spaces is carried out with the aim of promoting teamwork and provides rooms where in addition to the workstations there are common equipment indispensable to all (printers, plotters, technological equipment). Finally, you can find combined plan offices that stand out for the high flexibility and versatility necessary to accommodate different professional figures. In fact, this type of environment is designed for both group and individual work and has its origins in the need to guarantee a space that during the day can change according to the need (alternation of communication between colleagues, discussion, individual work). Each type of distribution corresponds to specific activities and it is possible to report some examples of realities that take place there:
- Cellular plant > consulting reality, accounting, computer technology
- Open plan > large telecommunications, financial and administrative companies
- Plant divided into zones > insurance, communication agencies
- Combined floor plan > planning and design studies, creative editors
Although the planimetric differentiation remains according to the catchment area that the spaces are used to accommodate, in recent years there has been a growing interest in ensuring greater adaptability on the need of the moment. The work today involves the combination of professionalism with different training and consequently the collaboration between workers who need different spaces and services. In order to ensure the optimal performance of daily work, it is therefore of fundamental importance to design places that include collective areas, individual spaces and intermediate areas for exchange and communication.
The spatial organization
As previously mentioned, the space destined for work activities has undergone numerous changes in recent years, due to changing needs. This is how the clear distinction between single-cell, multi-cell and open space offices is lost, in favor of highly flexible places, designed to accommodate activities to be carried out independently and in teams. Furthermore, often, the workplace hosts not only offices but also rooms where meetings, meetings accessible by external members, warehouses, archives and service spaces take place. This functional mix requires some planning measures in terms of acoustic and lighting comfort. In fact, it is good that the rooms designed to accommodate a large number of people, often equipped with maxi screens and audiovisual systems, are suitably soundproofed, in order to ensure concentration and privacy to the adjacent areas. In the same way, depending on the need, it is necessary to ensure a good level of lighting and on the contrary, of darkening, in all those spaces intended for projections and presentations. To this end, auxiliary systems capable of calibrating the light according to the moment must be inserted. If you are in large rooms where different activities are carried out intended for heterogeneous users, suitable flexible dividing modules will be indispensable, which can be arranged where necessary to divide the surface in order to make it functional to the variable activity that takes place there .
If, on the other hand, you are in offices divided into zones, it is good that each environment respects the minimum dimensions to guarantee safety and comfort for the worker. Sometimes there are rules established by the regional legislation of the territory in which it operates, but in the absence of actual regulations it is essential to consider some measures to be respected. The different environments that make up the workplace are classified and regulated according to the specific function they cover. The premises where the actual working activity takes place must guarantee comfort and safety. Each individual room must be at least 2.70 meters high and measure 9 square meters, since each worker must enjoy at least 3 square meters. The openings designed to ensure a good level of natural lighting during the daytime must always be present; each opening must measure at least 1/8 of the floor area of the environment in question. In rare circumstances, for example in shops or small offices, it can happen that the area useful for work is distributed on two levels: this is the case with the mezzanine. For this particular type, the height of the mezzanine and the underlying rooms must never be less than 2.40 meters; moreover, the presence of special parapets that protect from accidental falls is mandatory.
The stairs must be properly designed (easy and non-slip tread and lift) and access regulated by legislation. Although the fulcrum of these places is represented by the offices, there are other places that are of fundamental importance for all those activities complementary to the work. Examples are the service rooms, designed to support all types of activities: corridors, connecting spaces, archives, toilets. Positioned according to their utility, they provide for discontinuous use by those who work at the office in question and those who pass through them for appointments, visits, training and maintenance activities. All rooms must have a minimum height of 2.40 meters and can be found on the different floors above ground or in the basement.
In the case of warehouses and archives, these are often located in the basement because they are large, they can accommodate large structures that house paper documents and folders but also clothing and objects with large dimensions in the case of commercial and production companies. The minimum dimensions depend on the use of the room: for the toilets there is a minimum of 1-1.2 m2 taking into account that at least one service for the disabled must always be present. This type of environment requires the mandatory insertion of a hallway that separates them from the work spaces. All rooms must be ventilated directly or indirectly and correctly illuminated. Finally, in the case of medium-large companies, there are places to support work activities such as the canteen, the infirmary and the reception areas. Even for these environments, there are minimum dimensions and air-lighting standards to be respected.