The best designs start with even better data. It is not uncommon for institutional architects to spend 10 to 12 months assessing and capturing the current and anticipated requirements of new construction, additions, or retrofits of current buildings or structures.
At Parkin, we believe it is not the sole responsibility of the architect firm to map out the design requirements of a project. Architects do not work in a vacuum, isolated from the needs of the various stakeholders. Of course, we can’t speak to how other firms run their practice, but we can talk about our approach and the approach used by the firms we have partnered with in the past.
In every project we take on, we work with all of the stakeholders involved to capture the full scope of operational requirements, from technology and space needs to everyday movements, as well as employee health, wellbeing and productivity. This means sitting with staff, including those who maintain the building as well as those whose work productivity depends on functional designs. We then take this data and benchmark it against best-practice and evidence-based design studies in order to map out both current and future requirements of the design at hand.
So what does that process look like? It’s important to note, the process isn’t sequential in the sense that once we interview a stakeholder or collect data, they are then checked off some sort of list. Any new piece of information gathered could trigger our team to reinvestigate data already collected.
Steps in Defining Design Requirements
Data collection: Interview current stakeholders (from those who work in the building to those who use the building). This includes facility management, employees, medical, clinical and support staff, customers, clients or patients, the IT department, health and building inspectors, key stakeholders, or any other identified influencer. The data collection is done through focus groups, individual interviews, questionnaires, etc.
Evaluate: Study how the space is currently being used, including an analysis of process gaps and/or workflow bottlenecks. The data collected during the interviews, coupled with the evaluation, begins to paint a picture illustrating how the space is currently used, as well as opportunities for improvement.
Future Use: Capture and document intended future use of space, taking into consideration process improvement through workflow studies and new technology, as well as leaving room for forecasted needs.
Demographics: Capture the data of current demographics and assess future needs; is the demographic contracting or aging?
Outside Influences: Climate, typical weather patterns, natural light, and location could potentially influence the design in some manner, as could new studies and technology.
Design Review: Once we have assimilated all of the information gathered and incorporated it into a practical design solution, we re-visit the user groups, stakeholders, etc., to ensure that we have interpreted their needs correctly and that our design solution had addressed their processes and space requirements.
Recently, Surrey Memorial Hospital opened the doors to its new Emergency Department, the second largest in Canada. This was a joint venture with CEI Architecture. Before we even began taking pencil to paper, we spent over a year in consultation with the key stakeholders, nurses, doctors, facility management and other influential users, resulting in a highly acclaimed emergency department that meets both current and future needs.