MEZZANINE FACTORY FIT OUT OFFICE FIT OUT AIRCONDITIONING ELECTRICAL
About this project
Redesigning a dance studio to include an office, complete with a staircase linking adjacent buildings, at short notice requires considerable flexibility and ingenuity. Faced with this challenge, Spaceway successfully provided immediate design ideas that could be adjusted and tailored to requirements throughout the eight-week build.
The timescale was extremely important. Located on a school site, it was essential to ensure that the building work incurred minimal disruption to the children’s education.
A Fully Inclusive School
Part of the multi-academy Avanti Schools Trust, Åvanti House Secondary School in Stanmore is a fully inclusive school possessing a values based educational approach. Students are encouraged to value self, others and the environment, becoming effective learners and good citizens. Performing Arts is a key specialism. Built in 2012, Avanti House Secondary School is a purpose built complex, which hosts an extensive programme of regular events for parents and the community.
Over the years, it became obvious that additional office space was needed. Avanti’s dance studio offered a potential answer since it possessed an eight metre high ceiling. Constructing a mezzanine would not affect the dance teaching facilities, but would allow the school to utilise the under used space within the ceiling area. Access to the new mezzanine was achieved by a staircase which ran through adjacent buildings.
Spaceway designer Katie Amaira says “Avanti approached us because we could do the mezzanine and the complete fit out, which saved them from having to deal with lots of different contractors. They needed a quick response so I produced the initial mezzanine and office fit out drawings within a day.“
The Need for Additional Space
Collaborative Design Process
This design provided the basis for subsequent discussions as the project got underway. Katie explains, “The initial design is open to interpretation. It may not work exactly as the client needs it too at first, but we discuss and generate proposals until we find a design that works efficiently. With all of us working together on the project it allows multiple ideas to flow, enabling us to show the client designs they hadn’t thought of. One of the features open to change in this project was the staircase, at first the client wanted a straight staircase but that would have taken up a large proportion of space in the dance studio”. The final design ended up consisting of a two-part staircase, creating a bridge through two buildings, with one part in an adjacent building with a lower ceiling height, linking to the other part of the staircase in the building with the eight-metre ceiling height. “Our solution involved using a storage cupboard that wasn’t being used for part of the staircase, giving the client more space than they first thought they could have had.”
She continued, “This project was quite individual when it came to fitting out the office space as the client was interested in the different styles of finishes, and furnishings available. I showed them examples of Crittall glazing as well as various types of LVT (luxury vinyl tiles), instead of the carpet they were initially quoted. We ended up going for a modern theme, creating a walkway in a contrasting colour to the rest of the flooring in the office. This was a design feature as well as a practicality feature, to help zone the office and make it look bright and spacious, in a room with no external windows.”
Establishing a close, friendly relationship with Avanti was crucial to ensuring the success of this evolving design and project management. Considerable use was made of three-dimensional plans to ensure that the client could visualise instantly what the end result of the flooring and glazing would look like.
“The project developed naturally with the client. I could ring up and discuss ideas as and when I needed. I built up a good relationship with Nitesh from Avanti and had a constant line of communication with him. When I had an idea, or a question I would just ring him, send over a drawing or a collection of images and we could discuss. When you are designing a project, you’re constantly thinking about it, meaning you could come up with ideas along the way that may work better. I do the CAD plans, the 3D plans and I’ve got knowledge of the building regulations, what works, and what doesn’t work through experience, so I apply that to each project in a way that suits the client and their requirements. This project included individual design features making it stylish. We added features like Crittall glazing, vinyl floor tiles and swivel armchairs, increasing the finished visual appeal of the project. The kitchen, for example, had granite tops with matte doors, and black taps” commented Katie.
“It’s a development process which continues until you feel you can’t develop it any further, and you say this is it, this is going to work. When you know the client’s happy, the directors are happy and the designs work with the timescale and budget, you’ve got to the finished product. You are always conscious of the cost implications of the design to make sure you stick to budget and that you don’t propose something ridiculously priced.”
Natural Development Process
Quick Lead Times and a Flexible Approach
In general, the lead time is about four to six weeks. Much depends on exactly when the client wants to start since sometimes the building itself might not be ready for an install. Spaceway always aims to work around the client’s time scale. Occasionally, small changes are made during the actual construction process. A typical example might be a door having to be moved slightly, an extra partition added or adjusted to provide more space within a room. It is rare for clients to dislike something once it’s been created, because there’s so much preparation work that comes with the design process. Spaceway produce plan views, sections, elevations and even rendered 3D visuals in some projects, using a collection of the industry’s leading design software’s. This allows the designers to produce better visuals and work to quicker time scales, while providing a variety of visual angles prior to the build.
This flexible approach proved important in the Avanti project as Katie explains.
“The client did suggest one change. At the back of the office space, there was one office and two meeting rooms. One of the meeting rooms was larger than the other and we put a concertina door between them so that we could create a space suitable for a large group of people, or two smaller groups, this ensured the rooms were suitable for a multitude of functions, such as large meetings using a projector for presentations or for discussions and private chats. The door was almost like a wall when it was flat and closed. It possessed good sound reduction and noise transfer qualities and could be pulled all the way to one side to make a rectangle shaped room.”
Careful project management preparations organised by Clive Verney, who has worked for Spaceway for more than 15 years, ensured that the install ran extremely smoothly. “We did the upstairs ceiling first before the mezzanine was installed. The upper ceiling was installed with scissor lifts. We did that ceiling before we actually installed the mezzanine because we were able to get from the bottom to the top without having to take any machinery up the tall staircase, and we also installed the lighting and air conditioning that way,” commented Katie. “The mezzanine wasn’t very big, just 9.5 metres by 20 metres. We put the mezzanine in and then the ground floor ceiling. The staircase was just fitted around the existing building. It’s like a bridge through the buildings.”
Careful Project Management
All Aspects of the Project Organised by Spaceway
Spaceway organised all aspects of the build, ensuring contractors such as electricians, lighting specialists, cable companies, air conditioning firms and kitchen fitters were on site at the required point in the project.
At this point in the project, Katie’s skills and coordination abilities were stretched to the utmost when the client decided to make last minute changes to the finishes. “It was only after the mezzanine had been put in that it was decided to upscale all the finishes. I got very involved with that because they wanted detailed designs. I went on site, met with the client and we decided all the finishes within one or two days. I went myself to check the kitchen cabinet colours. We ordered it, got it in time and installed it a few day later. The granite top was cut on site to ensure it fit perfectly.”
The End Result
As a result of this flexibility, Spaceway was able to provide Avanti with the perfect office accommodation complete with additional access points without any disruption to the daily life of the school. Avanti acquired additional high quality facilities, exceeding their original expectations and making a space that would impress their sponsors. So pleased were Avanti with the success of the project that further development work elsewhere on site is being planned, such as the creation of a prayer room complete with underfloor heating by enclosing an existing courtyard with a four metre high glass roof.