May 28, 2018
11:03 am

Unique Design Requirements in Commercial Architecture

Commercial architects encounter a lot of very interesting projects over the course of their careers. We work with clients in all sorts of retail sectors, and quickly learn that some businesses have distinct, and sometimes unexpected needs, that must be incorporated into the design. Today, we’d like to share a few examples of some fit-to-purpose design requirements in commercial architecture.

Creature comforts: designing the perfect pet store.

If you think pet stores with live animals are simple boxy buildings that require little planning or added infrastructure, you’d be barking up the wrong tree! Today’s modern retail pet stores have come a long way when it comes to the care offered to the animals they sell, and to the services they provide to visiting pets and owners.

Many pet stores offer spa and pet washing in-house, which requires the design and installation of washing stations and associated water service and drainage systems. Specialized pressure washing equipment must be carefully calibrated to gently massage and clean pets while preventing injury. Care must be taken to contain water and ensure walls, flooring and surfaces are easy to clean.

In Canada, pet stores need to consider what happens if the power goes out in the winter. A store we worked on had a power receptacle installed on the outside of the building, designed to plug into a generator to provide emergency power. This would allow them to keep the lights and specialty equipment on and prevent the animals from freezing if the power went off.

Perhaps the most surprising design requirement we learned about when working with a national pet store chain was the need to design walls and ceilings to prevent the escape of birds, rodents and… yes… snakes. Special measures are taken to stop up any gaps in the wall, and line walls with fine mesh wire to make it scurry and slither proof.

High standards: cannabis stores.

With the pending legalization of cannabis in Canada, retail stores are budding up across the country. Based on the experience south of the border, these aren’t going to be dark, dank shops modelled on the “head shops” of our youth.

Many of these retailers, particularly boutiques and chain operations, realize the value of professional retail design – and the importance of a positive customer experience that feels comfortable and safe. As they target a more mainstream customer, they will be eager to change perceptions. Expect to see clean, bright, inviting modern interiors with product cases that clearly display the various strains and products the stores carry. Like all retail businesses, the goal will be to encourage customers to “stop, ask, browse and buy.”

High Road Design is one of America’s leading designers of retail space for the cannabis industry. Founder Megan Stone says that given the nature of the product, and the fact these stores have a lot of cash on premises, security is a key issue.

“(Owners) failing to really integrate their security into the design is one of the things you commonly see. We need these shops to be safe and secure… but just because we have to design ourselves like banks doesn’t mean we have to feel like banks.”

Each province will have unique requirements that may impact design. In Alberta, for example, stores will be provincially mandated to have alarms and video surveillance in place – with product displayed in locked showcases that are only accessible to staff.

Keeping their cool: grocery, c-store and liquor store design.

No one likes a warm beer or a melted tub of ice cream. The obvious need for coolers and refrigeration units will largely drive the design of grocery, c-store or liquor store businesses. Stores need to do their homework to decide how much cooler space is required, and carefully consider where the cooler section will be located.

This is important as the cooler placement will impact where on the roof the condenser unit will be situated. Since condenser units are quite heavy, the roof will likely need reinforcement to bear the weight. Most coolers are loaded from the rear to minimize disturbance to customers. As such, they are generally placed along the back and around the outside edges of the store. This also helps cut down on the distance products (such as bulk 4 L milk jugs) need to be moved.

Easy to clean surfaces are essential and are largely driven by health code. Tills will generally be placed at the front of the store near exits, and are designed to provide staff with clear sight lines of the entire store to deter theft. Special thought must be given to the backroom to ensure there is ample storage.

Whatever your requirements, plan ahead.

As you can see, there are several unique design requirements in commercial architecture, all depending on the business you are in. Make sure the architect and or engineering/ design firm you work with has a clear understanding of your business’s needs. Much of the direction will be determined by existing design standards (in the case of franchise retail stores) and applicable health and building code requirements.

A final piece of advice: always plan ahead. If for example, you open a pet store with the intention of adding a pet wash service in two years, it makes sense to factor future plumbing requirements into the initial design.