Assessing the Need to Upgrade a Facility

If you’re a facility owner, you’re probably familiar (perhaps more than you’d like) with the experience of looking around your current studios and suddenly realizing, “I’ve got to do something about this place.” Brand new facilities constructed from the ground up with zillion-dollar budgets may get most of the attention, but facility improvements are as likely to be simple cosmetic and acoustical upgrades as major overhauls.

What’s important is to match the potential benefits – whether in terms of aesthetics, acoustics, production capabilities, client amenities or some other issue – to the expectations, budget and schedule you have for a renovation.

So when is it time to redesign? There are almost as many reasons as there are facilities:

When the carpet is worn out.

“Time has really been cruel to this facility, not to mention my staff.” Your facility has a 24/7 schedule, so when is there time for everyday upkeep and maintenance? Whether in new construction or replacing worn-out finishes, make sure that products that are subject to daily wear and tear, like carpet, are of good commercial-grade quality. Spending a little more money up front for those finishes can help you avoid replacing them more often than you’d like.

When you can’t walk in the hallways because of the boxes of tape stacked up everywhere.

“We never realized just how much our business had outgrown our facility until a client literally tripped over our work.” Good initial planning, including adequate storage, is essential. If your facility design makes both public spaces and technical areas large enough to be comfortable, you can avoid future claustrophobia and give your facility better longevity. On the other hand, even the best studios can seem shabby if your clients feel like they’re walking through your grandmother’s attic.

When the paint and furniture begin to remind you of your parent’s house.

“When we did this finish-out, the vibe seemed kind of cool. Now it’s just dated.” There’s a danger in letting your interior design be influenced by current trends, because that makes it all too easy to recognize later on that the aesthetic has already come and gone. Throughout the design process, let the parts that are difficult to change take on a “timeless” quality. The place to be bolder is in furniture and paint, where an upgrade is only a minor disruption.

When your landlord says so.

“The spaces all around me are leased now, so I’ve got nowhere to go. Even if I can get by here for the short term, my own lease will run out before long. Then I’ll have to look for a whole new place. Aaargh!” Avoiding unexpected crises like this is all about planning ahead. For lease negotiations, it might be as simple as including first right of refusal on the adjacent space, so it will be there if you need it. For new construction, it’s having a planned way of adding on when the time comes. Once you’re boxed in – whether by neighbors or by a floor plan that doesn’t have a way out – you’ll spend a great deal more to alleviate your growing pains.

When your rooms barely do 2.0, let alone 5.1.

“Everybody tells me I should be throwing the last of my analog gear out the window and putting in surround monitoring, but how am I supposed to make my old rooms work? I’m going to have to change everything.” Some technological changes have significant effects on the layout and operation of the rooms you work in. These days every new box seems to come with its own flatscreen and keyboard. And if your room wasn’t designed to accommodate video projection or 5.1 audio, it may take a major renovation to put them in, not only for acoustics but lighting and HVAC as well.

When it’s time to have a real business address instead of your garage.

“I know it’s time. I’ve moved into a new level of clients who don’t want to conduct business across my kitchen table. But it’s a huge step.” Sometimes a new facility is necessary just to accommodate your business plan, both now and in the future. Sitting down to program your facility needs is the first step in assuring that your next studio will answer as many business concerns as possible. It also gives you a reference point throughout the entire process, looking ahead so that you don’t have to go through this again in two or three years.

When pulling one more wire might just bring down the whole ceiling.

“When this facility was built the wiring was done quickly, everything was run overhead, and it just sort of evolved from there. Now, every time I buy a new piece of gear it might mean rethinking the whole wiring system.” It’s not only about what you see in your facility, but what you don’t see, too – the infrastructure has to be as flexible as the floor plan. New technologies are shifting the “brains” of many systems to centralized equipment areas with networked audio storage. A sound wire management system should be integral in the planning stages of a new or renovated facility.

When you’re too successful.

“When I built this place everyone said the best way to end up with a million dollars in this business was to start with 3 million. Now I’ve got so much work I’ve got to get a bigger facility.” This, of course, is the best reason you can hope for. Everything that you planned for and everything that you dreamed would happen has come true. When your facility is not keeping up with your clients’ demands, the only way to go may be to start the process of planning a new facility. Perhaps it is time to redesign.

Russ Berger

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