Smart homeowners know the advantage of hiring an architect for their remodeling project. But business owners? Our interview with John Conroy, founding partner of Princeton Design Collaborative in Lawrenceville, shows how such advance planning can save you time, money and headaches.

Q: Many Mercer-area businesses are outgrowing their office space. What’s your advice?

A: Running your own business can be challenging. So when it is time to expand your footprint and enlarge your office — or even locate to a larger facility — things can become complicated and expensive very quickly. Making the right investment on a new or bigger space can greatly assist you in achieving productivity, a stable employee base and returning customers for repeat business and referrals.

Q: What should businesses consider when choosing a new location?

A: There are many factors: Will the town allow your type of business to operate in your part of town? Are there special building provisions needed for the functions of your type of business? Will your business affect adjacent tenants spaces or properties? Also: Will your new space be large enough as you continue to grow, or will it be prove to be too large? Does it have the required amount of parking (which can differ based on local ordinances)? Are the heating, air conditioning and lighting in proper running order and efficient?  

John Conroy, PDC Founder

John Conroy, PDC Founder

Q: So how can an experienced architect help expand existing spaces?

A: In many ways: Creating a space with the correct furnishings and configuration, allowing employees to work efficiently and productively at their task.  Making sure your work environment is pleasing to staff so they are happy with their jobs … it’s much cheaper to maintain staff than to train new people.  Plus, it’s important to have an environment where customers will feel welcome. Your space should reflect your company’s “brand.”  Architects can even help you budget effectively for new furniture, equipment and furnishings.

Q: Can you give an example?

A: One area business which specializes in locally grown and produced foods wanted to add a space for holding events and classes. Their idea was to condition an underutilized portion of an existing structure. Our architectural staff was brought on to help the owners understand the feasibility of this project, and give guidance on how to achieve it in a timely matter while identifying required approvals.

We first analyzed the spaces, what materials the building was constructed of and how large it was. This was needed to see if building codes would allow a new use into the building. We found that it was possible as long as special fire partitions were constructed to separate the different uses of food production and storage from a public space where lots of people would be.

Prior to spending a great deal of time and the clients’ money on drawings for construction that may be rejected, we arranged a meeting with code officials to explain our goals and how we planned to achieve them. Our biggest concern: would they require the space to have sprinklers in case of a fire, which couldn’t be accomplished due to low water pressure on site. We demonstrated to code officials the challenges and how we would overcome them to create a safe environment within the structure – all with one simply drawing. In less than 20 minutes, all parties were in agreement with one small additional item suggested by the town.

This accomplished several things: It confirmed the project feasibility, made the client aware of what requirements they would need and their associated expenses, and ensured a smooth code review with the town when final documentation was completed. Without the proper guidance from an experienced architect, this project risked the chance of not being approved after a great amount of effort, time and money was invested. Our proactive course of action early in the project assured a smooth and cost effective process to achieve the results they desired without long delays and added expense. 

Q: You mention improving productivity.  How?
A: Another local business recently renewed their lease for an additional ten years and wanted to take care of several issues within the office. These included lighting, overheated spaces, and client perception. Their lighting was creating severe glare problems on computer screens, and safety concerns as employees climbed on desks to unscrew light bulbs causing the problems. Our solution was to switch out antiquated lighting with a new LED system offering greater flexibility, with dimmers, so each person could customize their own lighting needs. To save additional energy with this ultra-high efficient lighting system, we added daylight sensors that automatically dimmed when the space is filled with daylight. Even better, it qualified for state and federal tax incentives that reduced upfront costs.

Overheated offices on the building’s west side when sun shined in were also creating discomfort for staff in the afternoon. Our solution was not to install more air conditioning as requested by the client, but to add an undetectable reflective film on windows that reflected the heat of the sunrays. This passive approach reduced both AC needs and additional glare problems.

In addition, our team helped enhance the company’s image throughout the reception space that was outdated as compared to the rest of the office. By adding new materials on the walls associated with the business name, and replacing furniture with more modern pieces that fit seamlessly with the rest of the office, it greatly improved first perceptions when entering the office. Results were apparent within the first weeks. Morale improved. Complaints about glare problems were eliminated. And there were no more calls to technicians about overheating. Utility bills were also monitored and a four-year payback on return of investment was calculated. Later, when the firm relocated, these enhancements to the tenant space made it easy to sublease in less than 60 days.

NEXT WEEK: How to downsize your space efficiently and cost-effectively





Learn more about Princeton Design Collaborative at
126 Lakedale Drive | Lawrenceville, NJ | 08648  609.695.1125
architecture | interior design | landscape architecture | graphic+web design