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Common Mistakes: Systems Furniture

May 1, 2007
When selecting systems furniture, don’t buy without realizing how these pieces relate to other facility components

It goes without saying that the best way to avoid problems with systems furniture is to be aware of occupants' needs and wants. Are they paper pushers? Do they need adjustable-height furniture or filing space? How many computers do they have in their workspace? Gather this information before you purchase; everyone will be better off. "If you base your decision purely on cost, you'll be in trouble," says Lois Braun-Oddo, interior designer, Strang Inc., Madison, WI. "Low-end systems may fit your budget, but may not be as flexible, as ergonomic, or as sustainable. But, if you think the most expensive system will solve all of your problems, that may be a problem, too."

As Palm City, FL-based Corporate Furniture Options advises, take your organization's future needs into consideration when selecting systems furniture. Choose systems with pieces that can be added and subtracted easily as users' needs change. "Plan for non-handed spaces," advises Janelle Burchardt, interior designer, C.H. Guernsey & Co., Oklahoma City. Otherwise, you'll inevitably end up with a left-handed person at a desk that was configured for right-handed use (or vice versa).

Instead of viewing systems furniture as an autonomous product, says Braun-Oddo, think about how your building components relate to it. When you view systems furniture as something that isn't connected to (and a vital part of) your facility, the lighting, ceiling, and ventilation systems may not complement the systems furniture. "We see [professionals] having to go back in and retrofit because someone didn't plan for the circuitry or the right amount of wiring within each space. Know what kinds of power services are available for the building. Accurately [classify] the number of employees, the number of computers, and the pieces of equipment. People just make the assumption that there is one computer per workstation; sometimes, that's not true," says Burchardt. Wiring configurations can vary between manufacturers: New electrical wiring may have to be pulled to work with the systems furniture's power in-feeds if there is a disparity between the originally specified furniture and the final selection.

Watch out for panel creep as well (extra inches that are added along a run of panels due to connections from panel to panel). Planning for the thickness of one panel doesn't help if that number is multiplied indefinitely based upon the workstations in an area. If you select systems with panel creep and don't plan for the extra space, the furniture won't fit. "Be careful that you have more than enough space to accommodate the systems furniture in between the hard walls," emphasizes Burchardt.

SIMON SAYS:Always view the system in person before you buy it; touch it, sit at it, and understand how it operates. You’ll soon see that systems furniture is so much more than a desk against a panel.

Other common mistakes:

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