Conference Centers are designed by architects. Architects are chosen because of the iconic designs they have produced and rightly so. That the building looks fantastic is one of the most important factors for its owner. Problems arise when the every day to day business needs are not factored into the design. So here are my 10 most important tips for architects and their conference center clients.
- Logistics: Ask yourself what makes the cash register ring. It‘s all about getting the most use out of the building. This means events have to get in and out of the building the fastest way possible. So be sure to make the loading bay doors, hallways and elevators inside the building most accommodating to the process of moving goods in and out of the building. Keep the distance to main stages or areas short and as straight as possible. If the main areas are not on ground level, then make sure the elevator is at least 2 X 4 meters large and able to carry at least 2 tons.
- Structural Support: Ceilings must be able to support lighting, sound and other event related fixtures that are temporarily installed for the event. The weight can reach as much as a ton per square meter over the stage area. Easily accessible hanging points must be installed to accommodate these additional fixtures. Pillars in a meeting room mean lost revenue to the venue because any seating areas that do not have a view of the stage cannot be sold. The floor must be able to support at least 500 kg per square meter. Anything under that will automatically make it almost impossible to set up an exhibition or display a car.
- Acoustics: Sound isolation of meeting rooms from other areas is very important. Things like moving walls or doors to hallways must provide isolation > 52 db. If not it will be impossible to use the space efficiently due to external noise. The acoustics of a meeting room itself must be tailored to speech. Do not attempt to construct a multipurpose room with mixed usage for classic, rock and speech. The ramifications for getting the acoustics right are immensely expensive and always a tradeoff. Never try to hide loudspeakers. A loudspeaker that is not seen is not heard. Try designing the loudspeaker into the room.
- Room dimensions: Every meeting room needs a minimum of height from floor to ceiling depending on the intended capacity. This is due to stage and video screen size requirements. The more capacity a room has the higher the ceiling must be. A small meeting room up to 150 people will need a ceiling height of at least 3.5 meters. A larger meeting room of 1000 people will need at least 8 meters.
- Cable ducts: Every meeting room should provide easily accessible cable ducts to facilitate temporary wiring. These cable ducts must comply to building codes especially fire safety. This is most important if a multipurpose room is being constructed. Outlets from these ducts must be constructed in a way that allows easy access but prevents tripping.
- Electrical Outlets: A high amount of electrical energy is needed in conference centers today because of increased catering demands. Front cooking, plate warmers, ovens etc. need a lot of electric energy. Also temporary lighting and sound fixtures need power. Regularly spaced power outlets with at least 32 Amperes on 3 phases provide enough energy to meet these requirements.
- Wall and Floor Coverings: Beside these being aesthetically pleasing they must also be robust. Every event means moving a lot of furniture, equipment and decorations into and out of the venue so the walls and floors must be able to withstand a lot of wear and tear. They must also be easy to clean. Carpets should have stain resistance built in and, by the way, prevent static discharge. As will always happen a wall or floor will be damaged so it is also important to be repaired swiftly and easily so that the show can go on.
- Storage Room: Storage rooms are almost always underestimated. They get designed into the original design but somehow get lost in the process as the planning goes ahead. Keep in mind that a conference center will not only have its own furniture to store but also things like av-equipment; decoration; rigging and much more that accumulates over time. Then there is the customer that wants to temporarily store their brochures; congress papers; giveaways etc. Storage room must also be easily reachable.
- Back Offices: These are needed in more ways than one. Customers need to be able to have their own organizing room where they can store their personal belongings; hold meetings and even set up a small IT control room. These offices should be located near the registration areas so that distances are short.
- Catering facilities: Other than the catering kitchen a caterer needs storage space throughout the conference center in order to store stock for coffee breaks, mobile bars and to clear out used tableware fast without having to move these things through a crowded lobby.
These are the major issues I encounter while consulting with my clients. Of course we can go into much further detail but just implementing these tips into the design will get you most of the way to having a profitable conference center.
If you have any other ideas please feel free to comment below. Thank you!