Kitchens Use Lots of Energy and Water, But a Green Kitchen Uses Less.
First, Look for Underutilized Spaces That Can Be Adapted in a House
A home office can be as simple as adding built-in furniture or as involved as converting an unused attic.
According to government labor statistics, more than 20 million Americans work at home at least part of the time. and the number increases every year. In the near future, chances are a client will ask you about building an office space for their home. Sometimes an existing floor plan can make it hard to accommodate a home office, but rather than enlarging the house, one potential solution is to rework the existing space so that it can accommodate more than one function. Another viable alternative is to convert at an unused basement or attic into office space. Think ahead about wiring for new technologies or plumbing for future bathrooms while walls, floors and ceilings may be exposed.
Discuss work habits, traffic patterns and accessibility with clients
A careful evaluation of lifestyle patterns and how existing rooms are currently used may be the start of a redesign. Reworking an existing floor plan so that all areas of the house are fully utilized makes more sense than adding square footage. A single room can be reorganized or adjacent rooms joined into a single space.
Consider an existing room that is little used
A formal dining room or a living room could serve such purposes. A well-thought-out design can transform a single room into working and living space. Making room for a new home office may be as simple as adding a new piece of furniture. A custom armoire, for example, can open to a computer and office supplies during at-home office time but be closed up when not in use and the room is returned to family time.
Consider the attic or the basement
If there isn't easily adaptable space in the existing living area of a house that can be converted or used as a multipurpose area to accomodate a home office, take a look at the floor above or below the main living rooms.
Converting an unconditioned attic or basement to an office will require addressing the insulation and air sealing, as well as providing lighting and adequate electrical services. Converting either unused space will be more involved and expensive that utilizing another room in the house, but the benefit is that the homeowner will get a dedicated area for an office, rather than having to share with other activities.
Create a comfortable work environment
Solve function or performance problems such as poor air quality, inadequate lighting, poor acoustics or temperature swings and drafts early in the design process. Furnishings and flooring should be compatible with office functions. Choose furniture, flooring and fabrics that don’t emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde or other contaminants.
Address wiring requirements
Home offices frequently need specialty wiring to handle printers, computers, fax machines, coaxial or network cables and telephone lines. Where possible, run wiring in a baseboard chase (or something similarly accessible) to accommodate future changes. When choosing appliances, lighting and office equipment, look for energy-efficient models and provide a means for turning off equipment to prevent phantom electrical loads.
More About Home Offices
Lighting and windows
Choose a mix of natural daylighting, compact fluorescent lamps and task and ambient lighting.
Furniture and fittings
Some pieces that lend flexibility to a home office space include a self-contained and easily closed secretary's desk or armoire with an antique-style desk chair and a coffee table with tuck-under seats for children. Select furniture that has been finished with least-toxic products. Choose untreated, kid-friendly (dark, patterned, textured) fabrics for durability and minimal cleaning.
Image Credits: Julia Jandrisits/REGREEN, Pam Sowerby/REGREEN