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Thinking Ahead: Designers Discuss the Challenges of Newspaper Project Planning

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Thinking Ahead: Designers Discuss the Challenges of Newspaper Project Planning

Article excerpt

THE UNPREDICTABLE FUTURE of technology and its effects on workflow have the potential to frustrate those involved in construction or renovation of newspaper plants.

According to Rick Ruffino of the Blevins Harding Group, a newspaper planning and consulting firm based in Boulder, Colo., much of the change in the way organizations such as his are designing plants results from a shift from press technology-driven planning to office technology-driven planning.

Ruffino said the advent of digital technologies gives newspaper office personnel the freedom to be anywhere on or off site.

"We always had bureaus," he said, "but they were outposts. Now they're major sources of information."

Ruffino includes telecommuters in his definition of bureaus, but emphasizes the need to address the isolating aspects of working from home. "You should have a place to go in the office; it's the anchor that allows people to maintain contact."

An increasingly popular concept that Blevins Harding is exploring with clients is known as "hoteling," whereby organizations provide office space and equipment based on the likelihood that a percentage of telecommuting personnel will be in the office on any given day.

For instance, if an organization employs 25 outside salespeople, or telecommuting reporters, it may find that only 10 of those people may be in on any given day. As a result, the organization can save money and space by building only 10 workspaces, to be shared by all 25.

Ruffino said his firm examines the bureau and telecommuting issues with publishers during the process of "programming," which Blevins Harding defines as a "rigorous process of interacting with the client regarding [issues] they may not have thought about."

"It crystallizes their thinking. It's a good process for them," he added.

Dario DiMare, formerly of Haskell Co., and recent founder of his own Framingham, Mass., firm, said that modern newspaper plant designs revolve around two main issues: specific needs and technology, both present and future.

"They both change simultaneously," DiMare said. "It becomes a moving target."

Today DiMare figures electronics into the design of the entire facility. With change the only constant, he said the key to designing for electronics is flexibility.

"The ultimate way of dealing with electronics today is a raised floor, but it's expensive. The unbeatable advantage is that you can put anything in it -- electrical, voice, data and mechanical systems."

According to DiMare, raised flooring allows easy relocation of all types of equipment. If the cost cannot be justified, however, the publisher has options such as in-slab raceways, where electric trays, or grids, are built into the cement floor or ceiling.

"If you design properly," DiMare said, "the walls, ceiling tiles, floor systems, sprinkler heads, diffusers, lighting fixtures, will all be on a grid. Therefore, if you have to move a wall or an office, you can do so without affecting building systems. It's logical, inexpensive and easy to adapt to changing technologies if you design this way."

He compares today's newspaper design model with what designers in other industries call "smart buildings"; then a misnomer when you consider that they were only talking about a small computer room within an entire facility. "It's not like this hasn't been done before," he said. "The difference is that now you are truly talking about a whole building. …

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