Innovative Shop Design

How to create a maintenance facility for maximum functionality and productivity

“When we began planning this project, construction prices were flat. However, it took more than two years to get the project designed and the bond referendum passed. When we were ready to break ground, Aspen was enjoying a building boom, and construction costs had risen 40 percent - so had our budget. Because we had included elected officials and the public in the process, everyone felt like they had a vested interest in the project. They came together to help scale back the building design while still meeting everyone’s expectations.”


Planning and attention to the smallest detail can prevent mistakes that can hinder the efficiency of a maintenance facility. Leidy says the following are some of the most common mistakes that create problems for shop and fleet managers down the road:

- Lighting. “It’s important to choose lighting fixtures that offer a full spectrum of light. Lighting has ramifications on the energy efficiency, functionality and safety of the facility, as well as on the general atmosphere of the workplace. For example, high-pressure sodium lights work well outdoors but aren’t suited for a maintenance shop. Inside a building, the light’s orange-yellow cast creates poor color rendition, making different colored wires look the same and blood indistinguishable from grease.

- Overhead clearance. “Ductwork, plumbing and cranes installed too low can encroach on necessary overhead space and interfere with the required unobstructed vertical clearance in the repair bay, rendering cranes and lifts useless.”

- Door size. Measure each vehicle’s width and height - including mirrors and vertical extensions, recommends Leidy. “You might think that ten-foot-wide garage doors can accommodate a truck that is eight feet wide. Most trucks usually have mirrors that protrude up to a foot on each side, which shrinks clearance from two feet to only a few inches.”

- Building finishes/aesthetics. “The bottom four to six feet of the shop walls should be durable (concrete or masonry) to withstand the abuse in a shop environment. Make sure the entire inside of the building (walls and structure) is painted to allow proper building maintenance to extend the useful life of the facility. Designing the facility’s exterior to complement the surrounding environment and adding native landscaping can help gain public approval of the project.

- Expandability. The building should not only handle the shop’s current work load, but also should be adaptable and able to accommodate demands 20 years from now, says Leidy. For example, if additional bays aren’t built during initial construction, room should be left on the site to accommodate the expansion. Also, load bearing walls should be avoided to maximize flexibility for future modifications.

- Public involvement. “Everyone who has an interest in the project needs to be informed. The best-designed project won’t get built if it’s not approved because an elected official or the public doesn’t understand the importance of the facility.”

- Appearance. “Form follows function. It’s always possible to make a functional building look good, but it isn’t always possible to make a good looking building functional.”

Maintenance shop design should also incorporate features and functions to maximize shop efficiencies, as well as technician productivity and safety.

With environmentally responsibility on everyone’s mind these days, shop greening should also be a consideration. Most sustainable design practices also make good business sense. This might include waste oil heaters, wash water recycling, water reducing fixtures, occupancy sensor lighting systems, tank-less water heaters, solar panels,  using recycled materials for construction of the facility itself, and complying with LEED building standards.

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) created the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system to measure and certify the  design and construction of sustainable building projects.

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: stormwater management, energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources with sensitivity to their impacts.


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