Plant building design – important considerations


A well designed building for Plant operations should have the following general features:

1. The design should ensure the functional smoothness of operations with adequate number and size of doorways, proper ventilation and lighting, sufficient width for passages in the operational area so that material movement is not hampered and adequate working space for operators keeping ergonomics and safety in mind.. All the obstructions in the way of operations should be avoided.

2. It should be strong enough to withstand damage due to sun, storm, weather and fire, and also floods and earthquakes, if the factory is located in a place which is prone to such natural calamities; and damages resulting from particular operations.

There are standards for structural needs depending upon the span and height of the building, the soil and climate in the place of the location, and the materials used and the products manufactured. It would suffice if these standards are suitably adapted.

The building should be so designed as to provide a number of facilities-such as lunch rooms, cafeteria, locker rooms, crèches, libraries, first-aid and ambulance rooms, materials handling facilities, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and the like.

Any negligence in, or indifference to the designing of a building would result in a detective construction, and a defective building would cripple production. It can be said that a manufacturing organization adapts to poor design & housing facilities, has the same competitive disadvantage as an athlete whose uniform restricts his movement.

The following considerations need particular mention in the designing of a factory building apart from the general requirements of a well-designed building:

Equipment & Product:

The type of product that is to be manufactured, determines column-spacing, type of floor, ceiling, heating and air-conditioning. A product of a temporary nature may call for a less expensive building and that would be a product of more permanent nature. Similarly, a heavy product demands a far more different building than a product which is light in weight.

The equipment to be used for the manufacturer of a product deserves due consideration in the designing of the building. A large forge shop may demand a very high ceiling clearance and heavy reinforced concrete footing under the machine. A concern that frequently moves large machine tools must provide for inside and outside doors which are large enough to facilitate the movement.

Future Expansion provision:

It is prudent that growth and expansion must always be kept in mind by any manufacturing enterprise. They are, in fact, the indicators of the prosperity of a business. Recognition of this fact in designing a building makes the latter more flexible and less subject to major alternatives when expansion does take place.

Expansibility does not refer to the construction of a massive building in which a major portion of the space would be idle. An idle building not only locks up substantial working capital but adds to the maintenance costs. The wisdom lies in the construction of a building which is adequate enough to accommodate the present manufacturing programs and related activities, and provides for expansion as well.

The following factors should be borne in mind if the future expansion of the concern is to be provided for:

1. The area of the land which is to be acquired should be large enough to provide for the future expansion needs of the firm and accommodate current needs.

2. The design of the building should be in a rectangular shape. Generally speaking, industrial buildings take the shape of any of the letters U, E, H, I, L, T and U. Of these, shape I is very common. Rectangular shapes facilitate expansion on any side, though northward expansion is not followed.

3. If vertical expansion is expected, strong foundations, supporters and columns must be provided.

4. If horizontal expansion is expected, the side walls must be made non-load-bearing to provide for easy removal.

Service Area & Employee Facilities:

Employee facilities must find a proper place in the building design because they profoundly affect the morale, comfort and productivity. The building plan should include facilities for lunch rooms, cafeteria, water coolers, parking area and the like. The provision of some of these facilities is a legal requirement. Others make good working conditions possible. Good working conditions are good business.

Services areas, such as the tool-room, the supervisor’s office, the maintenance room, receiving and dispatching stations, the stock room and facilities for scrap disposal, should also be included in the building design.

Safety of Property and People:

The primary function of a building is to give shelter to the employees and protect the company property from such disasters as fire, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes. The danger from fire is very common and almost universal. The building plan should provide for maximum fire protection and should have such items as fire hose connections, fire alarms, sprinkle facilities, fire escape mechanisms and safety lights. If the products produced are inflammable then even a fire engine with fully trained personnel must be deployed inside the plant. Floods cause extensive damage to property and people. The building should be so designed to drain out even abnormal or cloudburst heavy rain water without causing any damage to the buildings, machinery and stored / kept goods. This will enable the management to face such a calamity. The installation of the early warning system is one such essential item in a building. Similarly, provisions to face hurricane should be included in the building design.


Security arrangements are essential for the prevention of thefts from inside the plant. The most common method of ensuring security is to post watchmen at the entrance and the exit. The other methods are the use of fences, guardhouses, flood lighting and closed circuit television. All these should find their place in the building design. In some plants a few security personnel are made to take rounds inside and outside the buildings particularly during nights to guard any unlawful activity or thefts. A few companies located in areas where threat of ultras exist security men with guns are also positioned in remote areas of the plant.

Site selection:

The site selected for a factory building should receive due considerations in its design. If a city site is selected, firm foundations have to be laid in view of the expectation of its vertical expansion. If a village site is selected, deep foundations are not necessary because a horizontal expansion would be possible at this site. If the terrain of the site is uneven, cellars may be constructed and used for materials storage, employee facilities, locker rooms, vehicle parking and the like. The type of soil determines the depth of the foundation and the type of materials to be used in the construction of the factory building

Maintenance Charges:

The service and maintenance charges of a building add to the cost of overheads and should, therefore, be avoided by providing for certain structural facilities. Junctions may be rounded off to avoid the formation of sharp corners which are inevitable dust collectors and which call for constant cleaning. The construction of single-storey buildings dispenses with the need for elevators and the expenditure incurred on them.

Building appearance and beautification:

Efforts should be made to make the building a pleasant place for workers. Employee comfort should receive top priority, because the workers spend a greater portion of their total working hours in the factory. Their stay in the factory should, therefore, be comfortable and pleasant. The building should have an elegant appearance because this adds t the pride and prestige of the managers and the managed. Any attractive, well designed plant promotes community good will. It also has an influence on employee morale. An attractive plant makes a progressive, successful organization and therefore stimulates pride in the company.