December 20, 2022

5 Things An Architect Should Consider For Empty Big Box Retail Spaces MEP Design

5 Things An Architect Should Consider For Empty Big Box Retail Spaces MEP Design

It’s time to think outside the box.

When it comes to planning MEP design for empty big box retail spaces, architects are getting creative and considering new solutions meant to ease the burdens of building in today’s rapidly changing environment.

Across the country, architects are reimagining abandoned big box stores and thinking toward the future. Rather than building in a way that places a heavy burden on inefficient systems, architects are turning these voids into opportunities and capitalizing on the incredible volume and open framework that most big box spaces provide.

What Is MEP Design?

MEP design is the science and art of planning, designing, and managing all the most important systems in buildings. MEP stands for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, but top MEP engineers are capable of planning much more than just those systems.

MEP design experts can provide guidance and support in the redevelopment and reimagining of many different types of outdated retail spaces.

The Role of an Architect in Retail Design

Retail spaces are interwoven into our lives. Imagine the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, with its incredible glass design, or the iconic Beverly Center in Los Angeles.

Architects play an enormous role in the design and development of most commercial retail spaces, including conversion projects, when empty retail spaces are redeveloped into new, thriving locations.

The best architects think holistically about retail design. They understand local codes and the challenges of regional topography, as well as the aesthetics of the brands they are working for. Although design trends change fast, seasoned architects are able to find a balance between trendy and classic, so spaces feel both of-the-moment and timeless, all at once.

Repurposing Abandoned Big Box Retail Spaces

Malls and department stores are closing in record numbers. According to a report by Credit Suisse, an incredible 1-in-4 malls in the U.S. will close by the end of 2022. Abandoned malls are known as “ghost malls.” These abandoned spaces have been shown to lead to increases in crime and decreases in property values for nearby tenants.

When big box retail closures occur, commercial spaces generally sit empty for a period of months, or even years. Getting these types of large-scale commercial spaces ready for new tenants involves more than just a fresh coat of paint. In nearly every case, an architect with experience in MEP design must be brought in to reimagine and develop the abandoned property.

Examples of Adaptive Reuse

Tax incentives and environmental benefits are two major reasons why commercial developers choose to reimagine empty big box retail spaces. In architecture, the term adaptive reuse is used to describe projects that involve the repurposing of existing structures for new use.

In the town of McAllen, Texas, an abandoned Walmart store was redeveloped to become a single-story public library. The 123,000-square-foot space is now the largest single-story public library in the U.S.

Due to the size and the open framework, architects faced many obstacles in the conversion of this space. Existing plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems had to be upgraded, as the open floor concept was reimagined to split the public library into multiple sections. Designers added bright materials and soft floor coverings as a way to reduce noise in the space, as well.

5 MEP Design Considerations When Redeveloping Empty Retail Spaces

Redeveloping an empty retail space often requires consultation with an MEP design and engineering firm. Engineers with experience in MEP design are qualified to make specific recommendations involving building safety and optimizing energy-efficient structures.

Here are five of the key things architects should keep in mind about MEP design when redeveloping empty big box retail spaces:

1. Consider local regulations and building codes. Plenty of architects have innovative, never-before-seen ideas for redeveloping empty big box retail spaces. The architects most likely to see their ideas come to fruition are the ones who incorporate local planning and zoning laws into their designs. Without adhering to local ordinances, like setbacks, energy-efficiency considerations, and transparency requirements, it’s unlikely a new project will receive the necessary permits to get started.

2. Take advantage of the latest CAD drafting technology. CAD (computer-aided design) software has come a long way in the last decade. Today’s most sophisticated technology solutions have been developed to incorporate MEP design principles.

3. Share design data with engineering experts. The most successful architects are comfortable working as part of a team. With so much complexity involved in redeveloping abandoned big box retail spaces, it makes sense to share the burden with an MEP engineer who has experience planning, designing, and managing MEP systems in commercial buildings. BIM-enabled software makes it easier for architects to create information databases, which can then be shared between all project stakeholders throughout the design and development process.

4. Focus on sustainability. Sustainability is one the primary reasons why commercial businesses choose to redevelop empty retail spaces rather than building on empty lots. Redesigning an existing building is viewed as environmentally-friendly, as it generally results in far less carbon emissions than constructing a new commercial facility from the ground up. Architects should keep their eye on the sustainability component throughout all stages of the project, making sure to incorporate the latest MEP design principles, like integrating renewable energy sources whenever possible.

5. Store layouts should be selected with MEP design in mind. Store layout should be considered from the moment a project takes life. The opinions and preferences of the retailer must be weighed against the considerations and limitations posed by an MEP engineer.

The six most common store layouts are:

  • Straight: Merchandise is displayed on straight walls; consumers check-out at the back of the store.
  • Curved: Innovative design concept features slightly curved walls, corners, and ceilings to create a cozy ambiance.
  • Pathway: Consumers have a clear path that guides them toward the check-out counter.
  • Diagonal: Strategic design considerations manipulate consumers to move at an angle, toward a check-out located at the center of the space.
  • Geometric: Varying ceiling height, combined with racks and fixtures placed in a geometric floor pattern.
  • Varied: Store plan that draws attention to special focus areas. Varied plans are most commonly seen at jewelry stores and other specialty retail spaces.

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