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Designer booths 1990s style.

IN TODAY'S HIGHLY MOBILIZED SOciety, practically every new structure, whether it is an office building, shopping center, amusement park, hospital, or hotel, has a cashier or guard booth. Until a few years ago, these booths were simple, unattractive metal boxes with a window and a sliding door. They stood out like a blot on an otherwise attractive building horizon.

But in the past decade and a half all that has changed, thanks to the following major forces:

* an increased consciousness that booths should be employee-friendly to obtain maximum productivity

* an increase in the awareness that booths should blend in with surrounding architecture

* an introduction of innovative new materials and computer-aided design to help make the first two possible

* a realization that parking revenues are big business (which translates into bigger security issues)

The parking industry has indeed come a long way since the days when a cigar box was used to hold the 15-cent-an-hour parking revenues collected. Parking booths are no longer booths-they're revenue systems. Booths have become highly mechanized and secure and must collect money efficiently while protecting the operator from theft.

Today's booths are controlled by expensive computer networks, which present new challenges. For example, the computer operator's comfort, ease of access, proper climate control, hookup ease, and expansion all must be taken into consideration.

But increased mechanization has also resulted in booths being designed better. Improvements such as better functioning doors, larger shelves, better electrical access, and better cabinetry for mounting circuitry and control boxes have resulted in greater ergonomic efficiency for employees, which in turn increases employee productivity and the ability to serve customers.

One of the challenges facing booth manufacturers has been to adapt their products to changing technology and today's high-volume traffic and security requirements without sacrificing architectural harmony and design. For example, using steel instead of aluminum has helped. For most booths, the standard construction material is now 16-gauge steel, cold-rolled and galvanic-coated. Steel booths and windows are more aesthetically appealing and more durable and secure than the older, cheaper aluminum models. And with steel, booths can last as long as 20 to 30 years.

Recently, the thrust has been toward designing booths to be user-friendly as well as simplifying installation, repair, aDd access to electrical circuits and other components that used to be hard to reach.

For example, to adjust new technology to fit employee needs, the height of shelves in booths has been lowered from 40 in. to 34 in. to align it with automobile windows. Now employees don't have to sit on high stools. They are happier and work better from a more comfortable chair. This, in turn, reflects on the building owner or parking company. No one wants to deal with a frustrated and unpleasant operator because of poorly designed work space.

Listening to vendors and customers has not only resulted in improved comfort and efficiency for employees; it has also pointed the way to employing certain types of employees, such as people who are disabled. Many operators have found these people make excellent attendants. Operators experience far fewer problems with people who are disabled than they do with people who are not disabled.

And in today's equal opportunity environment, booths for people who are disabled are more prevalent. Although no written rules exist on equipping parking or security booths for people who are disabled, city officials have been using Title 24, which pertains to handicapped facilities, such as restrooms, as a guideline. Knowing what has been approved and disapproved by building departments and their inspectors helps in designing parking booths.

For example, a booth for people who are disabled must

* provide a 32-in. clear opening;

* use a paddle handle on any swing doors;

* have a threshold no more than 1/2 in. in the middle and 1/4 in. high on each side (if the access threshold is higher than 1/2 in., then a ramp of 12 in. to every 1 in. must be provided; and

* have a 60 in. clear turning radius. Other provisions should be considered but are not always mandatory. These include having a cover over heaters so people who are disabled can touch the face of the heater without burning themselves, adjustable shelves, and doors requiring no more than 5 lbs. of pressure to open.

Although these are not written requirements for parking or security booths for people who are disabled, these have become accepted standards. Check with your local authorities before making any commitments.

When considering a prefabricated booth, make sure you meet federal and state laws regarding people who are disabled. These new laws require new designs. Be sure your manufacturer is familiar with the requirements for people who are disabled (threshold heights, turning radius, and wheelchair function).

Booth buyers often ask, "Why does my booth have to be equipped for people who are disabled if it is being used as a guard house?" This question seems to be unanswerable. Many booth buyers have obtained variances from their local building department because their booth is for an armed security officer or because their security management office meets all handicap requirements. Again, consult with your local authorities for final decisions on the enforcement of handicap requirements.

The most cost-effective booths are those designed for specific needs. Three years ago, my firm evaluated the high traffic needs of three major airports-Los Angeles, Chicago O'Hare, and Dallas/Ft. Worth. A booth was designed specifically for airport revenue control.

In evaluating efficiency in maintaining traffic flow, a shelf and window replaced the door and stool. A fully opening cashier window with a sill height of 32 in. allowed the cashier to sit comfortably and handle the high volume of traffic. The cashier computer shelf was angled toward the employee, making the operation ergonomically efficient. An under-the-counter, dual-custody class B safe was installed, enabling the operator to deposit cash directly from the drawer into the safe without opening the safe or slowing down the collection operation.

The area of the country where the booths will be located is important. Climate, for example, often affects booth design. Conscientious booth manufacturers help guide customers in designing for specific needs to arrive at what is most efficient and cost-effective.

Making this new innovative approach to booth design possible is computer-aided design (CAD). CAD allows booth builders to increase production time and allows booth buyers to see working plans so they can give input. As a result, CAD is significantly more cost-effective.

In some cases, because of CAD, booth manufacturers have developed an in-house engineering department to work better with customers based on experience. Working with architects is much easier than in the past because of CAD and experienced manufacturer engineering departments.

Using CAD, manufacturers can call up almost any of their booth models and customize them to meet individual customer requirements. Booths can also be built off-site and transported to the installation site, saving clients 18 to 25 percent.

Should a company build its own booths? Studies have proven it is far more cost-effective to purchase a completely preassembled, prewired, heated, and air-conditioned booth than it is to build one on-site because of the many trades involved. In building a booth, a company would need to employ excavating contractors, cement workers, underground electrical contractors, masons, electricians, air-conditioning contractors, and finish contractors. Booth manufacturers have these services in-house.

The list of options available to customers has also grown. It includes bullet-resistant materials (up to class 7), electrical- or climate-controlled air-conditioning and heating units, a currency transfer system linking the cash transaction drawer with a class B safe, traffic control lights, and a variety of color and texture coverings for booth exteriors.

Gone are the days of the proverbial guard shack to handle revenue. Nowadays booths project a corporate image. They are sophisticated attendant shelters, custom-designed to fit a client's needs and requirements.

About the Author ... Preston King is president of B. I. G. Enterprises in El Monte, CA.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Physical Security; parking booths
Author:King, Preston
Publication:Security Management
Date:Feb 1, 1991
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