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Building the Server Density London office – part 3

Originally published on the Server Density blog.

Last month we were nearing completion of the Server Density London office which was started in December 2011 and I’m pleased to say we’ll be moving in this coming week, just a week behind the original schedule!

On Friday I spent the afternoon setting up the internet and receiving delivery of our workstation desks and chairs. This is the final “building” post where I’ll go into detail about the last bits and pieces – internet, furniture, lighting and the spiral staircase. There will likely be a followup post once we’ve settled in and everything is finished!

Internet and networking #

We have our first internet connectivity provided by a BT DSL landline connecting into the ground floor. This goes into a Draytek Vigor2830 ADSL2/2+ Firewall Router which provides features like VPN, firewall, gigabit ports, QoS, various graphs and metrics to help us track down any bandwidth hoggers and standard router functionality like NAT, DHCP, etc. We went for the non-wifi version so it can hide away in the cabinet and we can locate multiple wireless routers where we wanted, without being impaired by walls and doors. Importantly it supports multiple WANs – these can be DSL, cable and it even has a USB port to allow for 3G modems. This means as we grow we can buy more connections from different providers to give us combined speed and redundancy because if the internet goes down we can’t do any work!

Currently we only have a wireless network through an Apple Airport Express but over the next few days the internet gigabit network will be wired up. All the cables are in the walls so the electricians will be connecting the wall ports to L6J CAT6 panels. These all terminate at a patch panel in a cabinet on the ground and second floors, with a trunk down the height of the building to the ground floor. The patch panels then connect to switches (still to be purchased but probably Netgear giving power over ethernet and VoIP priority) which all end at the Draytek router.

Throughout the building there are connectivity points on the walls, combined with mains electricity. There are also under-floor panels which are flush with the floor when closed but have small slots which open to allow plugs (power and gigabit network) to hide inside the panel, avoiding any cable mess and tripping hazards.

Furniture #

A quality chair may be one of the smartest investments you can make as a software developer – Jeff Atwood

Several years ago I decided to buy a good chair and spent some time researching the options. I ended up purchasing a Herman Miller Mirra chairbased on Jeff’s recommendation and it is perhaps the best chair in the world. It’s extremely adjustable, very comfortable and made of quality material. Plus it’s 96% recyclable. I was so impressed that it is now a standard purchase alongside computer equipment whenever a new employee joins us (our remote employees have them at home). So we naturally decided to buy them for the office.

Desks are equally important so we had some custom configured desks created: “Goal post beam desking, 1500W x 750D, white top with silver frame square edge in light grey, two person desks back to back”. The specification required sufficient depth for a monitor, keyboard, mouse and laptop with room to push everything back for drawing and design work. We also needed proper cable management to keep things clutter free and the desks should connect together in a shared “island” whilst still offering privacy. They should also be easy to reconfigure if we needed to add more in the future.

We almost never have meetings but if we wanted to work together, conduct board meetings and have lunch, we wanted a nice meeting table and comfortable chairs. I’ve sat through many lectures, meetings and talks with horribly uncomfortable seating so again we looked towards Herman Miller to provide us with slightly cheaper seating but with no loss of comfort. To that end we spent quite some time trying all the chairs down at the Herman Miller Design Centre in London.

We chose 6 Setu chairs (93% recyclable) with arms, four star base on glides, mango mesh (adds a bit of colour), graphite frame and semi polished base to go with an oval meeting table, 2000W x 1000D, finished in white melamine with chamfered edge and 4 single polished legs.

Lighting #

Whether you’re working during the day or at night, eye strain is always a concern not only from the glare of the monitor but also the ambient lighting. We wanted to avoid the need for individual desk lamps which clutter the workspace and have variable success at providing the right level of lighting not only for the user but the people around them. Nobody wants an interrogation light in their face. If we could provide the right lighting from the side walls and ceiling, we could spend more money on getting that right – balancing energy efficiency, lighting levels and colour – rather than splashing out on expensive lights for everyone individually.

We involved one of the best lighting engineers in London and as such, we have several different types of lighting throughout the office – pure white wall lights to help you see where you’re going (up and down the stairs for example), overhead reflective, cream white fluorescent lighting and adjustable spot lights for providing just the right amount of illumination to each desk. The idea is that if you’re working late and there’s nobody else around, you can turn off most of the lights but still get the environment you need at your desk. The softer, fluorescent illumination makes it less of a harsh, sterile environment.

Spiral staircase #

Originally the ground floor was designed as a separate unit but we wanted space to expand, so decided to knock a hole through the first floor and put in a spiral staircase so you can get between areas easily. Spiral staircases can be hit and miss so we had an Italian design firm create one from scratch for us, based on an existing case study combining traditional European Oak with brushed stainless steel.

This is contained within a separate section to separate it from the ground floor office so as not to disturb anyone when you’re heading down to the kitchen (which is also on the ground floor).

The second floor has a “balcony” which allows you to see up from the first floor but mainly provides additional natural lighting so we also commissioned the same firm to product a balustrade to match the staircase. Unfortunately, due to the weather across Europe this last week it has been delayed on the Italian border and we can’t get the building approved without it, hence the delay on moving in! Instead, a temporary barrier will be put in so we can start using the office without fear of falling.

And that’s it #

It’s been an interesting journey working on giving the company a physical presence to match our focus on design, usability and quality. As with anything, we expect to make tweaks as we start real world use but the amount of time, effort and thought that has gone into the building so far will really pay off to impress visitors but mainly provide an awesome workplace for anyone who wants to join us in London!

Mirra chairs before the desks had arrived. You can see the gap where the balustrade should be.

Stairway down from the second floor to the first. Toilet opposite.

Second floor. Note the trunking for power/network

Spiral staircase down to the ground floor. There is a window to spot any approaching enemies so you can ready your sword.

First floor without lighting

First floor with lighting. Includes wall lighting plus meeting table lamp.

Constructing the desks

Spiral staircase ground floor. Note the overhead reflective, cream white fluorescent lighting

Second floor directed spot lighting and wall lights