traffic flow, clearances and space planning.

Traffic flow, clearances and space planning lets you map out your space in plan and correct errors before you start any work on your project. Understanding how each space works at its most efficient gives you clear insight into how you’re going to use the space.

There is a natural and efficient path on how we want to move around the home, from one room to another, and within a room itself. A poorly planned home with bad traffic flow is just going to cause you grief, irritation and you’re going to be living with this day in day out. And sometimes they’re actually a hazard. So, mapping these out, and improving them if required, before you start renovating or building will mean that once you’re in and using your home it’s going to feel natural and that’s important for any good design.

Head out into nature and you’ll see clear evidence of traffic flow in the wild – it’s that flattened out grass that shows the most efficient way to move from one point to another. Go to any farm and you’ll see the well worn dirt path of cattle heading to a water trough. They know this is the most efficient path from one point to another and they walk it so often it’s now easily identified. 

The same can be said for the home. There is a natural and efficient path on how we want to move around the home, from one room to another, and within a room itself. A poorly planned home with bad traffic flow is just going to cause you grief, irritation and you’re going to be living with this day in day out. And sometimes they’re actually a hazard. So, mapping these out, and improving them if required, before you start renovating or building will mean that once you’re in and using your home it’s going to feel natural and that’s important for any good design.

Mapping the traffic flow.
With your plans at the ready mark each entry point with a dot and then draw a dashed line to its immediate adjacent entry points. Entry points marked with a dot should include each door, stairway, room opening or hallway on the plan. If you have sliding doors, bi-fold doors, or other non-standard doors, place the dot on the side that you will use to move through the door. Within each space, continue the mapping by drawing a dashed line to each of the main pieces of equipment. If it’s the bathroom, connect the entry point with each major fixture – the shower, the WC, the vanity. If it’s a bedroom connect the entry point with the wardrobe. In the kitchen, mark out the work triangle from cooktop to refrigerator to the sink. If there is something in the way, such as an island bench then mark the traffic flow around this to show how you will use the space in reality. This network of lines will show you the natural flow through the home from one space to the next.

Analyse the traffic flow.
Now that you’ve mapped out the traffic flow in plan you’ll immediately be able to identify where any blockages are going to take place, where circulation is impacted or clearances are going to be impacted. A blockage in traffic flow will occur when poorly designed entry points are too close to each other, where the swing of adjacent doors will create a blockage and movement through will be impacted. Imagine you have a door swinging inwards into a hallway from an internal garage entry point that blocks the opening of the front door. This means that if these doors are opening at the same time, they’re going to hit each other. Sounds annoying to me. Making changes at plan stage is going to give you the opportunity to correct errors before they’re built and harder to rectify.

Clearances for furniture.
Now that you’ve mapped, and where necessary modified, traffic flow it’s time to look at the furniture layout of the space to fit the traffic flow and allow adequate clearances. Clearances are those spaces around an item that allow you to use it naturally and effectively. Let’s take a look at the living room as our example. Start with the major piece of furniture, the sofa, and place that in such a position that it allows the natural traffic flow through the space to remain uninterrupted. Remember to take into consideration how the entry door into the space swings. Next position the secondary pieces, such as the armchairs, so that they don’t impact the traffic flow as well as positioning them so they can be used comfortably. Let’s say you have a straight sofa with two armchairs directly opposite. You want these armchairs to be placed far enough away from the sofa that you can sit down and stand up again comfortably. However, you also want them to be placed close enough to enjoy conversation. Once you’ve created your furniture layout take a moment to map out the traffic flow through the space to make sure it’s going to work efficiently with the furniture in the room. A special note on the bedroom. One additional consideration when creating a furniture plan for a bedroom is to maintain privacy for the user. Imagine if you will, the entry to a bedroom is visible at the end of a hallway. Place the bed on any wall other than that one where the bed is visible as you look down the hallway.

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