This is an article in the series adapting to the pandemic, where we intend to share useful tips for making it through these troublesome times.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many offices to close. As we are increasingly turning to the work from a home model, many previous assumptions about remote work being less productive have turned out to be wrong. It seems that in some cases, remote work has even increased employee efficiency. Many believe that the WFH model will remain with us, even after the pandemic is gone.
But working from home comes with its challenges. We need to set a strict boundary between our work life and our personal lives. Many have decided to dress up for work the way they used to and maintain the strict discipline to keep their work in order.
In situations like these, having a separate workspace is a necessity. It not only increases your productivity but also allows you to better focus on your work. It signals to your family when you are at work, and when you are at home.
So how can we add office space to our homes? The answer is in mezzanines and ADUs.
What is a mezzanine?
A mezzanine is an intermediate floor in a building which does not extend over the entire room space. Most of the time, there will be no alterations required to the building’s exterior.
Compared to ADUs, mezzanines are easier to get approval for and build. Mezzanines allow for more efficient use of a building’s interior.
What is an ADU?
Accessory Dwelling Units (or ADUs for short) are another popular option. Contrary to mezzanines, ADUs involve altering an exterior building (such as a garage) and turning it into a separate room or house. As such, they are suitable for office space, home for the elderly or even quarantine space.
ADUs are costlier and more challenging to pull off, and they are considered illegal in some states. They are, however, a very efficient way of using existing areas for affordable housing.
As we’ve discussed the benefits and challenges of ADUs in another post, we are focusing on mezzanines here.
Challenges for adding a mezzanine
The number one challenge for adding a mezzanine is the height of the ceiling. If the roof is not high enough, there will be no space to add a mezzanine.
The intended usage of the mezzanine is also important. For instance, a mezzanine designed to be used as a bedroom for children can do well with smaller heights too. But since we are planning to build an office, the mezzanine must have enough height for a person to easily stand up and walk. Height of 6’ 6” is the accepted minimum.
If your room is only 10’ high, then there will be little space for adding the mezzanine, as we do not want the space below to go wasted. One must also consider that we need to introduce stairs to access the mezzanine, further consuming room space.
Overcoming the challenges with planning
Many issues can be solved with proper planning. For instance, we can use a spiral design for the stairs which uses much less space.
Regarding the space under the mezzanine, if there is little space left then that area can be used as a storage space. Of course, having enough space is wonderful, but we should not design mezzanines to go too high either. Not only would that cost more, but they will also be less sturdy and secure. As a rule of thumb, mezzanines should not be higher than 7’-8’.
Adding more height
As an innovative solution, we can also use the loft space to increase the height of the room and provide sufficient space for the mezzanine. Usually, the house has got pre-engineered trusses or traditional ridge beams or rafters to support the roof. That means there are lots of supporting members and bracing every 24”, which prevent the loft space from being used for living space. However, with a change in the structural design, the loft space can be freed and added to the room height, thereby giving more space to adding the mezzanine.
This alteration requires a professional structural designer to study the load path and provide a plan to remove some of the bottom chords of the truss (or ceiling joists) and replace them with alternative load-bearing members, such as posts and beams.