In medium to large commercial and federal facilities, the Mail Center space type is used to efficiently and centrally process incoming and outgoing domestic, international, overnight, and priority mail to meet the needs of building occupants. The Mail Center also collects and redistributes interoffice mail and coordinates the pick-up of "burn bag" materials. In general, outgoing expedited, domestic, and international, Certified and Registered, and Pouch Mail Services are also provided. Finally, many Mail Centers can be equipped to handle deliveries from couriers and to provide a level of service and guidance to building occupants. Loading docks are more appropriate for larger deliveries. This space type does not include specialized mail centers in facilities that must deal with an exceptional level of security, although security issues are addressed here.
Numerous manual operations, including the sorting, metering, and inspection of letters and packages, take place in Mail Centers. Since terrorists contaminated the U.S. mail stream in October of 2001, safety and security have become central issues in the performance center operations. Today, Mail Centers should be designed not only to promote the efficiency of mail processing but to ensure the safety of center occupants. Typical features of Mail Center space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.
- Work surfaces: The primary built-in fixtures in mail rooms include base cabinets, work surfaces, and shelving units. Ensure that accessible fixtures are provided for users. In particular, provide work surfaces at different heights to accommodate a variety of tasks performed by both standing and sitting users.
- Risk Assessment: Security needs will vary among organizations in relation to their function, size, volume of mail, and profile. A threat/vulnerability assessment and cost/benefit analysis should be performed before capital investments are made in security measures. The estimated capital cost of implementing recommended countermeasures and the estimated installation and operating costs for them are usually part of a complete threat/vulnerability assessment report. See also WBDG Threat/Vulnerability Assessments & Risk Analysis.
- Adjacencies: The Mail Center should be located away from the facilities' main entrances, areas containing critical services, utilities, distribution systems, and important assets. In addition, the Mail Center should be located at the perimeter of the building with an outside wall or window designed for pressure relief. An area near the loading dock may be a preferred location since this will allow the mail to travel directly to the center from outside and minimize the impact that any potentially contaminated mail will have on the rest of the building.
- Planning space: Although many individuals may visit the Mail Center on occasion, even large corporate Mail Centers may only have one to a few employees directly responsible for Mail Center operations. The space type should be designed for utility and efficiency, keeping in mind that only a small number of users may be in the space at a given time. See also WBDG Functional/Operational—Account for Functional Needs.
- Noise Reduction: Speech privacy is not a significant consideration in Mail Centers. However, if centers are adjacent to open plan areas, a minimum of 80% of ceiling surfaces should be treated with sound-absorptive materials. Wherever possible, these same corridors should be carpeted.
- Provide lockers: Provide lockers or personal space for employees' belongings outside of the Mail Center. This will encourage users not to bring their personal belongings into the main mail processing space where the items could become obtrusive or contaminated by hazardous materials or could represent a potential safety threat.
- Integrated Technology: Begin the design process with a thorough understanding of the technological requirements of the space, including anticipated future needs. See also WBDG Functional/Operational—Ensure Appropriate Product/Systems Integration.
- Occupancy: Mail Center space types fall into the B2 occupancy classification, with sprinklered construction. The GSA acoustical class is D1 for mailrooms.
- Flexibility: The Mail Center space type is durable and adaptable, and will typically include features such as a raised floor system for the distribution of critical services (power, voice, data, and HVAC) and mobile workstations to accommodate changes in employee, equipment, and storage needs over time. See also WBDG Productive—Design for the Changing Workplace.
- Energy Efficiency: As energy costs increase with higher reliance on technology, strategies such as the specification of high-efficiency lighting and lighting controls; the application of daylighting; the use of occupancy sensors; and the installation of high-efficiency HVAC equipment should be considered. For more information, see WBDG Sustainable—Optimize Energy Use.
Relevant Codes and Standards
The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of Mail Centers. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible:
Federal Courthouse, Office Building, Research Facilities
Functional / Operational, Productive, Secure/Safe, Sustainable