Design strategies: active and passive spaces

Design Strategies: Active and Passive Spaces

In general, active spaces are those which are designed for the public and generate income, whereas passive   spaces include all private spaces such as the prescription area and dispensary that do not generate income but are dependant on the retail area. The objective of a good pharmacy design is to reduce such passive spaces to a minimum and attempt to expand active spaces. However, how far can you reduce passive spaces which are the effective engine room of the pharmacy and essential to its functioning?

Offering citizens prescription medicines wherever and at all hours is the pharmacy’s raison d’être, the thing that makes pharmacies so unique. However, the paradox is that pharmacies have to give up more and more space to non-pharmaceutical products in order to survive. Clever pharmacy store planning has to take in consideration this seemingly conflicting and diametrically opposed tendencies and conciliate by optimising the space available for both private and public or pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical areas.

Other passive spaces include toilets (suitable for disabled people), changing rooms and store rooms. Next to the goods entrance, there is also usually place for stock taking, orders and sorting. The office is another passive space that is become ever more important. In most modern pharmacies, the office has become the operations room equipped with a variety of equipment including video players or PC with live feeds going to the monitors in the retail area, safe, mini bar, sofa bed for those on night duty, and boardroom table for staff meetings.

An office: a pharmacy's operations room

The laboratory is located in somewhere convenient depending on the needs of the pharmacy’s personnel. It can be compact (9 sq. m.) or large, isolated and closed off or visible to the public. Laboratory equipment and storage is also chosen according to what it is used for and the regulations in force in that particular country.

A laboratory

Finally, the stock room and dispensary where  medicinal drugs and other pharmaceutical products are stored is one of the most important private areas of every pharmacy. The way merchandise is stored is of fundamental importance as promotions, discounts and stock ordering must be carefully worked out according to the capital invested. The stock rotation and the cost of the space occupied must also be calculated to ensure a good return on the capital invested too. The stock room and dispensary needs to be carefully designed so as to allow some items to be placed in storage, other items which need to be regularly rotated  to be placed in easily reachable cupboards, and frequently need items stored in an easy to get to storage unit. There is usually a storage unit behind the counter which functions as a dispensary with drawers below for items that are needed often and display shelving for OTC products.

Back counter: OTC display shelving and drawers for storage

The ratio retail area-non retail area should ideally be around 2/3:1/3. If the space of the entire pharmacy grows by circa 200 sq. m., then the average tends to be 3/4:1/4, that is 75% active space and only 25% passive.

If you do not have another 200 sq. m, then try to make use of upper floors or basement, converting them into new active spaces or transferring private functions such as storage or preparing medicines into these spaces, thereby freeing up more space on the retail floor. The are endless different combinations; you could create areas with niche products on the upper or lower floors, connected to the ground floor via a lift or elevator, place a robot-operated stockroom and dispensary down in the basement which can bring up prescription drugs up to the prescription area, using the space freed up to extent the retail area, this could bring your active space up to 90%.

Examples of a vertical use of the space