By Ann Ryan

Vice President

Bank of Vancouver

Vancouver, Washington

A modular office system helped the Bank of Vancouver create a modern-looking, Space-efficient main office, that looks right at home in an historic building. The building, originally constructed by another bank in the 1940's, is rather cavernous with high ceilings and long, pendular lights. Modular systems were used to create modern and inviting new accounts, loan and administrative areas. Modular furniture with plenty of overhead storage greatly increased the efficiency of space utilization. Some floor-to-ceiling panels provided the privacy of conventional walls while allowing the configuration to be easily changed with minimal cost and disruption.

The Bank of Vancouver serves Vancouver and Clark counties and has $105 million in assets. The bank's primary business focus is serving small and medium sized businesses. When the bank chose an existing building as its new main office location, it faced a major decorating challenge. The object was to break up the large interior space so it would not look intimidating, provide an efficient work station layout and provide flexibility in case the bank's needs change in the future. Bank management wanted to provide a reasonable amount of privacy for customers coming in to open new accounts or apply for loans while avoiding the creation of the type of boxed-in maze featured in the Dilbert comic strip.

On the first floor, designer Marlene Brown of the Design Showroom selected as her primary element curved panels which were added to the opening of prominently placed workstations. The curved panels increase the amount of privacy shile providing a welcoming feature that almost serves to usher customers into the appropriate space. Customers sitting in the guest chairs in the new accounts and loan sections are cuddled by the curves, providing a relaxing and secure atmosphere for conducting business. In keeping with the curved motif, bullet-shaped work surfaces were selected.

A private office was needed for an officer of the loan department. Bank of Vancouver avoided the expense, disruption and rigidity of a conventional build-out by using floor-to-ceiling partitions. The floor-to-ceiling partitions install without power tools and can easily be moved to change the size or location of the office at a later date. The floor-to-ceiling partitions provide another advantage over conventional hard walls. They are slotted so that shelving, work surfaces, paper management systems and other items ran be hung from either side.

The second floor administration area also has several Interesting features. There is a countertop facing guests in the administration area so they can lay down their things while they are waiting. The panels in the rear of the reception area are windowed so that if a customer comes while the receptionist is gone, someone working in one of the rear workstations can see them and to their assistance. The window also helps to avoid a boxed-in appearance.

Once the basic design concept had been sketched out, it was time to select a supplier for modular partions, work surfaces and shelving. Both bank management and the designer agreed on office systems Supplied by Mode Corporation, Sacramento, California. Mode was the only supplier of those that were evaluated that was capable of providing all of the special features of this installation, such curved panels and floor-to-ceiling partitions, as part of the their standard product line at a very reasonable cost.

Mode also provides several other unique features that were useful in this installation. Their furniture attaches to walls and to their panels. This makes it possible to integrate panels with existing walls while still taking advantage of the space efficiency offered by overhead shelving and lighting. This feature is especially important in designing an office in an older building with irregularly spaced support columns. Hanging work surfaces nest better than conventional furniture so they save space, avoid disrupting aisles and they provide more design flexibility because they can be hung at different angles and heights. The drawer units that support that work areas also are movable. This makes it possible for clerical staff to adjust these units to provide the precise size of enclosure in which they feel most comfortable.

Bank management was pleasantly surprised with the speed and lack of disruption involved in installing the partitions. First of all, the Mode installers came equipped with a complete bill of materials and another CAD drawing that was keyed to eac box, making it easy to stage the materials for rapid installation. Since 80% of construction time typically involves materials handling, this provided major time savings.

The floor-to-ceiling partitions were installed in three steps:

1. Fasten bottom connector with a screw driver

2. Slide in a spacer that connects the partitions and

3. Fasten top connector.

In several areas, the installers encountered walls that were slightly off-size but the leveling devices that are integrated into each partition made it a simple process to perform the .necessary adjustments. The raceways provided with the partitions simplified the process of providing necessary power, telephone and data connections. All that had to be done was knock out spacers covering the preformed holes and install vihatever type of outlet was needed. Having the wiring running through the partitions saves installation time, avoids problems viith breaks and improves appearance.

The Bank of Vancouver wasted no time in taking advantage of the flexibility offered by the modular partitions. Not long after moving into the new building, the bank had to add another person in the nevw account department because of an upsurge in business. This ,was accomplished at minimal expense and without any disruption simply by purchasing an additional work surface and reorganizing the placement of the existing work surfaces wlthin the partitions.

Comments from the bank's customers and staff have been uniformly positive. The overall feeling seems to be that the bank has maintained the traditional feeling of the space while providing an efficient and modern work setting. In fact, the overall look is so good that a local film studio asked for and was granted permission to film in the bank's office several times. The Bank of Vancouver's management feels confident that in paying a little extra attention to design they have enhanced their professional image within the community and inspired the confidence of their customers.

For more information, contact: American Mode Inc. 197A Otto Circle; Sacramento, CA 95822;

Phone: 916-392-6633 or 888-711-6633