Ergonomic commercial kitchen design

Health, safety, and efficiency are key to any successful commercial kitchen design and there is a myriad of health and building codes that affect the planning, design, and operation of commercial kitchens. Our MEP engineers have the expertise and experience to ensure your commercial kitchen design not only complies but will function seamlessly. Our commercial kitchen design service ensures that your kitchen will comply with all the relevant codes and to ensure your commercial kitchen will be key to the success of your business.

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Health And Ergonomics

Health And Building Codes

Health, safety, and efficiency are key to any successful commercial kitchen design and there is a myriad of health and building codes that affect the planning, design, and operation of commercial kitchens. Our commercial kitchen design service ensures that your kitchen will comply with all the relevant codes.

Examples of codes applicable to commercial kitchens in the State of New York include:

  • The Mechanical Code of New York State that covers, amongst other things, natural and mechanical ventilation; commercial kitchen hoods and hood ventilation system ducts and exhaust equipment; required systems for appliances, equipment, and processes that produce dust and other particles; duct construction and installation; smoke detection systems control; special appliances; and refrigeration systems.
  • The Plumbing Code of New York State that covers minimum plumbing facilities, installation of drainage pipes, sizing of drainage systems, and fixture units.
  • The Fuel Gas Code of New York State, which applies to pipes and piping materials and system installation, as well as venting of appliances that use gas as a fuel.

New York City has its own construction codes as well as an electrical code and energy conservation code, all of which contain sections that are relevant to commercial kitchen design.  

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has a Health Code that includes food preparation and food establishments. This needs to be considered at the design stage. For example, the code requires a dedicated culinary sink to be provided for washing food during preparation, including fruit and veg, meat and fish. While much of the code specifies handling, preparing, and cooking food, food storage, and food display is also included in the code.

An important section in the NYC Health Code deals with design, construction, materials, and maintenance issues in food establishments. This includes the required minimum sizes of certain spaces both for food and employees. It also regulates both food and non-food contact surfaces. Cold and hot storage and holding facilities, lighting and ventilation, and plumbing and water supply are also covered in the Health Code, all of which must be catered for in commercial kitchen design.

Our MEP engineers have the expertise and experience to ensure your commercial kitchen design not only complies but will function seamlessly.

Ergonomic Kitchen Design

Productivity in a commercial kitchen is important and there is a myriad of factors that affect productivity. These include all the vital components included in well-thought-out functional layouts, and effective solutions for plumbing, as well as electrical and mechanical engineering elements.

But there is another element of kitchen design that is critical: ergonomics. To be productive, commercial kitchens must be designed to accommodate the people who work in them so that they can access specific areas without having to bend, kneel, over-reach, or walk from end-to-end to find what they need. In essence, a commercial kitchen must be user-friendly.

Additionally, the equipment used in commercial kitchens must be efficient. If it isn’t, productivity and ultimately cost-effectiveness will be negatively impacted. Lighting must also be carefully selected both to avoid eye strain and to keep the kitchen safe.

Components of Commercial Kitchens

Cleaning And Washing

Commercial kitchens must be kept squeaky clean and free from contamination. This means that they need to be designed not only with cleaning and washing facilities, but they also need to have fittings and appliances that are easily cleanable.

Food contact surfaces must be made from food-grade materials that don’t contain lead, cadmium, or any toxic material that might react with food or sanitizing materials. They may not be painted. Floors and floor coverings must be smooth, hard, durable, and non-absorbent. Carpeting should never be used in food preparation areas. Walls and ceilings should also be smooth, hard, and impermeable, as well as easily cleanable. Generally, light-colored materials are favored.

It is essential that all equipment and fixtures incorporated in commercial kitchen design are also easily cleanable. This includes vent covers and hoods, ducts, fans, and light fixtures. Exposed utility service lines and pipework should be installed so that they don’t create an obstruction that could affect thorough cleaning.

Water supply and drainage systems are vitally important elements in commercial kitchen design.

  • All raw fruit and vegetables must be thoroughly washed with potable water before it is cut or served, and a culinary sink must be included in the plan.
  • There must also be hand wash sinks for manual washing and cleaning equipment used for food preparation, cooking, and crockery and cutlery used by patrons. These should have three compartments for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing.
  • Where mechanical washing and sanitizing is undertaken, the Health Code specifies requirements for heat and chemicals, as well as air drying. Machines must be installed in accordance with the relevant plumbing codes.
  • In addition to basins and toilets provided for patrons, basins and toilets must be provided for employees, including those working with food. If patrons and employees are required to use the same toilet facilities, careful attention must be paid to the layout so that patrons don’t walk through the kitchen, or food preparation or storage areas.

Kitchen Storage

Commercial kitchen design and residential kitchen design is quite different when it comes to storage even though some of the basic dos and don’ts apply to both. Generally, residential kitchens have cupboards, refrigerators, and freezers for food; cupboards for cleaning materials; perhaps a small cupboard where toxic materials like insecticides can be kept; cupboards for pots, pans, crockery, and glassware; and shelving for anything that needs to be easily accessible or is decorative in nature.

In a commercial kitchen, there are usually areas for cold and hot storage, as well as holding facilities. Refrigerators are used to store a wide variety of foods from butter and milk to vegetables purchased in bulk. Walk-in refrigerator floors are often incorporated in large commercial kitchens.

Food storage is also regulated. For instance, food stored in containers should be on shelves, in cupboards in dry storage areas, or in refrigerators that are least six inches above the floor to allow for easy cleaning. Some raw foods might leak or drip onto surfaces below them if they are not packed in sealed containers. The kitchen plan will provide suitable storage areas; it is up to management to use these responsibly.

It’s important that storage areas are unobstructed so that those responsible for food preparation as well as washing, cleaning, and putting items away into cupboards or on shelves are able to reach them easily, without contaminating food-contact surfaces or food.

It is not unusual for those operating a commercial kitchen to use insecticides and rodenticides, both of which are toxic and potentially hazardous. These items should never be stored with food, and not even with bactericides and cleaning compounds, but rather in a separate area that people know is for hazardous materials.

Storage should also be provided for first-aid supplies and medications in a non-food storage area.

Food Preparation And Cooking

In commercial kitchens, about 40% of the space in the kitchen is used for food preparation and storage. This means these areas must be carefully designed for functionality and ergonomics.

Health codes have strict requirements to ensure that food does not become contaminated and does not contaminate food contact surfaces. They also have very specific requirements in terms of hand wash sinks for food preparation.

Within the areas delegated for food preparation, the kitchen plan will allow for the inclusion of high-efficiency equipment used for food processing. Food preparation areas should be easily accessible to the cooking area.

Unlike domestic kitchens, commercial kitchens have multiple types of cooking appliances and related equipment, and often more than one cooking station for each. So, for instance, the kitchen design might feature a row of plates for cooking alongside several ovens with high-efficiency grills. There might also be separate steamers and fryers.

There is a choice between electric equipment and appliances, or gas. Sometimes, a combination of the two works best, depending on the type of cuisine offered.

It’s not just choosing the best equipment for cooking, a commercial kitchen design will specify mechanical and electrical solutions that ensure they operate efficiently.

Mechanical, Electrical, And Plumbing Solutions

Heating, Ventilation, And Air-Conditioning (HVAC)

Commercial kitchens are, understandably, high users of energy. Compared to other commercial operations they generally consume about 2.5 times more energy per square foot of the kitchen space.

When designing commercial kitchens, our electrical, plumbing, and mechanical solutions, including HVAC, counter in factors that don’t only include production capacity, operating hours per day/night, and maintenance costs, but also preheat energy consumption and idle energy rate usage.

Our HVAC engineers understand the implications of the codes that relate to commercial and how they must be incorporated into a successful commercial kitchen design.

More specifically, the NYC Energy Code 2016 has a section on Building Mechanical Systems that details requirements for HVAC systems. These regulations are mandatory and our NYE HVAC engineers are familiar with their requirements.

When it comes to ventilation, commercial kitchens in NYC must comply with the requirements of the relevant section of the City’s Mechanical Code.

Ventilation is also an issue in the section of food preparation and food establishments in the NYC Health Code. This isn’t surprising. It stands to reason that good ventilation is needed to prevent and control excessive steam, heat, condensation, fumes, smoke, vapors, and unpleasant odors that inevitably develop in hot kitchens. For this reason:

  • Mechanical ventilation needs to be installed in kitchens where fumes, vapors, or odors originate.
  • Ventilation hoods need to be built or installed to stop grease and condensation from collecting on walls and ceilings and dripping into food or onto surfaces used for food preparation.
  • Exhaust and intake ducts need to be constructed so that they don’t allow smoke, dust, fumes, or any other contaminant to blow inside.

Lighting And Electrics

The electrical plan for any commercial kitchen includes plug points and switches for appliances, refrigeration and other equipment, as well as lighting, in accordance with local electrical codes. Compliance with codes that cover commercial energy efficiency may also be required, specifically in terms of lighting.

The NYC Energy Code, mentioned above, has a section on Electrical Power and Lighting Systems that covers lighting systems controls as well as maximum electrical energy consumption and lighting power. Requirements for walk-in freezers and walk-in coolers are specified. All buildings that contain food preparation areas, including commercial kitchens, are required to use reduced energy use in service water heating. Ultimately, this will make your establishment more energy-efficient.

However, it is essential that anyone working in a commercial kitchen can see what they are doing! Apart from food preparation and cooking, they need to be able to find the right equipment and recognize the condition of food. For this reason, the NYC and other city health codes specify minimum requirements for artificial lighting. Lighting must be a lot brighter where food preparation and cooking takes place.

Because of the heat given out by lighting, lighting fixtures need to be shielded when they are installed over food storage, food preparation, and within display facilities or where equipment and utensils are cleaned and stored. This is largely to protect the food if light bulbs shatter.

Kitchen Plumbing

Every single type of building is dependent on plumbing. It provides the inhabitants with hot and cold water and enables them to dispose of liquid waste and sewage.

Commercial kitchens need an adequate supply of potable water and they need to be equipped with compliant fixtures and fittings for plumbing. Hand washing sinks with hot and cold potable running water are essential for food preparation and service and for washing dishes. These should be located no more than 25 feet from where food is prepared.

Additionally, there must be sinks or basins for employees and patrons in dedicated toilet rooms. The NYC Plumbing Code specifies the minimum number of plumbing fixtures (WCs, urinals and so on) that are required.

The plumbing systems, including the fixtures and fittings required to make it work, need to be of standard quality, properly installed and connected, vented and drained so that there is no possible contamination of the potable water supply. It is also vital that all plumbing equipment and fixtures used are designed with some sort of device that prevents any possible cross-connection, back-flow or siphonage into the water supply provided.

Of course, commercial kitchen design must also allow for the disposal of grey water, liquid waste, and sewage.

The origins of these waste products are greater than most people imagine and include:

  • Water and other fluids drained from various sinks.
  • Liquid condensates from kitchen equipment including refrigerators and ice machines, as well as air conditioners, evaporator trays, drain pans, and various plumbing fixtures and cooling lines.
  • Fluids discarded after cooking.

Most parts of NYC have combined sewer systems, and the Health Code requires that all this liquid waste, together with sewage, is conveyed to the sewage disposal system or sewer to prevent contamination of the premises.

Direct connections are required for wastewater so that it can be discharged into sewer-connected plumbing lines with proper traps. Indirect connections are required for waste lines from equipment. These must be installed so that there is no back-flow from other drains, waste lines, and sewers. It is important that there is no direct connection between equipment used for hot and cold storage or the mechanical processing of food and drains from plumbing fixtures or the sewage system.

Designing commercial kitchens is a much more complicated process than designing residential single-family kitchens. Our MEP engineering team has the experience and expertise to ensure your commercial kitchen will be key to the success of your business.

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