In most multistory buildings, the stairs, elevators, toilet rooms, and supply closets are grouped together in service cores. The mechanical, plumbing, and electrical chases, which carry wires and pipes vertically from one floor to the next, also use the service cores, along with the electrical and telephone closets, service closets, and fire protection equipment. Often, the plan of these areas varies little, if at all, from one floor to the next.
Service cores may have different ceiling heights and layouts than the rest of the floor. Mechanical equipment rooms may need higher ceilings for big pipes and ducts. Some functions, such as toilets, stairs, and elevator waiting areas, benefit from daylight, fresh air, and views, so access to the building perimeter can be a priority.
Service cores can take up a considerable amount of space. Along with the entry lobby and loading docks, service areas may nearly fill the ground floor as well as the roof and basement. Their locations must be coordinated with the structural layout of the building. In addition, they must coordinate with patterns of space use and activity. The clarity and distance of the circulation path from the farthest rentable area to the service core have a direct impact on the building's safety in a fire.
There are several common service core layouts (Fig. 3-2). Central cores are the most frequent type. In high-rise office buildings, a single service core provides the maximum amount of unobstructed rentable area. This allows for shorter electrical, mechanical, and plumbing runs and more efficient distribution paths. Some buildings locate the service core along one edge of the building, leaving more unobstructed floor space but occupying part of the perimeter and blocking daylight and views. Detached cores are located outside the body of the building to save usable floor space, but require long service runs. Using two symmetrically placed cores reduces service runs, but the remaining floor space loses some flexibility in layout and use.
Multiple cores are sometimes found in broad, low-rise buildings. Long horizontal runs are thus avoided, and mechanical equipment can serve zones with different requirements for heating and cooling. Multiple cores are used in apartment buildings and structures made of repetitive units, with the cores located between units along interior corridors.
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