How To Start A Hackerspace: Part 6 – Get Your Space Ready

Get Organized

Based on the requirements you and your co-hackers have come up with, you’ll now need to create a layout that is optimized for getting projects done in the most efficient, creative, and safe ways possible.

When building or moving a hackerspace from one location to another it’s very useful to have a floorplan because you can virtually move things around to find the best fit without having to lug heavy equipment around once everything is moved in.

In your layout planning stages make sure every area has the appropriate power requirements and power drops available. You can never have too much power, or too many outlets. Keep the noisy and messy zones away from the quiet and clean zones, and build partitions or seperate areas into different rooms whenever possible.

Tip: Map out where all the power drops are and segment appropriately. It’s not fun when someone decides to plug a welder or servers into a outlet and knocks the power out to the whole building. True story. 😉

Remember that clutter is the enemy and keep things organized in their respective zones – except when they’re being hacked on, of course.

Example areas and suggestions:

Noisy and Messy Zones

Heavy equipment and power tools should be grouped together and contained away from clean areas like your hacker lounge, electronics area, textiles hacking area, kitchen and other clean or quiet places. It’s ideal to have a room that can separate out your messy and noisy tools. Be sure to have proper ventilation and all power requirements met. Have a safety program in place to train new members how to use these tools. Tools can quickly harm people who don’t have proper training or respect for the damage tools can swiftly inflict. A future post will list ways to mitigate this.

Biohacking/chemical lab and storage is an area designated for mad science projects that require extra precautions. This particular gear and safety equipment is delicate, and I recommend relying on a member who is a trained chemist or bio engineer as the best resource on how to set this up. Most Hackerspaces omit basic chemical safety. Get a Flammable Storage Cabinet to store a lot of your chemicals so you don’t end up with a situation that closes your Hackerspace – or worse. Make sure every chemical is clearly labeled (that includes spraypaint) and keep handy your binder of MSDS forms (Material Safety Data Sheets) for each cabinet. Your MSDS will describe proper handling and emergency procedures in case of contamination or accidents.

Server room is the area you should keep noisy servers and other dedicated infrastructure systems that need to run 24/7 with dedicated backup power and cooling.

A kitchen, if you have one, is a great place to prepare late night snacks, teach classes in cooking, or prep for large events.

Clean and Quiet Zones

General hack areas and desks are the place for people to write code, work on projects, discuss problems and solutions, or have general meetups of all types. Fill this with comfortable seating and tables with plenty of power and power strips. A stereo and projector should be readily accessible.

Member project storage areas are great to have so your co-hackers don’t have to take to take their projects back and forth to wherever they are staying. Also so hacking projects and tools don’t get left in common areas.

Electronics bench is the dedicated area for circuit hacking. You’ll want plenty of space for soldering stations, chip programmers, electronic test equipment, wire spools, parts, miscellaneous items, plus a dedicated laptop workstation.

Textiles is an area where you might keep sewing machines, scissors, cutting tables and boards, yarn, thread, rolls of various fabrics (like Kevlar!), flexible fabric based electronic projects, etc etc.

classroom area can be dedicated to teaching, workshops and training with a projector, whiteboard, desks, stools or chairs, and tables. I can’t impress strongly enough how important it is to have a dedicated learning area. When set up correctly, this space allows everyone to focus on the information at hand. It’s best if your learning area can be set up in a stand-alone room.

Materials/hackables storage will require shelving for random parts, raw materials like wood, metal, cement, shingles, and sometimes extra mannequins. (At one point, PS: One almost had too many mannequins. It was an amusing problem.) Make sure your storage spots are all easily accessible and well-documented so every item has a place and can be retrieved or replaced quickly and safely.

Restrooms – this is pretty self-explanatory. if your location doesn’t already have one consult a local plumber about installation, compliance, and layout. You’ll need to get a construction permit for this.

A welcoming area is a spot near your front entrance that people can see (and understand) an overview of your awesome Hackerspace. Make it inviting: have a few posters or flyers up describing what you are about, and keep some finished projects nearby that people can view or play with. Keep a donation jar at the ready, and make that as warm and welcoming as possible.

Now that you have worked out your floor plan and moved in equipment you are almost done…. Or are you?

Next step: How To Start A Hackerspace: Part 7 – Launch

Also check out the intropart 1part 2part 3part 4 and part 5!

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  1. “Most Hackerspaces omit basic chemical safety. Get a Flammable Storage Cabinet to store a lot of your chemicals so you don’t end up with a situation that closes your Hackerspace”

    There is a limit to what L&I and or the fire department will allow in terms of hazardous chemicals. I think you need to buy the 2012 International Fire Code because an inspector told me that no one knows the whole code.

    You will need an Emergency Response Guide.

    You will need a hazardous sign above the doors alerting the fire department of the chemicals inside.

    You better have a good fire wall and safety devices.

    Then there are formulas as to how much flammable you can have and you can’t have it if you don’t understand it.

  2. You may need a city permit and if you want too many chemicals, they are going to laugh at you unless you have the right zoning and this can be expensive and the fire department and officials would be at your place for hours. A lot of places are not up to code and can’t afford the regulations.

    We had to get 704 signs as a company describing the danger and placing them over the doors so the fire company would know what dangers exist. The reason they have to be above the doors is because the door may be open and an emergency responder might not see it if the door is open. Your job is to communicate the risk if you have hazardous materials and that would also include having “no smoking” signs

  3. Parts 4 and 5 are missing links to parts 5 and 6.

  4. And part 6 is missing a link to part 7.

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