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Shop and office complex serves as the headquarters for this operation

Jim Cormany's first office was typical of any farm -- it was way too small.

Offices are like that. Similar to shops, offices seem to shrink in size over time, leaving farmers to ponder why they didn't build larger areas in the first place.

"That certainly was on my mind when designing my shop and office," the Columbia City, Indiana, farmer recalls. "I came from a 10 x 14-foot office with no windows or air conditioning. So I wanted plenty of room and better comforts."

Cormany had considered placing the office inside his new shop. "But I was concerned that this would consume work space on the shop floor," he remembers. "Also, what would happen if I wanted the office to grow in the future? That's a bit difficult to do inside a shop."

Then, too, he needed a break room and work clothes storage for his part-time employees. His solution was to add the office and break room onto the side of the shop. This keeps the rooms separate but adjoining the shop.

"The shop is the hub of many farming operations," Cormany notes. "So it only made sense that the office/break room and shop be kept together."

Cormany's approach to creating a shop-office complex earned him first-place honors in the Best Shop Office category of the Top Shops Contest. Strategic use of space as well as a provision for future growth allowed Cormany's entry to rise to the top of the competition.

The advantage of an office sharing space within a shop is primarily economic. Construction costs are lower, and it creates a storage loft above the office. But shop noises, smells and dirt seem to readily penetrate interior offices. And then there is that matter of future growth.

"True, taking my approach cost more," Cormany points out. "And at first, I worried whether this was justified. But not any longer. This was one of the smartest decisions I made."

Since its construction, Cormany has discovered he utilizes the office much more than in the past. "It is essential to the operation. All my marketing, purchasing and business transactions occur in the office," he says. "The break room provides a central location for my part-time help and me to gather and plan out the day."

The cost of the additional structure was further justified by the fact that the break room houses the shop's air compressor (to cut down on shop noise), service manuals and shop maintenance records.

Jim Cormany's first office was typical of any farm -- it was way too small.

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