Creating a Warm Welcome in an Otherwise Sterile Lobby Area

A virtual fireplace greets visitors in the lobby of the Port of Seattle headquarters on PIer 69.

A virtual fireplace greets visitors in the lobby of the Port of Seattle headquarters on PIer 69. Michael Grass / Route Fifty

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Here’s a good idea public facilities managers can use to take the virtual chill out of the air.

SEATTLE — The rainy season is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest and for those with appointments at the Port of Seattle’s headquarters on Pier 69, a trek down to the Elliott Bay waterfront can be a chilly one.

And like many government buildings around the U.S. that feature a lot of concrete, the Pier 69’s hulking concrete pillars and walls don’t naturally warm up the lobby area where visitors sign in and are greeted.

But in the vast grey expanse of Pier 69’s lobby, this Route Fifty correspondent on Monday morning found some warmth in a seating area clustered around a TV screen featuring a virtual fireplace, complete with an audio feed that’s punctuated with sounds of a crackling fire.

Since most modern government office buildings aren’t built with fireplaces—in some places, traditional brick-and-mortar chimneys present seismic hazards and burning firewood in stoves can degrade air quality and be a public health hazard—a virtual fireplace is the next best thing.

This is not a new idea, naturally. There are some higher-end virtual fireplace models on the market that come with supplemental heaters and “contemporary acrylic ice ember bed.”

But all you really need is a spare TV screen, a seating cluster and access to one of many virtual fireplace videos on YouTube, some which you can watch endlessly for nearly two hours.  

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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