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Double Decks
ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Q.
I'm going to include a rented double-deck structure in my next exhibit. My exhibit designers will lead the integration, but I want to be involved. What questions should I ask rental providers to ensure I select the system that best fits my needs?

A.
At its core, a double deck is usually a square frame elevated over a portion of a booth space. However, this description is deceptively simple. When it comes to renting a double-deck structure, there are multiple variables to consider, including everything from weight restrictions to required installation equipment. So here are seven questions to ask yourself and your double-deck provider to make sure you rent the right structure for your unique exhibit.
➤ What's the purpose of the double deck? The activities you plan to host on this upper level will have significant impact on the type of structure you choose. For example, will the deck be used for private meeting rooms, which will likely require 8-foot privacy walls, additional lighting (and thus wire management), and perhaps even soundproofing capabilities. Or, will it simply offer an open hospitality area with a view of the floor, an option usually requiring few partitions and minimal railings to maintain an open view. Before you meet with potential deck-rental vendors, determine exactly what you plan to do within your upper-level space.
➤ How many people will the deck accommodate? As you consider the deck's function, also establish how many people you plan to host on the upper deck. Every deck has weight and occupancy restrictions, which must match your intended use and any regulations that govern the exhibit, such as those set by the venue, city, show management, etc.
➤ Will the proposed deck meet all the compulsory regulations? Since you're already investigating regulations, ask your exhibit house and deck-rental vendor to research all restrictions at the shows at which you exhibit. For example, some venues will stipulate the number of staircases required per square foot, a factor that can impact your choice of rental structure.
➤ How much does it weigh? Double-deck structures can be made out of wood, steel, or modular aluminum. But no matter the material used, the structure will have a significant impact on your shipping and drayage costs. So before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand how each option will affect your bills.
➤ What types of labor and equipment are required? Determine if union carpenters can set up the structure or if some form of specialized labor is necessary. Also ascertain how long installation and dismantle will take, and based on show schedules, how many overtime and weekend hours will be required. In addition, inquire about whether equipment such as scissor lifts or scaffolding will be needed. Most double decks will add labor time and equipment-rental fees to your expenses, but costs can vary dramatically based on the level of setup difficulty and equipment used.
➤ Will any other fees be added to my rental price? Additional fees could include everything from optional accessories to labor to structural- engineering approvals. Some firms will include all of this in a turnkey rental fee while others will break out each fee individually. So as you consider rental options, compare apples to apples when it comes to prices.
➤ Can this structure be reconfigured? Depending on your intended uses, you may want to expand or reconfigure your double deck for various shows or events. So ask potential providers about such options and restrictions during the initial research process.

As you select a double deck, your exhibit-design firm will no doubt lead the way. But it's wise to have a decent understanding of the process. The aforementioned questions can help ensure that you obtain the information you need to select the best structure for your exhibit design.


— Robert Jankowski, president, Top Deck Systems Inc., Clinton Township, MI
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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