When it comes to specifying seating for an auditorium style university lecture theatre there are generally two key formats – fixed seating or retractable seating.
What is Fixed Seating?
Traditional auditorium style fixed seating can be fitted to to a flat, raked or tiered floor and is screwed to the floor through holes in the feet. This is the standard format of auditorium seating in a range of venues designed for the specific purpose of educating or entertaining an audience.
Whilst there are other variations of fixed seating now available for lecture theatres, traditional auditorium style fixed seating remains the most popular and cost effective choice which also optimises the available space.
What is Retractable Seating?
Retractable seating is fitted on a tiered structure where the seats fold down flat when not in use and each tier then retracts like a drawer closing. Retraction is either powered by an electric motor or operated by hand. Once retracted, the whole unit is effectively folded away, opening up the space which can then be used for other purposes. Retractable seating is now used in a wide range of auditoria from university lecture theatres to arts centres and is generally found in more modern buildings.
Fixed Seating vs Retractable Seating
Whilst retractable seating sounds like a great idea in theory, unless there is a requirement to use the room for dual purposes, there is no benefit in having a retractable system. For those establishments which do need a multi-purpose space, retractable seating obviously offers an ideal solution but it can also present many problems and complexities which simply don’t exist with fixed seating. Fixed seating is also generally cheaper as it does not require mechanical parts as needed for a retractable system.
Due to the nature of retractable seating, it does not offer any flexibility in its layout; seats have to be positioned in straight rows facing the front of the room. With fixed seating you have a range of layout options whereby seats can be positioned either in straight or angled rows, on a curve or in the round. These options are not available with retractable seating.
Once it has been installed, fixed seating requires little maintenance to ensure it remains fit for purpose and looking its best. Whether it is fitted on a flat, raked or tiered floor, because there are no mechanical parts involved, there is no danger of a break-down or costly repairs. This style of traditional fixed seating should give many years of trouble-free service.
In contrast, retractable seating will require regular maintenance and at least an annual safety inspection. You also need to ensure the person operating it is properly trained and fully understands how it works. Consider also potential operational issues – if the unit breaks down whilst being operated then you will need to find an alternative venue for your lecture or event if you have to wait for an engineer to attend.
Given the cost and maintenance implications of retractable seating, it should only be specified for projects where a multi-purpose space is a key requirement. Where this type of flexibility is not needed, fixed seating is always the preferred choice.
Evertaut is a leading UK manufacturer of fixed seating and has supplied lecture theatre seating to unviersities and educational establishments across the UK. To make an enquiry or for a free, no-obligtion quotation, please complete and submit the short form below.