Mailboxes & Package Rooms Practical Design in the Amazon Age

Portrait Of Mature Postman Putting Letters In Mailbox

Among the more mundane - yet vitally important - amenities in nearly every multifamily community is its mailbox and package delivery system. With the massive increase in deliveries in the Amazon Era, and especially post-pandemic, the design and integration of mail- and package rooms has become more important than ever. 

Mailbox Strategy

Mail delivery has been around longer than the United States has existed as a nation. Instituted by Benjamin Franklin in 1775, the USPS has become a basic service of government that most of us take for granted. The idea that you can drop a letter into a box at one end of the country and that it gets delivered to a faraway destination in a few days without a second thought is second nature. It’s as easy as using a telephone, and certainly has been around for much longer.

The first element in designing a multifamily mailbox area is actually based on government requirements. While over the years there have been many incarnations of mailboxes ranging in size and style, today the U.S. government has a standard for new mailboxes, as required by the postal code, says Jonathan Baron, proprietor of Jonathan Baron Design, Inc., an interior design firm located in Manhattan. Baron has completed projects throughout the New York metropolitan region, including New Jersey. He is also on the board of directors of the U. S. Postal Service Consumer Council.  

“If you remove existing mailboxes, you must use a postal code approved replacement mailbox called a 4C,” Baron explains. “Basically, the 4C is 10 mailboxes stacked on top of each other, and for every 10 there’s a package locker attached.” According to Baron, the specifications of a 4C mailbox are as follows: “There’s a minimum size requirement of 12 inches in width, three inches in height, and 15 inches in depth. The parcel locker requirement is based on a 1:5 locker-to-mail-compartment ratio. This requirement became effective in July 2020.”

In a 4C system, each mailbox holder has access to the package box. When mail is delivered and a package doesn’t fit into the resident’s individual postbox, the mail delivery person leaves a single-use key in the residents’ postbox, and they use that additional key in tandem with their mailbox key to open the package locker. 

Today’s Delivery Conundrum

But what happens when there are too many packages for the package box, or the package is too large for the package box? That’s where good design can help.

Much of the package delivery and storage problem depends on the type of building in question. In a large full-service building, packages are usually received by staff, and are either kept in a package room or are delivered to the doorsteps of the individual units. In other buildings where there may not be a door person or porter (or any staff at all) to keep track of the deliveries, there should be a designated area where delivery persons can leave a package. Optimally, Baron stresses, the package storage area should be out of sight of the main entry, and preferably kept locked.  “Delivery people, USPS, UPS, FedEx, should never have keys to these areas if they are locked,” he says. “Ideally, there should be someone in the building, like a super or a porter, who has access to the storage area and can place items there.” Residents can then retrieve their packages with their own keys to the storage area. In the event there isn’t a staff member on site, there are services such as BuildingLink that provide storage lockers accessible to both delivery persons and residents.

The speed and convenience of online shopping and shipping have become such a part of our daily lives, it’s unlikely that the flood of boxes, padded mailers, and other packages will abate anytime soon. Given that, your building mailbox and storage arrangements and their design should reflect both current government regulations and requirements and the specific aesthetics of your building and community.

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