Impact of Size in Commercial Architecture

Posted April 17, 2019 | Tags: Commercial Architecture

Considering Size on Commercial Office Design 

Determining how much office space your business needs is not an exact science. During the design phase,  you must come up with an estimate. But how do you know the exact number? And where do you start?  

At Bill Whitaker, Registered Architect, we get this question often. We’re happy to help our clients estimate the office spaces they need, now and, in the future.

In this article, we'll break down:  

  • Average space requirements
  • Determining how much space you need per employee
  • Defining how that space will be divided   

Average Space Requirements  

Space requirements can vary significantly by industry, by company and even by geographic location (think spread-out Alabama and space-pressed Manhattan). And then, there's also the matter of office style.   At one end of the spectrum, is the open space layout, with no private offices. All employees sit together, in a large single room, in desks or cubicles.

At the other end of the spectrum is the traditional wall layout, which has private offices, conference rooms and utility rooms such as kitchens, libraries, and file rooms.  

Though not as contemporary, professions requiring a lot of privacy, think financial institutions and law firms, prefer the traditional closed office layout.  

You, therefore, have to decide what office layout best suits your business; open plan, closed arrangement, or a combination of both.  

Determining How Much Space You Need Per Employee  

Now that you have a clearer picture in mind let's convert that into numbers. Which of these scenarios best fits the image you envision?  
  • High Density (100-150 square feet per employee): Open plan layout with rows of small desks. May feature a few private offices.  
  • Average density (150-200 square feet per employee): Mix of cubicles and desk space. May have a few private offices.   
  • Spacious (250-400 square feet per employee): Closed space layout with large private offices.    

To estimate how much space you'll need, multiply employee headcount by the number of square feet that best fits your density needs. For example, a 20 person company with average density requirements would need an estimated 3000 square feet of space (20 people X 150 square feet per employee).   

Determining How That Space Is Divided  

These numbers should give you an idea of the typical office sizes for different employees within the office:   

Employees Who Will Need Offices    
  • President: 400 square feet
  • Vice president: 200 square feet
  • Managers: 150 square feet    

Employees Who Will Need Cubicles  
  • Engineers: 170 square feet
  • Accountants: 150 square feet
  • Secretaries: 120 square feet
  • Customer service reps: 120 square feet
  • Programmers: 120 square feet    

Employees in an Open Area  
  • Data entry: 120 square feet
  • Clerks: 120 square feet
  • Temps: 100 square feet    

Permanent Rooms and Spaces  
  • Conference Room: 60 square feet + 20 square feet per person seating
  • Lunch/Break room: 70 square feet +20 square feet per person seating
  • Reception area: 100-200 square feet + 20 square feet per person waiting
  • Halls/Corridors: 20- 30% of the total space area
  • File room: 150 square feet
  • Mailroom: 120 square feet    

Don't forget to include other special rooms particular to your area of business. For example, if you have advanced technological needs, you may need an extra room for printers or servers.   

Next Steps  

Once you have an idea of your new office layout, you can work with an architect who will listen to what you want and pull together the structural, orientation and aesthetic considerations of your office into a functional unit.

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We are a small Design-Centered Practice Studio that promotes cost effective Green Building technologies.
We provide a wide range of services, and no job is too big or too small for our experience. With over 15 years of commercial experience, we can design a wide variety of architectural styles that can fit most needs or tastes.