Last edited 04 Mar 2021



An office is a building, portion of a building, or a room, that is used for desk-based business purposes.

Approved Document B defines an office as '...premises used for any of the following and their control:

An office can be built in almost any location or building, although requirements in terms of light, access, services, security, flexibility and layout may influence its location and design. Houses and other buildings can be designed with a room dedicated as an office. Alternatively, an office building (or office block), provides purpose-built accommodation for sale or lease for businesses to operate from. The primary purpose of an office building is to provide a healthy, safe, conducive and efficient working environment for its users.

When considering the office space needed, analysis should be carried out of the types of spaces required (i.e. open office spaces, enclosed cubicles, private meeting facilities, conference areas etc), the number of employees (current and anticipated), recreational requirements, welfare facilities, and so on.

For more information, see Office space planning.

An office building will often be divided into sections, or floors, for different organisations, or the whole building can be used by one organisation. Designing the most appropriate office space can be difficult though, since many different people perform many different roles and tasks within an organisation and may have differing requirements or tastes for their workplace. Generally, offices will contain some or all of the following generic types of work space:

  • Open plan: A floor space that isn’t enclosed, typically made up of rows of desks for use by a large number of people.
  • Team space: A semi-enclosed work space for groups of people.
  • Cubicle: Semi-enclosed work space for use by one person.
  • Private office: An enclosed work space for use by one person.
  • Shared office: An enclosed work space for use by two or more people.
  • Study booth: An enclosed work space for use by one person for a short period, i.e. for making a phone call or holding a video meeting.

Offices often include meeting spaces, such as:

Other types of spaces that are often found in an office building include:

On a construction site, office facilities are often needed to provide accommodation for site managers, provide space for meetings and to provide storage for site documentation. Each individual project will have different requirements for site office provision. On large projects separate offices may be provided for site foremen, engineers and the commercial and project management team.

For more information, see Site office.

The term ‘office’ can also be used to refer to government bodies, departments or agencies. For example, Office of Government Property (OGP), Office of Government Commerce (OGC - no longer in existence), Cabinet Office, Home Office, National Audit Office (NAO), and so on.

Designing Buildings Wiki has a range of articles relating to offices, including:

NB The Scottish Building Standards, Part I. Technical Handbook – Domestic, Appendix A Defined Terms, suggests office means: ‘….a building or premises used for office, administrative or clerical purposes (including writing, book-keeping, sorting papers, filing, typing, duplicating, machine calculating, police and fire service work, drawing and editorial preparation of work for publication), financial transactions (including banking and building society work) and communications (including postal, telegraph and radio, television, film, audio or video recording or performance (not open to the public), communication or control).’

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