Last edited 14 Sep 2020

Office space planning

[edit] Introduction

Many workers spend much of their time in office environments. High-quality offices can help motivate and retain staff, improve efficiency, collaboration and communication, and reduce conflict.

When moving to a new facility, or redesigning an existing office, it is important to engage with occupants through user group discussions or interviews to ensure proposals satisfy their needs and desires as well as business requirements. This can be facilitated by the use of mood boards, computer-generated images, mock-ups and samples that can help occupants visualise and compare different options.

Planning office spaces, involves a number of complex and challenging issues, including:

When considering the office space needed, analysis should be carried out of the types of spaces required, the number of different areas, 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.

The legislation that guides the planning of office space is the Workplace, (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and Regulation 10 states the following with regards to room dimensions and space requirements:

'Every room where persons work shall have sufficient floor area, height and unoccupied space for purposes of health, safety and welfare.'

The associated Approved Code of Practice and Guidance states:

'Workrooms should have enough free space to allow people to get to and from workstations and to move within the room, with ease. The number of people who may work in any particular room at any one time will depend not only on the size of the room, but on the space taken up by furniture, fittings, equipment, and on the layout of the room. Workrooms, except those where people only work for short periods, should be of sufficient height (from floor to ceiling) over most of the room to enable safe access to workstations. In older buildings with obstructions such as low beams the obstruction should be clearly marked.'

Numerically, the guidance states that the total volume of a room (when empty), divided by the normal number of people who work in the room, should be at least 11 cubic metres.

For example, with a ceiling height of 2.4 m, a floor area of 4.6 sq. m (e.g. 2.0 x 2.3 m) will be needed to provide the 11 cubic metres. With a higher ceiling height of 3.0 m, a minimum floor area of 3.7 sq. m (e.g. 2.0 x 1.85 m) will be needed.

However, this minimum figure may not be sufficient if, for example, a large amount of the room is occupied by furniture, or depending on the contents and layout of the room and the type of work being undertaken.

The 11 cubic metres minimum standard is not applicable to: retail sales kiosks, attendants' shelters, machine control cabs or similar small structures, where space is necessarily limited; or rooms being used for lectures, meetings and similar purposes.

The 2013 Occupier Density study published by the British Council for Offices (BCO) found '…a mean density of one workplace per 10.9 sq. m net internal area (NIA). Of the sample properties 38% fall within the range 8-10 sq. m, while 58% fall within the wider range of 8-12 sq. m… the lowest and highest densities are in the Corporate (13.1 sq. m) and Financial & Insurance (9.7 sq. m) sectors'

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