Last edited 19 Aug 2021

Space planning

Space planning is an important part of building design and is used to determine how a space (or spaces) should be laid out and used. It may be undertaken as part of the building design process, or as a stand alone exercise looking at how best to plan an existing space, or a space that is being developed (for example, a tenant determining how to fit out their part of a new development). It can be used for very simple spaces such as hotel bedrooms, through to very complex industrial buildings.

Good space planning can improve the wellbeing and productivity of the occupants of a space.

Designers will consult with the client to clarify their requirements for the space before starting planning (and perhaps assess existing spaces), typically by considering issues such as:

Once considerations such as those listed above have been resolved, a space plan can be created.

There are various techniques that can be used to create a space plan. A common early technique is the ‘bubble plan’. This involves drawing a plan of the space and using ‘bubbles’, or circles, to roughly delineate the various activities that will take place, overlapping according to the relationship between them.

Once the activities have been defined and located in relation to one another, a more detailed scale plan can be drawn to show the layout of individual items within the space. This process can be carried out by hand, or with moveable paper cut outs, or using space planning software such as computer aided design (CAD) software or building information modelling software (BIM).

Parametric modelling can simplify space planning by allowing the automatic application of pre-defined rules to the entire space. So for example, if a colour scheme for particular part of the space is changed, every object that has that colour attribute will also change. Other parameters might include; positional data, dimensions, algorithms describing form, and so on.

In particularly complex spaces, techniques such as space syntax can allow the relationships between spatial layout and human behaviour to be simulated and investigated in detail. This might be useful, for example, in the design of a station where a great number of conflicting uses occupy the same space.

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