Is your floor plan making you money, or burning your money? When it comes to space, every square foot counts – and comes with a price tag
Office space planning is very much like getting married: there are many things you don’t know and want to know before you take the final decision, and once you do, you are stuck with it, and you’ll either make it or break it. Of course, a marriage has a greater chance of making it, because love can make humans commit, but good luck getting love back from your space if you didn’t put enough love into it at the picking and planning stage.
Entrepreneurs make decisions to cut corners, thinking that it will save them money, only to discover later that it was a bad decision and that they ended up paying far more in the long run. I know! I’ve been there. We lease spaces to growth businesses and, ideally, we design them to fuel that growth by optimizing every square foot in a way that supports efficiency. The reality is that the noise involved in the whole leasing transaction can lead tenants to believe that space planning can be done by anyone.
Space planning efficiency has a huge impact on the cost of business operations. It is common to see business owners struggle because they leased too much or too little space; spaces are impractical, uninviting, or not pleasing to customers; it takes too much for employees to get the job done; construction goes over budget -I can go on and on. The important thing to understand is that any of the above will always take a toll on your business, and you’ll be lucky if that toll stays within five digits.
How to do space planning in a way that promotes success?
The short answer is by configuring rooms by size, form, orientation, relationship between spaces, composition of elements in the space, understanding how codes and regulations apply, and maximizing the potential of all existing infrastructure: windows, plumbing lines, HVAC, sprinkler, etc., in a way that supports efficiency in the cost of construction and on business operations.
In real estate, everything costs too much, so skipping or cutting corners without understanding the short- and long-term impact could be a very expensive proposition. Based on NYC office leasing standards, rentable square foot (RSF) averages $74; which becomes $101.4/USF (USF - usable area), when taking into account a 27% for loss factor. Let’s say that, due to bad space planning, you waste the amount of space equivalent to the smallest bathroom in your house (40 sf.). Based on average standards, that little mistake will cost you $4,000 per year. Saving a few thousand at the beginning might sound like a good idea, but think further, because those little decisions can end up costing you a considerable chunk of money.
So what is needed in a money-making floor plan?
If you think experience doesn’t matter, blind-pick one of your employees to run your company and watch how that goes. Planning space is an art and you must be willing to undertake the challenge to consider all important parts of the equation or hire someone with the experience and proper training to do it
Here are the basics that must be considered:
Before you begin, understand that the business of a business is to provide opportunities that help individuals achieve goals, both customers and employees. Also, when considering all the points below, it is a good idea to feel like you are the person in the space either vising or performing a job.
Target user: Who and how many people will be using and/or visiting each space?
If your employees or customers are not comfortable, chances are they’ll leave and close the door behind them at the first opportunity they get. Begin by understanding the operational functionality of every employee and what your customers are comfortable with, and then design inspiring spaces that promote business and professional development. We are all different and feel comfortable in different environments so consider creating ambiances that can accommodate most moods and needs, especially in open working environments; think about when you visit a restaurant and the criterion to select where you prefer to be seated.
Size of spaces:
Superfluous spaces are either impractical or idle and are money burners instead of money makers. Here is where clear thinking and understanding applies: make sure that you fully understand what the space is used for, what equipment is needed, how many people and how often they will occupy it. Spaces used on a temporary basis must be even more efficient to avoid having spaces that burn your profit.
Form of space:
If you’ve ever heard the principle "form follows function," it came about because there is logical reasoning behind the form of spaces. When considering this, first consider its functionality, then the correlation of spaces to optimize efficiency.
Relationship between spaces:
Locating spaces in a programmatic manner will help employees to perform better and customers get the exposure you want them to get. Here is the opportunity to create a floor plan that promote day-to-day operational efficiency
Think about what it is like when you’re getting dressed up: you might have amazing clothes, but the chances that any and all combinations would look at least good are rather low. Selecting all beautiful things doesn’t make it, coordinating the aesthetics of elements in the space requires 3D vision and experience. Each space must be designed to inspire both customers and employees to do what you want them to do.
Lighting affects moods, too much or too little have a direct impact on occupant's performance and behavior so make sure that all spaces are lit according to the function of each space.
Things like sunlight direction, window locations, access to egress, elevators, etc. are important considerations when you’re locating specific spaces and functions; make sure that there’s a logic to it and both distances and width of egress corridors comply with codes.
Existing building conditions and systems:
Buildings come in all sizes and shapes: some are new, some very old, some are well-equipped with mechanical, electrical, plumbing, sprinkler systems, some are not. The bottom line here is to consider the location of building systems at the time of configuring spaces in a way that reduces the need for complex construction.
Codes and regulations:
Every use in every space is subject to zoning and building code regulations which apply, depending on the proposed use, amount of occupants, the existing building construction type, distances to egress stairs, fire resistance and mitigation, etc. Adaptability to codes has a significant impact on cost of construction.
Think of the impact of locating your quiet employee in the middle of a loud room or your most social employee in a corner where nothing happens. Space planning can be designed to consider the social, emotional and individual characteristics of employees and customers. Consider creating different working environments that will give your employees the option to move around and select spaces where they could be more productive.
Efficiency is what leads a company to success and employees are the ones who will help you get there; make sure that you provide working environments that inspire everyone to give their best, while taking into account the financial impact that idle spaces have on your business in the short and long term, after all, every square foot counts.