Sunday, February 2, 2014

Planning for Offices - Space Rationalisation

Guest article from Joe Malone BSc(Hons) ICIOB 

Understanding the existing core data for the building you inhabit may well highlight that it is not fit for purpose or space inefficient; critical information if you are reviewing plans for future accommodation that may well fuel your appetite for a move

Many organisations, particularly Government organisations are currently reviewing their office space requirements with a view to rationalising and making efficiency savings but how should you approach this exercise? Many organisations see this as a simple exercise in reviewing their ways of working and you will commonly hear of organisations looking to reduce their desk to staff ratio but organisations looking to build or rent new office space have a unique opportunity to fully consider how their buildings can contribute to space efficiency and the starting point to this is first ensuring that your organisation has a robust space standard. It consistently surprises me that so few organisations have a space standard in place.

The Space Standard

Essentially the space standard will contain ideal core data drawn from best practice guidance produced by The British Council for Offices and the Office of Government and Commerce.

The National Audit Office recently published this report which again placed emphasis on government organisations to start the space rationalisation process (Link)

The simple table below shows ideal data drawn from best practice guidance and provides a template for space planning. If you were planning to inhabit existing rather than new office space then the Net Internal Area (NIA) of 10m² should be increased to 12m² and the table should review actual core data for the building you inhabit. In fact understanding the existing core data for the building you inhabit may well highlight that it is not fit for purpose or space inefficient; critical information if you are reviewing plans for future accommodation that may well fuel your appetite for a move. 

Aside from best practice guidance there are some subjective issues based on the organisations culture and aspirations for team working. Is there an aspiration to remove the perceived management hierarchy by having managers share the same open plan floor space as staff?  Undoubtedly, open plan office space is more efficient and encourages collaborative team working but are there issues of business privacy that would prohibit this working arrangement? Privacy is often the given argument for individual staff retaining their own office space but it is seldom justified when shared but limited cellular space can be booked by all staff members at suitable times. 

Office Ideal Core Data (New Space)

Minimum legal requirement for office space provision per staff member
Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and British Council for Offices (BCO) standard for NIA per person (Average public sector = 24m² per person)
Business aspiration for efficiency savings
Ratio of workstations to staff
Number of workstations to achieve 30% space efficiency
Cellular space
≤ 10%
Meeting Room provision
Typically 1.2 m² per staff member
Primary circulation space as a percentage of total NIA (Normal range for efficient buildings = 10-15%)
≤ 15%
Floor plate efficiency (NIA:GIA)
Flexible partitioning
Local Support Space
≤5% of Total NIA
Central Support Space
25% of Total NIA
On Site Parking Space provision standard
1 space per 25m² of GEA
Required number of staff parking spaces
100 (0.8 ratio spaces/desks)
Ideal GEA Required for staff parking
Number of single user offices
Number of Meeting Rooms

Efficiency Savings on Existing Office Space

You are of course limited on efficiency savings that can be made on existing space, your floor plate efficiency is generally fixed and you may be limited in changes that can be made to cellular and primary circulation space etc. Those who inhabit more modern buildings with flexible partitioning have a greater opportunity to make physical changes to the floor space and therefore rationalise how they use that space.

In general terms organisations will look to review their ways of working and introduce clear desk policies, increased working hours or mobile working so that they can reduce their desk to staff ratio. The average cost of a work station is circa £4500 per staff member so if you reduce the number of workstations by 30% then there are some immediate and on-going savings in not providing or supporting these work stations. If the object of this exercise is to free up space to achieve a headline figure of  say 6m² per staff member then the question I would ask is, ‘What do you now intend to do with the free space you’ve created?’ I come across this anomaly many times, organisations want to achieve this headline figure but have no real plans for the space created, moreover they have these hypothetical ideals of space per staff member in mind without understanding the wider context of additional space required for circulation and support.

If you rationalise and free up space then make sure you can generate income from that space otherwise what’s the point?

Efficiency Savings on New Office Space

I’m currently involved with the planning a new build office and if we use the ideal core data in the table we see that we have 190 staff and a guide for 10m² of NIA per staff member. This means we have to build an office with a net internal area of 1900m², or do we?

The reality is that we are still looking to reduce our desk to staff ratio by 30% and it follows that we can reduce the size of our building by 30% leaving a total requirement for only 1330m² of NIA. At our anticipated build cost of £836 per m² then this space reduction would save around £550k on the cost of development. Whilst these savings are incredibly attractive I should issue a word of caution… organisations that take full advantage of these space savings can lose business flexibility! Are you absolutely sure that there will be no future requirement for additional space? It’s a fact that many public sector organisations have a continuous downward trend in terms of the number of staff they employ but private sector businesses looking for continued growth should bear in mind future space requirements.  

By rationalising and freeing up space, organisations can create the opportunity for the co-location of services. Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council recently took the opportunity to  relocate staff from geographically dispersed premises throughout the Rochdale area into a single Municipal Office providing a single point access service to a mixed use development containing offices, library, restaurants and caf├ęs. They were fortunate in appointing an architectural firm who are fully conversant with BCO guidance and best practice and I’m sure that this was a critical success factor in their excellent new office design. (Link)

The concept office design I created in Sketch-up had a greatly reduced footprint and reduced development cost due to the space freed in the adjacent building and the glazed link provided to utilise that space.

Source: Joe Malone
Concept Office Design Utilising Free Space Created in Adjacent Building

For cash strapped public sector organisations looking to review their accommodation, identifying space efficiencies for shared accommodation or co-location can be the critical factor in gaining approval for new office development.

Joe Malone BSc(Hons) ICIOB 

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  1. Interested in the statement "The average cost of a work station is circa £4500 per staff member" do you have the audit trail / evidence to support this ... what was the source


  2. Rationalizing office space according to the staff members and utilizing rest of office space is a good idea.

  3. A very well written article on “Office Space planning” I really enjoyed and got very informative details regarding these topics. We are also a Bangalore based office space consultancy firm site: dealing in furnished plug and play commercial spaces for rent starting from Rs 50 /sq ft on wards. We are in the field of commercial real estate from past 7 years dealing and closing on spaces from 2500 sq ft to 5 lac sq ft. Our areas involves in tech parks, business centers, startup office and independent buildings.