What is Space Planning?

Put simply, space planning is the process of designing how occupants will use a given space. For workspace design, this includes how much of the space is dedicated to types of work (collaborative, solitary etc.), how people will move through the space and how it will be equipped.

At Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), we believe the task is fundamentally to make best use of available space (within the boundaries of any building constraints) while enabling people to do their best work every day. Often the human dimension can be traded out at the expense of high space utilisation / high density of planning. This tends to happen because the cost of the space is easily calculated, but it’s more difficult to show how human performance is impacted by the working environment.

Our belief is that workspace design should facilitate a frictionless experience for the occupants, avoiding all the things that currently get in their way and compromise their productivity. The space plan should also provide for all the things we know from our research are important for individual and community productivity.

At the starting point, a key question is – will the space be “open plan” or not? The debate about open plan rumbles on, although what seems clear is that “open” is here to stay – but what type of “open” is very much up for grabs. A recent article about the death (or not) of the open office suggested an evolution in the design of open space – focusing on providing a range of spaces for people to conduct different activities.

AWA is entirely in tune with this thinking. We believe workplace design should reflect the activities of the occupants. There is no one size fits all, but there is a palette of components that can cater for the range of collaborative and solitary activities, as well as the preferences of the people working in the office space.

What does this mean for space planning? The driver for many years has been to optimise the use of available space within a given office. When undergoing an office refurbishment, a relocation, or indeed any restack of the space – it was usually the designer’s job to get a good balance between collaborative space (typically meeting rooms) and desks (usually allocated on a 1:1 basis to accommodate the current headcount plus anticipated growth). This could result in a max pack approach – generally not a pleasant working environment.

The approach that AWA take when designing for agile working (where space will be shared) is to draw heavily upon desk utilisation data and staff workstyle information to understand what is needed but also what is missing in the current office space design. The working environment is vitally important to support the work that the organisation is undertaking – in fact our focus is on creating workplace experiences that cater to all the senses and activities being undertaken.

The tension between maximum utilisation of space (often a financial argument) and great workplace experiences (an argument for people and performance) is one that will be grappled with on an ongoing basis. Through our increased understanding of what knowledge workers need to do their best work, we strive to design workspaces that strike the right balance, leading ultimately to a higher return on the workplace investment through higher human performance.

If you are interested in discussing your workplace design needs or future space planning with AWA, please get in touch. Our team design for all the factors we know are important to provide frictionless workplace experiences. You can email info@advanced-workplace.com or call +44 207 743 7110

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