Welcome to OBC World Newsletters Online

Complete Story

The Changing Rules of Office Business Center Planning
By Norman Fox, Alternative Officing Planning Services

Original office business center planning rules were based upon the amount of offices a center contained relative to the total amount of space in the center. Offices were augmented with conference rooms whose type, size and amount were, again, relative to the center’s size. Finally, support service areas, reception, break and utility areas completed the required space mix. Technology consisted of basic telephone and electrical services. During a center’s expected ten-year life span, any alterations to an original floor plan were expected to be minor. Planning and construction methods did not support change.

Now, with the expansion of office technology and the increasing needs for rapid local and global communications, the original rules have changed. Technological progression, changing management concepts and generational lifestyles have created new markets for office business centers and, with these new markets, have forced changes in the rules concerning concepts and planning principals. This new injection of rapid growth and diversity to the industry has shortened the original ten-year useful life of an office business center to a period directly related to its market. Flexibility and the ability to support change are now necessary inclusions into office business center planning rules. Application of these new rules, however, is subject to the office center’s location, market, size and budget.

Beginning with location, new buildings add to greater flexibility by affording greater distances between floors. This allows for the use of raised floors and other flexible support systems. Raised floors are the most flexible means to support electrical, communication and air handling changes. Larger floor plates and greater distances between columns support greater space efficiency and planning flexibility. New buildings contain fiber optics, higher power capabilities and accessibility to high-speed communications. They will also demand higher rents and require higher development costs. Therefore, a well-located, older building with modern technology may be the better choice. The cost of flexibility must also be considered. A raised floor system will add approximately ten dollars per square foot to a tenant improvement program or building construction budget. Their inclusion in a rental space is, therefore, questionable. A positive return on this investment depends on the center’s market and how often change is required.

Other important tools for flexibility are modular partitions. The cost of modular partitions is two to three times that of a built in place wall. They also require costly storage areas when not in use. The newer planning principle of compartmentalization may be a more cost-effective tool. Compartmentalization means dividing the office business center’s space into larger portions by using built in place walls and door openings, which are then subdivided into market related spaces by means of modular partitions. Benefits include lower partition and wiring costs, plus greater flexibility and the extension of the useful life of the center.

Finally, flexibility is related to the size of the center. Centers that are less than ten thousand useable square feet are generally less flexible than larger centers. Planning rules dictate that a relatively higher amount of space must be set-aside for areas other than actual office space. This results in a reduction of available office space in smaller centers and, therefore, the revenue available from potential tenants. These factors impact development budgets and can restrict the use of more expensive flexibility tools. It is possible, however, that market pressures could change the application of this rule.

Flexibility is only one of many factors effecting planning rules. Others include expanding amenity areas that impact space distribution and dramatic shifts in aesthetic and functional expectations from a new generation of business center users.

AoPlan (Alternative Officing Planning Services) provides planning, design, development, and consultation services to the office business center industry. Our services include site selection, project cost and efficiency analyses, space planning, and architectural and interior design. AoPlan's principal, Norman Fox, has been providing these services to new and current successful center owners and operators for over 16 years. Experience has provided AoPlan with an understanding of the importance of space-use efficiency, location, economic and operational factors to the success of our clients. Experience has also given us the basis for developing new, exciting, and unique market supportive facilities for our clients. Let us demonstrate why engaging AoPlan should be your first step and the right place to begin your development program. Please visit our web site:
www.aoplan.com or email: norman.fox@aoplan.com or by telephone 610-324-2530.