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Ideal Office Space Layouts

Kimball XSite System Furniture

A recent meeting on behalf of the Center for Digital Media underlined why office environments are laid out the way they are. Lets start with the walls. The walls can either be built of plasterboard and be solid objects or constructed of prefabricated reusable panels that are held in place by metal trim tacked to the ceiling and floor. The solid walls are far cheaper than the reusable movable panels to purchase but the solid walls are a capital purchase. Something which is part of a building structure has to be depreciated over decades where as movable walls can be depreciated within ten years. An 8 foot partition may cost $200 per linear foot where as a full height partition wall will cost $300 to $600 per linear foot. Compare that with a permanent wall which might be as little as $40 per linear foot. Given that two walls are needed to enclose an additional room the length involved can be around 45 feet. So the cost of a fixed wall is only $1,800 where as movable walls could cost around $20,000.

Contrast these costs of $1,800 to $20,000 plus furniture and the cost of 400 square foot of real estate ($12,000/annum) with slick open plan office furniture which can be moved at a fraction of the cost and are likely to take up 100 square feet ($3,000 / annum) and will cost just under $1000 per seat. The footprint on the floor area obviously varies depending on the layout and there are options such as three table 120 degree clusters rather than rows which add interest but cost floor space.

While in theory full height movable walls can be moved in practice this involves shuffling the displaced area so it is a rare event. It is far more practical to minimize the use of conference rooms and offices and potentially use prefabricated fronts to achieve a dramatic look while using open plan as much as possible. The density of the open plan is really cost driven. Desks can be packed in, even to the extreme of the rows of benches we see in some of the startup spaces. All the layouts have a roll and a price bracket and within an industry there are well defined styles of office which are dictated by the cost of the materials and infrastructure. The challenge is in working creatively with the cheaper fixed wall structures to achieve acoustic privacy where it is needed and to choose flexible furniture which can meet the cost demands of the business in an attractive work environment.

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