Interior Office Space:
What a Manager Needs to Consider
Evelyn R. Babey
University of California, Davis
paper presented at the annual meeting of the Pacific
Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions
Officers, November 5, 1990. Portland, Oregon.
The average worker including the manager spends more
time in his/her office environment then anywhere else.
The manager wants an office that is functionally efficient,
cost effective and attractive and a staff that is satisfied
and comfortable in the work environment When renovating
interior office space a manager, therefore, must not
only be cognizant of the need to layout the office that
is efficient but must also consider psychological aspects
of office design, including sound level, color harmony
and lighting. All of these things become considerations
when undertaking an interior space renovation project.
manager who is considering an office renovation project
should have a good understanding of the phases of such
a project and the timing involved. The more comprehensive
the project the more detail is required in each phase.
In general there are five phases to any renovation project.
I is program development." This phase analyzes
needs and provides quantitative and qualitative information
as a basis for planning and design direction."
(Kaneko, 1990, p. 73).
II is the interior planning and conceptual design phase.
This phase translates the "business and esthetics
needs and goals defined by the facilities program into
a concept for physical facilities". (Kaneko, 1990,
III is the design development phase. This is the final
planning phase and the last step in this phase provide
a space plan that "shows individual offices, work
stations and support areas. All of the furniture is
shown as well as locations of doors and windows. The
plans and furniture layouts are drawn to scale and provide
a detailed view of how the office will look when occupied."
(Kaneko, 1990, p. 74).
IV is the preparation of drawings for interior construction,
"including ceiling plans, architectural details,
power and telephone outlets and partition plans. Work
is coordinated with engineers and contractors, furniture
specifications are prepared, and bids are let."
(Kaneko, 1990, p. 74).
V, the final phase is site supervision including "monitoring
schedules and budgets, as well as coordinating and supervising
all parties involved in space construction, furniture
and furnishing deliveries and installation. . . . "
(Kaneko, 1990, p. 74).
planning for a renovation the first thing a manager
:must do is analyze how the physical space is to be
used. Job functions and workflow must be analyzed. How
do people and units interact? Are there some units that
interact on an ongoing basis and thus should be situated
adjacent to one another so that communications are most
ability to communicate is a paramount issue in offices.
In. . . [a] study done by People Space Architecture
Company in an insurance office building it was documented
that each individual conducted an average of sixteen
conversations per hour or 38% of his/her work time.
The ease with which these work and social interactions
can be conducted provide a good measure of the functionality
of the office space (People Space Architecture Company).
are the traffic patterns of the office? Does the public
have access to the office in general, to certain units
or do they remain in a reception space? The space plan
must allow for efficient circulation of people and must
meet the criteria of the fire marshal and a host of
other state and federal regulation including access
by the handicapped (The Office, October, 1990, p. 71).
standards for staff must be considered. Do all staff
need the same unit of space or should space be related
to their job functions? For example, staff who have
a lot of public contact at their desk usually need more
work space then staff who do not. They need space for
people to sit down. A staff who does a variety of tasks
may need more space for equipment such as a drafting
standards are another consideration. If staff use computers
as part of their job then furniture selected must accommodate
their use (The Office, October, 1990, p. 63). Chairs
are particularly important because office workers generally
spend most of their day sitting but not always in the
same position (Cullen, 1990, p. 32).
needs privacy and when? For most organizations the best
office plan is some combination of conventional (closed)
office and open-office landscaping design. Open landscape
designs with moveable panels provide for more flexibility
and create a sense of openness. Closed offices take
more space and restrict furniture movement, however,
they do provide for more privacy. If the needs of the
organization are such that some private offices are
required, the most efficient location of the is on the
perimeter of the floor. The combination of private offices,
conference rooms and open landscaping in one area promotes
a high level of productivity (Kaneko, 1990 p. 74).
concern that requires careful analysis and planning
is the technological state of the office. Is the electrical
system adequate? Does it allow for future growth? Can
the building handle additional wiring? Advanced electronic
equipment requires "extensive cabling, elaborate
heat removal and air conditioning systems and non-reflective
lighting systems. (Kaneko, 1990, p. 74) These questions
must be addressed in any facilities plan The goals are
to maintain a balance between man and machine and to
build in the flexibility that will accommodate both
design is very important particularly when using an
open landscape design. Distraction due to surrounding
noise is a commonly raised objection to open landscape
workspaces. Acoustical design, therefore, must consider
sound isolation, sound reflection, and sound absorption.
acoustics are critical to all . . . situations that
by nature produce noise and by necessity require quiet.
. . . Architectural acoustics are basically concerned
with two objectives: (1) providing good hearing conditions
within a given space by controlling the dilution,
impact , and duration of sound waves , and ( 2) providing
a satisfactory acoustical environment by creating
barriers against unwanted sounds originating outside
the space (Halstead, 1974, p.504).
of sound "depends on the ability of material to
absorb sound energy. Hard, dense material absorbs very
little sound. Soft, porous materials absorb high proportions
of sound and reflect little. (Halstead, 1974, p. 505).
Moveable panels of soft, porous material absorb a great
deal of sound creating a more private work space. Acoustical
wall covering on any wall also aids in sound absorption.
The literature on acoustical design further stresses
that "acoustically absorptive floor covering reduce
within room noise, thereby contributing added sound
absorption" (Halstead, 1974, p. 505.
schemes are also important in creating a pleasing and
functional office environment.
is not simple a matter of personal preference but
relates to function. If color distracts rather than
aids vision, it causes undo eye strain , impairs human
performance , or otherwise impedes the efficient conduct
of work, it should not be used. The proper scientific
control of color while not governed by academic rules,
is subject to . . . principles [two of which are]
softness and coolness of color. . . . (Halstead, 1974,
such as light blue or green have a focalizing effect.
They tend to remove outside distractions and are conducive
to mental concentration (Halstead, 1974, p. 502). Accent
co1ors also add to a eye-pleasing interior office design.
Light blue and off white panels with off white cabinets
and mauve colored chairs create such an environment.
lighting is another extremely important interior design
component. "The key to effective office lighting
is the recognition of the significant impact it can
have on the quality, quantity, and cost of an office's
work products" (Wareham, 1990, p. 80). Lighting
is of particular concern if the staff use computer terminals.
It is best to diffuse the lighting, so that light images
from ceiling fixtures are not reflected by the screen.
Indirect lighting achieves this condition.
ceiling becomes a diffuse reflecting surface, avoiding
sharply directed beams of light and spreading the
reflected light in multiple directions. This creates
a shadowless light environment. As glare is essentially
a function of contrast between brightly lighted and
dark areas, avoidance of it produces a flat, evenly
lighted screen (Styne, 1990, p. 77).
Supplementary task lighting should also be considered.
Reading documents and hand written notes requires a
higher level of light than that produced by indirect
light and task lighting provides its. People tend to
prefer task lighting they can adjust such as table lamps,
moveable floor lamps, or drafting lamps. Task lighting
can be incorporated into hanging cabinets or moveable
panels but such lighting provides less flexibility (Styne,
1.990, p. 78).
lighting consideration and one that is cost saving,
is to group work stations and tasks that require similar
lighting levels and adjust their lighting output. Placing
work stations that require high levels of light near
windows will reduce the level of light that must be
produced by lighting fixtures (The Office, June, 1990,
p. 63). These changes should only be considered if the
groupings by light level need do not impede office interaction
designed around tasks increases productivity. Improved
lighting has been shown to lead "to a variety of
benefits, including enhanced employee morale, fewer
absences and improved safety and security" (Wareham,
1990 p. 79).
also effects color.
difference in the composition of phosphors cause fluorescent
lamps to produce different kinds of "white light".
For example, cool white fluorescent lamps produce
little energy in the longer wavelength part of the
spectrum, and so give a poor rendition of reds; warm
white fluorescent lamps produce better red rendition
as they have more energy output in that part of their
spectrum (Styne, 1990, p. 78).
type of lighting makes surface color different in hue
and saturation. "The color of the light source
influences not only the appearance of the surface colors
but also the appearance of the space" (Styne, 1990,
p. 78). Color, then is an important consideration in
its own right, but also in conjunction with the type
of light source. The "right" combination of
color and light will provide a visua1ly comfortable
office. The "wrong" combination will do just
space design concerns the people that work in that space
and a critical component of any facilities planning
is considering and asking the participation of people
who are to be affected by the reorganization of "their"
space. Environmental psychology stresses people-places
relationships. "The nature of the physical setting
of organizations, and the process through which they
are created, can have a significant impact on the quality
of work life and on the effectiveness of . . . program."
(Becker, 1983, p. vi).
concept of social design with theoretical influences:
from ecology and humanistic psychology is defined as
a liaison between design [architecture] and behavioral
sciences " (Sommer, 1983, p. 6). It considers the
occupants' satisfaction as an essential part of the
design process and it emphasizes identifying user values
and bringing them into this process (Sommer, 1983, p.
ix). Social design then is
with people rather than for them; involving people
in the planning and management of the spaces around
them; The goals [of space reorganization] can be realized
only within the structures of large organizations,
which include the people for whom a given project
is planned (Sommer, 1983, p. 7).
summary, interior space design is not an easy task.
A manager must have an overall sense of all phases of
a project plan. The manager must carefully evaluate
the functions of the office, the interactions of units,
traffic patterns, levels of sound, levels of lighting,
harmonious color schemes, electrical and telecommunication
needs and the needs of staff to name a few and put them
all together to create as comfortable and satisfying;
a work environment as budget allows.
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