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How to design an office, the practical guide

How to design an office, the practical guide

Types, standards, functional layouts and interior design. Here is all you need to master to design an office, with examples  and a 3D BIM model to download

Offices are where many people spend most of their days. Therefore, understanding how to properly design one is essential.

In this regard, we must pay attention not only to regulations (urban planning, fire prevention, plant engineering, safety at work), but also to good design quality. Ergometry and workstations arrangement are just some examples of what could to increase thermal and visual comfort and facilitate movement within an office.

In this practical guide we’ll be showing how to correctly design an office. In particular, we will focus on the following aspects:

  • reference standards
  • types of offices
  • spaces arrangement
  • working environment comfort
  • equipments
  • electric power systems.

In addition, we’ll be taking a look at different types of office spaces by developing an open space office project, and produce the relating 3D model that you can even download for free. We will use a 3D BIM building design software.

Office floor plan - project drawing produced with Edificiusm the architectural BIM design software

Office floor plan – produced with Edificius


Office design, the practical guide_render-open-space_software-BIM-architecture-Edificius

Render of an open space office – produced with Edificius

Office design, international standard examples

Safety standards and a series of provisions to protect workers’ health are envisaged at international level and must be taken into account when planning an office.

Environmental factors often influence each other (e.g. acoustic walls and light, equipment and air flows, etc.), it is necessary to identify possible negative interactions in advance and then avoid them. Furthermore, for the employee’s satisfaction and well-being of the staff, it is essential that the work organization, the premises, the furnishings, the technical equipment and the configuration of the workstations are as functional as possible to the activity carried out.

Let’s see some examples of rules and/or standards to follow.

  • ISO

ISO, The International Organization for Standardization, has developed some international standards, including:

The terms of both standards have been applied through various national annexes.

  • European Union

Each EU country has implemented the following directives concerning the improvement of health and safety in a workplace:

References in this regard are issued for US designers by the following organizations:

Some workplaces in Canada fall under the federal legislation, regulated by:

However, the majority of workplaces are regulated by local regulations.

  • Brazil

Safety in a workplace in Brazil is regulated by:

Different regulations for a workplaces design are present in Mexico, but the two main ones are:

Office types

It is fundamental to establish, already during the planning phase, which activities will be carried out within the premises and which are the requirements for a correct workstations configuration.

Each type of office has advantages and disadvantages. It is therefore essential, right from the design phase, to clarify which activities will be carried out inside the premises and which requirements derive from it for the configuration of the workstations.

aerial view of an office

Aerial render of an open space office – produced with Edificius

For example, do we need to design a workspace allowing to be stay focused and undisturbed with also project group and meeting rooms? Or do you mainly need a place where to carry out quiet individual activities or make several phone calls at the same time?

We can distinguish different types of office space:

  • cellular office layout – the floor plan is divided up into smaller or individual spaces, suitable for individual work and which do not require information exchange. This can be done by creating various separate rooms or cubicles by means of half-height dividing partitions within the larger floor plan.
  • open plan office – is a term for any floor plan which makes use of large, open and undivided space for multiple workstations. It is an option suitable for large groups of employees, whose work is largely divided and based on routine activities requiring low concentration levels.
  • activity-based office – spaces are designed to create opportunities for a variety of workplace activities. It involves different types of meetings and interactive situations. Employees will change their workstation during the day according to the type of task that they need to complete.
  • team enclosures – team offices allow members of the same team to work together without losing concentration and getting distracted by people not in their immediate team. This is ideal for creative teams where brainstorming and discussion are a large part of the day routine.

Space arrangements in an office design project

A workplace must be well designed keeping in mind its final use and avoiding lack of movement for employees.

Office design, the practical guide_functional-layout_software-BIM-architecture-Edificius

Functional layout of an office project – produced with Edificius

Office environment dimensions

Generally, when designing an office, the following minimum dimensions need to be considered for each environment:

  • net height 2,70 m
  • surface 9 m²
  • surface per employee at least 5 m²
B-B cross-section produced with Edificius

B-B cross-section produced with Edificius

Service areas

Service areas are those that do not involve continues presence of people (such as corridors, warehouses and archives, changing rooms, toilets, possible shower rooms, etc).

Changing rooms and toilet areas cannot be in direct contact with the work environments, so a passageway must be provided.

Service areas can be:

  • obtained from aboveground, basement or semi-basement rooms;
  • ventilated both naturally or through ventilation systems.
Render detail of an office project - produced with Edificius

Render detail of an office project – produced with Edificius

Accessory and support environments

Accessory or support areas includes:

  • health facilities (medication rooms, clinics);
  • refectories or company canteens;
  • living and resting areas.

Accessory and support environments must be provided with the same ventilation and lighting characteristics that are intended for the other work spaces, even through plant installations when necessary.

Render detail of an office project - produced with Edificius

Render detail of an office project – produced with Edificius

Mezzanines used for office purposes

Typically, a stud and track partitioning system will be used to build the required room above or below the mezzanine floor. There are a certain number of aspects to consider when designing an office mezzanine floor. From building contol consideration, through to power and lighting requirements. In addition, when designing a mezzanine floor it is important that the correct loadings and deflection are calculated.

A-A cross-section - produced with Edificius

A-A cross-section – produced with Edificius

Workplace comfort

When designing an office, the comfort of the environment and of the workers, as already mentioned, is of fundamental importance. Other aspects that must be taken into account are:


Lighting design in a workplace is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to manage, because it is connected to production capacity and it should also guarantee that psycho-physical conditions are best preserved, thus making the working environment a more comfortable and safe place.

Office environments ventilation

Ventilation in the office is an aspect that should not be underestimated, since microclimate conditions (including air speed, humidity and temperature) are very important to ensure the well-being of those who work there.

Many regulations worldwide state that, workplaces need to be adequately ventilated in the proper manner by which clean air is drawn from an external source outside of the workplace and circulated throughout the building. Whether by natural or mechanical means, it should dilute and remove humid air and provide sufficient air movement to give a feeling of freshness without causing a draught.

C-C cross-section - produced with Edificius

C-C cross-section – produced with Edificius


One of the elements that contribute to workers’ well-being is the control of acoustic requirements of the working environment.

When designing an office, in order to have good acoustic comfort, and always considering the type of activities that will be carried out, it is advisable to provide offices with closed compartments rather than areas with side wall partitions and false ceiling.

Meeting room render - produced with Edificius

Meeting room render – produced with Edificius

Open space office project: BIM model to download

In this section you can download the 3D BIM model of the project for free so that you can obtain all technical drawings (plans, sections, elevations) in just a few clicks.

Download and try Edificius, the 3D BIM building design software

Download the 3D BIM model (.edf file) of the office project