For many years it was the practice to compartmentalize individual offices. Now office planners are using office layout guidelines to utilize available space more efficiently. Office cubicles in an open work area are much more common in today's office setting. Workers seem to benefit from the arrangement as much as office managers. Many government offices have specific office layout guidelines, while offices in the public sector are more flexible.
Planning office space saves money with the initial setup of the office. Moveable cubicle walls cost less to install and change as necessary than fixed, permanent walls. In some traditional offices as much as 15 percent of the office space goes to hallways, door swings and circulation paths. This area becomes usable space with the use of proper planning. Workers benefit in intangible ways. An open arrangement often allows them better access to natural lighting, and the air quality in an open space is often better.
Americans with Disability Act Compliance
Any office layout guidelines must take into consideration requirements established by the Americans with Disability Act. Doors to office suites must be at least 32 inches wide and should require less than 5 lbs. of force to open. Pathways and aisles must be at least 36 inches wide so someone with a wheelchair may pass. Aisles and walkways must not have anything protruding from them, such as water fountains, which a blind person may walk into. Carpeting must be low pile. Tables and desks must be at least 27 inches tall so a wheelchair fits under them.
The work area designated for individual workers needs to make the most of the heating and cooling system as well as natural lighting from windows. For that reason, orient tall divider panels perpendicular to the wall to allow more light into the room as well as increased air circulation. Keeping wall panels to a height of 54 inches or less also increases light penetration and air movement in the room. The plan should create "neighborhoods" that seat persons performing similar tasks in the same area. At least 36 inches is necessary for openings to individual work spaces as well as for walkways between workstations. Short walkways are preferred to long, dead-end ones. Each workstation must have adequate electrical outlets.
Efficiently planning the common areas is almost as important as planning the individual workstations. Ample room is necessary for the reception area, photocopier, storage cabinets, meeting rooms and break rooms.
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