I often am asked: How many square feet per person should I plan on looking for? The answer depends on the efficiency of the building/space and the density of the office buildout required for a given business. If you are curious to know what makes a building more efficient than another see this post.
I’ve seen a startup technology company with wide open (mostly cubicles) space get close to averaging 100 square feet per person (50 people in 5,000sf). I’ve heard of professional service firms in Manhattan with large (egos) offices and spread out space adjacencies with 1 person for every 1,000 square feet leased. Professional service companies that primarily need private offices and conference rooms use closer to 300 square feet per person. For most companies with a balanced mix of private offices and open space, the general rule of thumb is to plan on using 200 square feet per person.
However, if you want to know exactly how big of a space your company should be looking for, a ‘space program’ should be developed. A space program is a spreadsheet prepared by a space planner or architect that illustrates how many square feet a company will use in the most efficient space. To develop a space program, the architect will ask a series of questions in order to understand # of offices, # of conference rooms, # of workstations, # of kitchen/copy/break areas, server room, reception area, etc. The architect will get an understanding of workgroup adjacency requirements so that after the space program is developed they can easily apply that knowledge to develop a space plan of the options a business is considering. It should only take a 30 minute meeting between a decision maker and the architect to complete this exercise. An example of a space program is here.
Most architects will provide a company with a space program free of charge in the hopes of winning the business for design work later.