Office Spaces Are Shrinking


Offices and workstations nationwide are being downsized, according to the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA). “Surveys of facility professionals in 1994, 1997 and 2002 show that the average amount of square footage allotted to each worker has decreased continuously,” report Amy Blanchett and Deborah Quinn Hensel of IFMA.

Managers and professionals lost from 12 to 17 percent of their space over the eight-year period, most of it during the most recent five years since 1997. Clerical personnel lost 4-5 percent of their office space from 1994 to 2002.

“The shrinking office is not a myth, but a reality and a clear sign of the economic times,” said IFMA president and CEO David J. Brady. “As companies have been forced to downsize their workforces and tighten their belts, many also have had to examine the productivity level and dollar value of each square foot of space they own.”

Flat screens and smaller computers have reduced the need for deep desktops and corners, noted David Daugherty, executive vice president of Facility Matrix Group, a planning company in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Offices may be shrinking, but they are much more efficient, he said.

Indeed, “small doesn’t have to mean inefficient,” points out IFMA member Eric Baugh, director of facilities for BAE Systems Mission Solutions in San Diego, Calif. “But the smaller the office, the more anxiety there is in the ergonomics of the space.” Studies do show that workers’ resistance to change tends to increase when they feel their needs are compromised to save money.

On the other hand, employees tend to be fickle about their working conditions, judging from IFMA surveys (in 1991, 1997 and 2003) that record their most frequent office complaints. The top complaint is consistently about the office temperature (“too hot” or “too cold”). Other top ten complains include: poor janitorial service, not enough storage/filing space in one’s workstation, inadequate parking, and computer problems.

None of the 2003 top ten identifies the workstation/office space as too small, although that concern did rank seventh in 1991. “Too noisy” and “no privacy” do rank among the top ten, however, suggesting to IFMA that these complains could be “both symptoms of office crowding.”

Shrinking space certainly does have an effect, even if it can’t be traced directly to employee concerns over noise level, lack of privacy, or “poor indoor air quality” (which ranked sixth in 2003). Some who study office space say the trend toward smaller offices has long-term ramifications regarding air quality, ventilation, power needs, and even health.

“There are three key areas to facilities management: people, process, and place,” notes Craig A. Steele, a facilities management professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “You cannot change one without having a significant effect on the others.”

At the extreme, says David Fik, an interiors developer with Ideation, funded by furniture-maker Haworth Inc., steadily reducing workspace is “like packing a firecracker tighter and tighter. At a certain point you’re not going to be able to go any smaller.”


Lighting Design Awards

Thomas J. Skradski and Takae Oyake of Lumenworks Inc. received an honorable mention in Cooper Lighting’s 2004 Source Awards national competition for their lighting design of Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines in San Mateo, Calif. Entries are judged by “an independent panel of lighting and design professionals,” says the manufacturer, whose brand products must be used in the project.

Operating with “a limited budget, ceiling space, and time,” Lumenworks “created unity in the executive working environment by using pendants throughout which provided indirect and direct ambient lighting and gave a comfortable feeling to the space,” reports Cooper Lighting.

“The wine bottle display cases are illuminated with Iris low-voltage recessed downlights with linear spread lenses. The adjustable MR16 downlights also highlight the flowers and provide task lighting in the reception area. Dimmable fluorescent wall washers provide flexible ambient light levels in the lounge and in the boardroom, which features televised and general conferencing, as well as video presentations. Adjustable downlights are placed strategically on the table for note-taking.”

Cooper Lighting presented five awards in the professional category and three awards to students, who must be enrolled in the design, architectural and engineering disciplines.