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3.2 Space Planning

Closed Offices Versus Open Plan. The open plan approach (with a very limited number of ceiling height partitions for offices) is encouraged. It has a higher degree of efficiency and flexibility, and provides easier distribution of natural light and daylighting techniques, heating and cooling to the working areas. This approach can be adapted to a larger building depth and still present an open and airy atmosphere. It also encourages interaction between individuals and work groups.

Ceiling Height. Above all, the general office space should have a uniform ceiling height to provide flexibility for future floor plan changes. In historic buildings, however, original ceilings in significant spaces should remain exposed to view. New suspended ceilings in standard office space within historic buildings should maintain the original ceiling height to the greatest extent possible, maintaining full clearance at windows and grouping systems, as necessary, to minimize the reduction of ceiling height. In office space containing vaulted ceilings, oversized windows, or similar features, consideration should be given to thoughtfully designed, exposed system solutions that maintain full ceiling clearance and allow ornamental surfaces to remain exposed to view.

The clear ceiling height for office spaces is a minimum of 2700 mm (9 feet) for spaces that are larger than 14 m2 (150 square feet). The clear ceiling height of individual office rooms not exceeding an occupiable 14 m2 (150 square feet) is a minimum of 2400 mm (8 feet). The clear ceiling height of private toilets and small closets, which are ancillary to other office spaces is a minimum of 2300 mm (7 feet 6 inches). Enclosed offices should have the same ceiling height as adjacent open office spaces to allow future reconfiguration flexibility.

Automated Data Processing (ADP) Areas. ADP spaces require access flooring over a plenum space, even if access floors are not used elsewhere in the building. ADP areas are almost exclusively associated with main frame computer equipment. See Chapter 7, Fire Protection Engineering, for additional essential electronic facilities requirements.

The access flooring of ADP areas shall be level with adjacent related spaces and must always be level with the landings of elevators that serve the ADP facility. Ramps shall only be used where it is impossible to adjust the level of the structural floor.Where ADP areas occupy 33 percent or more of a floor, the entire floor, including internal corridors, shall be designed with raised access flooring to accommodate ADP facility expansion. The floor levels of access flooring should be constant throughout the floor.

Training and Major Conference Rooms. Individual training and conference rooms may be located within the building to best suit the tenant. If such spaces are grouped to form a large training or conference facility, they should be located near the ground floor to avoid excessive loading of vertical transportation and to provide immediate egress for large groups of people.

Rooms designed for video teleconferencing or training should have a minimum clear ceiling height of 3000 mm (10 feet).

Reagan Building, Washington, D.C.
Reagan Building, Washington, DC

Public Spaces
Public spaces are those accessible to the general public. They include entrances, lobbies, stairways, public elevator and escalator lobbies, and the permanent corridors at each floor level. In historic buildings, new materials should be commensurate in quality with original finishes and compatible in form, detail, and scale with original design.

Entrances and Vestibules. The main entrance to a Federal building must be conveniently located for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. All public entrances shall be accessible to physically challenged individuals.

A canopy, portico, or arcade should be used for weather protection, and to emphasize the main entrance or enhance the building design.

Approaches must be well-lighted and designed to direct the visitor to the entrance. Grade level approaches are preferred over elevated approaches that require steps, but need to be coordinated with overall approach to provide building security. Clear and attractive graphics should be provided to assist visitors with directions.

Entrance Lobbies and Atria. The lobby should be clearly visible from the outside, both day and night.

The main lobby should accommodate visitors by providing information facilities, waiting areas and access to vertical transportation. Since the lobby also serves as the collection point for all employees entering the building, it shall be designed to accommodate the high volume of pedestrian traffic. Areas such as cafeterias, auditoria and exhibition halls should be located near the lobby.Where appropriate, designers should strategize security design to make monumental interiors, atria, and other grand spaces suitable for after hours public use.

Public Lobby space.
Public Lobby space

Even in non-secure buildings, lobby space shall be planned to be divisible into a non-secure and secure area, with space on the secure side to accommodate a future security station that may include an identity check, bag check, metal detector and turnstiles. Also allow for adequate queuing space on the future non-secure side of the lobby. Refer to Chapter 8 and the section on Design Issues Affecting Security, Building Lobby of this chapter for further details.

Access, maintenance and cleaning of the interior and exterior wall and ceiling surfaces (glazing and cladding) of multi-level lobbies or atria must be addressed during design, as well as maintenance and cleaning of light fixtures and servicing smoke detectors (if provided). Portable lifts or other appropriate equipment can be used to access these elements where approved by the Facility Manager; scaffolding should be avoided. The flooring materials within this space must be able to accommodate the loads and use of this equipment. Maintenance professionals should be included in Schematic and Design Development reviews to address these issues.

Mechanical, electrical and communication systems must be integrated into the lobby design. Fixture and outlet locations, and forms, sizes, finishes, colors and textures of exposed mechanical and electrical elements, must be coordinated with all other interior elements. It is desirable to conceal HVAC supplies and returns.

Elevator and Escalator Lobbies. Like entrance lobbies, elevator and escalator lobbies shall be designed to efficiently accommodate the movement of pedestrian traffic to other parts of the building. Adequate space should be provided to perform this function.

The elevator and escalator lobbies should be close to the main lobby and be visible from the main entrance. Visual supervision and physical control of the lobbies for elevators and escalators shall be a prime consideration for building security.

If unusually large pieces of equipment or furniture such as mechanical equipment or conference tables must be transported to a specific floor via an elevator, verify that the item can be moved into and through the lobby space.

Public Corridors. A clear hierarchy should be visible in the treatment of spaces and corridors as they lead visitors from the entrance lobby to the main corridors and finally to departmental corridors. It is desirable to introduce as much natural light as possible into corridors, through windows, transoms or borrowed lights.

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Building Support Spaces
Toilet Spaces. Toilet space includes general use toilets and associated vestibules, anterooms and contiguous lounge areas.

Toilet rooms for both sexes should also be located adjacent to the cafeteria.

Toilet rooms shall be screened from public view without the use of double door vestibules at entrances. All public and common use toilets must have facilities for the disabled and comply with UFAS and ADA Accessibility Guidelines. All other toilets must have provision for future adaptation to accessible requirements.

To the extent possible, toilets shall be grouped to reduce plumbing runs. The layout of toilets should minimize circulation space. However, toilet rooms for assembly areas, such as training or conference facilities, must accommodate short-term, high-volume traffic. In those areas, there shall be three women’s toilets for every two toilets and/or urinals for men. Circulation should be adequate to handle peak traffic. In areas where assembly occupancies exist, provide fixtures consistent with code requirements for this occupancy.

  • A fold-down changing table for infants should be available in toilets for public use.
  • Feminine product dispensers shall be in each women’s restroom.
  • Toilet seat covers shall be provided in each restroom.
  • Toilets for public usage shall be equipped with the large commercial toilet paper dispensers.
  • Verify and get approval from the building management for the selection and placement of the following:
    – Commercial toilet paper dispensers
    – Soap dispensers.
    – Paper towel dispensers.
    – Paper towel trash receptacles.
    – Feminine hygiene products dispenser.
    – Feminine products disposal.
    – Toilet seat cover dispenser.

Toilet Partitions. All toilet partitions must be ceiling hung. They should be metal or similarly durable construction.

Toilet Accessories. Stainless steel is preferred for toilet accessories. Accessories should be integrated into the design of toilet rooms. Recessed and multi-function accessories that do not clutter the room are preferred.

Locker Rooms. Locker rooms shall be finished spaces. The shower area should be separated from the locker area. Regular gypsum wallboard is not to be used as a substrate for any shower room surface.

Custodial Spaces. Custodial spaces are devoted to the operation and maintenance of the building and include building maintenance storage rooms, stockrooms and janitor’s closets. Custodial spaces shall be coordinated and approved by building management.

Storage Rooms. Storage rooms are utilitarian spaces. Rooms may be any configuration that will efficiently accommodate the materials to be stored. Access doors and aisles need to be large enough to move the stored materials. The configuration of storage rooms should be coordinated with the Facility Manager.

Janitor’s Closets. Janitor’s closets should be centrally located on each floor near the toilet facilities and be directly accessed from the corridor, not by going through the restrooms. They should accommodate all the equipment and supplies needed to service the area worked from the closet. All available space within the closet can be put to use to store gear and supplies. As a minimum, the service closet shall have a 600 mm (24-inch) square mop basin, a wall-mounted mop rack, and 900 mm (3 feet) of 250 mm (10-inch) wide wall shelving; the floor area should be a minimum of 1.7 m2 (18 square feet).

Mechanical and Electrical Rooms. These spaces include, but are not limited to, mechanical and electrical equipment rooms, enclosed cooling towers, fuel rooms, elevator machine rooms and penthouses, wire closets, telephone frame rooms, transformer vaults, incinerator rooms, and shafts and stacks.

Equipment Spaces. Mechanical and electrical equipment rooms must be designed with adequate aisle space and clearances around equipment to accommodate maintenance and replacement. Hoists, rails and fasteners for chains should be provided to facilitate removal of heavy equipment. The working environment in equipment rooms should be reasonably comfortable. Doors and corridors to the building exterior must be of adequate size to permit replacement of equipment. This path (may include knock-out panels, hoists and provisions for cranes) is necessary and must be demonstrated for equipment replacement. Mechanical equipment rooms should not be less than 3700 mm (12 feet) clear in height.In some buildings special fire protection measures may be required. See Chapter 7: Fire Protection Engineering, for additional requirements.

All equipment spaces must be designed to control noise transmission to adjacent spaces. Floating isolation floors are recommended for all major mechanical rooms. See the section Special Design Considerations, Acoustics, Design Criteria for Building Spaces, Class X Spaces of this chapter for noise isolation criteria.

Main electrical switchgear shall not be below toilets or janitor closets or at an elevation that requires sump pumps for drainage. If electrical switchgear is housed in the basement, provisions shall be made to prevent water from flooding the electrical room in the event of a pipe breaking. Automatic sprinkler piping shall not be installed directly over switchgear equipment.

Mechanical rooms as a rule shall open from non-occupied spaces such as corridors. If mechanical rooms must open from occupied spaces because of configuration constraints consider incorporating a vestibule with partitions that extend to structure and sound-gasketed doors at each side for acoustic and vibration separation.

Communications Equipment Rooms. In addition to the criteria stated for general mechanical and electrical equipment rooms, equipment rooms for communications equipment must comply with EIA/TIA Standard 569: Commercial Building Standard For Telecommunications Pathways And Spaces (and related bulletins).

Equipment rooms shall be sized to accommodate the equipment planned for the room. At a minimum, the room should have 69 660 mm2 (0.75 square feet) of equipment room space for every 9.3 m2 (100 square feet) of occupiable space. The equipment room should be no smaller than 14 m2 (150 square feet). Federal Technology Service (FTS) should determine if tenants will share equipment rooms or if separate equipment rooms are required for specific tenants.

Equipment rooms shall be connected to the communications entrance facilities and the backbone pathway.

The equipment room will have 24-hour HVAC service and be protected from contaminants.

Spaces for Uninterruptible Power Systems (UPS) and Batteries. The UPS modules and associated batteries must be installed in separate, adjacent rooms.

See the UPS and battery manufacturers’ installation instructions for weights, dimensions, efficiency, and required clearances in the design. Allow space for storage of safety equipment, such as goggles and gloves. Special attention shall be given to floor loading for the battery room, entrance door dimensions for installation of the UPS and ceiling height for clearance of the appropriate HVAC systems and exhaust systems.

Electrical Closets. Electrical closets must be stacked vertically within the building. Closets shall be designed to contain adequate wall space and clearances for current and future requirements, and should have a minimum size of 1800 mm by 3000 mm (6 feet by 10 feet). Shallow closets must be at least 600 mm (24 inches) deep by 2600 mm (8 feet 6 inches) wide. These are satellite closets for electrical panelboards. They should not contain extraneous floor area, which may be an invitation to store items that do not belong in electrical closets.

Communications Closets. Communications closets must be stacked vertically within the building. Closets shall be sized to contain adequate floor space for frames, racks and working clearances for current need and future expansion. Communications closets shall meet the requirements of EIA/TIA Standard 569: Commercial Building Standard For Telecommunications Pathways And Spaces (and related bulletins). Agency requirements for separate, dedicated communication closets shall be verified.

Vertical Shafts. Vertical shafts for running pipes, ducts and flues shall be located adjacent to other core elements to the maximum extent possible. Be aware of the requirement to locate fire alarm vertical risers remotely. Shafts should be straight vertical runs. Shafts shall be sized to accommodate planned expansion of the systems. Shafts shall be closed at top and bottom, as well as at the entrance to the mechanical room, for sound isolation.

Loading Docks. Loading docks must be located for easy access by service vehicles and must be separate from the main public entrances to the building. Loading docks must be convenient to freight elevators so that service traffic is segregated from the main passenger elevator lobbies and public corridors. Service route from dock from elevator shall plan for the transport of large items such as rolled carpet goods. Loading docks must accommodate the vehicles used to deliver or pick up materials from the building. If the bed height of vans and trucks varies more than 450 mm (18 inches), at least one loading berth must be equipped with a dock leveler. The dock shall be protected with edge guards and dock bumpers. Open loading docks should be covered at least 1200 mm (4 feet) beyond the edge of the platform over the loading berth. In cold climates dock seals should be used at each loading bay. Alternatively, consideration could be given to enclosing the entire loading bay.

Separate or dedicated loading docks should be considered for food service areas.

A ramp should be provided from the loading dock down to the truck parking area to facilitate deliveries from small trucks and vans. This ramp should have a maximum slope of 1:12 and comply with UFAS/ADA Accessibility Guidelines, ensuring that it may be easily maneuverable for deliveries on carts and dollies. If the building size warrants, a dock manager’s room or booth should be located so the manager can keep the entire dock area in view and control the entrance and exit from the building.

Loading docks must not be used as emergency egress paths from the building.

Loading Berths. Provide at least one off-street berth for loading and unloading. The berth should be 4600 mm (15 feet) wide and at least as long as the longest vehicle to be accommodated. Local zoning regulations or the architectural program may require a longer length. The space should be located adjacent to the enclosed or open loading dock. If additional loading berths are required they need not be wider than 3600 mm (12 feet), as long as they are contiguous to the 4600 mm (15-foot) wide berth.

An apron space shall be provided in front of the loading berth for vehicle maneuvering equal to the length of the berth plus 600 mm (2 feet). This area should be flat, with a minimum slope of 1:50 for drainage. The minimum headroom in the loading berth and apron space is 4600 mm (15 feet).When a steeper slope is required in the apron area, the headroom should increase with a gradient allowance to allow trucks to traverse the grade change.

If the approach to the loading dock is ramped, the design should permit easy snow removal.

Staging Area. A staging area inside the building shall be provided adjacent to the loading dock. It must be protected from the weather. The staging area shall not interfere with emergency egress from the building.

Trash Rooms. Trash rooms shall be adjacent to loading docks or service entrances. Trash rooms must be sized to accommodate the trash handling equipment required and provide storage for packaged trash generated during a three day occupancy of the building. Space shall be allowed for sorting recycling of paper, glass and metals. Facilities that use trash containers that are picked up by vendors must have at least one loading berth for the trash container.

Building Engineer’s Space. Even if not included in the building program, an office space for the building engineer should be evaluated. Most GSA buildings require such a space, which houses the consoles for the Building Automation System. This space is normally located near the loading dock or main mechanical spaces.

Security Control Center. All GSA buildings with a local security force should have a control center. In the event that the building will not be served by a local security force, this room could be combined with the building engineer’s office or the fire control center.

The security control center should be located adjacent to the main lobby. Approximately 21 m2 (225 square feet) should be allocated for this room which is intended to house the command station for the security guards and their equipment for current as well as future building needs. There should be an expectation in the planning of the building that a security command center and inspection station may be needed in the future, if it is not required at time of building design.

Fire Command Center. See Chapter 7: Fire Protection Engineering, for additional requirements.

Food Service Areas. The entrances to the dining area should be visible from the main circulation paths, but should not impede lobby traffic.

Space allocations for food service facilities are established in GSA handbook, Concession Management Desk Guide (PMFC-93).

Dining Areas. Dining areas should be located to take advantage of natural light and outdoor eating areas in climates where this is feasible.

Serveries should be laid out to minimize waiting times for customers. Scramble service is recommended.

Child Care Centers. See GSA Child Care Center Design Guide (PBS-P140). Child care centers will usually be operated by organizations outside the Federal Government. The GSA Office of Child Care Development Programs shall be consulted before design concepts are finalized.

Laboratories. The construction of new laboratories in existing office buildings is strongly discouraged. See Chapter 7: Fire Protection Engineering, for additional requirements.

Robert A. Young Federal Building Child Care Center, St. Louis, MO
Robert A. Young Federal Building
Child Care Center, St. Louis, MO

Outleased Space. This term defines building space leased to businesses as commercial stores.

Outleased spaces and the connection between them and the remainder of the building should be designed so they can function as Government office space in the future. Consideration should also be given to those building without programmed outleased space to allow for this flexibility in the future.

Outdoor Eating Areas. To the extent possible, outdoor eating areas should be encouraged.When incorporating outdoor eating areas, the security of the building or facility shall be considered. Special consideration should be given to capture those opportunities to engage the building’s exterior/landscaping with the community in which it is placed. See Chapter 2, Site Planning and Landscape Design, Landscape Elements and Chapter 8.

Structured Parking
The building program will stipulate the numbers and types of vehicle parking spaces. The program will also state whether parking is to be exterior on-grade parking or interior, structured parking. The following criteria apply to structured parking facilities and are minimum requirements. Dimensions apply to passenger cars and need to be modified for other types of vehicles.

Parking Layout. To the extent possible, parking spaces should be arranged around the perimeter of the parking deck for maximum efficiency. Two-way drive aisles should be used with 90-degree vehicle parking stalls on each side. When locating entrances and ramps, consider internal and external traffic flow, queuing during peak periods of ingress and egress, and required security features.

Drive Aisles. Two-way aisles must have a minimum width of 7000 mm (23 feet). One-way aisles and aisles with stalls on only one side are less efficient and should be avoided if possible.

Food and Drug Administration District Headquarters
Food and Drug Administration
District Headquarters

Vehicle Stalls. Stalls to accommodate regular passenger cars should have be sized to comply with local zoning requirements.When there are no zoning requirements then parking spaces should be a minimum size of 2600 mm (8 feet 6 inches) wide and 5500 mm (18 feet) long. No special consideration should be given to compact vehicles. No structural element may intrude upon the required stall dimension, and columns must not be located within 610 mm (2 feet) of the required aisle except where the aisle has no stalls perpendicular to it. Each stall must have access to an aisle.

Accessible parking spaces must be provided; these must comply with UFAS/ADA Accessibility Guidelines for quantity, location and size. Accessible parking spaces shall be adjacent to access aisles that are part of an accessible route to the building or facility entrance. Accessible routes shall not be located behind parking spaces.

Ramps. The incline on parking area ramps shall not exceed 12 percent. The break-over angle at changes of plane in ramps shall not exceed 6 percent. The incline on ramp floor garages shall not exceed 5 percent. The entire length of the entrance and exit ramps must be protected so that snow and ice do not accumulate on the ramps if inclement weather is excessive. Snow melting systems should also be considered. Careful consideration needs to be given to providing proper drainage of the parking deck.

Garage Openings. Overhead doors or grilles at vehicular entries to structured parking garages may be provided for security purposes. The operation of overhead doors or grilles must utilizes advanced technology (use of sensors or incorporating sallyports) to prevent entry by unauthorized persons. These overhead grilles or doors shall be electric and operated by card-readers or other means of remote control. The control devices and doors or grilles shall be suited for high frequency operation, and should open and close quickly to avoid impact damage to vehicles; they must also have a sensor edge to detect a vehicle or other object below it and reverse operation. These openings should be monitored by camera.

These openings shall be a minimum of 3600 mm (12 feet) wide with minimum height of 2400 mm (8 feet). A headache bar shall be provided in front of each opening; this shall be mounted 100 mm (4 inches) lower than the height of the clear opening.

Walkways. Pedestrian walkways shall link the parking area with the building entrance. Provide curbs, bollards, other barriers or low walls to prevent vehicles from encroaching upon pedestrian walkways. Identify pedestrian crossings of vehicular traffic lanes by painted crosswalks and signage.

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