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5 Design Principles of Future College Workspace

5 Design Principles of Future College Workspace

Posted In // Design Tips Office Ergonomics

Faculty members at colleges and universities across the country may be finding it harder to fit themselves, visitors, technology, and other resources inside their offices. Recognizing the trend toward reduced office size in 2013, Pennsylvania-based furniture design firm Knoll created a white paper (1).

General per-person trends in workspace planning

Most workplaces now only allocate a maximum of 150 square feet for each person on the workforce, a 33% drop from the 225 square feet average reported in 2010 (per a poll conducted by the real estate professional consortium CoreNet Global). This more space-efficient model for workspace design is not a simple fluctuation but an accelerating trend: in fact, CoreNet Global predicted in 2012 that by 2017, offices would average just 100 square feet per worker.

Katherine Lewis responded last year in Fortune to the lowering square footage allotted per person, with an exploration of whether or not the reductions are always wise. http://fortune.com/2013/09/23/the-slow-death-of-the-private-office/ She also provided further evidence that per-employee space shrinkage is increasing in popularity: three out of five companies surveyed plan to hire more employees within 12 months.

5 considerations for space-efficient faculty offices

A Knoll report listed the following primary findings http://www.knoll.com/knollnewsdetail/evolving-design-of-faculty-offices for those planning private faculty offices as space-efficiently as possible:

1. Age – While younger professors are not as concerned with how large their office is or where it’s located (often because they are more comfortable with working remotely), Baby Boomer faculty members often associate their office with their level of prestige and seniority.
2. Technology – One reason offices are shrinking is because wireless devices now make it easier to use a smaller space. In the higher age range, though, there is less comfort with a wireless environment. At present, space needs increase with age.
3. Storage efficiency – Typically offices are becoming long and narrow so that everyone still gets access to a window. Bookshelves then will often line one or both of the long walls. Again, consider that older faculty typically want more space for display of “hard copy” materials.
4. Adaptability – One challenge with every private office is flexibility, since the same space that is used for PC work one hour might be used for group work the next. Among the academic professionals interviewed for the Knoll study, adaptability was tied with storage room for the top workspace design concern.
5. Personality – Keep in mind that faculty members like to use their private offices to express their personalities as well. Expression is highly valued among all ages of faculty – who even use their office doors to communicate with their colleagues and students, as indicated by a 2003 study of visual arts in education http://www.ijea.org/v4n8/– but as noted above, the need for additional display room is of particular concern with older faculty.


Space planning is certainly a complex process, with the perspectives of all the various populations involved in the final outcome and its impact on college or university life. While Katherine Lewis argues convincingly that we might want to slow down the shrinkage, the Knoll study reveals that needs for ample space are more pronounced within the older generations.

To work with an office design firm that incorporates furniture selection with expertise in architecture, interior design, and space planning, contact Beaux Arts Group, the exclusive Knoll dealer throughout west, southwest and central Florida.

Sources: (1) http://www.knoll.com/media/239/227/EvolvingFacultyOffices_wp.pdf with thoughts related to efficient faculty office planning