The Basics of Office Buildings

In the words of office design consultant and author Francis Duffy, “The office building is one of the great icons of the twentieth century. Office towers dominate the skylines of cities in every continent… [As] the most visible index of economic activity, of social, technological, and financial progress, they have come to symbolize much of what this century has been about.”

Interestingly, the life-cycle cost distribution for a typical service organization is about 3 to 4 percent for the facility, 4 percent for operations, 1 percent for furniture, and 90 to 91 percent for salaries. As such, if the office structure can leverage the 3 to 4 percent expenditure on facilities to improve the productivity of the workplace, it can have a very dramatic effect on personnel contributions representing the 90 to 91 percent of the service organization’s costs.

To accomplish this impact, the buildings must benefit from an integrated design approach that focuses on meeting a list of objectives. Through integrated design, a new generation of high-performance office buildings is beginning to emerge that offers owners and users increased worker satisfaction and productivity, improved health, greater flexibility, and enhanced energy and environmental performance. Typically, these projects apply life-cycle analysis to optimize initial investments in architectural design, systems selection, and building construction.


An office building must have flexible and technologically-advanced working environments that are safe, healthy, comfortable, durable, aesthetically-pleasing, and accessible. It must be able to accommodate the specific space and equipment needs of the tenant. Special attention should be made to the selection of interior finishes and art installations, particularly in entry spaces, conference rooms and other areas with public access.

An office facility needs different types of spaces, that require difference between themselves. Offices and Conference Rooms need privacy and silence.

Employee/Visitor support spaces, places to have people resting or lobbies of cafeterias need to be more relaxing.

Keep in mind that In every facility there is the need for extra space for the maintenance of the whole building, this kinds of places need to focus on functionality over design, and optimize the space given that usually it is not much.



The high-performance office should be evaluated using life-cycle economic and material evaluation models. In some cases, owners need to appreciate that optimizing building performance will require a willingness to invest more initially to save on long-term operations and maintenance.

The high-performance office must easily and economically accommodate frequent renovation and alteration, sometimes referred to as “churn.” These modifications may be due to management reorganization, personnel shifts, changes in business models, or the advent of technological innovation, but the office infrastructure, interior systems, and furnishings must be up to the challenge.

The concentration of a large number of workers within one building can have a significant impact on neighborhoods. Office structures can vitalize neighborhoods with the retail, food service, and interrelated business links the office brings to the neighborhood. Consideration of transportation issues must also be given when developing office structures. Office buildings are often impacted by urban planning and municipal zoning, which attempt to promote compatible land use and vibrant neighborhoods.


In office environments, by far the single greatest cost to employers is the salaries of the employees occupying the space. It generally exceeds the lease and energy costs of a facility by a factor of ten on a square foot basis. For this reason, the health, safety, and comfort of employees in a high-performance office are of paramount concern.

Depending on the office’s size, local climate, use profile, and utility rates, strategies for minimizing energy consumption involve: 1–reducing the load (by integrating the building with the site, optimizing the building envelope [decreasing infiltration, increasing insulation], etc.); 2–correctly sizing the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems; and 3–installing high-efficiency equipment, lighting, and appliances.