Ask an Architect: How Should I Plan My Next Office Space?

If your startup is performing well in terms of sales, staff growth, or funding but still operating out of a coworking space, you’re most likely thinking about how your first “real” office might look.

If your startup is performing well in terms of sales, staff growth, or funding but still operating out of a coworking space, you’re most likely thinking about how your first “real” office might look.

As an entrepreneur focused on executing your company’s vision, handling the small details of how, where, and when your entire company will move to this new office can be overwhelming and distracting. Not to mention that, in building a small, focused team, you most likely haven’t hired any architects or construction experts.

At this point, many companies will first look for a space to lease, then get an agreement in place, and finally, engage with an architect or designer at a later time to customize the space. This approach fails to address several key steps in the process and can often lead to tight budgets, missed deadlines, and frustrated employees.

To avoid these issues, it is best to spend the time upfront evaluating your company’s goals and growth trajectory. Put simply, have a good idea of where you’re headed and why. After this first step is complete, we recommend partnering with an architecture firm to find the right space, develop a plan that considers your future growth, and help realize your goals within your budget and timeline.

1. Define Your Goals

What does your ideal office space look like? What technology and functionality needs to be included?

How many employees will you hire in the next year? The next five years? Where do you want to be located and what impression do you need to make on potential clients?

Before you schedule any office tours, you and your team need to invest the time to define your company’s goals and answer these important questions. This will help you communicate your ideas more clearly to a design firm and significantly decrease the risk of choosing the wrong space that doesn’t meet your needs in the long run.

2. Engage with an Architect

We recommend sitting down with an architect as soon as you take care of the previous step. This may sound intimidating to some, but an experienced firm will take the time to understand your company and walk you through the most efficient, cost-effective way of designing and building a new office that meets your needs and your budget.

If you don’t have the resources for a fully designed project, you can start small by hiring a firm to perform a simple planning study that will inform all of your decisions moving forward.

3. Plan and Visualize

With an architect now on board, you’ll be able to start planning and visualizing your next office.

First, you’ll need to choose the location, which will play a critical role in establishing the identity of your business and making a good impression on future customers or employees. Your architect will be able to review potential locations and provide guidance, test fits, and budget considerations to help you make a confident decision.

Next, the architect will work with your team to create an office layout that responds to your employees’ needs, works within the limitations of your chosen location, and accommodates your growth plans. After approval and verification, the firm will develop a design for your office that reflects the branding and identity of your company and incorporates all of the necessary equipment or technology.

This process will allow you to visualize the end result and make informed decisions about your company’s future rather than wasting time and money moving to an office that doesn’t meet your long-term needs.

4. Build Smart

When the plans are finalized, your architect can handle the buildout of your new office by identifying and evaluating contractors, soliciting bids, and overseeing the construction process. This will ensure a satisfactory end result that matches the design specifications you were promised.

One consideration is that if you don’t have the budget or time to build a new office all at once, you can have your architect plan the project in phases. This means you would initially only build a portion of the office, leaving the rest to be completed at a later time. Constructing the project in phases allows you to itemize where to spend your current budget for the most short-term impact—meeting your employees’ immediate needs and providing a new home for your company.

After that initial construction is complete and your staff has moved in, you can address other areas of improvement at a later time. This approach allows not only for less financial risk, but more flexibility in terms of programming your space.

The common thread in each of these steps is planning. A carefully planned office buildout will almost invariably result in a faster timeline with lower costs and a more satisfying end result.

To recap: make sure you know (or at least have a good idea) where your company is headed, take your time understanding your options, hire a good architect, and, most importantly, enjoy your new office!

Mentioned in this Article

Chris is a native of St. Louis city and is dedicated to using design to improve the surrounding community. He has worked on a variety of projects including the renovations of Lambert International Airport, Commerce Bank’s St. Louis headquarters tower, and Sverdrup Hall at Webster University. He is currently an architectural designer at V Three Studios, a full-service architecture and design firm based in St. Louis with active projects coast to coast. V3 specializes in designing projects that meet technical and functional demands while maximizing aesthetic appeal and respecting environmental and civic contexts.