Space Planning vs. Floor Planning

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

The realm of workplace management is a semantic minefield. What might sound like one thing, means another—if you’re not careful, you could find yourself talking about one concept while someone else registers it as another. Such an example of important semantic differences is space planning vs. floor planning. While they may sound the same, they’re very different and have differing connotations in context. 

A tale of two terms

What’s the difference between space planning vs. floor planning? It comes down to what each term encompasses.

  • The space in space planning refers to how a section of the floor plan is used. During space planning, you might decide you need a conference room, a cluster of hot desks, and a breakout space. You’re devoting portions of your office’s overall space to these purposes. 
  • Floor planning stems from the idea of organizing space. That conference room goes over here. The hot desks go over there. The breakout space will reside here. Where are these spaces within the context of the floor of a building? 

Floor planning is the where; space planning is the how. The two terms have an important relationship with one another, but are independently important. There’s a big difference between space planning initiatives and a floor plan concept, for example. 

A look at space planning

Office space planning is arguably the first concern of facility managers because it deals with space type and utilization. For example, you wouldn’t put a bunch of single-person desks in an office that revolves around group work. Before you can deploy a space in the context of a floor plan, you need to know what type of space is best. 

Space planning is dependent on a number of variables, including demand for certain space types and availability of square footage. For example, during COVID-19, many businesses are converting conference spaces into hoteling environments based on demand, and the space requirements for these workspaces are less than a single conference room, making them feasible. 

Finally, space planning considers the habits and needs of different work groups. A workforce that’s half in-office and half-remote might need less collaborative space than a team that’s all in-office. The engineering team might work better with a benching concept so they can collaborate openly. The many variables that govern work also govern space planning, and space planners need to account for them as they shape different facets of the workplace. 

An overview of floor planning

Floor planning gives context and application to space planning. A floor plan delegates space and lays everything out in real terms, against the actual square footage of a building’s floors. It also provides parameters for space planning. For example, you can’t put a 12-person conference room in a section of the building that only measures 10’x10’.

A floor plan also shows how much real space is delegated to a particular concept, which informs metrics for efficiency, utilization, and cost. If 40% of your total square footage is hoteling space, but the work that happens in these spaces accounts for 75% of your revenue, that’s a metric worth knowing. It starts by understanding where and how different space concepts exist in reality.

There’s also spatial awareness that comes from a floor plan. When you ask “where does Mesha sit?” the answer needs to come from the context of a floor plan: “the southeast corner of the third floor, by the blue conference room.” Floor plans are so important because they tie space to application, especially through applications like wayfinding, directories, or desk allocation. 

Put them together for maximum effect

Much of the confusion between space planning vs. floor planning comes from execution. For example, you’ll likely use space planning software to create a floor plan—a concept confusing in and of itself. The key difference to remember is that space planning involves finding purpose for the space, while floor planning involves placing it within the context of the workplace. This is, in fact, where the two come together and best complement each other. 

Companies can use space planning data to inform better floor plans, then continue to improve floor plans based on evolving space demands. Conversely, if there’s a hole in a floor plan, the context of that gap can inform better space planning—the need for a breakout space or a quiet workstation, for example. 

In either case, space planning and floor planning, used in tandem, are a powerful combination for maximizing the practicality of a workplace. You can’t have one without the other, and both have important definitions and meanings in the context of total workplace planning. 

Keep reading: Space Planning Software Buyers and Info Guide

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