How to Use Commercial Floor Plan Software

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

Floor plans are central to every office space. The way the environment looks, feels, functions, and operates all harkens back to the floor plan. That is to say, a thoughtfully designed floor plan facilitates a productive office environment. A jumbled, piecemeal floor plan certainly takes its toll on productivity and employee happiness. The question is, how do you orchestrate the former while avoiding the latter? It all comes down to commercial floor plan software and your ability to use it effectively.

Floor planning software is a must-have in the age of dynamic offices. The way your workplace looks and operates today may not be what employees expect it to be tomorrow. There’s an element of looming change in today’s office environments. It demands the ability to create and deploy floor plans on-the-fly, and to practice scenario planning with floor plans that are tried and true.

What is commercial floor planning?

Commercial floor planning is the concept of designing space to effectively meet the needs of the people who will use it. Floor plans are what bridge the gap between occupancy and utilization. If occupancy is what a space can accommodate and utilization is how often people use it, a floor plan needs to make use of what’s available to create incentive for utilization.

Commercial floor planning is a more complex process than looking at space size and workspace demand. It requires forethought for everything from cost to operations, and needs to exist at the intersection of numerous crucial variables:

  • Demand for a specific type of space
  • Accessibility based on physical parameters
  • Cost efficiency based on lease costs
  • Governance to ensure utilization opportunities
  • Flexibility based on multiple uses

All these variables come together in a set of parameters that facility managers use to dictate floor plans. For example, if you’re trying to purpose a 12’x16’ space with occupancy for six people, you’ll need to explore desking concepts within these parameters, while paying mind to cost considerations and accessibility.

How to deploy commercial floor planning software

Deploying commercial floor plan software is advantageous to companies because it provides a sandboxing opportunity. Rather than polylining floor plans with pencil and paper, drag-and-drop software makes it easy to tinker with floor plans and adjust in real time. Moreover, software can program in rules and parameters to show space concepts that work, instead of wasting time on those destined to fail.

The best way to use floor planning software is to create a baseline standard for the workplace—one that’s empty of all seats and people. Use this as a template for all floor plan concepts. Then, design different floor plans based on workspace demand. This is important in an agile office, since demand changes. Coming up with the best floor plan generally involves using elements from prepared concepts with different desking arrangements as-needed.

As part of the deployment process, it’s also important to set criteria for different floor plans. For example, a hotel desking floor plan may require built-in time for workspace sanitization. Likewise, an open-concept floor plan may require partitions. As the office evolves, so must the parameters that govern it.

Tips for commercial floor plan designing

While much of commercial floor planning comes down to trial and error in a sandboxing environment, there are some tips that can improve the efficacy of certain concepts. Some helpful tips include:

  • Create zones and model different desking concepts within each zone. This makes it easy to plug-and-play different floor plans without disrupting parts of the office that need to remain static.
  • Utilize integrations wherever possible to automate floor plan design. This can include directory integrations that automatically update employee location as floor plans change or workspaces move.
  • Consider assets while imagining floor plans, to ensure they remain accessible. Think about moveable assets in the context of groups that utilize them and anchor static assets to plan around them.
  • Always consider the prospect of emergency action with each floor plan design. Keep building safety codes in mind and make sure every floor plan iteration offers a quick, accessible, direct course of action in the event of an emergency.

The most important tip is to pay attention to the data. Design commercial environments based on demand and create harmony by incorporating different types of workspaces in ways that make them easy-to-use. And, above all, remember that floor plans today are dynamic, able to undergo change to improve their efficiency.

Change the way you think about floor plans

Traditional floor plans are static depictions of the office. As agile as modern commercial spaces are, there’s demand for floor plans that are equally as adaptable and flexible. This is where software comes into play. It’s about more than drag-and-drop floor planning—it’s about overlaying different options and opportunities to create floor plans that adapt as quickly as the business needs them to.

When you stop thinking about floor plans as static layouts and more as responsive office designs, a brand-new scope of possibilities opens up. As we enter a new age of workplace agility, it’s becoming essential for companies to rely on commercial floor plan software to help them identify opportunities for flexible desking, while keeping utilization trends high. It starts with a clear understanding of workplace demands and ends with software that makes planning for all scenarios simple.

Keep reading: Interactive Office Floor Plan Software Features


Space Planning vs. Floor Planning

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