top of page


Banner of a few projects.jpg
Open Floor Plan Office with Furniture Layout.jpg


Normally, an office building follows the same parameters as other commercial buildings.  Read Design a Commercial Building here.

What are considered commercial buildings?  There are office buildings, shopping centers, schools, warehouses, and health facilities.  There may be others, but these are the most common.

I gave you a general outline in my other article.  In this article, let’s focus on some of the details for building an office building.

Most large office buildings are built on bays that are 30’ x 30’.  This means that an office building is 2 or 3 bays in one direction and 3 to 5 bays in the other direction.  Normally, the circulation is in the center of the building.  This means the stairs and elevators, although one stair must be a certain distance from the other stair according to the building code.  Also in the

center of the building are the group bathrooms, normally one for women and another for men.  Keeping the circulation and the bathrooms in the middle of the building preserves all the windows for offices.  Nobody wants a dark office.  The most efficient office bathroom design incorporates back-to-back bathrooms or bathrooms that are close to each other.  This reduces the number of plumbing pipes and therefore the cost of the project.

The small office building shown above does not follow the design of large office buildings.  It tries to accommodate the parking at the back of the building and keep the best views to the front, which in this case, are on Flagler Street in Miami.  The stairs are as separate from each other as possible.  The center corridor is a very efficient layout and the outside corridor is something the client desired.  These offices are about 500 Sq. Ft. each, good for professional offices.

The Shell

Most office space is built as a shell.  In other words, the landlord turns over the exterior walls, the floors, and the floor above to the tenant.  The tenant then designs his own space and builds it out.  Often, the landlord gives a certain amount of money to the tenant for the built-out.  This is negotiated with the lease.  It is at this point that the tenant can decide what materials he wants to use.  Drywall on metal studs is the standard for interior partitions.  Acoustical ceilings are the standard for the drop ceilings.  However, sometimes to vary the look, acoustical ceilings can be alternated with drywall ceilings.  Bathrooms are most often finished with a drywall ceiling.  The more sophisticated offices have semi-recessed grids for the ceilings.  For a basic office, exposed grids are more common.

Sometimes office construction will have the concrete floor above exposed and no ceiling.  This can look very nice if the office is not too big where sound attenuation becomes necessary.


What should be the ceiling height of office space?  As an absolute minimum, the ceiling should be 8’-0” above finished floor.  However, 9’-0” is nice and allows for more flexibility.  This means that the floor-to-floor height needs to be about 12’-0”, depending on the beam spans and the type of structure.  Twelve feet floor-to-floor allows for the structure, the A/C ducts above the ceiling, and recessed lights.  This is a topic that needs much consideration and should be worked out between the owner, architect, the mechanical engineer, and the structural engineer. If not enough room is allowed, the ceiling will have to be dropped and this will make the offices less attractive.


Lighting is another important element in building an office building.  The standard lighting will be integrated with the acoustical ceiling tiles.  For this, the lighting manufacturers have designed 2’ x 2’ and 2’ x 4’ lights.  The number of lights from which to select is immense.  The type of lighting being used today is LED. This type of lighting is general lighting, however, there might also be a need for task lighting for the individual desks.  For these, there will be electrical outlets in the walls or on the floors.


Parking is also an important consideration for office buildings.  Miami-Dade County requires one (1) parking space for each three hundred (300) square feet of gross floor area of an office building or fractional part thereof.  But before signing a lease, count the number of employees and the number of parking spaces available.  Often, 1 parking space per 300 square feet is not enough.  If you are building an office building, this is something you should consider carefully.  A local commercial realtor should be consulted.  You may meet the building code requirement, but may not be able to compete in the local market, if there is insufficient parking for your tenants.

Office sizes and open plan

What size offices should be built?  Smaller offices are normally 8’ x 10’.  Larger offices for the executives of a firm should be about 12’ x 12’ or larger.  Offices usually have a desk, bookshelves, and files.  Sometimes they need to be larger to include a small conference table.  In addition to offices, there are often conference rooms, breakrooms, and reception areas.  Smaller office suites have a large appeal to professionals who may not have many staff members.  An area of about 500 square feet will be easier to rent than larger office spaces, although in larger office towers, the suites are larger to accommodate large national corporate clients.

Many offices today are open plan and have areas for group interaction.  Here the use of particular materials should be considered carefully.  Where many people will gather in an open area, there needs to be a way to control noise.  Here the use of noise-absorbent materials is important.  If there is an abundance of reflective materials the noise level will be very uncomfortable.

Construction Cost Controls

Lastly, we should discuss the cost of these spaces.  Although costs can vary widely, it is important for the occupant to decide early in the process of design how much he wants to spend on a project.  And this number needs to be realistic.  Office space can be built out with very budget-conscious materials or with very expensive, luxurious materials.  The shell can be inexpensive, but the finishes will determine the final cost of the building.  Porcelain floor tile can be bought at Home Depot for a couple of dollars per square foot, or it can be bought at specialty shops at $10 or $15 per square foot.  It is important to keep this in mind.  Most finish materials, lighting, etc., have multiple price points.  The owner of the building must keep this in mind when selecting finishes.


Should you want to discuss your future office building needs, please call me at 305-439-7898 or email me at

bottom of page