Architectural Record BE - Building Enclosure

The Essential Design Element for Any Office Space

This course is no longer active
[ Page 1 of 9 ]           
Advertorial course provided by Lutron
Continuing Education

Learning Objectives - After this course, you should be able to:

  1. Examine how office design has transitioned to accommodate changing organizational needs.
  2. Incorporate lighting control strategies that improve building efficiency and add value to the office space.
  3. Specify lighting controls that are easy to install, maintain, and reconfigure when floor plans change.




There are 86 billion square feet of commercial office space in the United States. The business of these offices is vast in scope: law, advertising, government, finance, and manufacturing. The legacy of these offices ranges from the most established banking firms to budding e-Commerce companies. Despite these wide variations in business scope and organizational structure, the purpose of every square foot of commercial office space is the same—facilitating communication and serving as a place where work can be accomplished and organizational needs met.

While the purpose of an office space may be clearly defined, office space design remains, by necessity, much more fluid. Businesses trying to succeed are forced to constantly change and adapt in the fast-paced and dynamic arena of corporate competition. The design of the office space must transition, in order for the space to remain relevant and functional for new organizational needs.


Office design today aims to create spaces that are flexible and efficient, and work environments that are comfortable and productive.


Transition of Office Space Design

In the 1960s, the number of available office jobs was growing rapidly as the American economy shifted from agrarian, to industrial, to office buildings and knowledge workers. Most office spaces were carbon copies of the offices across the hall or down the street. Advertising agencies were indeterminable in appearance from legal offices. The design template of the time was bland and neutral. Office spaces were mostly private, their sizes defined by seniority and clout with cookie cutter precision. The office design reinforced the rigid formality of the business world. Walls and doors prevailed. Communication was carried out in memos. Employee interaction occurred in planned meetings with agendas. Typewriters and telephones were hot technologies whose weight and wires kept employees tethered to their desks. Corporate cultures were functional, framed by the 9-5 workday, and intensely loyal. People typically remained with the same company until retirement.

Office space design in the 21st century must accommodate a very different corporate landscape. Information technologies like mobile phones, laptop computers, and the Internet have created an atmosphere where a person’s office is really wherever that person happens to be, anywhere in the world, and at any time, frequently available 24/7. Traveling to the office is no longer required to get work done.



[ Page 1 of 9 ]           
Originally published in Architectural Record.