Choosing Room size


Choose Useful Room Sizes:     Planning for Small Training Center Buildings
Simple Structures; Plans for Sites and Buildings    ,
Patti Stouter,, Albuquerque, NM, 505.312.7163
April 5, 2012

Making Good Spaces
1     Our Sense of Space
1     Personal Space
2     Social Distance
3     Places for Getting to Know Others

Typical Room Sizes
Spaces to Work and Learn
4   Offices
10     Conference or Classrooms
14     Other
Spaces for Guests
15  Guestrooms
15  Kitchens

15  Others

Making Good Spaces
We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us. – Winston Churchill 1943
Buildings influence us. Rooms and outdoor spaces are the settings for our actions. They determine our responses to each other.
We work alone or next to others. We speak as equals or as boss and worker. We share or keep private information on papers and
computer screens. The shape and relationships between rooms enable or prevent the formation of friendships. Large or small groups sometimes share and sometimes restrict the use of tools, books, and work tables. By their shapes buildings block out nature or allow
it in by breezes, shade, views and sunlight.
Our Sense of Space
Everyone perceives intuitively the meaning of each space. The location of the entrance, of furniture, and of windows, all show the
hierarchical levels of the people using a room.
Some meanings of space are similar in many cultures. Often people feel uncomfortable sitting where they do not face others (where they are watched from the side). Someone seated where they look at the side of another appears to have responsibility for them. In
public spaces, most people prefer to sit facing others rather than be overlooked in this way.

Upper right :The feeling of being overlooked
The sense of space are different in different cultures. In some groups people avoid touching or bothering each other. Americans in
public spaces choose seats as far seprated from others as possible. This is felt to be polite. They use body language to signal that they

do not intend to intrude on strangers already seated. Public etiquette is very different in other cultures.
Personal Space
There are four types of spatial dimensions, intimate space, personal space, social space, and public space… The personal sphere or bubble of space which surrounds us
and protects us from others influences the way we organize space –translated from Espace et anthropologie en Espace Wikipédia
Each culture has a standard size of private area around each person. This space permits and defines all our different interactions. The exact dimensions vary from group to group, but within each group individuals recognize exactly how big their own space is.

Choose Useful Room Sizes 1

Your culture may use dimensions a lot bigger or smaller than the ones described here. These differences might change the sizes needed for your rooms. Mention if your spatial dimensions are very different.
Families, friends and co-workers usually stay within personal distance of each other, between  18 and 45” (50- 110 cm) apart.
This distance is close enough to perceive a lot about the person you’re talking to.
When sharing a task, often coworkers stay an arm’s length away, 30- 45” (80- 110 cm) apart. This is at arm’s length, where one could barely touch the other. At this distance it is easy to share documents and read together. This is called far social distance.
Right : Far personal distance for working together
Social Distance
The close social distance is less private. This is when two people are 5 to 6’ (1.5- 1.8 m) apart. Often they stay at this distance during a social gathering or when employees chat in passing. A visitor usually sits this
close to an office worker to give the worker their information.
In some formal cultures, even friends stay at this distance from each
Left : Near  social distance

The far social distance is around 7 to 8’(2.1- 2.4 m) apart. Strangers or
subordinates in an informal culture use this distance.
In a formal culture, acquaintances will stay this far apart to show each

other respect.
Right : Far social distance

People must be close enough together for many activities. Musicians
must be close enough to keep time together, and discussion groups have a similar need. In workshops people often face each
other, but if seated more than 10’ apart, they don’t become a unified group. Neighbors will chat quietly with each other, and this
will distract or side-track the group.

Choose Useful Room Sizes 2

Places for Getting to Know Others
Structures influence who we befriend also. People who share the same space get to know each other. Common
rooms grouped around an entrance make more occasions to meet.
A room should be welcoming to visitors. It is important to provide an obvious and attractive pathway. Everyone likes
to walk towards the light, towards less crowded spaces, and towards someone who looks at us. No one wants to
approach another from the rear.
The way we greet visitors is important. It says a lot about the status of the employee and of the visitor. Some workers

(and everyone in some types of culture) ought to face the entrance to their room.
Upper right : Desk facing the doorway

Lower right : Doorway behind the desks
But not everyone should always be grouped together. Very different groups using the same building should
sometimes be separate a little bit.
A constant flow of visitors distracts permanent office workers. In some cultures men and women are separated in
public. One can use a screen between different parts of shared rooms to make semi-private spaces for separate
People from every different culture using the building should collaborate on the plans. Each one should try to
imagine how the rooms will work. They must discuss any space that seems uncomfortable for someone. By talking
they will learn a lot about each others’ cultures.

Choose Useful Room Sizes 3

Typical Room Sizes
All of the example rooms that follow have minimal dimensions. When rooms are fitted together between straight walls into a building, some will become larger than the minimum. But they must not become smaller than the size needed for the best arrangement.
Places to Work and Learn:
The office must function well for all the needed activities. Workers read and
write alone. Two workers plan something together. Someone shows a

presentation to two visitors. Multiple volunteers assemble a booklet. A team of
four to eight works together on a project.
Above :Two can work together facing the wall

The smallest offices have desks that face towards the wall. Two workers can collaborate easily this way, side by side,
and view maps and diagrams on the wall.
This type of arrangement uses the least area per person. The space can be as small as one cubicle of 43 sf (4 m²)  per
person in a shared room. Workers who don’t need silence will develop a sense of belonging together and helping
each other.

Left : One desk turns its side to the doorway,
Another faces away
Above :Cubicles in a shared space

If workers must meet with groups from time to time, several can share a separate conference room.
For those who often work with visitors in a common space, it is important that desks face towards the doorway. This also gives the worker a sense of more importance or respect.
Desks which face the doorway let a worker greet visitors more graciously. The worker can also protect his computer screen from the view of


Choose Useful Room Sizes 4

In many cultures it is not polite to ignore someone who is within 12’ (3.6 m) of us. Two workers in a small room will feel obliged to talk. A receptionist in a small waiting room will also feel the need to chat with visitors. Most visitors will first
take the chairs further away. When all the chairs, including those too close, are taken, it will be difficult for the

receptionist to concentrate on other work without being rude.
Right : A visitor too close to a receptionist
Put the visitor’s chairs at least 12’ (3.6 m) from a receptionist’s desk. Or screen the receptionist from full view with a
half-height partition. This will increase the worker’s sense of privacy. A reception area in a corner or a separate room will
facilitate more work and offer some privacy to visitors.
Left : Receptioniste far enough

Actually many work situations require some privacy. Supervisors often need a room with privacy for individual discussions that should not be heard by everyone. Translators listen carefully to groups of assistants, therefore they often need quiet private rooms.
Right : A screened desk

Illustrations of different types and sizes of offices follow.

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A.    Work Cubicle
Desk faces the wall
A little crowded

B.    Small Shared Office
Desks face the wall
A little crowded

43 sf (4 m²)

6’- 3 x 6’- 11 (1.9 x 2.1 m)

54 sf (5 m²) each

9’- 11 x 11’- 2 (3 m x 3.4 m) for both

No room for visitors

Visitors close at the side

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C.    Medium Shared Office
Desks face the doorway
Minimal size

D.    Small Private Office
Desk faces the doorway
118 sf (11 m²)
9’- 6 x 12’- 6 (2.9 m x 3.8 m)

65 sf (6 m²) each

9’- 11 x 13’- 1 (3 m x 4 m) for two

Visitors close beside or across the desk

Visitors across the desk

Doors near the corner

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E.    Square Office (1st)
Desk faces the wall

F.    Square Office (2nd)
Desk faces the doorway

150 sf (14 m²)

12’- 2 x 12’- 6 (3.7 m x 3.8 m)

150 sf (14 m²)

12’- 2 x 12’- 6 (3.7 x 3.8 m)

Visitors close beside or at a table for 6 Doors near the corner

Visitors across the desk or at a table for 4- 5 Doors near the corner or the middle of the wall

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G.    Oblong Bureau (3rd 14m²)
Desk faces the doorway

H.    Better Private Office
Desk faces the wall or turns its side towards the doorway

150 sf (14 m²)

9’- 11 x 15’- 1 (3 m x 4.6 m)

160 sf (14.9 m²)

11’- 2 x 14’- 9 (3.4 m x 4.5 m)

Visitors close by or across the desk Table for a group of 4- 5 against the wall Doors near the corner or the middle of the wall

Visitors close by and table for a group of 6 Doors near the corner

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Spaces to Learn and Work:
Conference Rooms

The room location is important if sunlight and breezes are need the students can hear the teacher well.

ed. And a classroom should be more square than deep, so all

Several windows higher than wide are needed in each room.  h

e light from one side should be able to penetrate deeply into the room. Tables or shelves near or in the
windows, combined with a sloping white roof, will help to distribute the light.
Windows without glass will also allow noise to enter. The walls with windows should not face uses that are noisy, like dining halls or parking areas.
Large classrooms need a lot of ventilation. Large groups easily overheat a space. Open doors and vents under the windows will help. The openings should have more area on the breeze outlet side than on the inlet.
If a porch is quiet enough and protected from blowing rain, it can function as an extra workshop space.

n a workshop people often sit around a table to allow discussio    ns. The sizes of rooms may be determined by the sizes of
ables that are available or can easily be built. Always leave at le    ast 30”(75 cm) between a table and the wall. Leave at least

36.     (90 cm ) between two tables. If a desk is also necessary, lea

ve at least 6’-6” (2 m) more.

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The following illustrations show how many seats are possible in different-sized rooms. The pictures show generous office armchairs. If ordinary chairs are used, the smaller rooms will be a
little less crowded. If benches or school desks are used, each room can serve one and a half
times as many learners.

I.    Large Workshop for 30
600 sf (55.8 m²) total       20’ x 30’- 2 (6.1 x 9.2 m) without a desk
A little crowded;   Doors only on the long walls

I.     730 sf (68 m²) total   26’- 7 x 30’- 2 (8.1 x 9.2 m) with a desk
Doors on the long walls or at the corners

J.    Workshop for 20
420 sf (39 m²) total
20’x 21’ (6.1 m x 6.4 m)
without desk
Doors on the long walls

J.     540 sf (50 m²) total
20.     x 26?- 7 (6.1 x 8.1 m) with
Doors on the long walls or at

the corners

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K.     Classroom for 20
400 (37 m²) total     19’ x 21’ (5.8 x 6.4 m) with desk
Doorways near the corners

L.    Classroom for 14
300 sf (27.9 m²) total
15’- 2 x 20’ (4.6 x 6.1 m) without desk
A little crowded
Doorways at corners

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M.     Small Classroom for 8
160 sf (15 m²) total
9’- 11 x 16’ (3 x 4.9 m) without desk
Doorways at corners

M.     265 sf (24.5 m²) total
16.     x 16?- 5 (4.9 x 5 m) with desk
Several possible doorways

N.    Small Room for 4
100 sf (9.3 m²)
8’- 10 x 11’- 2 (2.7 x 3.4 m)
A little crowded
Doorway on the long wall

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Spaces to Work and Learn :
Other Spaces
Who will welcome and direct visitors ? An office near the main pathway, or a cubicle in a larger space? The desk can be in a protected corner of a waiting room, or overlooking a large porch by a window or doorway.
Often the receptionist oversees the use of the copier, a computer available for visitor emails, and the
borrowing of reference books. A small library area for researchers can occupy a wider corridor near the
reception area.
A large shared worktop may be needed to collate booklets. If it is located near the porch or a large classroom,
it can serve also as a serving table for tea or lunch.

O.    Reception Desk (top)

80 sf (7.4 m²) total   Somes pace for privacy

7’- 10 x 9’- 11 (2.4 x 3 m)

Overlooking a waiting room or porch

P.    Reception Corner (right)

54 sf (5 m²) total Less private

6’- 11 x 7’- 10 (2.1 x 2.4 m)

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Spaces for Guests:
The size of guestrooms depends on the size of the bed. The room illustrations that follow are for two twin beds.  Larger rooms will be needed if bunk beds are used.
Rooms that share more walls are cheaper to build. But a single row of rooms allows better ventilation. Each room can have cross-ventilation from one side to the other. Guestrooms built of heavy materials (thick walls of stone or earth) and protected from the afternoon sun will not need as much ventilation. Four rooms in each small building can have some cross ventilation from one wall to the adjoining one.
Storage cabinets cost less than closets. If closets or private showers are needed, they are grouped between the rooms.
Often in the tropics everything is cooked outside over a fire, or food is brought in. A butler’s pantry or small kitchenette inside can hold plates and supplies. It should be located near a large porch or classroom to facilitate serving tea or lunches. This kind of storage can also be located outside and locked with a door, grill-work, or small overhead door.
Others :
Storage areas are easier to maintain if divided and located near the offices using them. Storage for general supplies can be combined with space for a copier or other shared equipment.
Flush toilets are either western type (called WC) or the floor-mounted turkish bucket flush type which use much less water. Both of these can be located in buildings but require plumbing and a septic tank and/ or system. Some dry  (or composting) toilets can be located in buildings, especially if there are good supplies of sawdust, wood shavings, or straw in the area. This will need a tank, pit protected from the rain, or sealed drums, to store the waste safely until it decomposes and becomes safe to handle. The system needs some supervision to prevent problems.
Latrines are very simple, but require large holes and a floor strong enough to span the opening. The sometimes contaminate the groundwater, and everyone would prefer a different kind of toilet. They should be located at least 30 m from the building.
A smaller septic pit used for fertilizer is called an arbor-loo. It works well for small groups in rural areas with dry subsoil. The hole is only 1m deep and 1 m wide, requiring a floor that is easy and cheap to
cast of concrete. Ashes or sawdust are added in the hole. When full, the latrine floor and walls are moved to a new hole. The first hole is topped off with soil and the owner plants a fruit tree or vine in it. Choisir des Pièces Utiles  15

Q.    Small Guestroom
130 sf (12 m²)
10’- 10 x 11’- 6 (3.3  x 3.5  m)

R.    Guestroom with Closet
140 sf (13 m²) each room
10’- 10 x 12’- 6 (3.3 x 3.8 m)

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S.     Guestroom with Closet and Study Table
160 sf (14.6 m²) each room
10’- 10 x 14’- 5 (3.3 x 4.4 m)

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T.     Guestroom with Shower

170 sf (16  m²) each room

10’- 10 x 16’ (3.3 x 4.9 m)

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U.    Full Kitchen
80 sf (7.4 m²)
7’- 7 x 10’- 6 (2.3 x 3.2 m)
Refrigerator, stove, sink, micro-wave and cupboards

V.    Kitchenette
60 sf (5.6 m²)
7’- 7 x 7’- 10 (2.3 x 2.4 m)
Refrigerator, sink, and cupboards with micro-wave, toaster oven, or hotplate

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W – Butler’s pantry
45 sf (4.3 m²)

5’- 11 x 7’- 10 (1.8 x 2.4 m)
Refrigerator, sink, and cupboards, (can be near a separate cooking shelter)

X.     Patio Kitchen
20 sf (1.8 m²) in the building, 35 sf (3.2 m²) in the patio
7’- 7 x 8’- 2 (2.3 x 2.5 m) total
Sink and pantry on a building corner, near a separate cooking shelter

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Y.    Large Storage Room
80 sf (7.2 m²)
7’- 10 x 9’- 11 (2.4 x 3 m)

Z.    Small Storage Room
60 sf (5.8 m²)
7’- 10 x 7’- 10 (2.4 x 2.4 m)
Shelves and copier or other equipment

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