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Akio Moriwaki
Akio Moriwaki
As head of global marketing for the AEC Industry at Dassault Systèmes, Mr. Moriwaki launches and promotes groundbreaking Industry Solution Experiences including "Optimized Construction," "Façade Design for Fabrication," and "Civil Design for Fabrication." He is a member of buildingSMART.

Why Your Space Planning Process Is Giving You Grey Hair

May 1st, 2014 by Akio Moriwaki

It was late on a Saturday…

The team was in a design competition, working over the weekend to develop a design massing concept to meet a project brief. They’d worked all day Saturday to produce drawings for the competition boards, and switched gears to produce the reports to accompany the boards.

Just as they were about to paste in the space program spreadsheet, someone realized that the concept was 10% under the requirement for a key department.

This late in the process, the team leader decided to fake the numbers in the spreadsheet.

“I’m sure no one will notice, and I sure wish we didn’t have to, but we’re out of time,“ he thought.

The next evening, the design principal learned about the faked spreadsheet and he wasn’t happy. The team worked overnight Sunday to update the design, reproduce the drawings, and recreate the spreadsheet so it reflected the actual solution to the brief.

What went wrong? Why couldn’t the team keep up with a modification to the concept?

The usual method to plan a space and develop a selection of schemes for a client is linear, time consuming, and can lead to frustrating dead ends.

The typical space planning process:

A-intake1. Initial Discussion: The planner will meet with the client or a client team made up of representatives from each department. Requirements for the new building (or renovation) are discussed based on current and future needs. Type of space, size of space and number of spaces are recorded.

2. Inventory of Existing Spaces, Use and FF&E: The planner will make an inventory of the existing spaces, how they are utilized, and what furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) are in the space. This will be compared to the planned needs and any discrepancies between existing and desired will be discussed.

C-adjacencies3. Space Adjacencies: Based on the initial discussions and the inventory, the planner will make recommendations on adjacencies between departments and spaces, which will then be reviewed and discussed with the client.

4. Site Survey: The planner will survey the existing building being considered for renovation, or survey the site being considered for a new building.

5. Replicate Existing Structures: The planner will create the as-is conditions of the building or site and existing field notes and measurements.

E-create6. Create New Building Designs: Utilizing the data gathered, and observations of the client’s needs and existing space, the architect will create various concept designs to test the space requirements within. This is done while also keeping track of the site’s physical and regulatory restrictions.

7. Iterate Through Space Layout Options: Utilizing the data gathered from the client and the observations of their needs and existing space, the planner will iterate through numerous options for laying out spaces in the building.

H-mass internal spaces8. Iterate Between Mass and Internal Spaces: As the planner narrows the desired layouts of the spaces within the building, there is a back-and-forth between the preferred interior space layout and the form of the exterior mass. Each needs to give a little (or a lot) to achieve a balance.

9. Finalize Schemes: Three schemes will be determined to be the most viable out of the numerous test layouts. These three will be developed further to determine if everything desired has been accounted for and code requirements are addressed.

10. Prepare Data Metrics: The planner will compare the three schemes in a spreadsheet to describe to the client the pros and cons of each scheme. The spreadsheet reflects the department, space type, count, gross area, and actual versus target area data recorded in Steps 1 and 2.

L-present11. Prepare Visuals: The planner and architect will prepare visuals to describe the design and schemes to the client. These will include floor plans, elevations, perspectives, graphs, charts, exploded axon of spaces and renderings.

12. Present Schemes: The planner and architect present the three schemes to the client. Typically, one scheme is selected to move forward to schematic design but elements from other schemes—or even some new ideas—may be considered for incorporation into the chosen scheme.

The process as outlined above is a best-case scenario. It assumes nothing changes after you move to the next step.

Problems with the traditional process:

It’s not iterative. If and when information changes, the process grinds to a halt, as we saw in our opening story.

It’s not collaborative. Another critical weakness lies in the practice of only collaborating with the client in 2 of the 12 steps: the first and the last.

It’s not forgiving. When a team is on step 11 and the client changes a requirement, or a key data set gets updated, every step in between must be revisited and modified, in sequence.

A linear and time-consuming planning process adds undue stress to already high-stakes projects. In reality, information and change, and clients can help the process by providing input along the way.

Sound familiar? What’s your most stressful experience with late-stage updates? Was it an honest mistake or did the client have a change of heart?

Let us know in the comments.

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Related: Accelerate Your Building & Space Planning Process

Building Design for Fabrication is a flexible, instinctive building & space design system. It enables architects, planners, and clients to quickly visualize requirements and iterate on building concepts using 3D digital modeling.

Users enjoy an accelerated design process and make informed decisions that save time and cost. Accelerate your planning process with Dassault Systèmes.

Learn more:

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Categories: AEC, Building & Space Planning, Business Processes, Collaboration, Dassault Systèmes

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