Programming Matters

The functional success of any office project can be completely assured by effective workspace programming


I recently introduced the concept of floor plan benchmarking in the post Big Cultures Small Spaces. In that example you saw firsthand how crucial information for making important decisions concerning the development of new office space comes directly from the data produced by a floor plan benchmark. Having a clear understanding of this key concept will help insure your success.

A floor plan benchmark is essentially an analysis of a floor plan design, whether it represents an existing workspace or a proposed new design. The results are stated in familiar terms related to environment, efficiency, and privacy.

You can think of floor plan benchmarking as a kind of workspace reverse-engineering process. What we’re left with when the process ends is the detailed workspace programming that underlies the design. Analytics in the benchmark describe the implications of this programming and in a way define the essence of the workspace, its DNA so to speak.

We’ve seen that both workspace virtues and failings alike can be detected from this data. Detailed programming that perfectly suits a business provides the foundation for a high-performance workspace. Inefficient or ill-suited programming that neglects strategic business needs can have conspicuous negative affects on ROI, sometimes with disastrous results.


Like any product development process, workspace planning requires two distinct phases: analysis and design. Most people understand what designing something means, but looking backwards from there we see that attempting to design anything implies that we have something important to achieve. The role of the analysis phase is to accurately describe what that is. Effective high-performance workspace can only be created from key, well-defined project requirements.

Let’s look at a simple, if unlikely example unrelated to space planning.

The problem is you’ve been wearing the same pair of shoes for almost two years and will soon need to replace them. You have decided that rather than buy a new, possibly inferior pair with your limited financial resources, you’re going buy superior quality materials and make the shoes yourself. The challenge is you can only buy enough material for a single pair, which leaves little or no margin for error.

Let’s take a look at some of the possible outcomes.

SUCCESS – The requirements were correct and the design and its execution went flawlessly. You’ve created a great looking pair of shoes that fit perfectly. The results clearly satisfy the original goal and the total project costs are exactly as predicted. Congratulations, you won’t have to think about this problem for another two years!

DESIGN FAILURE – The requirements were correct, but the design and its execution didn’t go so well. You’ve got shoes that fit perfectly, but may not look so great or last as long as you’d hoped. This outcome did not exactly satisfy the original goal and may obligate you to suffer the consequences over the next two years or require additional resources to correct the problem sooner. In this case, the design failure made this project indirectly more expensive than expected.

ANALYSIS FAILURE – For some reason you didn’t get the requirements right, but the design and its execution went flawlessly. You’ve got a great looking pair of shoes that are either too large, too small, too narrow, or too wide. Once again the project did not exactly satisfy the original goal and may obligate you to suffer the consequences over the next two years, but it will most likely require additional resources to correct the problem sooner. The analysis failure made this project much more expensive than expected.

ANALYSIS & DESIGN FAILURE – In this case the worst has happened. You didn’t get the requirements right and the design and its execution didn’t go so well either. You’ve ended up with a pair of shoes that don’t fit and may not look great or last as long as you’d hoped! You have dramatically failed to achieve the project goals and are likely going to require additional resources to correct the problems almost immediately. These failures mean that the total cost of ownership for this project is much higher than expected, to the extent that almost any other solution would have been more cost effective.

Of course, developing new office space is way more complicated than making a single pair of shoes. And the stakes are higher too, but the development-process challenges remain the same. Many specialized technology companies solve complex ROI optimization problems using a simulation and modeling framework. Aenvision advances this same practice by creating workplace strategy software that takes the guesswork out of creating effective enterprise office environments. 

The description of architectural programming in the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) states, “The most cost-effective time to make changes is during programming. This phase of a project is the best time for interested parties to influence the outcome of a project.” The WBDG also clearly establishes that opportunities to influence a design diminish dramatically as the project advances. This means that the deeper into the development cycle a project goes, the more expensive and perhaps even cost prohibitive changes to the design become.

Aenvision software 1) helps understand the programming of existing in-place designs, 2) helps quickly and effectively define high-performance programming for new workspace designs, and 3) helps reduce the likelihood of implementation failures in actual new designs. We can now confidently say that not only are changes made more cost-effectively during programming, but that with the right tools the functional success of any new office project can be completely assured by effective workspace programming.

Unfortunately I’m soon going to have to explain how business owners, tenants, and anyone else who needs new office space are ultimately responsible for, and have in fact been contractually obligated to provide the detailed programming for their projects, whether they know it or not.

How about a free phone consultation with Aenvision space planning experts, a $250 value?  Many clients have said it has prevented them from making costly errors, it has saved them hours of frustration, and it has made it much easier to work with their Architects. Click here to learn more. You can also call us with questions at (631) 493-7504 or send an email to Richard Boz <>.