Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The future of work space? WaPo takes a photographic look at Facebook's new headquarters.

In an article yesterday, the Washington Post's Todd Frankel provides a photographic tour and article about Facebook's new headquarters (Building 20) in Menlo Park, CA.  The 430,000 square foot workspace is entirely open--the largest open-office workspace in the world.  Housing 2,800 employees means that each employee has about 154 square feet of workspace at the core of which is a small cubicle.  It is not clear whether that square footage is "gross," "interior gross," "leasable," "usable," or some other square footage metric.   The largest the gross square feet (GSF) per employee could be (in the unlikely case that this metric is for usable workspace), however, is 230 GSF/employee--the space actually occupied per employee (not restrooms, hallways, elevators, walls, etc.).  We expect it most closely matches the "interior" square footage metric, suggesting that each employee has 203 ISF/worker.

The main stairs to Building 20. Photo by Nick Otto/For The Washington Post
Yet, as we have noted more than a dozen times in this blog, Fairfax County's Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) continues to assert for planning purposes that office workspace will be generated at 300 GSF/employee.  This example provided by one of the geekiest of the Silicon Valley high tech companies--the kind of technology-driven company that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors would like to see come here--illustrates again how outrageously high that 300 GSF/worker assumption is.  In looking at dozens of similar leases, acquisitions, etc., our finding has been that the average GSF/employee is--and will likely continue to be--about 200 GSF/employee.

The 50% difference between the DPZ office space planning assumption and the reality of new office building usage as reflected in the Facebook headquarters and dozens of other leased or owned office buildings here and around the world will have a profound negative impact on development in Reston and other County TOD areas.  A new 100,000 GSF office building will allow about 50,000 new jobs, not the 33,333 jobs DPZ would assume.  That means 50% more traffic on local roads, 50% more workers using already under-allocated park space in and around TOD areas, 50% more environmental deterioration, and more. 

Until Fairfax County starts being realistic about the office workspace of the future, all of its urbanizing areas will be at risk of being overwhelmed by unexpected and unplanned for workers. 

The article itself provides a good look at both the pros and cons of the open-office workspace--and its seeming inevitability despite the complaints of employees.  You can read the full article and see several more photos here. 

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