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Number: DAO 217-21
Effective Date: 2016-09-14


.01       This document establishes the Department of Commerce's policy for office space allocation in leased and owned facilities. It covers all leased and owned office space acquired to house the Department's missions. The goal of this policy is to bring the Department's space per person allocation in line with that of the Federal government average through a variety of methods including new/renovated construction design, consolidation, new leases, and other workplace innovations.

.02       The standard utilization rate, requirements, and guidelines set forth in this Directive provide a goal and guidance to operating units (OU) to facilitate development of their implementing procedures. These procedures will then be incorporated into individual facility project space requirements when and where feasible in existing space, in all lease renewals, and renovations. The use of these procedures is intended to be flexible while ensuring that office space will be designed to support the re-engineering of work tasks and functions required by innovations such as flexible workplace, telework, and other initiatives. The Department expects that each OU will incorporate, to the greatest extent possible, the standard utilization rate and innovations in new construction and build to suit leases and limit exceptions through an active governance structure. This policy outlines general Departmental direction in order to:

a.      Support maximum utility and efficiency of office space;

b.      Align office space equitably across OUs;

c.       Promote the use of open office/open workstation space allowing for cost effectiveness and flexibility in organizational structure;

d.       Reduce the number of enclosed offices;

e.       Create enclosed spaces only as needed for communications of a sensitive nature, such as conference, interview, and negotiation rooms;

f.       Encourage the development of office environments that promote flexibility, collaboration and communication, such as open office environments; and

g.       Promote sustainable workplaces that can adapt to changes in work processes and staffing and incorporate telework with minimal costs.


.01       Executive Order 13327 states that it is the policy of the United States to promote the efficient and economical use of America's real property assets and to assure management accountability for implementing Federal real property management reforms. Executive branch departments shall recognize the importance of real property resources through increased management attention, the establishment of clear goals and objectives, improved policies and levels of accountability, and other appropriate action.

.02       Presidential Memorandum, Disposing of Unneeded Federal Real Estate—Increasing Sales Proceeds, Cutting Operating Costs, and Improving Energy Efficiency, dated June 10, 2010, requires that agencies shall take immediate steps to make better use of remaining real property assets as measured by utilization and occupancy rates, annual operating cost, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Further, it requires increasing occupancy rates in current facilities through innovative approaches to space management.

.03       Section 3 of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum M-12-12, Promoting Efficient Spending to Support Agency Operations, dated May 11, 2012, requires that the acquisition of new Federal building space that increases an agency's total square footage of civilian property be offset through consolidations, co-locations, or disposals of property.

.04       The Office of Management and Budget Management Procedures Memorandum No. 2013-02, Implementation of OMB Memorandum M-12-12 Section 3: Freeze the Footprint, dated March 14, 2013, clarifies the policy to apply to space predominately used for offices and warehouses. It also requires that agencies report on actions taken to maximize and increase efficiency in its utilization of space including cost effective alternatives to acquisition, such as space consolidation, co-location, teleworking, and "hoteling."


It is the Department's goal to have effective and efficient use of office space. This policy establishes office space standards and provides guidance to achieve that goal.

.01       The Department is committed to the open office environment for facilities that are leased or owned for its missions. The open office concept is to be used wherever practical and possible, as it provides the highest degree of sustainability, adaptability, efficiency, functionality, and aesthetic appeal available in the contemporary workplace.

.02       The Department's goal is to right size its portfolio footprint in order to efficiently and effectively support its missions. To meet this goal, it is establishing a departmental standard utilization rate for office space of 170 usable square feet (usf) per person. This figure is derived from the GSA standard of 135 square feet per person for primary space plus additional space for associated support areas. Included in the 170 usf standard utilization rate are primary office space, reception area, circulation space, associated storage space and auxiliary space (such as conference rooms, server closets, processing area, file room, break room, etc.). For example, if office space is planned for 100 people, the total utilized area would be 17,000 square feet. Allocations of office space, such as workstations and support space, are made by the OU.

.03       To implement this policy and standard utilization rate, all OUs are required to develop implementing procedures, internal controls, an OU general standard utilization rate, building specific standard rate when mission/facility constraints preclude application of the OU standard rate, and a governance structure.

.04       Operating units will use the Department's standard utilization rate and guidelines to develop an OU general standard utilization rate, and as needed, a building-specific standard rate, and implementing policies and processes for approval of standards. Application of the OU general or a building-specific standard, interchangeably herein after called OU Standard, is required for office space acquisition, regardless of whether the office space is in an office building, laboratory, or warehouse.

.05       Operating units implementing procedures will, at a minimum, address application of the appropriate OU Standard to:

a.       space being renovated or reconfigured;

b.       succeeding leases;

c.       consolidation; or

d.       space reduction.

.06       In existing office facilities, or “as-is” space acquisitions, the OU Standard is expected to make a best effort to achieve the 170 usf per person standard utilization rate as established by this policy.

.07       In build-to-suit office space, the OU Standard is expected to comply with or be lower than 170 usf per person.

.08       Operating units implementing procedures will specifically address the following: telework goals, hoteling workstations for telework, restacking of existing system furniture, reconfiguration due to work process change, video conferencing and changes in staff levels into the development of facility requirements.

.09       When investments are needed to improve utilization, OU implementing procedures must require an economic analysis to determine the payback period for investing in restacking or floor plan changes and system furniture acquisitions that will further the intent of this policy. A return-on-investment analysis will be performed using OMB Circular A-94, Appendix C rates. Payback periods of less than five years are to be pursued in succeeding leases and GSA assignments (owned and leased) or in renovation projects for owned facilities. These analyses will address OU telework plan goals.

.10       Operating units implementing procedures will include a process for granting an interim variance from the OU Standard for existing space. Such variances must be justified and include a plan to achieve the OU Standard (e.g., consolidation, termination of lease, sale of property strategy, renovation, etc.).

.11       Office space in excess of the applicable standard will be considered an unsupported space requirement for portfolio management purposes. Therefore, the OU Standard must incorporate any unique mission-driven requirements.


.01     Usable Square Feet is the actual area the agency occupies in an office suite. It is the office area, workstation area, conference rooms, kitchenettes, server closest, storage rooms, and circulation within the office suite area. It is calculated by measuring from the dominant portion of the exterior wall to the outside face of major vertical penetrations. It includes all structural elements (columns), openings for vertical cables, and vertical penetrations built for the private use of the tenant.

.02       Hoteling is the optimization of unused space in an office building by utilizing temporarily vacant cubicles or offices of people, teleworking, on leave or travel, and conference rooms, for short periods of time or specific cubicles or areas designated as hotels for teleworkers. Under hoteling, unassigned or temporarily vacant cubicles or office space are “bookable” and other employees are allowed to use it. To be fully effective, the information technology (IT) and telephone networks need to enable an employee to reserve a workstation in advance, and then when present, to simply plug in their laptop, log into their network, and forward calls from their assigned number to the desk phone, laptop, or a cell phone.

.03       Unsupported Space Requirement is a classification intended to indicate that the facility's office area density is above the OU standard or that a building specific standard is not in place. Its purpose is to indicate that the facility has not been analyzed to determine whether its density can be improved, or if a building specific standard is appropriate (e.g. architectural layout, historic features, or that additional support space is required for mission), or its pending a planned improvement opportunity.

.04       Operating Units General Standard is a utilization rate that incorporates the business processes, bargaining unit agreement, equipment, and security unique to an OU that increase or decrease the need for space. Basis for space in excess of the 170 usf/person goal has to be justified within the standard.

.05       Building-Specific Standard is a utilization rate that in addition to the requirements for the General Standard, addresses limitations on space standards caused by column spacing or suite sizes in small or historic buildings. A building-specific standard may be increased to address structural limitations of buildings and layout inefficiencies. Other factors that may affect the space requirements are space availability, irregular building shape, and a non-economical cost to correct.

.06       Build-to-Suit Office Space is space that is provided by new construction of a building or its internal partition walls. It is space in a building that was recently constructed or vacant space in an existing building that had non-demising walls removed prior to offer or will be included as part of the offer.


.01      The Office of Facilities and Environmental Quality, in accordance with Department Organization Order 20-1, is responsible for the development, implementation and oversight of this policy.

.02       Heads of OUs are responsible for designating an office of primary responsibility for developing OU Standards.

.03       Heads of OUs are responsible for the development of their implementing procedures and governance structure for the incorporation and implementation of their OU Standards for specific individual buildings for new, owned or leased space. This includes processes for approval of the standards, periodic reviews, and granting of variances from the standards.


The Director of the Office of Facilities and Environmental Quality will be provided with a copy of all OU Standards and implementing policies within 6 months of the date of issuance of this policy and within 60 days of all subsequent changes.


Operating Units Standards and their implementing policies and governance structure will at a minimum address the types of space present in their office facilities. General guidelines are included in Appendix 1 to assist in the development of OU standards. These guidelines also identify topics to be addressed in the general and building specific plans. Space requirements based on pay grade for maximum area per person are no longer mandated by Federal regulations, stipulated by GSA, or recommended by the GSA's Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP). The OGP recommends that space requirements be based on job title and function, defining tasks required for a particular job, and on the organization needed to accomplish its mission. How space is allotted among different uses is determined by the organization, working in conjunction with their staff, managers and designers.


This Order supersedes Department Administrative Order 217-21, dated August 8, 2013.

Signed: Director for Administrative Services

Approved: Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary

Office of Primary Interest: Office of Administrative Services

Appendix 1

General Guidelines

.01     Workstations.

a.      The variety of activities that may take place in any modern office often need special workspace considerations.  System furniture is typically used for open-office workstations.  For practical reasons, workstations may be standardized at a building or campus level to one manufacturer to ensure interoperability of parts within the space.  This is an important consideration for consolidation projects. 

b.      General workstation space categories can be developed, such as: junior, intermediate, senior, supervisory, and executive.  Workstation space can also be designed into functional space requirements categories rather than be rank-based categories.

c.      Workstations can vary in sizes, finishes, panel height, components, and degree of enclosure.  Choices should be addressed in each OU standard.  Interior architectural features of each facility can have some effect on workstation configuration. 

d.      Sustainability principles also need to be incorporated into the planning and design of the workstations:

1.       Space utilization greatly improves when flexible systems furniture is used in lieu of traditional furniture, thereby reducing construction time and space rental costs;

2.       Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning is more efficient with the open office concept, eliminating the potential for interrupted air flow and temperature variations;

3.       Open space layouts, with few private offices, provide greater access to natural light and support of sustainability principles; and

4.       Areas can be rapidly reconfigured as work processes change with minimal financial investment with flexible systems furniture.

.02     Private Offices.

a.      In space being acquired for an OU's office space portfolio, private offices are to be limited to executives, supervisors, the primary Equal Employment Office manager, and specific positions such as attorneys who require private offices due to the confidential nature of their work, employees covered by a bargaining unit agreement with such a requirement, or employees who are integrated into a comprehensive telework (hoteling) based program, such as the system implemented at the Patent and Trademark Office.

b.      Unique conditions such as concerns for national security may result in an OU or organization providing a private office for other individuals.  Such exceptions must be addressed in the OU's policy for general and building-specific standards.  Sustainability principles need to be incorporated into private office designs.

c.      The Departmental guidance is that the limitation on private offices applies for requests for new space.  When existing leases are renewed, the OUs are expected to conduct an economic analysis to determine if the cost of a floor plan change to meet this policy will result in space, and thereby, rent savings over the lease's term. 

d.      Other exceptions for existing space will be considered through a building-specific standard or general standard.

.03     Organizational Boundaries.

Unique functional or confidentiality needs may require an organization to be situated with natural or established boundaries between it and other agency elements.  Special adjacency and apportionment may be needed.  Operating unit's policy needs to address how boundaries shall be coordinated.  

.04     Freestanding Furniture.

Freestanding furniture used in conjunction with systems furniture workstations includes desks and conference chairs, guest chairs, file cabinets, tables, and reception furniture.  For aesthetic reasons, furniture selections should seek to harmonize style and color compatibility with systems furniture.  For practical reasons, acquisition requirements and cost effectiveness have to be considered.

.05     Conference, Interview and Negotiation Rooms.

a.      The current Federal design approach for this type of space is to move towards smaller, more accessible common and team work areas, and rooms equipped with reconfigurable furniture.     These rooms are features to be planned in conjunction with the open-office environment.  Several small rooms are more useful than one large space.  However, the ability to conduct group meetings of sensitive or personnel natures shall not be compromised when designing and building these rooms.

b.      The inclusion of these types of rooms in a space acquisition request has to be supported by justifications that include the estimated number of hours per week it will be used, as well as the average number of people expected to be present for each use.  A sample format is included in this policy.

c.      In planning for single building/floor office space with multi-OU occupancy, these rooms are generally intended to be shared by several OUs in order to increase their justification of utilization level and size.  A schedule for use of these spaces should be maintained by the largest group in the vicinity or as agreed upon by the OUs sharing the building or floor.  Costs should be allocated in an equitable fashion by all DOC organizations using the space.  Operating unit's policies need to address how shared space requirements are to be coordinated, utilized and managed in multi-OU occupancies.

d.      The typical rule of thumb is for the first 10 chairs use 25 usf per chair.  For each additional chair over 10, use 15 usf per chair.  Operating unit's policies need to define how this room space is justified and sized for their specific mission.

e.       Completion of the table below will assist space planners in determining how many people the room should accommodate.  Identify how the conference room is to be used the majority of the time.  Conference rooms specifically are not typically sized for the largest potential meeting, such as full staff meetings.  Operating unit should indicate when requirements for audio visual equipment and/or storage space are needed or when other amenities are needed for the particular use(s) of the room.  Because the rent for these rooms is the same as for office space, the utilization rate (hours used per week/40) should be above the typical office occupancy of 40 percent of available time.


Hours Used/Wk
4-10 People Present
11-15 People Present
16-20 People Present
20+ People Present


.06     Kitchenettes and Coffee Stations.

Kitchenettes may contain appliances, including refrigerators, microwave ovens, coffee makers, and vending machines. Kitchenettes can be used for the temporary storage and preparation of lunches and snacks. Centralizing the location of appliances in a designated area may eliminate or reduce potential mechanical and electrical problems, as well as, fire hazards created by having appliances located in other office spaces, such as workstations. Appliances such as refrigerators, coffee pots, space heaters, microwave ovens, etc., should be prohibited in other than designated areas. The basic allowance is typically 60 usf per 100 employees. Operating unit's policies need to address whether kitchenettes are warranted.

.07     Training Space.

Employee training space requirements are to be reviewed and approved by the Office of Human Resource Management. Informal in-house training should be conducted in conference rooms. Operating unit's policies should address how training space requirements are developed.

Space Allowance
Classroom & Training
10 usf per person Desk/arm chair
40 usf per person Desk and chair
150 usf (+10 usf per person) For larger meeting rooms
150 usf 8 people
375 usf up to 14 people
500 usf up to 24 people

.08     Storage Space.

Storage space included in space requests should be minimized to include only necessary record files and/or those items covered under a records retention and/or disposal policy/plan. Storage within office space can be very expensive; therefore, less expensive alternatives, such as offsite self-storage, should be used for any other items. Converting hard copy records to electronic formats should be considered as a way to limit the amount of storage space needed. Operating unit's policies need to address how storage space is to be sized in general or building-specific standards. Justification for records retention space requirements can be found in Department Administrative Order 205-1, “Records Management” and in general records schedules established by the National Archives.

.09     Server Rooms.

Server rooms included in space requirements should be consolidated and their size minimized to include only the area needed to support the IT needs of the overall space and mission. Operating unit's policies need to address the Office of Chief Information Officer's (CIO) server consolidation requirements, and if approved for a building, how server rooms are to be sized. The OU CIO should be involved in requirements, development and design as part of general or building-specific standards. In consolidated, multi-OU space, server rooms are to be shared by OUs.

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