The 3' foot rule
We get calls all of the time to measure clients spaces to see what furniture will fit into their space. We gladly go out and provide this service for our clients. Most clients want to maximize the space they are using since rents are going up. When the client has a large space and or want to buy l cubicle project we typical will not sell the client unless one our field people goes out and measures there space. They measure for creep of the panels and power in-feed placement. Since there are, other valuables also involved if you have a project that is more than 2 cubicles get a professional to measure the space.
We use the 3’ foot rule for just about everything else for planning an office. Let us start with conference tables. A popular size is 8ft table. Some vendors will make them 96 by 42 inch, which seems to be the new standard will others still make them into 96 by 48 inch or 8 by 3.5 feet or 8’ by 4’ feet. You want to use the 3’-foot rule to see what size of a table you should get. All we do is add 3’ ft. to each side of the table. So let us say you are looking at a table that is 8’ by 4’ table you will need a room that is at least 14 by 10. Why you ask? When your chair is 20” or 22” inches in depth, I assume you have sat in a chair your dining room table. What is the first thing you do? You pull the chair out about 2’ to 2.5’ feet from the table and pull yourself in. Once a person is sitting in a chair, it will give room for others to walk past and take the next available seat. In another article, we will discuss how to buy a conference table for your needs.
The next item in an office is your desk. How much room will be needed to sit behind your desk and walk around it to sit at it? Not all offices spaces are the same. Your typical single person office is 9' by 10' or 10' by 10'. Most people will used a 60" by 30" or a 66" by 30" inch desk. Fire code requires that a person must have at least 36" for non-main isle way to get out in case of a fire. So you would have to measure from the side to the desk would end to the wall and make sure you have 3' foot walk way. Many times clients will put a bookcase; a file and the angle make it a 20”, or 24” walk way. The client tells me that are thin and can walk through but I agree it is not safe. The same rule applies sitting behind the desk. You want to leave at least 3 foot of space so that you have room to adjust your chair and move it in and out.
The 3' foot rule for file cabinets is not all together strait forward it also depends a lot on the space where you put the files. Most lateral files are 19 1/4" to 18" files deep. The draws as a rule full extension are 15 for legal and 11 inches for letter. That includes the thickness of the front draw. In most cases, you are filing left to right. It is one stand to the side or removes the file and looks at it on the side. Some people will get what is call front to back filing on a lateral file. It is easier to look at the files in the draw but a large loss of space the challenge is with vertical files. They make them in different depths. Some are 20" to 24”, which are most common today while others are as deep as 27 and some really older ones are from the 70's are 30" deep. As a rule, you lose about 4 inches of filing space in a vertical file. One has to open the draw and add the 3’ of space so that someone can get by them in the hallway.
In conclusion, the 3’ foot space can help you plan any office space. However, one additional requirement to remember is 36 for non-main walkways and 42” for all main isle ways. I left out cubicles because there is involved in planning the correct placement. However, this simple rule will make you an instant expert and you will be able to check if you’re a space planner is placing furniture that will make it a tight working environment and in some cases not to fire code.