Designing Your Company's Next Office


HELP! I’m in charge of designing my company’s next office space. What do I do?

So here you are, you have established yourself as a go-getter in your company, someone who takes charge, and simply “gets things done”. As if you didn’t already have enough on your plate, your boss tasks you with the distinct honor of finding, designing and building your company’s next office. The only problem is, you’ve never done this before, and you don’t have an internal real estate department.

Consider the following an Office Project 101 course on the very basics of understanding the process of a typical project at PDR.

Strategy (Duration: 2 - 3 Weeks)

PDR helps you determine your company’s vision, goals, and long-term workplace strategy before you begin searching for real estate or signing a lease.

Do we want to be more collaborative?
What type of employee and clients do we want to attract in our office?

Programming (Duration: 1 - 3 Weeks)

Once a vision for the new office is established, it is time to turn this information into a Program. A Program is a list of architectural office space types and quantities.

How many closed offices and open workstations are required?
What type of amenities spaces do we want for our employees?


Real Estate Search (Duration: 1 - 4 Months)

A completed Program will provide a square footage estimate of your future office. A commercial real estate broker will help you search for a proper lease space that meets your requirements, including rental rates, amenities, parking, etc.

What part of town should the office be located?
How much cost per square foot can we afford?  


Test Fitting (Duration: 1 - 2 Weeks)

During the real estate search phase, PDR takes your Program requirements and conducts Test Fits on multiple lease options within multiple buildings. A ‘Test Fit’ is a floor plan exercise that confirms you fit within the space under evaluation.

Does one space provide a better layout for my company than another?
Is an unusual building design requiring me to lease more space than another?


Schematic Design (Duration: 2 - 4 Weeks)

Once you have picked a building, and signed a lease, now it is time to start the design process. The Schematic Design phase establishes the look and feel of your company’s new office. Finalizing a detailed floor plan, as well as approving finishes, will be completed within this phase.

Do we want to be modern or traditional?
How should our design reflect the company’s vision?


Design Development (Duration: 2 - 4 Weeks)

The Design Development phase involves reviewing the functional details of your future office. Expect questions regarding office equipment, lighting, acoustics, security, audio / visual requirements and many more.

What kind of conference room technology would we like to see?
What are our security access control requirements?


Construction Documentation (Duration: 4 - 8 Weeks)

Once all design questions have been answered, we will proceed with creating Construction Documents (CD’s) for your new office. CD’s include multiple floor plans, elevations, drawing sections and details that will be used as the instruction manual for a selected general contractor. CD’s are also part of a set of legal contract documents that are used for building permits.

How will I know that all my design decisions are included in the Construction Documents?
Can we conduct a page-turn so I can better understand the CD’s?


General Contractor Bidding (Duration: 2 - 3 Weeks)

PDR distributes the final set of construction documents to multiple general contractors (typically 3 or 4) for a “hard bid”. A hard bid is a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for the project, strictly based on the information provided within the CD’s. After the general contractors have submitted their final GMP’s for the project, we interview each general contractor prior to selecting one to build your project.  

Should I choose the cheapest general contractor?
Is the chemistry between myself and the general contractor team important?


Permitting (Duration: 4 - 6 Weeks)

The selected general contractor will submit the construction documents to the local authorities for permit approvals. While the CD’s are under review, the general contractor mobilizes onto the job site and begins the construction administration process.

What if I don’t have 4 – 6 weeks, can I expedite this process?
Can the general contractor start construction during the permit phase?


Construction Administration (Duration: 12 - 16 Weeks)

During construction, the project team conducts weekly meetings to answer questions, review material submittals, walk the construction site, and address any discrepancies between construction document and field conditions until the project is complete.

What impacts will a design change have on the construction process?
Do I need to attend the weekly Construction Administration meetings?


Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment (Duration: 1 - 2 Weeks)

The construction is complete, and your furniture dealer can begin their installation. Other vendors will install all necessary equipment such as printers, computers and coffee machines prior to occupancy.

Will I need to contract these miscellaneous vendors directly?
Will the general contractor help coordinate this phase?


Occupancy / Move-in (Duration: 1 Week)

It is finally time to move from your former office to your new workplace. This effort requires very detailed coordination for the migration of personal items, equipment, re-used furniture and computer equipment set up prior to Day 1 in the new workplace. The goal is to minimize disruption of employees, not skip a beat and keep producing. You want your employees to be happy with their new workplace, know where everything is located, understand how to use their new technology, and not experience any downtime.

Can PDR help me with the move migration process?
Can PDR help me with managing the change my coworkers are about to experience?



Congratulations! Your co-workers have moved in, your new workplace is up and running beautifully, and is more conducive to productivity. The space supports all workers, so they can be used to their full potential to do their best work. Now you can go back to your full-time job, and you will feel a great sense of pride when you see close colleagues showing off the office to friends, family, and clients.


I hope this gave you a little insight to a very complicated process.
Give me a call if you would like the PhD version!


Robert Olvera


With approximately 14 years of experience, Robert has meticulously facilitated and implemented the management of design development, construction documentation and construction administration. Since joining PDR in 2004, he has worked with a variety of major clients including CITGO, ExxonMobil, Imperial Oil, Chevron, Statoil, BG Group, and Eaton Corporation. He has overseen a range of projects, from fast-paced office renovations to large scale corporate campus construction for major companies.