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Joel on Software

Office search continues

by Joel Spolsky
Monday, March 26, 2007

We've looked at about ten potential office spaces and found three or four that might meet our needs.

The biggest problem is that our desire to have (a) private offices with (b) lots of daylight is very hard to accomodate in New York City.

Let's say you have a building with a square floorplan:

The central part of the building is used for elevators, bathrooms, pipes, staircases, etc. This is called the core:

Offices go between the windows and the core. Now, you can have two rows of private offices with a corridor in between. The outer offices have direct windows. If you use glass walls, the inner offices still get plenty of daylight.

The trouble is, if you go any deeper than two offices, the innermost offices won't have daylight at all.

An office is about 10-12 feet deep; a corridor is 4-6 feet. That means that if the distance from the outside window to the core is more than, say, 30 feet, you either have to waste space or give someone a dark office.

Some of that interior space can be used for conference rooms, kitchens, and other areas where people don't spend too much time, but realistically, I'm discovering that if the distance from the outer wall to the inner core is more than 30 feet, it's wasted space.

Manhattan streets are exactly 264 feet apart. Those big office buildings you see that take up an entire city block might have floorplans that are 200 x 200 feet. Even taking the core into account, you can wind up with a depth of 60 or 70 feet. If you're building a sea of cubicles, this is very efficient. If you want 100% private offices, this doesn't work well at all.

The smaller office buildings that don't take up a whole block are likely to be hemmed in by their neighbors, so they don't even have windows on all sides. In this case the builder will often try to put the core on the windowless side, which results in even greater depths.

Wall Street firms need big trading floors. The ideal trading floor is a huge square, the bigger the better, without a single column. This motivates developers around here to brag about the size of their "floorplates" and to optimize buildings for huge, unobstructed floorplates, which is exactly the opposite of what software developers want.

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You’re reading Joel on Software, stuffed with years and years of completely raving mad articles about software development, managing software teams, designing user interfaces, running successful software companies, and rubber duckies.

About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, easy web-based collaboration software, FogBugz, an enlightened bug tracking and software development tool, and Kiln, a distributed source control system that will blow your socks off. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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