Hans Hansson | June 2, 2015
The residential real estate bubble isn't the only office space challenge facing startups in Silicon Valley. For years, the rule of thumb in determining how much office space you need has been 200 square feet per person. This was based upon a ratio of 60/40 private offices to open space. This included a standard sized kitchen, conference room, IT room and a storage room.
In the city and county of San Francisco, by code, the minimum amount of space is 100 feet per person.
Today's technology firms operate more like a modern day "sweat shop," with most technology firms at 100 feet or less per person, meaning that most offices are over capacity. Today's tech firms tend to be open floor plans, linking an open area kitchen with one or two large conference rooms, and several telephone rooms.
There are huge safety risks that come about when offices are non-compliant. Some of these risks include the danger in having lack of walkways in the event of a fire, which requires easy access emergency exiting. In addition, the heating and ventilation systems of most buildings were not built to accommodate so many people per square foot, therefore the lack of air flow and increase of "dirty" air are all possible issues.
In today's office space, it is not uncommon to step into a dog-friendly office. The easing of pet and cooking restrictions in office buildings is another growing health hazard and legal liability. As a business owner, you can be held liable if an animal allowed in the workplace injures an employee, customer, or even the delivery guy. Additionally, even the owner of the company is OK with pets in the building, that doesn't mean the landlord of the office space is. Many lease agreements deal highlight this matter and they might require you to get the landlord's permission before you allow pets in the building.
There are obvious reasons for this current situation. Rapidly growing companies cannot accommodate their need for more office space in time for new hires, so they continue working in the same space, while trying to squeeze in room for more employees. Additionally, there are declining office space opportunities with higher rental rates in less desirable areas of the city.
Thus far, our city inspectors have been quiet in addressing the overcrowding that has been taking place and have put health and fire safety regulations on the back burner. It will take just one serious emergency to go seriously wrong in order to bring these issues to the forefront.
The city will need to understand these changes and find ways to address office tenants needs in this changing way in which we do business.
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