Density - Friend or Foe?

Commercial Real Estate Agent with REATA Commercial Realty, Inc. Texas 537349

I was driving through Dallas the other day with a client and we were talking about how new developments these days are more dense and involve multiple uses - office, retail, apartments - all in the same project. These developments are much more dense than in past years. This has typically definied the central part of cities and when you think of the greatest cities in the world, they are always quite dense - New York, Hong Kong, London, etc.

Density seemed to be viewed as a bad thing by most cities in the US though - at least in the suburbs. But that is changing as people demand services within walking distance of their homes or places of business. Most of these developments balance out the density with green space, ponds or other open gathering areas. This provides a place to meet friends, play, and relax. 

What's interesting is that density is happening inside as well. For the last couple of decades, companies have been putting more people in smaller space. The average square footage per average worker in 1994 was 90-115 square feet (SF). Managers had about 151 SF each. Today those numbers have dropped to 75-95 SF for average workers and 120 SF for managers. 

But these companies often create more meeting space, break areas and other open areas within the office where collaborative work can be done. One of my clients is a tenant in Plano has the typical conference room, but they also added a conversation pit. This room is where the "corner office" would otherwise be and it has a faux fireplace, leather overstuffed chairs, side tables and a big coffee table in the middle. It's a great room to enjoy with co-workers or clients without the behemoth table in the way.

Design should reflect the company's personality. This includes the design of the development in which the office is located and the design inside the space itself. Density plays a roll in that as well.

Posted by




Bob Gibbons

REATA Commercial Realty, Inc. | 1211 E. 15th Street, Plano, TX  75074

972-468-1946 p | 866-439-8015 f | 972-984-8580 m |




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Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

The density sword cuts both ways...Putting large amounts of people in one place creates more pollution such as noise and traffic is one argument. Another is large drains on resources for the area...yet rooftops is what fuels retailers to make decisions to come into an area. As to office space, while spreading out the decor to appear lavish and generous, it is not necessary nor functional...the cubicle is all that someone requires with phone and computer and common areas for breaking/eating...are my thoughts...thank you

Jul 15, 2011 03:31 AM #1
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

I think it's good that communities are being well-planned with amenities and schools nearby - the days of the endless subdivisions and miles to drive to get anything are hopefully over.

Interior density is an interesting thought - my office is moving in a few months and the whole office will be redesigned differently with a large open area to sit and plug in your computer, and fewer individual desks.  I'm looking forward to it - so many of us are working from home nowadays that large real estate offices are becoming dinosaurs.

Jul 15, 2011 03:45 AM #2
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566
Our office has undergone the same reconfiguration this year with the one large open space.
Jul 15, 2011 03:50 AM #3
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Like you said each business has to decide what works best for them, if its a more collaborative layout or if individual work stations will make the company the most efficient workplace possible.

Jul 15, 2011 05:42 AM #4
Vince McEveety
Gilleran Griffin Realty - Sherman Oaks, CA

interesting... good for some things bad for others

it depends on what you want doesn't it?

great perspective on thetinyhouse blog on density and even better in the tiny house book - how density has affected how we move about and how we view society and the role of housing

thanks for the post

Jul 15, 2011 06:00 AM #5
Lori Bowers
La Quinta, CA
The Lori Bowers Group

I see real estate offices now going very small with more efficiency and they same or more activity.

Jul 15, 2011 06:36 AM #6
Evelyn Kennedy
Alain Pinel Realtors - Alameda, CA
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA


I live in a community with many vintage home(1880 to present).  Those older area of my city were very dense, except for the large estates where the wealthy lived.  The business districts were configured with storefront business downstairs and living spaces above.  This is a very efficient method for older communities to be configured.

Jul 15, 2011 12:04 PM #8
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Bob - I think whether it's friend or foe depends upon what you're trying to accomplish and what you want.

Jul 15, 2011 02:12 PM #9
Karen Otto
Home Star Staging - Plano, TX
Plano Home Staging, Dallas Home Staging,

I'm all for efficiency however there are some folks who would rather have their space - far far away!  I like the idea of smaller working cubes and a larger "community" gathering space for workers. My son goes to school in NYC and I see how the "density" of the place & space is needed/required based on the geography and the amount of people living there - I personally couldn't handle it for longer than a week or so - it's just not the way I grew up.  I think the challenge for these new denser developments in suburban areas is to appeal to a sense of community while allowing autonomy and free space to not make anyone feel smothered.  Planned well, these spaces and places are going to be the norm rather than the exception is what  think. Thanks for sharing Bob.

Jul 15, 2011 03:12 PM #10
Judith Abbott
Coldwell Banker Residential - Dallas, TX

My office is moving on Monday.  This is the second time I have gone through a Whole-Office move.  I also have been on the sidelines of a move that didn't happen because corporate couldn't get terms that they liked for a new space.  In that non-move, I watched for 6 months while the proposed plans for the space were drawn up and redrawn and changed around.

In all these cases, I have lobbied for the creation of Day Use Offices, small space with a door and a computer terminal and a phone where an agent could work in private.  The idea comes from my watching how the conference rooms get co-opted as agent work space.  It is almost impossible to make phone calls in most office space and have that conversation not be overheard.  Worse, the background noise in an office makes it hard to hear what the person on the other end of the phone is saying.  Still worse, not all noise in an office enviroment is work related.....there can be some serious cutting up background noise going on while I am trying to make serious phone calls.

That is why I tend to do phone work from home, computer work at the office.

Office Managers.....think Day Use Offices!

Jul 16, 2011 04:59 AM #11
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