Area & Space Planning

Area & Space Planning


In this lesson, you explore how building modeling tools can be used to the process of area and space planning, which is often one of the first steps in the preliminary design process.

Client requirements for a project are often described in area budgets that allocate square footage targets to specific departments, programs, or functions.  Designers typically use these targets as a starting point for a top-down design approach, allocating specific building areas to each of the budgets and tabulating the assignments to confirm that the program needs are being met. This approach enables designers to make high-level design decisions and assess their impact, long before the details of the individual rooms are mapped out.

As preliminary design progresses, additional details are added to the building model and the initial area allocations are typically divided into rooms with specific functions and occupancies.  As the design matures, area and space planning continuesin parallel with the design work to ensure that each iteration of the design continues to meets the client’s needs and requirements.

You will follow this top-down approach to first allocate the total space available within a project into areas allocated to different uses, and then subdivide these areas into rooms with specific types to meet program needs.

Defining and Displaying Areas and Area Plans

An area is a subdivision of space within a project model. Areas are typically larger in scale than individual rooms, and area boundaries may or may not coincide with model elements such as walls.

Area plans can be used to monitor that many different design objectives are being met during the early conceptual and preliminary design phases, even before the room boundaries and wall have been fixed. For example, designers often use area plans in the programming phase of a project to allocate spaces to meet the budgeted space requirements for each area type. Another common application is to use area plans to show the relationship between the core and circulation spaces in a floor plan.

Area plans can be used to calculate the areas allocated to different program requirements and needs using various calculation standards and methods. Some of the commonly used standards for area calculations include:

Gross area: The overall area of a floor or footprint of the building.

Rentable area: Individual developers and leasing companies can use different standards and rules for computing rentable areas. As an example, rentable area can be defined to include all the spaces in a building except egress corridors, vertical transportation, and mechanical spaces.

Usable area: The area in a plan that is actually usable by clients and tenants. Usable area typically excludes areas taken up by columns, walls, mechanical rooms, and shafts and other non-usable space.

BOMA area:  The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) has defined a set of definitions and area calculation rules that is widely used in the United States by architects, developers, and facilities managers to help standardize the process of office-building development. More information on the BOMA standards and calculation rules can be found at

Defining and Displaying Rooms and Room Plans

As design progresses, building elements are added to the model that define and bound rooms.  These elements typically include roofs, walls, floors, columns, and ceilings, and each of these elements have a property that determines whether it is used to determine the room extents. In open spaces, room separation lines can also be added to a model to create virtual rooms.

Designers typically create room objects within these bounding elements, and these room objects can be deleted, modified, and queried like other elements in Revit. Rooms automatically compute and report their area and can optionally be set up to also compute their volume.As with most other model elements, tags can be added to rooms to their properties(such as area or volume) in plan views.  Rooms can also appear in schedules to present key values and properties in a convenient tabular form.

While rooms are often used by designers for area and space planning, they are also used to provide information needed by other design disciplines.   For example, they can be used for building performance analysis and design of mechanical systems.  In this application, mechanical engineers use the room-bounding information as a starting point for determining spaces and zones for heating and cooling load analysis.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of creating area plans that communicate how the project design meets the programmed space requirements for each end-use
  • Appreciate the value of using area schedules that calculate gross building total and subtotals
  • Appreciate how to create room layouts and schedules to a desired level of detail
  • Investigate the ways of adding custom parameters to room objects which are then reported in the room schedules


Defining and Displaying Areas and Area Plans

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Create gross building type area plans with custom area type parameters and color fills.
  • Generate area schedules with desired fields, formatting, sorting, and grouping.
  • Display the area plans with legends and schedules on sheets.

Figure 2.1.1. Creating new gross building area plans

Video Tutorial

Student Exercise

  • Create a gross building area plan for Building 2 that divides the space among five departments whose requirements are outlined below:
    • Earth Systems: 4000 SF (372 square meters)
    • Civil Engineering: 6500 SF (604 square meters)
    • Architecture: 4500 SF (418 square meters)
    • Electrical Engineering: 3500 SF (325 square meters)
    • Urban Studies: 2500 SF(232 square meters)
  • Use the Building 2 Area Schedule, which is already created in the project file, to verify that the program requirements are being met by your proposed area plan.

Figure 2.1.2 - Example area plan and schedule for Building 1

Defining and Displaying Rooms and Room Plans

In this exercise, you will learn how to:

  • Add room objects and defining new room object parameter types.
  • Generate and configure room schedules that group and tally across different parameters.
  • Display the room plans and schedules on sheets for sharing.

Figure 2.1.3.Adding room separation lines to differentiate rooms unbounded by walls

Video Tutorial

Student Exercise

  • Add interior walls to Building 2 to divide the areas created in Exercise 2.2.1 into the room types needed, including offices, classrooms, and conference rooms. Use room separation lines to define room spaces not divided by walls.
  • Create room objects and number them sequentially. Then use the room properties to assign their room types and department.
  • Generate two room schedules, one that groups by room type and the other by department. Configure them with the proper fields, sort/group criteria, and formatting rules. Also define the ceiling, floor, and wall finish types for each room.
  • Duplicate the plan views at each level and crop the new views to show the room layouts in Building 2 only. Then place these views and the room schedules on D-size 24x36 (0.61 m x 0.91 m) sheets, similar to the example shown in Figure 2.2.4.

Figure 2.1.4 - Example room layout with color fill legend and room schedule


Defining and Displaying Areas and Area Plans

  • Why are areas useful in early conceptual design?

Areas enable designers to quickly subdivide and allocate space before the actual interior walls are placed.

Areas can be tagged with their square footage and tabulated in schedules to give designers immediate feedback about the space allocated in each area. They also offer great flexibility because the area boundaries can be defined arbitrarily and do not need to be defined by space bounding objects like walls.

  • For what purposes might clients or owners want an area schedule?

To most clients, allocation of building areas is critical to the planning process. Area plans can be used to quickly verify that the space allocated to each of the design program needs has been adequately provided. They can also used to summarize key information about a proposed design (for example, the amount of rentable square footage versus common area), which is needed to evaluate the financial feasibility of the project.

  • What is the essential difference between a gross building area plan and rentable area plan?

In gross building area plans, you have complete control over the placement of area boundaries. They can be placed at the interior surface, exterior surface, or middle of walls, as well as at any arbitrary location in an area plan view.

By contrast, in rentable area plans, the area boundaries are picking walls and allowing Revit to use the BOMA rules to determine the placement of the separation lines based on the uses of the adjacent spaces.

Defining and Displaying Rooms and Room Plans

  • How can we use the room type allocations to generate a preliminary cost estimate for the furnishings and interior finishes?

For each different room type we can define an estimated cost per square foot for furnishings and interior finishes. Then using the area of each room and the room type we can use the room schedule to calculate the furnishing and finish costs and subtotal these for the project.

  • How might the occupancy field be used in preliminary design?

The occupancy field captures the planned number of occupants for each room. This can be used to tabulate the number of users that will be served by the spaces in the proposed design. It can also be used for system design, as well as circulation, egress and safety planning.

  • How are the wall, floor, and ceiling finish fields that appear in the room schedule typically used?

The room finish fields enable designers to quickly specify the surface finishes for each room in the proposed designer. The tabular format of the room schedule makes it easy to spot mistakes or omissions and to summarize the total area required for each of the finish materials. Room finishes are often described through reference type codes (for example, Wall Finish A or Floor Type B) that can be easily defined or changed later in the design process.

Key Terms

Key Term
Area Plan
Views that show spatial relationships based on area schemes and levels in your model. You can have multiple area plans for every area scheme and level.
A tabular display of information, extracted from the properties of the elements in a project. A schedule can list every instance of the type of element being scheduled, or it can collapse multiple instances onto a single row, based on the schedule's grouping criteria.
A defined space in a building, used for a specific purpose and separated from other areas by walls, partitions, or room separation lines.
Room-bounding elements
A model element that defines a boundary of a room, such as walls, partitions, floors, ceilings, and roofs.