What are floor plans?
Floor plans are scale drawings that show the relationship between rooms, spaces and physical features viewed from above. They provide a way to visualize how people will move through the space. Floor plans makes it easier to check if the space is suitable for its intended purpose, work through any potential challenges and redesign before moving forward into more elaborate planning or building stages. It can be fun, too, to experiment with different design alternatives and circulation flows, which show how people move through the space.
Noted architect Jean Nouvel said, “Space, space: architects always talk about space! But creating a space is not automatically doing architecture. With the same space, you can make a masterpiece or cause a disaster.” That’s why from Tiny Houses to making a convention flow smoothly for attendees, a floor plan is the place to begin creating and diagramming a logical space based on end user requirements.
Floor plans vs building plans
Floor plans show the big picture of living, work, and outdoor spaces. Although they should be scale drawings, floor plans don’t hold enough information for builders to actually construct a home or other structure. Instead, a floor plan is essentially a simple diagram showing room layout and offering a conceptual starting point. A builder needs complete blueprints, or construction-ready drawings, with technical information that you will not find on most floor plans.
Space planning and circulation in new and existing environments
Space planning is important in new structures, but it’s also important in rethinking existing spaces to determine how to use them more efficiently. Space planning has come into demand as a discrete service by architectural firms for many reasons: high-rise office space with unfinished interiors, the fast pace of organizational growth thanks to technological shifts, downsizing and reorganizing. You can learn more about it in Space Planning, published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Circulation and traffic flow
In any space where people live, work, shop, or gather, the arrangement within rooms and the flow from one space to another make a difference in the feel and utility of the environment. Good circulation and traffic flow depend on what space is being planned—for example, in a retail space, you may want to direct the way visitors move through a space, and in an art gallery, you may want traffic to be less restrictive to prevent bottle necks. Depending on the way square footage is divided, interiors of the same size can feel very different depending on sightlines (a sightline is the theoretical line-of-sight of an observer to an object or area being viewed). As a rule of thumb, the fewer visual obstructions there are in a space, the larger it will appear to be.
Flow and Feng Shui
The idea of flow doesn’t simply apply to the physical movement of people through space. Feng Shui, or the art and science of creating a harmonious environment, has been in use for over 5,000 years to arrange private and public spaces. Today, Feng Shui practitioners all over the world use scaled floor plans to design new structures or rearrange existing environments to correspond to the strict rules of the ancient practice. For examples, the world’s newest Disney theme park in Shanghai, has been built after consultation with Feng Shui masters. You can learn more by reading Feng Shui Principals for Building and Remodeling in this best practices article published by the AIA.
Seven steps to a creating a floor plan to scale for any space
Whether you are using paper, pencil, and graph paper to help you scale, or an online program to draw up your floor plan, there are some essential steps and items that go into the creation of a solid diagram:
List requirements. Make a thorough list of the needs and wants of those who will occupy the space.
Measure. Make sure you have the correct measurements, so you may want to measure twice. What to measure:
Outside walls or footprint of your space, any doorways or entries, and windows.
The walls from side to side and from the floor to the ceiling.
Where the electrical outlets, switches, and other controls are located.
Permanent fixtures: any and all architectural features, including fireplaces, brackets, shelves, benches, and any other built-in features.
Surrounding space and outside or overall dimensions of these items, and then locate each on your plan.
Objects that will be inside the space.
Scale. Floor plans should be drafted to scale, which means reducing the size of your drawing so the entire space can reasonable fit on a piece of paper or screen. A common scale is 1/4 inch = 1 foot. This same scale should be applied to objects like furniture or exhibit booths that will be included in the floor plan.
Think about sightlines. Standing, sitting, or working what do you want to see? Think about windows, doorways, walls and what makes the most sense for the purposes you intend for the space.
Render it. With all the components in mind, organize your floor plan.
Evaluate. Review the wants and needs list. Evaluate the spatial arrangement including analyzing circulation. Other factors include usable space, privacy, and accessibility. Learn more here about evaluating space planning and design in residential spaces.
Share. Collaborate and have someone else look over your floor plan to get helpful feedback to double-check your thinking and design.
Floor plan layout examples
Floor plans are usually thought of as a first step in home or office environments design, but these fundamental diagrams are used for many of other purposes, including garden plans, strategizing emergency exit plans, parking lot planning, and exhibit plans.
Here are some examples of floor plan layouts and their uses:
Homes and real estate
In 2013, homes were 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973, and according to the American Enterprise Institute, the living space per person has doubled over last 40 years.
As homes have become larger, open-plan interiors and attention to sightlines have become increasingly popular. Google Trends shows a major rise in interest in the last 10 years:
Open sightline floor plans that have the kitchen visible from adjacent living spaces in larger homes are influencing home design at every size. This is particularly true in the design of trendy ‘tiny homes’ to provide a feeling of more space and light within a smaller footprint. Whether they are renting, buying, or building, consumers understand that a good floor plan can make life more pleasurable and help raise property values, Consequently, floor plans have become primary online and print sales tools for realtors and builders.
Exterior spaces need a plan as much as interior environments. A good plan begins with a detailed inventory and analysis of the site, and a base map with accurate measurements to plan both the hardscaping—patios, driveway, sidewalks—and future plantings. Need some help planning your garden? Check out Lucidchart’s landscape design cloud-based software.
In general, the trend in office spaces has gone from separate offices, to cubicles, to open space planning. While there are pros and cons to open plans, they are likely here to stay simply because they cost less to build and can handle personnel changes more easily. No matter what kind of space organizations choose for their staff, floor plans for new or reorganized spaces are a money-and-time saving step that no business can afford to overlook.
Museums, schools, government buildings, and hospitals that must provide for both staff and large numbers of people moving through the space call for special consideration for safety, security, ingress and egress, work and gathering spaces. Floor plan layout is an important initial step to creating the right kind of space. Having a clear floor plan is also essential in such large spaces to guide the public either with interactive or printed floorplans. They are used as a way to establish wayfinding signage.
When it comes to planning retail space, interior layout can be a make-or-break element in profits for stores of any size. Traffic flow to maximize sales has been studied for decades. There are three major factors to consider: first, most people turn right when entering a store, second, depending on sales goals and the type of store, aisle size needs to be evaluated, and the amount of light and space needs to be taken into account. If customers move through too quickly they may bypass merchandise, and if they move too slowly they may become irritated and leave the store. Balance and thoughtful design (and location) are keys to effective retail floor plans that yield profits.
The right type of parking space can make a huge difference to the success of any retail or service environment. Access for the handicapped, barriers, and landscaping have to be kept in mind. While there are specific things to design for depending on the type of structure, environment, and local laws, in general the objective is to maximize the number of stalls while accommodating present and future vehicle dimensions.
Events and exhibits
The real costs of a badly planned meeting event can run high, so it simply makes sense to be as meticulous as possible in advance, including a well-executed floor plan. Weddings, corporate events, and conventions need to accommodate hundreds or even thousands of people. That means that they must be well thought out to ensure that space is being used effectively and efficiently. Understanding seating, booth, traffic patterns and thinking about crowd dynamics are important to attendees, exhibitors and vendors. It’s also crucial for caterers, sound and lighting teams, security and other professionals to be familiar with the physical space they will be working with to create a successful event in the venue. Understanding crowd dynamics is fundamental to creating a successful event, as is planning the physical space.
Make floor planning easier with online templates
You can use paper and pencil and take time to draw by hand, or you can take the easier, faster, simpler route and use an online program that makes use of templates. You can complete the floor plan more quickly, more accurately, and have more fun exploring design possibilities in much less time using software.
Designing your own floor plans with Lucidchart
Why struggle with paper and pencil, or another program that makes floor planning more complicated than it needs to be? You can design clear floor plans for any space or place, and customize it any way you like. Look at all the ways Lucidchart makes floor planning quick and easy:
- Templates simplify your design tasks. Even if you’re new to floor plans, handy, customizable templates get you started in minutes.
- Drag-and-drop shape library with every element you need. Objects are scaled to size, and every one of them has been honed for maximum ease-of-use. Simply drag the shape you need from the large library and drop in place to get started, and save objects in your custom library for future use.
- Create collaboratively in the cloud. Integrations with Google Drive, Confluence, JIRA, and Jive make teamwork trouble-free. Lucidchart collaboration capabilities means users can view, edit, comment, or chat in real time.
- Share and publish. Print out PDF, JPEG, and PNG images at the size you need, or share your floor plan by social media or email to keep collaborators in the loop.
- Cross-platform capabilities. Highly compatible, Lucidchart can be used on PC, Linux or OS X operating systems.
- Visio and Gliffy floor plan import/export. Migrating your old work to one secure location is quick and easy, so editing legacy diagrams in the browser is painless.
- Floor plan app for anytime, anywhere design. Design beyond the desktop with an iOS app so you can design on the go via your mobile device or tablet.