How are social spaces incorporated into layout planning?

This article is about some practical tips for planning social spaces. What German guidelines are there and how can they be practically implemented in layout planning?

example of social space break room for employees in a manufacturing company

What is the significance of social spaces in the company?

The term “social” comes from Latin and means “common”, “connected”. It expresses a sense of belonging to a human community, which also exists in every company. When people feel comfortable in a place, they can also work better together. Social spaces therefore make a decisive contribution to the health and satisfaction of employees and promote productivity. Good social spaces are characterized by cleanliness, comfort and functionality. They should practically be a feel-good oasis for every employee at work and function for the purpose intended.

Social spaces – what counts as such anyway?

Social spaces are often referred to as ancillary spaces, and include the following:

  • Break room or break area, recreation room.
  • sanitary rooms, such as toilet, washroom and locker room
  • Ready room, rest room

In order to comply with the legal requirements when planning social spaces in practice, the Technical Rules for Workplaces (ASR) and the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV) provide orientation. The ArbStättV primarily creates a rough framework for the significance and furnishing of social spaces. The ASR deals specifically with the design of a room.

Social spacesSection ASR
sanitary rooms ASR A4.1
Break and stand-by rooms ASR A4.2

How much space do I need per employee?

Employees. In ASR 4.1, the first step, so to speak, for the area dimensioning of sanitary rooms can be found in the following table:

female or male employees
Minimum number with
low simultaneity
of use
 Minimum number with
high simultaneity
of use
Handwashing facilitiesToilets/
Handwashing facilities
to 51*)121
6 to 101*)131
11 to 252142
26 to 503162
51 to 755273
76 to 1006293
101 to 13073114
131 to 16083134
161 to 19093155
191 to 220104176
221 to 250114197
 per additional 30 employees +1per additional 90 employees +1per additional 30 employees +2per additional 90 employees +2
*) for male employees plus 1 urinal is recommended.
Source: ASR 4.1: Table 2: Minimum number of toilets including urinals, hand washing facilities, page 401, GMBI 2017.

Matching the number of toilets, urinals and washing facilities, ASR A4.1 then also gives specific examples of spatial design, as the following example illustrates. This allows the space requirements to be determined relatively precisely.

Sample layout for planning social room toilets according to ASR
Source: ASR 4.2, page 13, Fig. 3.2: Single-flush toilet facility with urinals, door swing inwards (dimensions in mm)

For break rooms, again, at least 1.00m² of space must be provided per employee (table and chair) and other equipment such as kitchen units, snack machines, water dispensers, as well as access and traffic routes must be planned as additional space (ASR A4.2, page 561, 4.1 General requirements, item (9), GMBI 2021).

What has to be considered for the accessibility of social spaces?

In principle, the path length to toilet rooms should not be longer than 50 m and must not exceed 100 m (ASR A4.1, page 401, 5.2 Provision, GMBI 2017). This applies not only from the workplace in production, but also starting from break and standby rooms, washrooms and changing rooms. On the one hand, short distances are more pleasant and often less dangerous (crossing internal traffic) and on the other hand, this saves time and increases productivity.

The distance between changing rooms and washrooms should ideally not exceed 10m on the same level.

How can I visualize social spaces in the planning?

The following example shows the 3D visualization of sanitary rooms in a planning software. A scaled layout from the ASR A4.1 and 3D models from the standard library served as a basis.

3D visualization and area balancing Sanitary rooms Social rooms according to ASR in visTABLE
3D visualization and area balancing of sanitary rooms in visTABLE®

This micro layout can subsequently be used as a standard module for other planning in the company. This also works for break rooms, taking into account the specifications in ASR A4.2 as can be seen in the following picture.

3D visualization break room in layout planning with visTABLE
3D visualization of a break room in visTABLE®

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Tino Riedel
Tino Riedel

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