Planning new facilities, expanding existing ones, or renovating requires specialized guidance and resources.

Worksheet: Gathering Detailed Information on Usage

The purpose of this worksheet is to establish a baseline understanding of what is working and what could be improved in your existing space. The goal is to create a building that helps to increase and/or improve mission services. 

Each program and site is unique. The questions below are suggested as a starting point. The building committee will have the best understanding of which additional characteristics and needs to explore specific to your program, site, building, and budget.

Facility users, activities, and schedules:

  • Within a typical day, describe who is doing what, how many people are doing each activity, and when are they doing it?


  • What is working well in the existing building? Is it accessible for a person with a disability? Is it secure and safe?
  • What functions should be improved with a new building?
  • How might the building design enhance or impact occupant interactions?

List the types of spaces:

  • What spaces are frequently included within your building type? For example, a library has a circulation area, book stacks, office space, study cubicles, computer area, youth area, restrooms, entry, book drop, etc.
  • What is the space criteria (number of square feet per person or unit) for each of those spaces?
  • What are the typical relationships of spaces for these functions? For example, the book drop is next to the circulation desk.

Specific space considerations:

  • What are the typical costs per square foot for this building type? Talk with estimators and local architects to compare with similarly built projects within your region and climate.
  • What technical, mechanical, electrical, security or other issues are unique to the project type?
  • What equipment is necessary for activities to function properly? What is the size of the equipment? For example, a dental clinic will require x-ray equipment.

Form and image:

  • What is the desired aesthetic of the design? What are the desired psychological impacts of the design? (e.g. peaceful, subtle, safe, lively, bright, dignity)
  • How does the design relate to the surroundings? Should it be similar to or distinct from neighboring structures? Are there historic, cultural, or contextual implications that need to be incorporated?

Site influences:

Is the site steeply sloped, on wetlands, have road access, have onsite utilities, views, etc.? This will have ramifications on design options and building costs.

Consider the following:

  • Zoning, design guidelines, and deed restrictions and requirements
  • Traffic (bus, automobile, and pedestrian)
  • Utility availability (a potentially high-cost item)
  • For example, is the site steeply sloped or flat? Are there designated wetlands on the site? What is the bearing capacity of the soil?
  • Views and natural light
  • Existing built features nearby
  • Climate considerations. For example, does the site experience frost heave, annual snow, or rainfall?
  • Vegetation and wildlife

Additional considerations:

  • Access to daylight
  • Acoustics
  • Campus/area design guidelines
  • Historic preservation or regional issues that might alter the accuracy of the data above in the case of this project
  • Energy usage and requirements
  • Licensing or policy standards for the minimum area for various functions
  • Aspects of the project that need to be projected into the future – what is the history of growth?
  • Code information that may affect programming decisions

Modified list from Architectural Programming, by Edith Cherry, WBDG National Institute of Building Science