by Cecily Channell, WBDG Staff



The lobby space type includes foyers, entries to halls, and security screening areas at or near the entrance to a building or demarcated space, and are meant to welcome and direct tenants and visitors, control access, and provide exit ways from buildings. This space type is often designed with both secure and nonsecure areas. The lobby space type does not include elevator lobbies. Building lobbies often serve as the "public face" of building interiors.

Space Attributes

The character and function of a lobby space often influence a visitor's first impression upon entering a building. Key design concerns for this space type include balancing aesthetics, security, and operational considerations. Typical features of lobby space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.


  • Utilize appropriate finishes, furniture, signage, and art to reflect the public nature of the space.
  • A spatial compression/release experience can enhance the aesthetic experience (outside approach, compression thru entrance doors/vestibule, release in lobby/atrium).
  • Well-designed lobbies provide workers/occupants with a relief opportunity, such as breaks, from more confined spaces (also see productive).

Functional / Operational

  • Consider combining employee and visitor entrance to spaces.
  • Design space to accommodate peak loads.
  • Equipment that must be installed in lobbies should be of a low profile variety and consolidated with other equipment to minimize bulk.
  • Consider air pressurization and entrance door design to mitigate stack effect at tall building entrance and elevator lobbies.
  • Specify durable finishes to accommodate maximum pedestrian traffic.

Historic Preservation

  • Public buildings will often have historic features in lobbies and hallways, requiring—and deserving—special design treatment in renovations.
  • Maintain the historic character of spaces while modernizing for enhanced security, accessibility, and general circulation.
  • Equipment that must be installed in historic lobbies should be placed carefully to avoid altering the original spatial configuration of the lobby. Place security equipment in ancillary spaces where possible.


  • Lobby spaces requiring 24-hour operation should be provided with a dedicated HVAC system.
  • For lobby spaces at the exterior of a building, a dedicated air-handling unit should be provided to maintain positive pressurization.
  • Design lobbies to provide workers/occupants with a relief opportunity—such as breaks—from more confined spaces.

Secure / Safe

  • In higher-risk facilities, separate secure and nonsecure areas with turnstiles, metal detectors or other devices used to control access to secure areas. A control desk and bag checking area should be located within the secure area. Mechanical ductwork, piping and main electrical conduit runs should not extend from one area to the other. Traffic separation devices should be flexible and portable to allow for changing traffic patterns.
  • Design control points such that secure areas cannot be bypassed. Ensure that security personnel can properly observe all areas of control points.
  • Larger security screening areas should be located in conjunction with art installations, visitor seating and exterior entrances. Adequate space should be set aside for queuing. If queuing will occur, the area should be enclosed in blast resistant construction.
  • Avoid installing features such as trash receptacles or mailboxes that can be used to hide devices in nonsecure areas.
  • Avoid using raised floor systems in nonsecure areas.
  • Location of fire command center and emergency elevator control panel requires design integration with lobby wall finish, BAS systems, fire protection systems, and building communications systems.
  • Design of lobby doors to street must account for egress from higher floors if stairs exit into lobby, and not directly to the outside.


  • For lobby spaces at the exterior of a building, utilize daylighting to reduce electric lighting needs.
  • Consider air lock or vestibules at entrance doors to prevent loss of heating/cooling.

Relevant Codes and Standards

The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of lobbies. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible:

Additional Resources


Building Types

Federal Courthouse, Land Port of Entry, Office Building, Government Laboratory

Design Objectives

Accessible—Provide Equal Access and Flexibility, Aesthetics—Understanding the Language and Elements of Design, Functional / Operational—Account for Functional Needs, Functional / Operational—Ensure Appropriate Product/Systems Integration, Productive—Assure Reliable Systems and Spaces, Productive—Provide Comfortable Environments, Secure / Safe—Occupant Safety and Health

Guides & Specifications

Atria Systems

Project Management

Delivery Teams—Select Appropriate Design Professionals

Building Commissioning

Building Commissioning