How to maximise the area inside your building

With land prices often coming at a premium it is important to maximise the space inside the building to ensure you get the best bang for your buck. Often people are finding that sites in desirable locations such as arterial routes, distribution hubs and the region you service may be a smaller size than if you were to seek a location farther away with more land. A compromise between location and size, however, doesn’t mean a compromise on the usable square meters of the building itself.

The first way to make sure that the internal space is fully maximised is by ensuring that the structure itself has been optimised to maximise the internal clearances. Too often bulky portal frames, purlin and girts are used to create large spans. In extreme cases reinforcing braces are required, which may impact things like racking space. Partnering with a firm that has engineered their portal frames, purlin and girts to be as strong as possible, while being designed to optimise space, can reward your business or tenants with a more efficient internal volume and a greater return on their investment.

In this next section, we’ll explore the different aspects of a commercial warehouse or manufacturing facility’s constructions and identify optimisations to look for.

Portal frames

The best way to optimise space is to have a clearspan portal frame design. Internal props or columns may seem like a way to save some money, but they can quickly become a false economy.

Props midway inside the building can often create the following inefficiencies in the internal space of any building:

  • Dead area around the column that can’t be used. For example a centre prop may only be 200x200 but in reality 1-2 meters each side can be wasted as vehicles and forklifts need space to manoeuvre around it.

  • Restrictions to internal storage arrangements – may mean racking is designed around the prop locations, rather than the racking designed to maximise storage space.

  • Future layout changes – the prop may be fine now – but what about the future?  

  • Ongoing maintenance. There is the ongoing maintenance and replacement costs of bollards and protective barriers to stop traffic hitting the prop. Also, even with protective barriers there is still the risk of damage to the prop, which can be expensive to repair.  

The depth of the portal frames is also a consideration – typically the building dimensions are taken externally which means that the internal clearances are less. Because of this it is important to ensure that the portals are designed to maximise the internal space. Things like corner knee braces and deep lattice rafters can reduce the internal space more than people realise.

Purlins and girts between the portal frames can give another 200-350mm of internal space and while it’s possible to arrange racking, forklift lanes, compressor lines and overhead crane layouts around these, that will place constraints on your building layout and may lead to additional costs later down the track. It’s better to have a building designed with minimal internal encroachments from the beginning to increase long-term layout flexibility and reduce the costs of any future changes.

There are also other extra design elements that can help maximise the internal space beyond the portal frames:


Industrial building with canopyOutside of the building, but included in the build and design, canopies offer additional ways to increase the building’s usable space and its suitability for accommodating future growth or unforeseen circumstances.

Canopies provide advantages like:  

  • Protection of open doorways from the weather – allowing work to be undertaken right to the openings.

  • Temporary storage for products that have been unloaded – it can then be sorted under the canopy before it is taken inside.

  • Extra work area for ‘overflow’ from the building.

Cantilever canopies also have the advantage of not impending yard space or turning areas, while giving extra covered area.

Mezzanine floors

Mezzanine floors can be a great use of space as they maximise often unused roof area. They are particularly good for extra office spaces as an upstairs work environment can also come with a nice elevated view.

If you, or your planned tenant, can foresee a lot of low-height work where the space above will be under-utilised then a mezzanine is an excellent solution. Storage, showrooms or reception areas can be classic applications for low-height ground-level space whereby offices above are a natural fit.

However, a large mezzanine may not be a cheap way to get extra space as sometimes they do require a lot of extra steel support and can change fire rating requirements. It’s worth talking to the team at XL early in your planning process to understand the additional requirements for a mezzanine.


Industrial building with gantryGantries, or overhead cranes, allow you to get more done in less space, giving you lifting abilities throughout the building, not just areas that are able to be accessed by a forklift. The location of structural members and access areas are important aspects to consider when choosing gantry placement which may dictate the type of overhead cranes available to your building. Again, this is where effective pre-planning can save a lot of money further down the track and an integrated design and build with an overhead crane supplier is essential.

You can find more information on overhead crane installation in commercial buildings by clicking here or by talking to the team at XL. The team has extensive experience factoring a multitude of considerations into a build. Our in-house design team makes reworking designs a breeze, which is perfect if you have multiple stakeholders with input on how the building needs to be designed.

If you’re considering a wide span commercial building for your business or as an investment, talk to the team at XL to understand your options. Or to learn more about the XL difference and view further images from our previous projects simply click the button below to download our brochure.

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