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How to calculate your business space needs and budget

An overhead view of a woman working at a table.
An overhead view of a woman working at a table.

Moving into a proper office, storefront or studio is a major milestone for many entrepreneurs and business owners.

But some basic questions can be a mystery for managers going through the process for the first time.

How much space do you need? How much will it cost?

According to real estate services firm Colliers International, Canadian businesses typically require roughly 120 to 180 square feet of space per employee. Here’s another reference point: The average federal bureaucrat occupied 198 square feet of space in 2012-13, according to government figures, down from 232.5 square feet in 2006.


Gross rental rates in Ottawa can run from approximately $45 per square foot, per year, for class-A downtown space to $26 per square foot for suburban space in older buildings, according to Colliers. On the retail front, downtown is once again the most expensive option at $54 a square foot, according to a 2016 report by another real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield. The most affordable area is just outside the core. The average price of retail space in east Ottawa – excluding Gloucester and Orleans – is just $25.27 per square foot.

The Quartier Vanier BIA has prepared several tools to help entrepreneurs across the city find the right home for their businesses.

These include a step-by-step guide to finding a location in Ottawa as well as a commercial space directory.

Visit to access these resources and learn more.