Space Utilization: Everything You Need to Know

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Space Utilization: Everything You Need to Know

EMS - Blog - Space Utilization Everything You Need to Know

According to AECOM, estimates suggest that desks and offices in the workspace are only occupied about 42% of the time and, on average, workspaces are empty about 40% of the time at any point in the workday. 

This means that facilities managers at organizations are constantly having to decide whether or not their spaces are being used properly, so that they can make strategic decisions to downsize or expand. Especially in a post-COVID world, tracking and reporting on space utilization for both businesses and higher education facilities will be critical.

Without measuring and accurately reporting on your space utilization, businesses and educational campuses will not have a clear picture of how their facilities are being used, which can lead to unnecessary costs for your utilities, rent, maintenance and more. 

This is leading organizations to consider space utilization a top strategic priority for their long-term financial success. And to achieve better visibility into their space utilization, organizations need to invest in a data-driven solution that offers better insight and control across their entire workspace portfolio.  

What is Space Utilization?

Space utilization is how your workspaces are being used. This is different from space occupancy, which measures how many people are in a certain space. While both are useful measurements, space utilization is about function and efficiency, with the end goal of having high utilization regardless of occupancy. 

There are a variety of spaces in an office or campus where utilization can be measured, including:

  • Collaborative huddle spaces
  • Bookable conference rooms
  • Mixed-use work spaces
  • Event halls and rentable rooms
  • Classrooms and study desks
  • Meeting rooms and elective spaces

Why Does Space Utilization Matter for Higher Education and Corporate Spaces? 

Space utilization is one of the most important issues facing organizations, mainly due to the complexity of balancing the interests of the individuals with availability of facilities. Without a centralized solution to assist in space management, rooms and spaces can be overbooked or underutilized, costing the organization time and money. 

For educational facilities, their main effort above all else is typically to save money while showing that they are offering every available resource to their students. Many campuses have various mixed-use spaces and event spaces that are not always in use and are bookable both by students and outside vendors. 

In order to justify the cost of maintaining these spaces, it is critical for facilities managers to measure how these spaces are being used, including how often and by whom. Without measuring space utilization on campus, it is hard to justify building new facilities or making improvements and renovations to current facilities. 

For example, if a university is considering building a new student activities building that includes mixed-use spaces for events, meetings, collaborative workspaces and lectures, investors and stakeholders will want to consider other activity spaces on campus and how they are currently being used. If facilities managers cannot show that the new activities building is necessary, based on space usage in other buildings, they will likely not get approval for a new building. 

Download our eBook to learn more about the Return to Campus and how to keep educational facilities safe for students and employees.

Alternatively, if facilities managers do space utilization research ahead of time, they may find that there is another building on campus that is currently being underutilized and could easily be reconfigured into a student activities space. This saves money and repurposes already-built space on campus, improving student life and saving critical costs for the university.  

Meanwhile, in corporate offices, space utilization measurement is critical to ensure spaces are both being used and promoting the kind of workplace culture that fits your organization’s mission. The modern office is changing, and employees are demanding more flexible, connected workspaces that allow for collaboration, privacy when needed and predictability. 

All of this means that businesses need greater insight into their space utilization to provide better workspaces for their employees and to save money on maintenance and other facilities costs. By better managing and measuring space utilization in the office, organizations can avoid the problem of wasted real estate and make better business decisions about space usage, expanding offices or downsizing.

For example, if a facility manager at an organization can see that every conference room is constantly booked, and many of the larger meeting rooms, which can accommodate up to 20 people, are being used for meetings of only 3-4 people, then they can likely assume that the office needs more small meeting rooms. Rather than invest in more real estate, why not transform the larger meeting rooms into additional small meeting rooms? This provides more of the right kind of spaces their employees need without additional real estate costs. 

As we begin to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and educational campuses have to take a step back and better assess their facilities in order to provide a safer return to the office or campus for their employees and students. A robust, accurate space utilization measurement solution will be critical for maintaining sanitized spaces, keeping rooms and event halls socially distant, implementing new guidelines and regulations, and saving money on underutilized rooms. 

Read more about the Great Return to Work and how to safely reintegrate employees into the workspace. 

How Can You Measure Space Utilization? 

There are many different KPIs to consider when measuring space utilization for an organization or college campus. Here are a few of the most important metrics to consider. 

Capacity vs Occupancy

Capacity and occupancy look at how many people can use a certain space, versus how many people are actually using the space. Like in our example above, if a conference room has room for 20 people but is frequently only used for 3-4 person meetings. This tells you something about how your spaces are used and how you can perhaps split the room into two or three smaller conference rooms to better suit your employees' needs. 

Average Peak Utilization

Average peak utilization is a derivative of looking at occupancy and capacity. This helps you get a view for when your spaces are busiest and whether you are meeting this demand. This can be measured by taking the capacity of all your office spaces or educational facilities (rooms, collaborative spaces, event spaces) and looking at a time period of occupancy. 

Occupancy trends help determine if there are usage trends based on days of the week, times of day or even longer periods of time. By getting a better idea of when your spaces are used to the fullest, you can try to recreate this pattern for better usage, or see if even on your peak days, your space is still underutilized. 

Cost Per Person

At the end of the day, measuring and reporting on space utilization is used to help organizations and universities save money by reducing wasted space. One way to do this is by calculating your space cost per person. The U.S. General Services Administration provides a Cost Per Person Model (CPPM) that is an Excel-based tool designed to enable organizations to compute and benchmark their cost per person for real estate. 

Looking at cost per person also allows for the development of more flexible, agile workspaces. Facilities managers can use cost per person to determine inefficiencies in desk arrangements, multi-use rooms and more.

How Do You Collect Data on Space Utilization? 

With technology advancements and the growth of Internet of Things (IoT), measuring space utilization has become easier and more accurate. There are a variety of ways to implement IoT in your real estate to better track and manage your space utilization metrics. 

Sensors, trackers, imagers and machine learning have all made space utilization measurement more accurate and reliable. For example, optical sensors in smart cameras can use real-time images to detect movement and identify people in different areas of your real estate, allowing you to better measure how many people are using your private and shared spaces, as well as determining when these spaces are most occupied. In addition to new hardware, new cloud-based software and tools help aggregate the data from these sensors and trackers to provide robust analytics and reporting, allowing you to make more informed decisions about your space. 

For example, Virginia Commonwealth University's facilities staff can now better manage their event spaces on campus through space utilization reports. VCU is saving thousands of dollars a year due to sensors in bookable rooms that determine if the room is in use, turning on and off the HVAC systems to accommodate the space. By only using the HVAC system when the room is scheduled to be in use, VCU saves money on utilities and provides a better room booking experience. In addition, VCU is able to see patterns in their room bookings, and which rooms are being used and when, allowing for them to make better decisions about their capital plans for new buildings. 

How Accruent Can Help

Once your organization recognizes the need for measuring your space utilization, you'll need the right software to help you capture your KPIs and build reports in order to create a more efficient workspace or campus. 

Space utilization is a critical piece of information and management for both corporate and higher education facilities and real estate. 

Accruent's EMS workspace management software solution provides robust reporting and analytics capabilities so that you can see when and how your space is being used, providing you with opportunities to better utilize your space to optimize your real estate. Our FAMIS 360 space and occupancy management solution helps businesses uncover additional square footage, manage space allocations and identify areas for savings.

Contact our team today to learn more about EMS and FAMIS 360. 

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