The value of space utilisation data and analytics

by FM Media
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The value of space utilisation data and analytics is noted by ANDREW MARSHALL, director of workplace strategy at Brookfield Johnson Controls.

Over the past decade, Brookfield Johnson Controls’ workplace strategy team has surveyed more than 200,000 workstations across the globe. The data shows that only 49 percent of office desks are in use at any one time during standard office hours. Our clients have told us they want to unlock the value of this underutilised space to reduce overall occupancy costs and help facilities management teams drive business efficiency. However, facilities management teams come up against opposition from within the business, based on mistrust of data, fear of change and a lack of quantifiable benefits.
The market has a need for actionable business intelligence – evidence that details the way people use their space currently and the analytics that interpret this data to help design spaces for how people actually work. Without empirical data, it’s hard for workplace professionals to engage with senior leaders and make the business case for change. When the cost of underutilised space is truly understood, this naturally drives a change in real estate profile. Considering that buildings are typically a company’s second or third highest overhead, the potential for savings is enormous.

Space utilisation has traditionally been manually recorded on-site by teams to provide a snapshot of how space is being used. The way this data is collated, recorded and analysed varies from business to business. It is, however, generally high-level in nature, such as recording the number of people entering and exiting a building, with limited information on how the space is used by people. This data is only available once surveys are completed. The challenge for the industry has been to unobtrusively capture real-time occupancy, and develop analysis and reporting that provides evidence for change, rather than just information.
Many software options in the marketplace are cost-prohibitive and heavily reliant on client IT systems to process the information. Space utilisation tracking devices need to:

  • be discreet, yet quick and easy to deploy
  • have a long battery life and remain maintenance free for extended periods
  • have the ability to transfer data using an independent wireless network, and
  • be integrated with existing data sets to enable comparisons.

These then need to link to a web-based reporting platform that can display real-time reporting. Most importantly, these reports need to be easily understood by facilities managers and senior business leaders.

Information on different types of space – desk usage, breakout spaces and meeting rooms – can be provided. The data collected illustrates patterns in occupancy, and how these build over time. This helps identify spare capacity within a building portfolio and provides insight into whether meeting spaces are the right size for the meetings taking place, or what times of day a breakout space is most used.
Space utilisation reporting delivers all the information required to inform space optimisation strategies. Robust data can be used to paint a strategic picture to inform at a board level of where changes and savings can be made.
A combination of real-time data and intelligent analytics provides actionable business intelligence by tracking and monitoring occupancy patterns. A portfolio summary with ‘at a glance’ information – including information on employees’ work styles, desk availability and overall space usage – enables the identification of spare capacity in a building, providing the evidence needed for companies to size their building portfolios for the people who actually work in them.

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