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Space Utilization: Defining the Basics

12.06.2021

When it comes to reopening corporate spaces, there are still many unknowns. Should I renew my prior lease? Who will work full time in the office? Will they all get desks? But one thing is for sure: Space utilization will be top of mind for anyone managing an office building or campus.

Our glossary of Space Utilization terms, which includes occupancy and capacity, is helpful to keep handy as you assess the buildings and spaces you manage. And this year, facilities managers and space planning teams are likely to also year about something called occupancy analytics.

In 2022, monitoring occupancy is a top priority for many teams, and understanding what occupancy analytics means will help them get off to a good start. For help defining Occupancy Analytics, we asked Armored Things CTO Chris Lord to answer two key questions about it.

What is occupancy analytics?

Chris Lord: When we talk about analytics in this context, it’s all about understanding patterns of life. It’s understanding how people are using your space over time, and then using that information in order to drive business value and decisions.

There are many dimensions that occupancy analytics can inform. There’s the classic operation use; this could be help-desk staffing, security staffing, custodial staffing. Making sure you’re doing it at the right time with the right number of people based on how people are using a space. It can be long-term, like capital planning or deciding whether or not to renew a lease.

Overall it helps inform whether you have too much, or too little space, or the right kind of space… 

The information we extract from patterns of life can inform major spatial decisions in the workplace that ultimately should lead to greater employee satisfaction.

“The information we extract from patterns of life can inform major spatial decisions in the workplace that ultimately should lead to greater employee satisfaction.”

Chris Lord, CTO and Co-Founder, Armored Things

Armored Things employs two layers of analytics. The first takes high-volume real-time sensor streams and disparate data sources and combines them into a cohesive view of people and movement in space. This work relies on a lot of machine learning techniques and models.

The second layer uses that data to understand the patterns of life in a space, and to combine it with contextual data (like weather or how space is allocated/reserved/scheduled) to extract insights that can directly drive business decisions about staffing, resource allocation, or space utilization.

How do occupancy analytics compare to density or capacity? 

Chris Lord: Capacity is a static measure of how many people a space can support under a set of conditions (varies for an auditorium vs conference room vs coworking vs hallway) and, if unspecified, can be inferred from use and size. 

Occupancy is a point-in-time measure sampled over time and density is a function of occupancy and space or capacity.

Analytics can be done with either occupancy or density because they represent how something changes over time. 

Glossary of Related Terms

How do you define space utilization?

In its simplest terms, space utilization is occupancy divided by capacity as measured over time. Let’s say you know 150 people use the cafeteria each Monday 8 am-12 pm and your capacity for the space is 300. Well, this one is simple: cafeteria space utilization Monday mornings is 50%.

But that’s just the first layer. There are numerous ways in which space utilization can be influenced. How a space is used, and for how many purposes, and how often its full capacity is needed, are all factors to consider. Facilities managers considering priorities for 2021 likely also want to look at things like crowd density and restricting occupancy to help meet safer social distancing standards.

What is space occupancy?  

Space occupancy is defined as the number of people in the office (or any space) at any given time. This is a simple one but perhaps the most important, especially at a time when the number of people can be limited due to restrictions around distance. For space occupancy, real-time metrics are invaluable, and AI can help surface instant views rather than relying on manual counts of each room or meeting space.

How do you measure underutilization?

To measure underutilization, you’d have to know your capacity and occupancy over time and set a goal for acceptable utilization at your company. The biggest problem with underutilized space is obvious: you’re paying for it. When considering new leases, knowing your underutilized space metrics is crucial. When looking at space management software, look for options to see historical and predictive analytics to determine how and when you can avoid underutilization.

Why is density important?

This is on everyone’s mind much more than it used to be. When space planners talk about density, they mean the number of people per square foot. But welcoming back students and employees to safe campuses means understanding density in real-time. That means real-time occupancy counts but also setting acceptable occupancy standards with new distancing expectations so that people are comfortable in large crowds. Many corporate property management advisors will tell clients to determine a density goal by predicting the number of people utilizing a workspace, and then multiplying it by the average square footage required by each employee (i.e., between 125-250 square feet). 

What does peak usage inform?

Peak usage allows facility managers to track which sector of the workplace – or any shared space – receives the most traffic. This metric can show which spaces hold the most value at any given point in time.  Armored Things do this by collecting real-time data from wi-fi and cameras to provide a historical overlay to show how a space is used over time.

What is one way to make office space more flexible?

In the new flexible workspace, everyone is talking about hot-desking– a system that limits the number of desks in the office space. This means multiple employees will use the same physical workstations at different points in the day in order to limit contact and maximize space. To determine if you need a hot-desking option, space managers should have a clear understanding of their space utilization and density figures.

For more on reopening safely on reopening offices and workspaces against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, read the Armored Things blog found here.

Armored Things uses AI and machine learning to manage crowds, foot traffic, and wait times throughout professional sports venues, higher education institutions, and corporate campuses. To learn more about Armored Things, check out our Solution Overview Video or connect with our Sales Team at Sales@ArmoredThings.com.