There are four people sitting in a room designed to hold fifty. Does it matter? Strategic Space Planners responsible for multi-building corporate and college campuses say yes. Leasing agreements and building maintenance are major budget items for large employers and universities. But how do Strategic Space planners validate building, floor, and room utilization?
Organizations started experimenting with manual clicker studies and sensor-based data for campus space planning, but that only got them so far. Today’s software-based solutions and spatial intelligence can harness predictive analytics that is scalable, cheaper, and faster to get started.
1. FIRST, THERE WERE CLICKER STUDIES
For many years, corporations have been utilizing clicker studies to gather employee data and occupancy analytics. They were used to shed light on where you need to increase collaborative spaces and the average number of people in a meeting room. The problem is that these manual studies become instantly outdated, capturing a moment in time not a true representative of use.
Facilities leaders found that manual counts lack the precision required to meet the transformational needs of today’s office space. Also, because these analytics aren’t connected to other types of data such as meeting room scheduling tools, what you have is occupancy data without context. Context becomes a driver in terms of what to change in order to maximize your space. Manual clicker studies don’t provide facilities leaders the ability to track patterns or visualize their spaces and how it’s being used.
2. HERE COME SENSORS
Facilities leaders began looking to sensors to gather employee data and space utilization analytics. Sensors were able to provide granular data about how many people may have occupied space, such as a conference room.
Sensors were able to do what clicker studies never could, which is to allow operation teams the ability to visualize their space in a format that could be easily understood.
Although sensors appeared to be a better way to measure occupancy, they came with many challenges. Like all on-premise hardware solutions, sensors require installation and maintenance which drives costs up. And if you’re managing a sprawling campus, scaling a sensor-based occupancy strategy becomes costly quickly.
3. OCCUPANCY CONCERNS DURING COVID-19
The emergence of the coronavirus resulted in people focusing on occupancy more than ever before. Overcrowded spaces soon became corporations’ biggest concern. Hot topics included occupancy monitoring and counting the number of people entering and exiting a building.
Apps such as the Doorman app which was originally marketed towards security staff at clubs and bars can now be used for routine occupancy monitoring. Occupancy data is no longer just a security concern, but can be crucial when making leasing decisions and designing office spaces for employees.
Corporations had to reduce their office space or restructure their office spaces to accommodate a workforce that was not likely to return to a 5-day office. They had to get creative. This meant turning unused conference rooms into new common areas for employees to reduce vacant space.
4. THE RETURN TO OFFICE AND CAMPUS
The evolution of technology relied on more sophisticated views that leveraged historical data for predictive future usage. A new campus experience combined with a return to office plan meant Senior Leadership Teams were reconsidering why they had to build or expand. For example, The University of Iowa is converting residence hall lounges into dorm rooms as enrollment and occupancy spikes.
This requires predictive analytics and software that can leverage existing infrastructures to collect space utilization information. Predictive analytics allows companies to understand patterns of life—how employees use office spaces over time—to inform major spatial decisions. The information is anonymized, so visual representations are provided without PII.
“If CREs can focus on utilizing data to look at employee behaviors on those data insight platforms, more so than chasing the next shiny technology object that’s being thrown at them, then I think that can be really helpful because there’s such an abundance of technology” says Robert Teed, Founder and CCO of Integri Group, quoted in an Lambent Fireside Chat about the evolving role of CRE leaders.
The Lambent Spaces platform allows users to uncover occupancy analytics and track patterns over time, relying on historical views to predict how a space will be used in the future.
Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Lambent. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.