The use of “actual” capacities is typically a fundamental part of calculating how well your institution is using any of its space, but do they actually reflect the size of your rooms?
“Actual” capacities that are misrepresentative of the space they have been assigned, will result in your space utilisation data creating a false impression of how well the estate is using its space, preventing you from saving money and getting the most out of your space.
For example, having an actual capacity for a teaching room of 24 that could realistically, easily seat 48, will cause your space utilisation results to appear more positive if only using this “actual”capacity to investigate space usage, when in reality this space is being very underutilised as at least half of the space is not being used at any given time, as shown in the example graphic below.
In both Example A and Example B, the room size and the number of students using the room is the same, however for Example A the capacity is only 24 whilst Example B capacity incorporates all the rooms space and is 48. If solely using the rooms actual capacity (as in this case) to calculate how well space is being utilised, Example A would be shown to have a utilisation of 100% and Example B 50%. However, both the rooms are the same size! Therefore, as both only have 24 students occupying the room, both are utilising the same amount of space.
Without understanding this difference and recognising its effect within an estate, space and therefore money, will be wasted. Therefore it is critical that these actual capacities are investigated to determine whether they truly get the most out of the space they have been assigned.
A quick and easy method for doing this is to compare your actual capacities against you room NIA’s, in order to understand how much capacity per m2 has been assigned to a particular space. These calculations can then be compared against space norms, to create a quick overview of whether there are spaces that are being underutilised (in terms of capacity vs NIA). Space norms, are what your institution deems to be a suitable amount of space per m2 for a specific space type, staff occupation or department. In this specific case we are wanting to look at how much space should be assigned for a specific space type i.e. a teaching space.
There is not an institutional rule for how much capacity should be assigned per m2, however if you are looking for some institutional examples of space norms, take a look at The University of Strathclydes and Durham University’s Space Management Policy’s for some ideas. Further information on space norms and their different uses, as well as some guidelines can be found at the Space Management Group and will also be covered in a later article on this blog, looking at the practical uses of space norms within an institution – subscribe to the Education Space Consultancy newsletter and you will receive a notification once this article is available on line.
The basic principle is that the use of space norms is a starting point and will enable you highlight areas that are likely to have capacity issues and are therefore not using the space they have assigned as efficiently as they could. For example, if using space norms for a seminar space 1.5m2 per capacity is a typical allowance. therefore if using this space norm, you can calculate how much capacity each of your seminar spaces should roughly have – as shown below.
As stated previously, using space norms should only be used as the first step to give you an indicator over how well your current space – whether this be teaching space, offices, laboratories etc, is being used. Space norms should not be used, as the hard rule, forcing spaces to become a certain capacity as there will be instances where there is not feasible or unsuitable, due to the room shape/design or teaching space demands. They do however provide a simple tool for highlighting areas that may be be underutilised (or overcrowded) due to capacity issues, these can then be investigated further to determine whether the capacities can be adjusted helping to improve utilisation (or reduce overcrowding).
The most useful tool for determining whether a rooms capacity reflects what can be achieved from the room, is to use design software to created a scaled drawing each room and its furniture, similar to that shown in Example A and B i.e. using AutoCAD. This is a great tool to plan current space, as you can measure and plot existing furniture/equipment into the scaled drawing and easily move furniture/add furniture within the drawing to create a configuration that best suits the room and maximises the capacity. Likewise this also a great tool for planning space, whether it be a new build, a refurbishment or just new furniture/equipment as the majority of furniture suppliers can provide you with furniture blocks that allow you to drop their furniture into the scaled version of your room and create different layouts/configurations to see what works best, all from the comfort of your desk. A good example of furniture blocks, is those provided by Steelcase and their Node chair .
The downfall is that creating individual drawings for every or a selected number of spaces is time consuming, as furniture/equipment needs to be measured and plotted, however it is the most effective way to ensure that your institution is getting the most out of its current and future space and is a particularly attractive tool for managing office and teaching space, as these spaces typically require regular upgrades/layout changes which can then all be done so via your AutoCAD designed room and furniture/equipment drawings.
The bottom line, is that by getting a handle on your room capacities and ensuring you are are getting the most out of each space you will save you money, as you can either dispose of space that isn’t needed or put it to better use. If you would like to do this, but don’t have the time and/or feel you would prefer some assistance, Education Space Consultancy can provide both the space norm analysis and AutoCAD space plans at an affordable price, whether this be on a small or large scale so please don’t hesitate to get in contact if you think this is something you may be interested in.
So what do you think? Do you have any thoughts, suggestions or tips you would like to add or any questions? Let me and others know via the comments box at the bottom of this article or get in touch with me directly, it would be great to here from you and I would be very interested to discuss this topic further.
All the best