Over recent articles I have discussed some of the different methods of getting more out of the space you have available, however one key aspect I haven’t touched on often is the importance of knowing how functional your space is and what you need to do to improve its functionality.
The functionality of space(s) is often something that is ignored, but it shouldn’t be. A space with a poor functionality hampers its users, working against the way they would like or need to work, rather than with. By having functional space the users have the space and tools they require to make the most out of their time and perform the best they can.
The best way to understand how functional your space is, is by measuring it! By measuring the functionality of the spaces at your institution you are collecting a data set that measures how the space performs in relation to the expectations for this type of space and the suer requirements/expectations.
This can be done by carrying out a Functional Suitability Survey of an area or the entire estate, measuring the spaces against set criteria in order to ascertain their functionality. Typically this is done within the boundaries set by HEFCE (HESA), as this provides a great starting point and also ensures the institution has a data set they can return via EMS (Another reason to carry out a Functional Suitability Survey!)
HEFCE (HESA) requires functional suitability data to be collected using the following criteria
- Legislative Compliance
- Energy Performance
- User Perception
- External Environment
Each of these criteria should be weighted, Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor – as shown below
1 Excellent – High degree of satisfaction.
2 Good – no major changes necessary.
3 Fair – Below acceptable standard requiring change.
4 Poor – Unacceptable requiring significant improvement.
What these criteria don’t indicate is how to measure this for each space. This vagueness is actually helpful, as it enables institutions to construct functionality checks that reflect the users demands for each space. For example an office space seen by its users as an “excellent” functional office space, will have very different requirements in comparison to a teaching space or a laboratory. Therefore, you can construct functionality checks that specifically focus on the different factors that help define an excellent/good/fair/poor space within each of the criteria’s set by HEFCE (HESA).
If this is done for all spaces across an institution you can put together a data set that outlines which areas and specific spaces are the most/least functional and use this data to see why (which criteria have scored poorly). I would always recommend that when collecting functional suitability data a free field text box is included as a necessity ensuring that the reasons for each weighting are explained. This will enable you to then clearly see why a space has been weighted and investigate options for resolving the highlighted issue(s).
These options can then be considered, costed and built into your institutions estate strategy therefore helping to ensure that improvements to the space functionality within the estate are planned and budgeted for accordingly. As the functionality of the space increases so to should the user experience, helping to improve staff and student performance as well as the staff and student experience feedback the institution receives.
As mentioned, one of the best and only ways of collecting informative and actionable information on how functional space is within an institution is to carry out a Functional Suitability Survey. Education Space Consultancy offers an experienced and time saving option by managing every aspect of each Functional Suitability Survey, providing a data set and report including data analysis, conclusions and action focussed recommendations that institutions can then use to improve the functionality of their estate.
If you are interested in understanding the functionality of the space within your estate, why not get in contact? I would be very happy to provide a project brief as well a quotation, with no commitment required, so you see whether Education Space Consultancy’s Functional Suitability Survey and Consultancy service is what you are looking for.
I hope you have found this article useful and helpful, it would be great to hear your thoughts on functional suitability so please don’t hesitate to add your comments at the bottom of the article. Similarly if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.
All the best