To start this article, I will quickly explain what I mean by “space type”. Teaching space is a space type that in definition differentiates itself from other space that can’t be used for teaching, such as office and circulation space. Teaching space is then typically broken down further into other space types, to help those using/requesting/managing the teaching space(s). For example, computer labs, art studios, seminar rooms as well as many other permutations.
Once teaching space is further defined by space types and those requesting teaching space can specify the room or type of room they would like to use, the demand for teaching space begins to be effected by the availability of space within each space type.
This in turn, will cause the teaching space utilisation for each space type – and the institution as a whole – to be effected.
For example if you have 4 teaching rooms that are available 180 hours in total per week and 135 hours’ worth of timetable requests, then on average you could determine that there should be a 75% frequency rate (135/180). However, if one of these teaching rooms is a computer room and of these 135 hours of requests, 10 hours require a computer room – the utilisation of the spaces change. The seminar space should now have a 92.59% frequency rate (125/135) whilst the computer lab only has a predicted 22.22% frequency rate (10/45).
The difference is critical, as the first example indicated that by removing one of the teaching rooms all the remaining teaching activities could have been accommodated in the remaining 3 rooms. However, the space types (3 seminar rooms and 1 computer room) and the demand (seminar room 125 hours, computer room 10 hours) indicate that this would not be a wise option as by removing a room there would certainly be a shortfall (2 seminar rooms = 90 hours of space available to accommodate 125 hours of teaching activities or 0 computer lab space, to accommodate 10 hours of computer teaching activities).
Understanding how space types effect space utilisation is therefore critical to determining how to improve an institutions space utilisation. I have touched on its importance in the previous two articles when considering individual spaces, however for this article I will be concentrating on space type analysis for multiple rooms.
Overall Space Type Analysis
As mentioned previously typically all teaching space can be defined by a subset of space types – i.e. seminar room, computer lab, art studio. Each of the space types will have a varying demand depending on the teaching activities that request and require each space type. Therefore, understanding the utilisation of each space type can help to uncover areas of underutilisation and begin to create a picture of why this is.
The first step is to ensure that all teaching space has its space type clearly and accurately defined. The space type for each room must reflect how this room is requested. For example, if a space only accommodates computer laboratory teaching whilst another space only accommodates science laboratory teaching, both of these should be separately defined rather than both labelled as “laboratories”. The aim is to separate the demand by types of space, therefore any difference in this should be reflected in the labelling at this stage.
To gather this information, it would be worth consulting with the timetabling teams responsible for these teaching spaces to ensure that each teaching space is accurately defined.
Once defined, the utilisation for each space type can be calculated. Any low or high frequency, occupancy and utilisation rates can then be investigated to determine why these rates are occurring. To do this, the next step is to compare the timetable demand for this space type against the actual demand (i.e. the space utilisation survey results). If there is a significant difference between the two then it is certainly worth investigating why this is with those who manage, request and use the teaching spaces. A good place to start, is to create a list of all the differences (i.e. the activities that booked and did not use) and discuss this with those responsible. Understanding and solving these differences will help to improve the accuracy of the timetable and improve the use of this space.
If there are no differences between the timetable and actual utilisation, or there is but through resolving these differences the utilisation is still proven to be low, then at this stage it can be confidently assumed that there is as oversupply of space of this space type (if the space type utilisation is low) in comparison to the demand. However, at this stage it should not be assumed that the reduction in space or increase in demand will improve utilisation as not all constraints have been considered.
Other constraints that affect space type utilisation
I have touched on each of these in the previous articles in this series and the investigation of these constraints is just as important here as with investigating frequency and occupancy rates. Constraints to test the space type utilisation results include:
As with before, each of these constraints need to be understood and tested against the space type space utilisation survey data. Therefore each needs to be clearly defined within the data and to do this, it would be worth while discussing each constraint with those responsible for the management and use of the spaces. This will help to ensure that the data analysis as well as the conclusions and recommendations reflect the actual demand and supply helping to ensure that any action taken incorporates all of the key information for the space.
By including all of the constraints, the cause of low utilisation begin to unravel and become clearer whilst other space types that previously appeared positive may now have subsections of low utilisation that are worth further investigation. By breaking down the data, the demand vs supply can now be understood for each space type and this information can become a critical and important part of discussing this further with the stakeholders for the spaces.
As with all of these articles in this series, the aim is to get meaningful results out of the survey data that can be used to influence decisions and create informed actions that will enable an institution to improve its utilisation of teaching space. In carrying out any teaching space utilisation survey, I use space type analysis as a cornerstone for understanding how teaching space is used and what effects the other constraints have upon the space. Throughout the many survey projects I have carried out, I feel this is one of the most successful analysis techniques and can uncover results that enable institutions to decisively and confidently take actions that improve their utilisation and availability of teaching space.
If you are interested in teaching space utilisation surveys and would like to know more, take a look at the Education Space Consultancy Teaching Space Utilisation Surveys and Consultancy Page. I would also be very happy to talk with you about how teaching space surveys can benefit you and your institution, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me directly if you would like to discuss this further whether this be via email, phone call or in person.
Before you move away from this article, remember to sign up to the Education Space Consultancy newsletter and not only will you receive a fortnightly newsletter you will also gain access to the Education Space Consultancy resources page. On this page you will be able to access and download the Education Space Consultancy Teaching Space Utilisation Data Analysis Tool that provides you with a number of (including space type) data analysis results automatically generated as soon as you enter your survey data.
Also, if you have any comments or thoughts on space type analysis, please don’t hesitate to add these in the comments field below this article. I always welcome feedback and it would be great to continue discussions on this topic here.
All the best