To start off the Education Space Consultancy’s space and timetabling blog I am going to begin with some basics – What are space frequency, occupancy and utilisation rates and how do I calculate them?
Frequency, occupancy and utilisation rates are terms for measuring how well space (as in physical space, such as rooms) is being used. Each, provides you with a different piece of information that helps you to understand how well your space (i.e. a room, a building, or even your institution) is being used and why.
The Space Management Group (SMG) , provides some useful definitions so lets use these to start with – also, I recommend having a look at their website and in particular their freely available papers (such as this), which are very informative on the topic of space management:
Frequency – SMG Definition “The frequency rate measures the proportion of time that space is used compared to its availability”
This frequency definition outlines the two pieces of information you need to calculate a space’s frequency rate 1) Space availability and 2) How many times the space was used. Space availability, is simply the length of time the space in question is available for use during the time frame you have selected. To help demonstrate this I am going to choose a teaching room as our example space and use a typical teaching week of Monday – Friday, 09-18:00, 45 hours per week as the teaching room’s availability. Therefore the 1) Space availability in this example is 45 hours.
Next, you need to find out how many times this space is used during these 45 hours. Typically this is done by physically checking the space every hour throughout the space availability, in this case Monday-Friday 09-18:00, recording whether the room is in use or not each hour. For this example’s purpose, lets say that you carried out this check and found out the room was in use during 30 of the 45 hours the space was available that week – see room check sheet below. You now have the information for part 2) How many times was the space used.
Now you have both both pieces of information you can calculate the frequency rate, to do this just divide the 2) how many times the space was used (30) by the space availability (45) and you get your space frequency rate – 66.67%. You now know that during the surveyed period the teaching room was used 66.67% of the time and therefore was empty, 33.33% of the time. See formulae below.
Occupancy – SMG Definition “The occupancy rate measures how full the space is compared to its capacity”
In this case, we are specifically looking at how well a room is used – whilst it is in use and this time there are three pieces of information you will need in order to calculate the occupancy rate, 1) Space capacity and 2) Total number of persons occupying space and 3) Number of hours space was in use. The capacity of the room can be defined in a couple of ways, however the typical method is to use the “actual capacity” this being, how many people can actually use the space at one time. Using the previous example of a teaching room, the actual capacity would be how many people can comfortable sit in the room with allocated desk space given the furniture provision and layout. So, lets say when you check this teaching room it has 40 seats and 40 desks, therefore your actual space capacity is 40.
Next step, is to find out 2) how many people are occupying the space whilst it is in use. As with the frequency rate, this requires checking the room over a set amount of time and in order to calculate the utilisation rate of this room (next step) you must ensure that both the frequency and occupancy rate are collected at the same time, for the same number of hours. So, continuing with this example, as you check the room every hour during the 45 hour teaching week you will also need to record how many people are in the room when it is being used. Then once you have completed all 45 hours, add up how many people are occupying the space whilst it is in use to get your 2) Total number of persons occupying space and then divide this by the 1) Space capacity multiplied by the 3) Number of hours space was in use (you know this from your frequency calculations) and you have your occupancy rate – see room check sheet and formulae below.
You now know, that on average when the room was used it was 74.17% occupied and therefore on average 26.83% of the capacity wasn’t used when the room was in use.
Utilisation – SMG Definition “The utilisation rate is a function of a frequency rate and an occupancy rate”
The finally part, is calculating your utilisation rate and this is the really simple bit, providing you have already got your frequency and occupancy rate for the space in question. So, continuing with our teaching room example, to calculate the utilisation rate all you have to do is multiply your frequency rate (66.67%) by your occupancy rate (74.17%) and you get your space utilisation rate (49.45%). See formulae below.
By following these steps you should now be able to calculate any given rooms frequency, occupancy and utilisation rate. This information can be used in many many ways, to help you improve many aspects of your institution such as reduce you estates costs, improve your student experience, as well as increase staff and students numbers without having build new spaces. Future articles will explore this further, remember to subscribe by adding your email address in the toolbar on the right to be notified as and when these are added to the website.
Finally, if you think you would be interested in collecting this data for your institution but don’t have time or resources to manage this in house then please get in contact. Education Space Consultancy specialises in collecting this information for you and can also provide a consultancy report aimed at helping you improve you space utilisation and meet your institutions objectives (check the Teaching Space Utilisation Survey and Office Utilisation Survey page’s for more info!).
So, what do you think? Have you found this article useful? Is there anything you would like to add? Do you have any questions? Let me 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 with you.
All the best