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26 January 2017

Avoid investing blindly in building expansion

Universities often struggle to absorb the intake of new students, partly because of a drastic shortage of teaching space. At least this is the picture universities themselves paint. However, is this really the case, or could the problem be eased significantly by optimising the occupancy of the available space and facilities?

In practice, a real estate manager or building owner can resolve three problems by making the best possible use of space.

1. Inefficient occupancy of areas

Many organisations share the same challenge as universities – they need more space. An interesting fact in itself, because in many cases they may have enough floor space without actually realising it. It could be that space just isn’t been used efficiently. For example, until recently, Eindhoven University of Technology only used 46 per cent of its working space. This was simply because other space wasn’t being used, or booked meeting space lay empty because of “no-shows”.

2. Wasting company resources

When a real estate manager or building owner has clear insight into the occupancy of areas, he might then decide that he needs to either expand his existing premises or invest in new real estate. That investment could be substantial and incur a long lead time. So the alternative could be that significant cost savings could be made by making better use of the existing space. Consider too that the sustainability of a building may be under threat when space usage is not optimised. That’s because even empty spaces need heating, lighting and maintenance.

3. Improving the user experience

A third point is the user experience as this can also benefit from space optimisation. Let’s stay with the example of universities; frustration may set in when students and teachers have to spend considerable time looking for a free workplace or when they encounter double booked meeting rooms.

By providing the real estate or facility manager with the right tools, he can optimise both a building’s sustainability and user experience whilst at the same time potentially avoid unnecessary investment in expansion or new builds. This tool might be an app, as used by Eindhoven University of Technology. With the app, students and teachers can see whether an area is available, can then book it, and can “sign out” of using the space when they have finished. The building manager in turn has visibility of supply and demand, and can also for example schedule space cleaning to match actual use.

Sensors can also be used for monitoring occupancy. Sensors can measure continually the occupancy of a workplace or meeting area and the app can show actual occupancy in real-time. When this data is used for scheduling cleaning or for a climate-control system, the result can be smart streamlined facilities processes. It is arguably always better for organisations to invest in technology and collect usage data, than simply to invest blindly in extra space.

Bas Janssen
Account Manager Planon Netherlands