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January 26, 2017

Don’t invest blindly in building expansion

Universities have said they have difficulty absorbing the stream of new students, partly because of a drastic shortage of teaching space. However, one option for addressing this shortage of space is by better optimizing the space they already have.

Practice often shows that a real estate manager or building owner can resolve three problems by making the best possible use of space.

Case Study - Eindhoven University

Planon Case Study - Eindhoven University: “Substantial utilization improvements and more cross-faculty use of meeting rooms, workspaces and study places.”

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1. Inefficient occupancy of areas

Just like universities, many other organizations often need more space. And that’s interesting, because often they do indeed have enough floor space without realizing it themselves. It’s only that it isn’t being used efficiently. Until recently Eindhoven University of Technology, for example, was only using about 46 percent of its working space. It found a lot of space was simply not being used efficiently and booked meeting areas were empty due to no-shows.

2. Waste of company resources

When a real estate manager or building owner has clear insight into the occupancy of areas, he can conclude that it’s entirely unnecessary to expand existing premises or to buy new real estate, as well as building new premises. After all, this takes huge investment and long lead times. Significant expenses can be saved by simply making better use of existing space. At the same time, the sustainability of a building is under threat when it’s not being used optimally. That’s because even the empty places in a building are heated, maintained and lighted, even though there’s not much need, or indeed no need at all.

3. Improving the user experience

A third point is user experience, which can greatly benefit from better transparency into the occupancy of space. To stay with the example of the universities: frustration is unavoidable when students and teachers have to spend considerable time looking for a free workplace to meet or collaborate. And let’s not even mention the confusion that comes with the double-booking of meeting areas.

By equipping the real estate or facility manager with the right instruments, he or she can optimize the sustainability of the premises and the experience of the user, while at the same time huge investment in expansion or new buildings can be avoided. Such an instrument could be a mobile app, like the one Eindhoven University of Technology uses. With the app, students and teachers can see whether an area is available, can then book it, and can sign out when they are no longer using that space. The building manager, in turn, can see whether the supply of space is matching user demand, and can coordinate the cleaning with actual use.

Monitoring occupancy rates is also supported by using sensors. Sensors can constantly measure the occupancy of a workplace or meeting area. Connecting this information with the use of an app makes actual occupancy visible to users in real-time.

When these measurements are linked to scheduling the cleaning or a climate-control system, data is used smartly to streamline facilities processes. It’s better for organizations to invest in technology and collect usage data, than to invest blindly in extra space that is—more often than not—entirely unnecessary.

Bas Janssen
Account Manager Planon Netherlands