Are you responsible for managing estate? Where and how do you start to tackle such a large scale task of improving space utilisation to make savings on your estate costs? Do you have too much space or not enough? So you have enough information to tell you what you have got to start with? Do your building users complain of never having access to the right kind of rooms at the right time? Are colleagues planning new buildings but do you suspect that this would not be needed if your existing estate was better utilised? Are people booking spaces and not using them? You can’t be omnipresent, so how do you really know? Our top tips may help you to challenge and achieve efficient use of those precious resources and hit that gold standard 85% utilisation goal.

Think about which buildings are in scope – you can’t do everything at once, however tempting. It’s much better to start making progress quickly on a pilot building rather than trying to sort everything at once. Be practical and only bite off what you can chew. Consider starting on those good quality buildings that will definitely be retained first and get them working well.

Produce a report showing your current ‘official’ use – using your booking system (automated or manual) pull together a report showing a detailed breakdown of bookings. If you don’t have a booking system, then no wonder you are experiencing problems! Ask the reception teams/admin staff if they ever book rooms outside of your estate and estimate the costs (i.e. have you got latent demand for your space?).

Get a robust baseline by installing room sensors – discreet sensors are available which work by using infrared technology – not cameras! If you have the budget, permanent installation is a good idea. If you are more limited, temporary hire is available for trial periods with a a minimum of one month installation in each space you want to monitor. Beware of holiday periods where information will be skewed and people will challenge your results. Try to avoid doing a ‘man with clipboard’ review – your information will not be worth the paper it is written on. People have a way of looking present (jackets on the back of chairs) even when they left hours ago.

Now compare them – do they tally? I can almost guarantee that you will find a high percentage of unauthorised and poor utilisation of space. This is due to staff making bookings and not turning up for them at all, booking space for a longer period than is required and using space without having an official booking. We have found on initial review that actual space utilisation will be somewhere around 40-50% on average (compared to theoretical 70-80% bookings).

Listen to your customers – once you know what’s going on, you can pick up the phone and listen to what the room users say. Encourage them to tell you why they do/don’t use the space. Ask them for suggestions to improve the space or the booking system. Would it help to reduce the booking slots from sessional morning or afternoons to half hourly? Do the conditions work for the use (e.g. too noisy, too much activity, too hot, too cold)? Do the rooms have the right equipment within them to make the transition between spaces quick and easy? Are the rooms clean and properly set out for their use? Is the booking system easy? Respond with a ‘you said, we did’ campaign which shows them practical changes that prove you have listened.

Set new targets and share – this is important to bring people with you when you roll out the changes. Where possible, have one-to-one briefings with the people who book space to ensure they understand why they need to change their behaviour. Putting a monetary value to the space (even if it is only a paper exercise) can help people get a feel for the scale of the problem. This is about saving revenue budgets to reinvest in services or in estate improvements. Who knows, you might even find you have too many buildings for your needs. We try to achieve 85% utilisation true to actual bookings to ensure our buildings are being well used, but allowing enough time to properly refresh space.

We use systems that can monitor space in an automated way and reports which can be produced to tell you exactly what is happening to allow you to directly tackle the problem in hand. The wide range of reports available can give you detailed analysis on who is using space and when, what space type, building or area is in demand, which buildings are your most utilised, where alternative space is booked because the space type ideally required for a service was not available, the value of bookings over time per service or organisation, value of unauthorised or poor utilisation, persistent offenders of unauthorised space use, or poor utilisation and utilisation percentage rates. Having access to these sorts of analysis reports will save you time having to manually sort large quantities of data to find out and it will give you assurance that you are working with accurate and meaningful information.

Prioritise the space – consider whether you want to prioritise space for certain groups/services. Your strategic plan will determine this and help feed your service and space planning. It will help you know 1. what space you have available and, 2. if steps can be taken to ensure that this space is utilised to maximum capacity for your own operational needs before considering whether the space can be used by alternative services or organisations.

Promote the space – with those areas that you can’t dispose of but are not well used (e.g: a wing of a larger building) encourage other organisations to book your space during your downtimes for a charge to help minimise your costs. Don’t forget to ensure you make a profit after costs to ensure it’s not a drain on your budgets (e.g. remember you may have additional security, reception cover, invoice management, consumables and cleaning costs).

Monitor and review – now comes the important bit. Did your investment make a difference? What can you learn and do differently across the estate? What are your easy wins? How do you mainstream your changes? What learning can you feed to other departments? Every little helps!

For more info, please get in touch: