Office space is becoming more and more precious. Going by the increase in rentals around the world in commercial business and industrial districts, it is clear that there is growing demand for office spaces. With the increase in rentals, electricity usage, and the general cost of maintaining office spaces, it is becoming imperative to maximize the usage of the space that is already available. Nowadays, management is analysing their space investments. They are looking for ways to better use their space to increase efficiency and comply with regulations.
Questions such as, are we using our space efficiently? Can we reduce electricity consumption? Can we increase the utilization rate of our space while increasing our headcount?
To answer these questions, facilities management needs hard data. It is becoming increasingly important to monitor space usage on an ongoing basis and find ways to optimize usage. With modern tools and technologies, this has become possible. Office space occupancy planning using technology provides the answers. Read on to find out more.
Office Space Planning
Space Usage and Planning is the answer to the questions that management asks. Space planning is the science of optimizing the design of the office space. This is done to maximize usage while considering various human, environmental and regulatory factors. Once the planning is complete, the final design is provided to the contractor to execute. In the early stages of office space evolution, there was not much room for improvement unless a major overhaul was done to the office. This was because early offices were siloed by cubicles, making them very hard to change. Occasional space usage exercises included engaging independent auditing teams to track and monitor the flow of people and objects across the office over a period – a tediously manual process. Once this was done, a report was created and that was it. There was no notion of continuous monitoring of space usage.
Today, things have changed. Offices are now more open and spacious with flexible seating arrangements. Combine the minimalist design with portable features such as pre-built work pods, meeting spaces, and flexi-desks and you have a very dynamic workplace. Moreover, technology that can track usage, occupancy, and presence detection in real-time has become affordable, and implementing them has become easier. From cloud-based software-as-a-service, sensor networks and big data processing to robust analytics have given space owners the capability to track, monitor, analyze, and respond to changing usage conditions. While implementing these new technologies seems attractive, there is a key question of how beneficial these implementations will be.
The benefits are tremendous. Imagine being able to identify and isolate areas where usage is non-existent, where the flow of people and objects are minimal. These spaces can be converted into meeting rooms. More desks can be added to increase the occupancy rate. Usage patterns can be analyzed to group teams together that usually work together. This will increase efficiency. The possibilities are infinite and the tools are available today.
So, how do we track usage and occupancy information? Several technologies are currently available that can help. Here, we look briefly at some of them.
Room Booking System
The room booking system provides insights into the usage of rooms. Meetings usually take a lot of time. If employers analyze room usage they will get insights into how to better manage them. Instead of a large meeting room, there can be two smaller meeting rooms. Employers can add projectors and video conferencing equipment to these meeting rooms.
Hot Desk Booking
Hot Desk Booking systems provide information on seating patterns. Seats that are less preferred due to various factors such as direct sunlight or directly under the air-conditioning vents can cause poor usage. Instead of overhauling the entire layout, minor alterations can be made. Group-based seating can increase usage efficiency by making people sit together. Usage patterns of staff working remotely or field agents can help in scheduling and planning spaces so that efficiency can be greatly increased.
One of the key advantages of a room or a hot desk booking system is its ability to accurately estimate future demand. Unlike sensor networks or electricity usage, which track current usage, room, and hot desking allow management to trend future demand and make decisions on how best to use the space given.
Sensor networks such as beacons, Passive-Infrared (PIR) sensors, and other detection mechanisms can help to track people’s flow across space and determine occupancy. Sensors provide real-time information in a format that can be tracked, stored, and analyzed over a period of time. While sensors like beacons provide person granularity, PIR sensors provide presence without the granularity offered by beacons. These devices can provide insights into less visited areas that can be either converted to desks, meeting rooms, or huddle spaces. Motion sensors can provide valuable information on occupancy and traffic flow.
Unlike room booking or hot desk booking, sensors provide real-time traffic flow. Combined with the room and hot desk booking solution, sensors can augment usage pattern information through time-series-based analysis of flow.
Presence Tags By People
Smart tags, worn on people’s wrists connect either to the wireless network or to a third-party subscription service through a mobile data plan (4G/5G network). They provide real-time tracking of people’s movement that can provide insights into the way people flow across the space. Designing walk-ways and re-arrangement of desks can help maximize the flow without having bottlenecks. While there may be privacy concerns related to these technologies, they provide a powerful source of data to help in space planning.
Today’s Internet Of Things (IoT) devices can tap on electricity usage in zones to see usage patterns. Analyzing patterns of electricity usage can provide deep insights into the usage across regions without having to invest in large-scale sensor network deployments. Electrical usage monitoring, perhaps, provides to most direct insight into the occupancy of the given region. Disproportionate usage across regions provides clear justification to spread out your staff or redesign the layout so that usage is more optimized.
When all these data are overlayed on top of the floor plan, management can get deep insights into the occupancy of the space over time. This provides rich information to answer key questions and help to make informed decisions on space planning.
Today, there are a variety of tools and technologies that can help organizations adopt space planning and occupancy detection. A room booking system can provide a large amount of data. With this information, management can easily learn, plan and adapt their spaces to maximum usage.