Space Planning Strategies

Efficient facility layout and utilization help to deliver cost savings and occupant productivity. Would pursuing “Standards as a Service” promote these goals?

space planningBy Lisa Stanley

The workplace and the workforce that occupies it are inextricably linked to create an environment that affects both human and facility performance with data at its core. It is an incubator of sorts influenced by a variety of factors including a focus on design, energy efficiency and sustainability, right sizing, and flex space for the increasingly mobile workforce. A key disruptor is the ability to harness technology to create analytics that monitor and assess the use of space and human performance. From the breakroom to the boardroom, organizations can use sensors to track temperatures, movement, and more. Algorithms drive analytics that measure presence and performance in relentless pursuit of competitive advantage.

Facility management teams have the ability to collect an extraordinary volume of data, often on multiple platforms, that empower them to adjust the working environment to optimize performance. It’s not the quantity of data that’s important. It’s about quality, in the form of intelligent data that helps to drive business decisions.

With office space being one of the largest expenses for organizations, the stakes are high to optimize return on investment on space and improve performance of the workforce that inhabits it. Mergers and acquisitions have had a significant effect on space consolidation and usage in recent years.

An increasingly mobile workforce has also had an effect. Many are attracted by the option to work remotely, and the growing number of remote workers is a game changer. Whether office space is leased or owned, the demand is changing. Type of space, quantity of space, and frequency of use of the space is causing companies regardless of size to rethink their strategies. Companies like LiquidSpace and others provide an option to space utilization that provides space as needed, and where needed.

Effective space utilization starts with the design and build phase, then the focus shifts to an effective means of classifying space. A standardized approach to space classification using an expandable approach (or collapsible, where needed) can reduce the number of space classifications used, address misclassified space, and ensure accurate classifications to the appropriate business units that actually use the space.

A recent global implementation of a standardized approach to space classification for a Fortune 500 company utilized a three-tiered system that was expandable to five tiers where needed, and reduced the number of space classifications used by 30% eliminating redundancy and reducing the number of terms used to define the space regardless of geographic location. The planning phase was completed in a little more than six months, with a global rollout completed in about 36 months. Occupancy costs were reduced by more than 18%, resulting in millions of dollars saved in annual operating costs.

All companies, regardless of geography and size, can benefit from the implementation of standards as they address space management issues. This approach enables the organization to build a foundation of accurate data, driving decision making from the ground up by establishing a baseline of utilization. The business analytics collected enable organizations to lower operational costs (including maintenance), and information can also be accessed for more effective portfolio management.

While the industry is familiar with Software as a Service (SaaS), the new kid on the block may well turn out to be Standards as a Service. Standards have been developed that address virtually the entire life cycle of a building, including BIM, BOMA, and OSCRE standards. There is a popular misconception that choosing one standard precludes an implementation of another. While each standard has a primary focus, they have been built to align with each other for implementation, and form a strong foundation for the infrastructure on which the stack is built.

Facility management leaders are becoming more aware of the value of a standardized approach to the data collected that provides the information that drives their business decisions. Standards as a Service could be the next sea change that advances the improvement of data quality and performance.

A trend is emerging that end user/occupiers are building RFPs that require implementation of standards in contracted services. This approach is one that centers on the value of the data generated, rather than one that is more cost-centered. Standards also improve the information exchange process with improved transparency, using a “single source of truth approach” to information regardless of where it is generated in the organization. Single source also reduces costs as multiple internal platforms are reduced and eliminated. Outsourcing often utilizes multiple contracted service providers, especially when a “best of breed” approach to services is employed. Multiple service providers may use proprietary platforms and impede ease of information exchange. The “single source of truth” information model ensures consistency across platforms and service providers.

New to the discussion centered on standards is a realization that transferring information derived from standards-based data can also protect intellectual property—the “secret sauce” that provides a competitive advantage to service providers and software developers. Using a standards-based model enables one service provider to transfer information to another with confidence that their IP is protected. The benefits of implementing information exchange standards are growing—better quality business intelligence, improved transparency and data governance using a “single source of truth” model, reduced operational costs, improved protection of IP, and improved performance.

Reducing unnecessary occupancy costs begins with understanding how much of space is actually being used. The next step is to progress through workplace change and continue with ongoing measurement to establish a baseline of current utilization.

Standards as a Service is a new way to look at standards and the value they provide. It could prove to be the next industry disruptor. As the quest to improve the quality of data enters new territory, the approach to information gathering will grow in importance as a key driver for competitive advantage.

space planningStanley is the CEO of Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE International), a membership-based, not-for-profit organization committed to the collaborative development and implementation of global real estate data standards.

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