Your square meter or mine? Why office space standards matter
Office space is an important investment for many organizations and – with greater workforce mobility – difficult to manage. If you don’t have sufficient space or it is not fit for purpose, workplace productivity suffers. But if you have too much space, you’re wasting money on rent, energy, and services. Not all spaces are created equal either: workspaces, for example, are more valuable than circulation or storage areas.
How to gauge your buildings’ performance and determine whether you’re paying a correct price for office space and related services? A common method is to divide costs per floor area, e.g. cleaning cost/m², maintenance cost/m², rental cost/m².
Comparing apples and oranges?
The way floor areas are defined, categorized and measured, however, varies quite a bit, especially in an international context. Different stakeholders have different definitions and interpretations leading to metrics that are simply not comparable. It is therefore essential to use a single space standard as a benchmarking foundation.
A truly global building space standard does not exist, at least not yet. But it is important that you choose a single standard and stick to it if you want to able to benchmark performance. Depending on where your building portfolio carries the most weight, you could opt for EN, DIN, BOMA; or choose another standard that is most common in your market.
In a European context, the EN 15221-6 Facility Management Space Measurement standard establishes a common basis for area and space management, planning and design, and financial assessments. As it is fully integrated with other areas of FM, the standard supports a sustainable strategy of continuous improvement.
Good references are important
So, let’s return to our m² cost. Let’s say you want to evaluate your rental costs because your organization is considering a move or refurbishment project, or because a lease break is coming up. To start with, you are probably paying rent based on gross floor area, which includes all enclosed space as measured from the exterior face of building walls. What you are really interested in, however, is the cost of usable space, to be sure you are evaluating your options on an ‘apples to apples’ basis. A common ratio applied, in this case, is usable versus gross floor area. Let’s assume your building’s useable/gross area ratio is 60%. How does that compare to relevant other buildings? Benchmarking data alone will not tell you. You need a frame of reference.
By way of example, here are a few reference points based on our industry experience:
- Usable vs. gross floor area:
- Best practice: 82%
- Average result: 70%
- Poor performance: 60%
- Circulation areas vs. gross floor area:
- Best practice: 5%
- Average result: 12%
- Poor performance: 20%
Two buildings with the exact same face rental rate can have a very different performance, as a result of common area factors and design inefficiencies. Ratios like the above will provide insight into the value for money they offer.
How to manage it
Before you can even start thinking about benchmarking, you need to capture and manage spatial data. Many organizations still do this with spreadsheets and manual data input, leading to errors, obsolete information and a lack of visibility and traceability. Some also use a drawing programme on the side. A better solution is to combine a CAD programme with facilities management software and exchange data between the two software programmes.
The most efficient and effective solution, however, is an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). A powerful solution can import drawings from CAD and store it as intelligent data in a central repository (drawings = data). In our experience, it takes about one man-day to bring 5000 m² of CAD into an IWMS.
Return on investment
With an intelligent IWMS platform, you can visualize space data on floorplans, assess costs, and measure performance. This is invaluable, not only to optimize workplace space but also to drive outcome-based service delivery.
An integrated software platform also makes it easy to share space data to service teams, managers, and other stakeholders without users needing CAD training or licenses. You can use layers and manage access rights so that people only get to see the information that is relevant to them. For example, you can make a “security” level accessible on a need-to-know basis only to a limited number of individuals within the organization. Users can filter data during visualization, which enables quick analyses and support for establishing service budgets. For cleaning purposes, for example, you might be interested to get a quick overview of “all spaces larger than X m² with fitted carpet’ (or another type of floor covering of course). Because users have an incentive to keep the information up to date, their motivation to notify any changes will be much higher.
IWMS software can also help to implement a space standard. If you are considering to buy software for managing a large portfolio or want to be able to benchmark results following international standards, look for an integrated solution. And make sure it is compliant with major space standards.
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