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The Space Management Problem

Managing space in a tertiary institution is a complex task due to the very nature of Tertiary education in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Program structures are often highly flexible allowing students to pick and choose their desired courses.

This flexibility delivers excellent choices for student in the higher education system but it makes facilities planning extremely difficult. The problem is that program mix can vary significantly from year to year with demand for some programs growing strongly whilst others fall. Similarly, within any individual program, the course demands can vary from cohort to cohort with very little predictability.

Tertiary education institutions have become highly expert in managing the timetabling of these highly variable courses and programs within the university to be able to meet demand in a very effective way. Sophisticated timetabling software has been developed to aid in this scheduling process and teams of professionals within institutions manage the timetabling with great expertise. However, with the inevitability of students transferring or changing their study choices soon after the term begins, planning efficient use of university room facilities becomes even more complex.

The risk of poor space management is that the Facilities managers may be inadvertently underutilising rooms and bringing expansion capital investment forward unnecessarily. Getting the right classes in the right rooms means that high demand facilities can be better scheduled against real needs, postponing the need for expansion or redevelopment.

The space management problem is not limited to the tertiary education. The increased use of “hot desk” and flexible work spaces drives the need to understand how such shared work spaces are used and planned for accordingly. Desks or work-spaces can be shared between and within teams meaning that facilities can be efficiently designed. This is where expert tools and advice is needed. The expertise originally designed for large multi campus universities is now applicable for complex, multi office companies.

Universities and colleges are not the only public institutions that need to plan shared space. This is increasingly a problem in health-care and all levels of government. Civic facilities also require space management expertise including public space assets such as parks, tennis courts, playgrounds, recreational squares, gardens, galleries and halls. The data can identify utilisation patterns, can help predict efficient maintenance cycles and guide the development of new public space assets.