Published on Thursday 9th October 2014 in the Leesman Review issue 14. Written by Paul Statham, Condeco Founder & CEO. Read the full review here:

Underused real estate is a significant issue facing both public and private sectors today. A recent study by UK Communities secretary, Eric Pickles revealed that 100,000 new homes could be created just from converting underutilised commercial real estate in England.

So why is government allowing the construction of new buildings when boroughs such as the City of London have experienced a 100%[1] increase in vacancy rates (from 8% to 16%) over 1998 – 2005? MP Matthew Hancock admitted, “Over the last year energy costs have increased by 25%. Carbon reduction measures of the sort recommended by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum can reduce annual costs by £650,000 for the average public sector organisation.” [2]

Leaner and Greener II: Putting Buildings to Work, published in November 2011 identified how financial benefits worth a potential £8 billion could be generated in the public sector by improving workforce productivity. This is achieved by improving workplace conditions and implementing more flexible ways of working, through reinvesting money saved in rationalising the property portfolio and improving the performance of the retained estate.”[3]

Underutilisation in the public sector not only wastes valuable space but also money, time and resources. The private sector demand for data around utilisation in the workplace is at an all time high, but we are yet to see this trend in the public sector.

With budgets tightening and CO2 levels rising, the public sector is under immense pressure to develop efficient workplace strategies. However in order to develop an effective long-term workplace strategy, exact utilisation figures are needed to determine how real estate is actually being used, not guesswork or estimations. Without this hard evidence, real estate rationalisation projects may never get passed the business case stage.

Private sector organisations are increasingly looking to access to reliable utilisation data that’s fast and straightforward. So unsurprisingly they have been turning to workplace sensor utilisation technology to help them build effective long-term workplace strategies. But we are yet to see this trend in the public sector. Is the fear of “big brother” observation the obstacle, or perhaps that they would prefer not to know?

Most companies are aware that underutilisation is a problem and usually offer rounded estimates that their buildings are being utilised at around seventy per cent of their design load. However our data typically reveals that it is much likely lower – figures of less than 50% are not uncommon. But the latest and most accurate technology for this purpose, is occupancy sensors.

Workplace occupancy sensors eradicate guesswork, collecting one hundred per cent accurate heat-maps of how their workspace is being used and so gain a comprehensive understanding about how well that space is utilised.

Once the collected data has been analysed a new workplace strategy can then be accurately formulated. Many private sector clients find that sensor studies uncover working behaviours that are already highly mobile and that the exact data empowers them to introduce a more structural approach to shared desking.

Workplace utilisation sensor data has been shown to provide vital evidence in transformation projects. If it can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the way in which we use workplaces, it also has the power to reduce CO2 levels on a global scale, helping us make more efficient cities worldwide.

[1] According to the Statistics from the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG)

[2] Matthew Hancock MP, Chair, WSBF inquiry, ‘Leaner and Greener: Putting Buildings to Work’


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