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By Devon Maresco
Government facilities are generally well-defined. People have a specific reason for visiting the police station, courthouse, town hall, DMV, and other such buildings. That means the space demands of these buildings tend to be equally as defined. And while it makes designing and staffing these facilities easy, it also necessitates very specific criteria for government space planning.
Space planning in government facilities comes down to three crucial factors. First, it’s about delegating enough space for the actions and activities that occur in these buildings. Second, it’s about making them navigable for employees and visitors alike. Finally—and perhaps most important—it’s about ensuring facilities operate with efficiency, to keep the cost to taxpayers low.
To achieve these criteria takes foresight to the operational demands of government facilities—and the ability to plan and adapt space accordingly.
What is government space planning?
Space planning involves establishing specific use-cases for different areas within facilities. In government buildings, it means pairing the capabilities of space with the demands of the people coming to them. If a constituent comes in for jury duty, where do they hang out until they’re selected or dismissed? Is there an area at the DMV specifically for license picture-taking? How many temporary holding cells are there in the local police station? Meeting these needs is a function of good space planning.
As mentioned above, government space planning also needs to satisfy criteria for accessibility and efficiency. This involves a deep understanding of operations. For example, if you’re delegating space for jury duty selectees, you need to know how many people are in a jury pool at any given time, and how often new pools get called in.
Space planning is a marriage of form and function. When it comes to government facilities, this marriage is vitally important. If employees and constituents can’t access or use space, or if it’s not managed efficiently, tensions will flair. Remember: government institutions need to serve people.
The benefits of government space planning
Coordinating space around demand paves the way for significant benefits. As people seek to access government help and municipalities strive to answer this call to action, space planning bridges the gap. Some of the prominent benefits include:
- Government facilities become more accessible to constituents
- Government employees have the space they need to do their jobs
- The cost to taxpayers drops as facility efficiency conserves funds
- Fewer overlaps and interruptions in facilities ensure smoother operations
- Enhanced safety, security, and privacy in well-orchestrated spaces
- Easier navigability and wayfinding in well-organized facilities
Government buildings need to follow the old adage, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Visitors to government facilities want the reliability that comes with having a defined place to go and a definite route to get there. Space planning is key in giving them that. If there’s no defined or planned space, it creates uncertainty and unpredictability for visitors and employees alike.
Take a simple example, like committee meeting. The committee may only meet once per month, but they need a space to house all eight committee members, as well as local citizens who want to attend and learn more. Space planning involves finding and reserving a space in advance of the meeting, and ensuring that space meets the needs of the meeting. Does it have tables and chairs? Is there A/V equipment to showcase a presentation? Is the room accessible to the general public? Planning needs to eliminate any and all obstacles upfront so the space can serve its role in a successful committee meeting.
How does government space planning software help?
The sheer scope of government facilities and the many demands people have for them make space planning difficult—at least, not without intuitive tools. Government space planning software helps facility managers keep track of the many moving variables on both sides of the coin: space and demand.
The tools offered by space planning software are invaluable in not only coordinating space, but also in understanding it. Software is intuitive enough to recognize patterns and trends, which can better-inform space planning. For example, if total attendance at the monthly committee meeting consistently hovers at 12 people, it can narrow your focus to spaces designed for groups of this size. Other integrated data also makes space planning more robust. For example, if a polling station in Building A has higher turnout than one in Building B, it might signal convenience or accessibility factors.
Government space planning software brings data into the fold and contextualizes it based on present factors and variables. While facility managers focus on bridging space and demand, software helps them do it efficiently and with clearer purpose.
Keep constituents and government employees happy
Good space planning in government facilities is immediately evident in how they function. Does the courtroom have a defined space for jurors to report and wait? Is the DMV able to keep lines moving? Are there ample spaces for committee meetings at the town hall? Planning space around the needs of different government facilities means thinking about them first from an operational standpoint.
As the functions of facilities become apparent, space planning software becomes crucial in enabling them. It bridges the gap between constituents and the services they need—as well as the government employees charged with administering them.
Keep reading: Five Pillars of Government Facility Management Software