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By Dave Clifton
Every major city has government facilities that are, by and large, taxpayer funded. From public libraries to police stations, courthouses to the local DMV—these are facilities we’ll all rely on at some point in time. Taxpayer dollars are what keep them well-maintained and functional. So, when questions of government spending arise, facility waste tends to be one of the first focal points in shoring up a budget. Attention turns to government space utilization.
Space utilization in government facilities is a difficult prospect to get a handle on. These facilities exist to support the public, but there’s no telling when and to what degree people will rely on them. You can’t always predict when there will be a run on books at the local library or when everyone will decide to visit the DMV to renew their license. For government facility managers, space utilization is always a prospect in flux.
Thankfully, modern space utilization software is making it easier to not only maximize utilization in government facilities, but to also optimize it for demand. You might not know when someone will show up to get married at city hall, but you can keep facilities agile enough to adapt.
What is government space utilization?
Space utilization is the prospect of maximizing the use of a particular space vs. its availability. If the space is open for eight hours a day, five days a week, that’s 40 hours of availability. If it’s occupied and in-use for 30 of those hours, utilization is 75%. It is a simple concept, but difficult to practice.
Demand isn’t consistent in government facilities. For example, there’s likely to be much more demand for access to the County Clerk in the spring, when more people apply for marriage certificates. If the waiting room only supports six people, you’ll need to allocate more space for those waiting patiently to apply. During the winter months, you might use this overflow space for something else. Optimizing space utilization stems from understanding demand for it.
Government space utilization comes down to efficiency: both operational and monetarily. Are you making the most of available space in government facilities? Or, are taxpayers footing the bill for unused, unneeded, or ungoverned space? Efficiency metrics will tell you.
The benefits of government space utilization
While cost control is the most prominent benefit of good utilization, it’s far from the only one. Government facilities that capitalize on space efficiently position themselves to offer a variety of benefits to employees and visitors including:
- Better access to spaces designed to support government functions
- Specific, purposeful space planning and organization
- Smoother operations as the result of predictable facility usage
- Improved comfort and convenience for individuals utilizing space
- Cost-efficient use of space, which results in lower cost to taxpayers
Utilization emphasizes the practicality of space. Instead of letting some types of spaces sit idle while demand for others grows, utilization metrics illustrate need. In government facilities, the relationship to how often spaces see use and the demands of people using them is crucial. If people aren’t using your space, it means government isn’t meeting the needs of constituents – or worse, they’re paying for unnecessary facilities.
A focus on utilization is a focus on maximizing the usefulness of facilities, while that the same time optimizing cost. From a front-facing constituent standpoint, this is exactly what people expect from them.
How does government space utilization software help?
As mentioned, unpredictability is a big obstacle standing in the way of high utilization levels in government facilities. How do you maximize the availability of a space when demand remains uncertain? For a growing number of municipal building managers, space utilization software is the answer.
Utilization software offers the benefit of both real-time and historical insights. Real-time space utilization metrics allow facility managers to pair immediate demand with space designed to support specific activities, capacities, and locations. Historical data produces patterns and trends, to help make unpredictable demand slightly more identifiable. For example:
- If two attorneys and their clients need space for arbitration at the courthouse, real-time utilization metrics will show what’s available.
- If a facility manager wants to know how much space to delegate to a town hall meeting, they can look at previous utilization trends to plan accordingly.
Utilization software makes it possible to maximize space in an ongoing capacity. Government facility managers can learn about the demand and use of space, and work to shape facilities around anticipated expectations. The result are facilities that better-accommodate employees and visitors, while minimizing the cost to taxpayers.
Optimize the capabilities of facilities
More and more, government space utilization isn’t about optimizing one space for one purpose—it’s about optimizing many spaces for many purposes. The trick is to maintain the accessibility and convenience of public-facing facilities. To do this takes reliance on government space utilization software.
From post offices to municipal buildings, it’s possible to optimize space based on capability to address need. The building will remain the same destination for different services, but the way it meets public demand for those services may change. Utilization is now a dynamic metric, and it’s growing ever more important in facilities that need to operate with mind for budget control.