3 Enterprise Space Planning Guidelines For The Coming Year

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on October 14, 2020
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A solid space planning strategy rests on the foundation of accurate building data and space classification standards.

When everyone in your organization relies on this data to make critical decisions — like whether to lease a new office building — it’s important that everyone is using the same calculations to arrive at their conclusions.

Knowing these three common space classification standards can help you improve your space planning strategy in the coming year.

Space planning guidelines you should know

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Standard

Since 1915, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Standard has offered guidelines for calculating square footage in office buildings.

The goal of this American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-approved methodology is to allow consistent property valuation for leasing and purchasing, regardless of building architecture or geographic location.

Appraisers, architects, building owners, leasing professionals, facility managers, tenants, and space planners all use the BOMA Standard.

It has been updated eight times since its inception, most recently in 2017.

The latest updates to the BOMA office standard include:

  • Including outdoor balconies, covered galleries, and finished rooftops as rentable square footage, provided they are used exclusively by tenants
  • Removing the “public pedestrian thoroughfare boundary condition” to eliminate additional square footage that some ground-level spaces had under the previous standard
  • Including all “major vertical penetrations” at the lowest level so openings in the floor, such as stairs or elevators, are not included in the rentable area
  • Applying capped load factor on a tenant-by-tenant basis, which gives landlords the flexibility to attract tenants who want more collaborative office designs and amenities

Even if you aren’t a building owner, the BOMA Standard can help you with space planning by offering guidelines for accurate space measurements.

Forgetting to account for unusable spaces like elevators or stairwells may not seem like a big problem, but if you were counting on that square footage to fit additional desks or conference rooms, you’re going to be struggling to make up for it later.

International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Area Measurement Standards

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) introduced its first Area Measurement Standard in 1995 and provides an authoritative process for measuring and classifying floor space in buildings.

It’s designed to support strategic space planning by allowing facilities managers to benchmark their buildings against others.

FMs can also use the IFMA standard to classify areas for internal purposes, such as evaluating cost-effectiveness and performance.

While the BOMA and IFMA space classification standards were developed with similar goals, there are some differences. IFMA recognizes the ASTM Standard Classification for Building Floor Area Measurements, while BOMA uses the ANSI methodology. And while BOMA included common areas in its floor space measurements, IFMA did not.

More recently, however, both organizations developed a unified definition for floor area measurements. This made it easier for facilities managers to compare their office spaces against others that used a different space classification standard.

Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE) Industry Data Model

OSCRE International is a nonprofit organization focused on developing real estate information standards. In August 2020, OSCRE announced it would begin providing free access to its Industry Data Model (IDM), a tool designed to “improve data integrity, transparency, agile response time, and enable better insights to inform better outcomes.”

While the BOMA and IFMA standards focus on accurately measuring space, the goal of the IDM is to support digital transformation through data standardization.

The IDM represents a collaboration between property owners, occupiers, and investors as well as service providers, software companies, and other stakeholders in the real estate industry.

It supports several other corporate real estate functions in addition to space management. This includes business requirements, strategic planning, financial planning, and architecture and engineering design.

With OSCRE’s IDM, you can review more than 130 different use cases and determine the best space planning strategy for your organization. That may include expanding or decreasing your real estate footprint, improving energy efficiency and sustainability, and optimizing maintenance and facilities management.

How to use these standards in your space planning strategy

Without common standards for space classification, it’s difficult to calculate true space utilization across your real estate portfolio.

Consider the space planning challenges Adobe’s facilities team faced.

The company has 55 locations and more than 35 million square feet of space globally.

Each time it prepared for an office move, it had to gather data on available spaces and edit it manually because space categories varied across locations.

For instance, terms like “offline space,” “mobile space,” and “unassigned space” meant different things for different locations, making it difficult to calculate how much space was actually available.

Adobe established common definitions for all spaces and adopted the OSCRE space standards.

See how they did it.

This made space planning much easier and gave the company’s facility management and leadership teams greater confidence in their decisions.

Adopting space classification standards is just the first step.

Once your team is all speaking the same language, you need to apply your space classifications to a shared space management software system.

Space management software makes your data actionable. You can see how much space you have available in your portfolio and make changes to an individual office, floor, or department.

This is particularly important as you plan your return to work. To bring employees back safely, you’ll need to reconfigure your floor plans for physical distancing. You may need to recategorize spaces that are considered unsafe when occupied by more than one person, such as small conference rooms.

See how our new space planning feature, Space-Right™, makes this easy.

You’ll also need to determine whether you have enough room to accommodate your full workforce with new, safer floor plans or whether you need to assign employees to alternating shifts.

You can also categorize individual seats as assigned (for those employees who need dedicated desks each day) or make them reservable to accommodate fluctuating capacity.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a major challenge for workplaces worldwide, but it’s also an opportunity to update your space planning strategy. Even before the pandemic, you likely had a significant portion of your office space that was underutilized due to more employees working remotely.

As you plan for the coming year, take this time to revisit your space planning guidelines or adopt new ones.

It may require a few extra steps, but once you have consistent categories in your space planning software, it will be much easier to plan for anything that comes next.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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