What is a Space Utilization Study?

A lot of work goes into designing the perfect built environment, from determining where load-bearing walls and electrical outlets are placed, to ensuring building codes are met, to selecting the final finishes. But before any of this work can occur, you have to know what you’re going to build. And for that, you may need a space utilization study. 

In simple terms, a space utilization study is a deep dive into how a current space is used and a projection of how the future space should function—all fueled by data and the wants and needs of those who use the space. A thorough, well-conducted space utilization study is like an X-ray of your space needs, ensuring that the final design is beautiful, functional and supportive of occupant needs.  

Space utilization studies are a must when building from the ground up—but they can also be extremely valuable for clients who are working within the confines of an existing space. In fact, most of our clients can benefit from space utilization studies. As time goes by and needs change, there’s a lot of value in thinking about how existing spaces can be reimagined through minor renovations and redesigns. 

A space utilization study goes far beyond measuring square footage and calculating max occupancy. Rather, it’s an approach that gathers key insights into how a room can be used to its fullest potential. Have a need but not sure where the space can go? Have a space but need to match it with a need? We’ve got you.

By observing how different spaces are currently used and holding discussions with building owners and occupants, key insights are unearthed that factor into the final design, including: 

  • Usage patterns: Identifying peak times, underutilized areas and spaces that don’t meet user needs. 
  • Future needs: Considering factors like changing team or class sizes, evolving work styles and new technologies to ensure the space stays relevant. 
  • Space allocation strategies: Dividing the new space efficiently, considering departments, activities and collaboration needs. 
  • Flexibility: Creating adaptable spaces that can morph to accommodate future changes. 

A well-conducted space utilization study yields benefits that also go beyond saving space and money. It can also boost productivity, enhance collaboration and communication, and improve overall operational efficiency.  

Take high schools, for example. As technology has become a fundamental aspect of learning in the sense of increased collaboration and personalized studying, it makes sense that the classrooms and learning areas that students need have changed. Elements common in schools a few decades ago, like media center spaces, have shifted to a more technology-friendly environment. 

Such was the case when SHP worked with Beavercreek City Schools. Working closely with their team, SHP identified opportunities to create spaces that truly met the needs of students and staff. By examining different areas of the school and how they were used, we found ways to better serve students and teachers.  

We designed four 2,000-square-foot, innovative Design Thinking Labs, one at each of the district’s campuses. These innovation labs serve students in the capacity of allowing creativity, fostering experimentation and encouraging critical thinking. Implementing new spaces for students has maximized flexibility within the space and created opportunities for collaboration between students and teachers in a more hands-on matter. For example, rack-mounted dry-erase boards form presentation centers where students can document and iterate ideas, learn from one another and have easy access to the tools they need to succeed. 

A space utilization study may seem like an extra step, but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run. By understanding how your space is currently used and the needs of occupants both now and in the future, it’s possible to create a place that is truly transformative.