Benchmarking Your Space Utilization

September 2015 — Changing space utilization is usually a complex issue but can have big payoffs for the FM organization and the company. For FMs it should be the first area for improvement initiatives. Here is an example, using a one million square foot facility, showing why you should consider looking at space as an initiative.

Option 1 — Initiatives to reduce operating costs:

  • Reduce your maintenance costs by 10% —> save about $.20 per SF
  • Reduce your utility expenses by 10% —> save about $.25 per SF
  • Reduce your janitorial costs by 7% —> save about $.10 per SF
  • Total annual savings is about……………..$550,000

Option 2 — Initiatives to utilize space more effectively:

  • Improve space utilization by 10% or reduce space by 100,000 SF
  • Total median operating costs savings
    – $6.50 x 100,000 = $650,000
  • Total median fixed costs savings (insurance, taxes, depreciation, interest)
    – $6.00 x 100,000 = $600,000
  • Total savings from more effective space utilization………..$1,250,000

An added benefit to Option 2 is that you can choose which space to eliminate and probably would select your oldest, least effective, highest cost to maintain, facility. The cost savings most likely would be greater than the amount shown.

So how do you determine if your space utilization is in the right range or can be improved? Our first graph shows our space utilization performance compared with our peer group of other large facilities with a size greater than 600,000 gross square feet. This allows you to see at a glance how our facility compares with other large buildings. There are 498 buildings in this peer group with a median space utilization of 506 gross square feet per person. Our building is near the middle of second quartile (in yellow) with a space utilization of 435 gsf per person. Not a bad performance but possibly there is also room for improvement (see Figure 1)?

Figure 1 — Gross Area Per Occupant
Filters: Type of facility: office; Size: greater than 600,000 GSF
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

We may want to add another filter for just office facilities to see how we compare. Figure 2 shows how our building compares with filters for office and large facilities with a size greater than 600,000. Our relative performance declines (moves to the right of the chart) a little bit. That makes sense since the Figure 1 chart had facilities of all types including manufacturing and warehousing.

Figure 2 — Gross Area Per Occupant
Filters: Type of facility: office; Size: greater than 600,000 GSF
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

Since our building is fairly new (5 years old), what happens to our ranking if we now add an age filter, comparing our space utilization only to only larger (>600,000 GSF) buildings, office buildings, and also newer buildings, those with an age of 4-10 years (see Figure 3)?

Figure 3 — Gross Area Per Occupant
Filters: Type of facility: office; Size: greater than 600,000 GSF: age 4-10 years
Provided courtesy of FM BENCHMARKING

There is not much change here between Figure 3 and Figure 2. We can conclude that the age of a facility does not have a significant effect on the space utilization.

Now, let’s consider what we would save in operating costs if could reduce our space utilization to first quartile performance. In figure 3 above we can see that our space utilization is 435 GSF per person. First Quartile performance, the point on the graph between the purple and blue sectors is 387 GSF per person. That is about an 11% reduction in space and a modest decrease in the overall facility size of about 110,000 GSF. But the annual savings, using median cost values would be about $12.50 per GSF X 110,000 GSF or nearly $1.4 M. That is certainly something worth considering.


Some things we’ve learned from applying various filters in our example that may affect management focus:

  1. Our space utilization is above the 1st quartile.
  2. There is not much difference in space utilization based on building age.
  3. We should examine our space utilization to see if we can obtain a 10% or better improvement.

Articles are based on data from FM BENCHMARKING, which until the pandemic had been the online benchmarking tool for facility managers and CREs. Data tracked by FM BENCHMARKING includes cost and labor data as well as best practices for more than 95% of typical facility costs. For questions about benchmarking, please contact Peter Kimmel on LinkedIn. Peter was one of the principals of FM BENCHMARKING and now is consulting in the industry.