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By Matt Welty
From the June 2024 Issue

 

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) named partial occupancy as one of the major challenges facing facility managers, and it’s a real issue for commercial facility executives across the U.S. When occupancy KPIs and leasing revenue targets aren’t met, the building’s commercial viability is called into question and investment funding is put at risk.

Partial or under occupancy also puts sustainability targets at risk. IFMA highlights this as another major challenge that facility executives face. Under-achieving on revenue means that capital expenditure needed for sustainability projects, like rooftop solar panels, simply isn’t available. These projects are put on pause, meaning sustainability goals are put further out of reach. Energy efficiency, waste, carbon reduction, and minimizing the environmental impacts of a building all require funds, which are unavailable due to reduced occupancy.

Partial Occupancy Challenges
The key to creating an attractive shared environment is access control. (Photo: Adobe Stock/Top Images)

 

The popularity of flexible working explains why many commercially leased buildings are only partially occupied; working remotely or on a hybrid basis is the new reality. Because it is popular among existing employees and attracts new talent, many companies are reluctant to resort to an “all in the office” model. While this new way of working contributes to the problem of partial occupancy, it also presents an opportunity.

Greater Occupancy For Energy Efficiency

Now, there are sustainability benefits of flexible working and desk sharing. The split between fully remote, hybrid, and fully in-office staff enables companies to occupy a smaller footprint inside a leased office. This means that the same leased offices can accommodate more companies who share the space. When properly managed, this arrangement uses resources more efficiently. To illustrate, the energy required for lighting and HVAC atmosphere control for 2,500 sq. ft. is used to full efficiency if it’s occupied by two flexible-working companies sharing the space, rather than a single company using half of the space.

Creating an environment suitable for sharing addresses the need to meet occupancy goals. A commercial space that is suitable for multiple companies — including “company of one” entrepreneurs and freelancers — means facility executives can start to fill their spaces again. Making an environment fit for flexible working patterns is a recipe for returning occupants, simply because many people like working alongside others, even if they don’t work for the same company.

The revenue generated from multi-company occupancy allows “big green projects” to be taken off pause. Money becomes available for investment in sustainability and energy-efficiency projects. This itself makes a facility more attractive to companies looking for leased space. Environmental social and governance (ESG) tops the priority lists of many companies. Leasing a sustainable space helps them address those issues.

Access Control Creates Attractive Shared Working Spaces

The key to creating an attractive shared environment is access control. Companies that lease shared commercial spaces need to know they have access to all the spaces and facilities they need. They also need to know that their assets — equipment, devices, and employees’ belongings — are protected. This can require multiple elements of access control, starting with access to the building itself.

Managing building access centrally using RFID cards and smart locks, which can also be combined with RFID door controllers, saves facilities executives time and money. A keyless solution removes the need to create keys and prevents the headache of lost or stolen keys.

Centrally managed RFID locks allow building managers to grant access to different areas to different groups of people. Two companies and several freelancers could be given access to a shared floor, with all their RFID cards programmed to allow access to that space. But each of the companies could be given access to their own storage spaces. Granting different users access to different areas within a shared facility helps strike the balance between flexibility and control that a shared office needs to attract occupants back.

Sharing partially occupied spaces reduces waste and increases efficiency, which helps to address sustainability issues within buildings.

After building and zone access, these access control solutions are needed for individuals too. In a shared space, employees need somewhere to store their belongings. Lockers are a simple solution but managing them can be time-consuming and demanding if each individual requires one, especially if they’re working remotely part of the time.

When equipped with a locking solution that allows for flexible access control, facilities executives do not need to match lockers to users one-to-one. Instead, they can create bays of lockers to cater to the daily capacity of users. This saves floor space and optimizes locker usage.

Using an RFID lock allows personal storage lockers to be centrally managed. This is a good option if facilities executives want to control which locker bays employees have access to. For example, if a floor is divided between two or three companies, facilities executives may want to provide access to select lockers for each company’s employees. Mechanical coded locks that are programmed by the user with a new code each time they’re locked is a simple alternative.

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Occupancy And Sustainability Benefits

Access control solutions contribute massively to workplace environments that strike the balance between flexibility and protection. They help facilities executives create spaces that appeal to companies looking for shared workspaces.

Sharing partially occupied spaces reduces waste and increases efficiency, which helps to address sustainability issues within buildings. It also tackles partial occupancy head-on, getting people back into commercial buildings to recover lost revenue. As we’ve seen, this has positive effects because it generates more money to reinvest in the facilities themselves for added energy-efficiency and sustainability initiatives.  

Partial Occupancy, Matt Welty, Codelocks Inc.

Welty is the Vice President, Americas at Codelocks Inc.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at jen@groupc.com.

Check out more technology and facility management news in previous Facility Executive Tech & FM Columns.

Facility Executive Magazine