Using Utilization and Activity Data in the Workplace

This blog and newsletter has published many articles on how to smartly save energy. But a broader issue to address, which will also save energy is about proper space utilization. How and when is our space being used throughout the day? If this issue can be managed well, then savings, not just in energy usage, but in rents and other expenses can be saved, as well. While many companies track when different spaces are used, also cataloging how effectively space is used can provide information about both the cost and the value of corporate real estate.

Many companies track worker population and usage of different portions of their space in order to understand the cost of their space, such as tracking employee density, square footage, energy consumption, and other costs. But additional studies can result in deeper understandings about how space results in greater efficiency, productivity, and retention.

To determine whether a company is getting its cost worth of a space, utilization data, such as how often spaces are used over a given time and by how many employees, is most important. Utilization refers to how often spaces are in use over a given period of time. Knowing the usage (or lack of usage) of space can help the company plan future usage better, more effectively using real estate costs. It also affects energy usage, as with utilization data, one can program thermostats more accurately to respond to real needs to keep warm or cold.

The follow up question is how best to obtain utilization data. The simplest way is to collect data that already exists, such as reservations for conference rooms. However, this way is inexact, as many of us know of people who reserve a conference room or other area and then never use it (but reserve it “just in case”) or use it for a much shorter time than planned. Thus, such data may need to be supplemented by humans actually walking down the halls and recording what’s going on from time to time to see if what is reserved is really happening. Of course, technology exists, too, to obtain this data. Sensors not only turn on and off lights, but also can collect data about how many people are in a room for a given amount of time if designed and programmed properly. Of course, researching, procuring, installing, and using such technology can be expensive. Depending on the accuracy needed, this can be helpful or an occasional walk-through by people can provide the accuracy needed.

How is this related to energy? Someone told me a story that is quite relevant. She told me that a review of reservations, backed up by some visual data indicated that a certain conference room, popular most of the time, was mainly unused in the summer. This room is in the southwest corner of the building and, therefore, tends to get warmer on a given summer afternoon. A check of the thermostat showed that it was set for 74 deg. during the day, perhaps a level not comfortable enough with the afternoon sun coming in. Resetting the thermostat for a few degrees lower encouraged others to utilize this conference room more.

But getting back to the broader question, it is paramount that your organization decide what your goals should be: to lower real estate or energy costs, or improve productivity? This will help you decide whether you want to focus on gathering more utilization data or more activity data of your employees throughout the facility. Then one decides whether it wants to utilize and coordinate sensor technology around the property (“passive” approach” and what type of technology or use instead human observations and/or interviews, of which there is software to manage responses and “crunch the numbers”.

CCES has the experts to help you study energy usage in your facility, including where in the building or doing which functions uses the most energy (and costs), and can help you pinpoint the most cost effective energy saving strategies. Contact us today at or at 914-584-6720.