Space Utilisation Surveys

In the week of Monday 18th January – Friday 22nd January 2016, you may notice surveyors taking headcounts in learning and teaching spaces across the Brayford Pool campus.

Click below to view the list of the rooms being surveyed this year.

» Rooms to be surveyed – 2016

Why are headcounts needed?

The University needs annual headcounts in order to assess how efficiently it is using its space. Headcounts are compared against timetabled group sizes and physical room capacities in order to identify specific rooms and timetable slots which are well and poorly used, as well as to determine overall efficiency. This process is necessary for academic, financial, operational and environmental reasons:

  • The availability and quality of space for teaching, learning, research and other University activities contribute significantly to the quality of student and staff experiences and outcomes. Space-related costs account for a significant proportion of the University’s annual expenditure. The more space the institution has, the more it must spend on non-discretionary items such as cleaning, maintenance and security, and the less remains for core academic activities and student support. Patterns of space utilisation across the University change constantly. New and expanding programmes, research projects, and staffing establishments all place new demands on University space, while some other activities’ space requirements diminish over time. Accurate, current information on space utilisation enables surplus space to be reallocated in a timely manner to address shortages and minimise waste. Reallocation of existing space can be much quicker than construction of new space, as well as being much less expensive.
  • Space is expensive to construct, maintain and service. After payroll, space accounts for the largest share of University expenditure. The cost of space varies from building to building and from space to space. The major cost components include energy, maintenance, estate management, rent and rates, security and porterage, cleaning, insurance, end-of-life replacement and opportunity costs (financial returns foregone on alternate use of space or investment of capital employed in space). Some of these costs are variable and depend on the level of space utilisation, while others are fixed and accrue regardless of utilisation. However, even the fixed costs can be influenced through long-term decision-making about the estate.
  • Space also contributes significantly to the University’s total environmental impact. It is environmentally costly to construct new buildings, to operate them, and to dispose of and replace them at the end of their useful lifespan. The University has a responsibility to minimise its environmental impact. Ensuring that University space is well utilised, as well as design and operated to be as energy-efficient as possible, plays a significant part in this.
  • High levels of space utilisation enable a compact estate, and compactness enables higher quality through concentrated investment in the design and maintenance of each space. A compact estate also reduces travel distances for students and staff. Accurate headcounts enable optimisation of space design and management, not only in terms of sizing, layout and furnishing, but also in the provision of heating, ventilation and cooling; ICT; lighting controls; and the provison of building-wide services such as breakout spaces, catering, retail and toilet facilities.

How will the data be used?

Survey data is used in combination with anonymised quantitative and qualitative data from a range of other University sources, including student numbers, room timetables, computer activity records, the space database, the finance system, National Student Survey returns, and discussions with academic and support service colleagues, to generate a rich picture of space utilisation.

In decision-making contexts, space utilisation information is always used in combination with other academic, operational and financial factors, whether targeting capital investment; reallocating space between activities or users; or planning for the construction or refurbishment of buildings.

Headcounts will not be analysed at the level of individual events or subjects, and no personal data will be gathered. Headcounts will be analysed by room, by room type, by building, and by time slot.

What does this mean for you?

To minimise disruption, we have asked the surveyors to work as discreetly as possible. They will enter classrooms only when necessary, without knocking, and will speak only if spoken to. They will simply count all people in the room and then leave. The surveyors are employed by Quantarc, and will wear visible photo ID badges at all times.

Students and staff are asked to simply ignore the surveyors, who have been briefed to expect this treatment and will not be offended!

If you have any questions or concerns about the survey process, please email Jayne Bannister ( or Jason Tyler ( in Estates & Commercial Facilities.