Saving money with Strategic Occupancy Planning

Falling electricity prices and rising interest rates are a scourge not only for individuals, but also for municipalities, regions, government agencies and other property owners with large property portfolios. In this situation, it is particularly important that space is used efficiently and effectively. There is a lot of money to be saved here," says FOJAB's Charlotte Kristensson, the architect behind the Strategic Occupancy Planning service.

Many municipalities are currently facing the same kind of problem. They have buildings from the 1960s and 70s with major maintenance needs. Premises are used incorrectly or too little. Rented premises are not adapted to the activities. Schools are located in the wrong places in relation to the number of pupils.

As the economy gets tougher, there is little room for new construction. It is also important for climate reasons to make optimal use of the existing stock. Municipalities have to prioritize hard and many are now reviewing their needs. Which premises should be used, which additions are needed and where, which are left over and what do they cost? It can be a tricky puzzle to solve.

Basis for decision
FOJAB's strategic occupancy planning provides politicians with a complete and transparent basis for long-term decisions. The customer is guided to a comprehensive solution and efficient utilization of their property portfolio. Charlotte and her colleagues at FOJAB have helped numerous municipalities over the years, often involving schools, preschools, cultural and leisure facilities.

So how does it work?

An important starting point is to create a common picture of the conditions, something that is not entirely obvious where many administrations and people are involved. A real estate manager has his own perspective, a head of education or a principal has others. The architectural team comes in as a neutral party and guides the organization through an efficient process. Existing premises are analyzed based on parameters such as suitability, operation, renovation needs, etc. Conditions such as student numbers and political decisions are taken into account. The wishes of the activities are reconciled with the objectives of the curriculum.

- "FOJAB has developed a unique method where we can see how much space is needed in different subjects to achieve the curriculum objectives," explains Charlotte Kristensson.

Maximizing use
Precise figures make it easier to maximize the use of each school room. With smart scheduling, the after-school program may be able to use the home economics room or the craft room at certain times. Or rented out to an external party. The figures are also a good help when weighing up different interests.

- It can be difficult for an official to resist principals and others who are pushing for more resources for their particular school. If you can point to accurate figures, it becomes easier to achieve an equal school for all pupils in the municipality. It is a question of justice.

Knowledge of long-term effects
The analysis leads to a number of policy options. Following cost assessments, the evidence is ready to be presented to decision-makers. This may involve rebuilding, demolishing and building new buildings, or relocating activities. The data also gives politicians more knowledge about the long-term effects of different decisions. Charlotte gives an example:

- One municipality wanted home classrooms for secondary school pupils, as well as for primary school pupils, in order to provide peace and quiet and improve academic performance. With the projected increase in pupils, such a decision would mean expanding the school in a number of years.

- "We don't interfere with what you choose to do," says Charlotte. It's a political question of how to prioritize. But we highlight and clarify the needs and conditions so that politicians can make informed decisions and avoid costly changes.

Many uses
It's unusual for architectural offices to offer this kind of study, but it's an added value for the client, says Charlotte. As an expert in knowledge environments, after analyzing Karlshamn municipality's need for premises, she was able to take the work further and design the new school in Mörrum, which was found to be needed. For other types of premises, FOJAB has experts in offices, housing for the elderly, sports halls, etc. who can assist with their knowledge.

Because even though most of the clients so far have been municipalities, there are many others who could benefit from strategic occupancy planning. Charlotte takes universities and colleges as an example. The influx of students is at a record high, while the cost of premises is rising. FOJAB is currently developing a method for calculating the degree of utilization of university premises in the same way as for schools.

Reducing costs
- By optimizing their use, universities can reduce the cost of their existing stock. This, in turn, can provide the financial space to develop new types of high-quality teaching environments that are better suited to the needs of today's students," says Charlotte:

- Any organization with a large number of premises and facing major changes, whether growing or shrinking, will benefit from strategic space planning. Take, for example, government agencies or our regions where there are businesses that are expanding rapidly and flagging that the supply of premises is a major problem. We can help there!