Space-Planning Software’s Greatest Features

Jan. 22, 2010

Whether you’re designing something simple or complex, this type of software offers benefits you don’t want to miss

Last year was a big year for space-planning software. New technologies were introduced that offer solutions for addressing short- and long-term space needs. According to John Clark, director of corporate marketing at TRIRIGA, new visual modeling capabilities allow you to create planning scenarios that adjust lease expirations, add new facilities, and match available space with demand over time.

One of the biggest trends in space-planning software, says Karen Roller, vice president of services at MicroMain Corp., is the move away from CAD expertise as a necessity. “This trend allows companies to take advantage of space-planning software without hiring CAD experts or using CAD vendors.”

What to Look For
Jill Roberson, social media manager at SmartDraw, indicates that some software products (visual processors) are built around the idea that producing a floorplan can be made easier by automating certain parts (alignment of elements, calculating square footage, etc.). If you’re new to space-planning software, this might be the route to go. “The benefits from automation are huge – dimensions are calculated to scale and depicted automatically, which could take hours to calculate by hand if not done properly.”

Space-Planning Software Myths

Myth: It requires too much data entry to be effective.
Reality: “New capabilities capture data via automated processes that monitor user actions, which minimizes the data entry required,” says John Clark, director of corporate marketing at TRIRIGA. Some software provides automated processes that track actions in stack planning and use this info to count the number of employees moved, calculate the churn rate, and estimate the cost of the move. The results are automatically compared to targeted goals, scored, and presented side-by-side.

Myth: It’s too hard to produce a visual on a computer. Only engineers can successfully use desktop software to produce business-worthy visuals.
Reality: “We strongly believe that this is a major reason why communication is such a problem for most organizations,” says Jill Roberson, social media manager at SmartDraw. “Can you imagine how hard it would be to communicate a facilities layout for a manufacturing plant without using floorplans or schematics? People don’t communicate with visuals because they believe it’s too hard and time-consuming. This is a total falsehood.”

Myth: You have to have specialized expertise, such as CAD, to use it. 
Reality: “Users with CAD knowledge will be able to expedite some of the processes,” says Karen Roller, vice president of services at MicroMain. “However, new space-planning software enables customers to use the system without that expertise.”

If you’re looking for something more robust, focus on these features:

  • Space forecast analytics, such as density and cost per area, to compare actual and forecast performance to planned targets.
  • Graphical supply-and-demand analysis.
  • Interactive supply-and-demand modeling capabilities to adjust the availability of space and model the impact of new facilities, changes in lease terms, and disposition of space over time.
  • Automated processes that compare trial layouts to actual layouts, and generate move projects and line items.
  • The ability to visualize real-time data on the floorplan.
  • Stacking (being able to look at how space is used across multiple floors).
  • Adherence to BOMA/IFMA space standards.
  • The ability to associate people with spaces in various ways.
  • The ability to view data-linked drawings for specific needs, such as occupancy at a glance, color-coded departments, etc.
  • Prebuilt templates and symbols.
  • Integration with Microsoft Office.

Real-World Examples
Nokia estimates that it has reduced operating costs and CO2 emissions by 17 percent across 400 of its facilities by using space-planning software.

Computer Associates reduced global occupancy costs by 15 percent (saving tens of millions of dollars per year) by achieving better space management with software. Michael Schley, CEO and founder of FM:Systems, has also seen facilities professionals reclaim vacant space and defer entire construction projects with the help of space-planning software.

Roller saw churn rate for one building owner jump from 20 to 50 percent. After implementing space-planning software, that facilities team was able to plan and schedule moves in an efficient manner, so the company didn’t waste precious time scrambling for space.

Leah B. Garris ([email protected]) is managing editor for Buildings magazine.

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