Building Space Management

Building space represents one of the largest physical resources research campuses have to manage.

It is also one of the key elements for competitively recruiting and successful acquisition of research funding.

Learn more about how space management is necessary to your campus climate action plan, including:


Research campuses reduce the need for new space through more effective space management, repurposing underused space and through the use of electronic media.

Several space management principles can help ensure that lab space is being used as efficiently as possible:

  1. Track space used through an inventory.

    A prerequisite to space management is a thorough and up-to-date space inventory system. Campuses that receive Federal research funding are typically required to track space used to recover indirect costs on space used for research. A space use database and annual review of all rooms is essential to track campus space use. Read about space management inventory in the National Center for Education Statistics' Postsecondary Education Facilities Inventory and Classification Manual.

  2. Actively manage the space available.

    Historically campuses have allowed departments and units to manage "their own" space. As programs evolve some programs grow and some shrink. Units typically do not give up space when their need wanes and always seek new space when their program grows. As a result campuses are always growing. The concept of centrally managed space erases departmental boundaries in an effort to move growing programs into underused space. The concept is analogous to defragmenting computer storage to collect the unused areas to create space large enough for new programs.

  3. Expand space use schedules beyond typical business hours.

    Most campuses operate within a traditional base schedule. For research campuses this generally corresponds to Monday–Friday work week. At academic campuses classes are most heavily scheduled between 10 am and 2 pm on weekdays. Expanding these schedules maximizes the use of your facilities and, effectively, makes your campus larger.

  4. Adapt underused space to current needs.

    A deterrent to active space management is a mismatch between type of space needed and the type available. As the nature of a campus changes it may be necessary to repurpose a building from one use to another type.

  5. Expand outreach through electronic media.

    The use of webinars, online courses, and telecommuting are effective ways to virtually expand your campus. In addition to reducing space growth these methods will reduce travel and its associated climate impact.


Research campuses should consider the following before implementing a space management program.

Is space management right for your campus?

  • Is your budget for new construction constrained?
  • Do you have changing program needs?
  • Do you have goals to reduce energy use and climate impact?

Reduce the cost of new construction

A large campus grows in building area at a rate of 1–2% per year. Programs that actively manage and repurpose space will reduce the need for new space and reduce construction spending.

Adapt underused space to changing program needs

An alternative to new construction for expanding program needs is to repurpose existing buildings that are underused. In addition to costing less than new construction this approach is highly sustainable.

Meet your energy and climate action goals

The energy use of new construction and its associated climate impact will offset good efforts of energy conservation in existing buildings. Reduction of space growth and new construction is essential to significantly reduce your overall climate impact.

Leading Example:

Stanford University had an aggressive Space Charge Program for management of campus space. The space use of each department was tracked and compared to an allowance based on standardized metrics. Occupied area in excess of this allowance was assessed a space charge of $33/sf each year. The program had the following features that cause it to stand out among campus management programs:

  • Established guidelines are used to determine space needs
  • Space use of each unit is carefully tracked each year
  • The cost for excess space is significant and can change behaviors
  • This program has been in effect for 4 years
  • This program has allowed Stanford to minimize net growth.