For classrooms, two standard statistics are used at campuses around the world. The room use rate measures the number of hours the room in use per week against the standard week (i.e., 50 hours, 60 hours, etc). Typically a room use rate of <60% is considered poor utilization. The station occupancy rate looks at the percentage of seats filled per class. Typically a station occupancy rate of <60% constitutes poor utilization. Different schools set different target rates.
Utilization of teaching labs is similar to classroom utilization but the room use rate is usually much lower than classrooms due to the specialized nature of the rooms. An example of poor utilization in a teaching lab would be one that was used for teaching only one semester a year.
Poor utilization of offices can result from a number of factors. Faculty or staff with two offices on the same campus; single full-size offices assigned to adjunct faculty, per course instructors, or graduate assistants; offices used for storage; or ones that are much larger than the guidelines are all examples of poor office utilization.
Departmental space consists of mail, copy, file and workrooms, lounges or commons, conference rooms, storage, and departmentally controlled teaching spaces. Examples of poor utilization of these are excess dead storage space; separate lounges for faculty/staff and students; infrequently used or not shared conference rooms; and departmentally controlled teaching spaces that don't meet university utilization targets.
Research space is usually the most expensive space to build and operate, so good utilization of it is very important. Poor utilization of research space includes space allocated to emeriti with no sponsored research; space allocations that are not regularly reviewed re: funding and staffing; labs, fume hoods, and/or bench space used for storage as opposed to active research; research labs used as offices or other non lab functions; wet labs used for dry research; and labs full of ancient equipment.
Suitability of space refers to the match between the room design and its current use. Poor suitability often coincides with poor utilization. Examples are offices used for storage; wet labs used as offices or dry labs; rooms that are too big or too small for the activity taking place in them; or a poor location for the room - i.e., a classroom on an upper floor surrounded by intensive research labs, a space that need quiet located on a busy first floor.
There are a number of methods of assessing research space utilization that we will explore here at URI. One method is to benchmark against other state universities, looking at the net square feet (NSF) assigned on average per faculty plus the NSF on average per grad students, for various disciplines. Another is to compare against peer institutions, looking at total research space. We will look at research space per research dollars expended ($/sf), and compare research space per PI and staff/students across comparable disciplines. We will also compare linear feet of bench space per PI in various disciplines. Combinations of these methods will likely be used so as to get an assessment of research space utilization in all its complexity. Another issue that will need to be considered is the career phase of PI. Space allocations and utilizations should be different for new faculty, those near retirement, and those who are productive and funded.