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Space utilization measurements help design Helsinki’s Kaupunkiympäristötalo building


The City of Helsinki’s technical departments are merging into an urban environment department. The c. 1500 employees are now working in around ten different locations around the city. The new department will move to a new building in Kalasatama in 2020. The construction will start in summer 2017.  Space utilization data of the present work environment was needed for designing the new building. Rapal’s expertise and Optimaze software were used for gathering the data.

Space utilization measurements aid to design the new facilities

The City of Helsinki decided to build the new building in Kalasatama for various reasons, including the need for extensive renovation work on the present premises, the aim to have the facilities better correspond to working methods, as well as the centralization of functions. Moving to joint premises will improve cooperation and the flow of information between the functions. The working environment will change from personal offices to a multi-space office that provides a flexible environment to support modern mobile work. Rapal’s Optimaze Measure tool was used for measuring the technical departments’* space utilization.

The utilization of workstations, meeting rooms and parking places was measured, as well as the amount of visitors in the premises. The measured surface area was 21,251 m².

Otto Virenius (the project manager for the working environment change, Real Estate department) leads the development project of the new working environment concept. He explains the need for the measurements: “We needed background information in order to plan the capacity of the new premises correctly. On the basis of Rapal’s utilization rate measurements, we were able to estimate the space needs of the new premises much more accurately.”

“The utilization rates showed that work stations were on average in use 51% of the time, reserved 22% of the time, and empty 27% of the time. The use of meeting rooms was even lower than this”, says Virenius.

Workers spent practically half their time somewhere other than their workstation, which is quite normal. Meeting rooms were in use only 20% of the time and 90% of meetings are small, with less than 10 people. The figures show that work is for the most part done in the office, but there is a lot of movement within the office. Therefore, not everyone needs their own workstation; they can be shared. However, there are big differences between departments and these will be taken into consideration in the design.

KVA Architects  design the working environment for the building project. They use the data from the measurements in their work. They help to create an effective and diverse working environment for the Kaupunkiympäristötalo (Urban Environment House).

Customer service areas are in an important position

The centralisation of the services is the main benefit of the project for the citizens. For example, building control, the sale and rental services for plots and dwellings, and licences will all be found in one place. Reetta Amper (project planner, City of Helsinki PWD-Construction Management), who has been involved in the project since the needs analysis phase, says, “We need well-functioning customer service facilities. Also, planning the capacity and number of meeting rooms correctly is very important.”

The measurements showed that customer service desks were in use an average of 34% of the time ( a customer at the desk).  There was a customer or a cooperation partner in offices for 3.8% of the observation rounds.

The figures support change management

Most of the people moving to Kalasatama have had private offices. Designers apply a new working environment concept based on a multi-space model when planning the new building. A multi-space office has different spaces for different types of work, including workstations in an open space, quick meeting rooms, encounter areas and quiet areas. Amper and Virenius say that the information functioned as an aid to change management. ”The data from the measurements helps in justifying the changes to employees. With the figures we can give concrete evidence of how many spaces are empty. It is otherwise difficult to perceive in offices with individual rooms,” says Amper.

Virenius sums up their collaboration with Rapal: “Our collaboration with Rapal has been quick and easy. Rapal’s team created specifications for the date input  in the programme for the space utilization measurements, and trained the personnel in making the measurements. To finish, Rapal compiled a clear report on the measurements.”

*Measurement locations:

  • Real Estate Department
  • Building Control Department
  • City Planning Department
  • Housing Production Department
  • Public Works Department
  • Parking places (at some of the locations)