Activity-Space Simulation®

Most organisations have to occupy buildings to perform their primary activity. The buildings are a means to an end, and should be economical and efficient.

Organisations want to know:

  • how can we minimise the overhead costs put into our building?
  • how can we maximise benefits derived from our building?

To answer these questions surveys are often carried out. Surveys are an excellent way of understanding the status quo. They often identify poor performance. But they can’t tell you what would happen if the building was changed.

You can survey an existing building, but you have to simulate a hypothetical building.

CAR has developed simulation methods to explore ‘what-if’ scenarios for change. Simulation is quick and versatile so it is possible to explore many scenarios. The scenarios can describe change in activities, accommodation or management.

An important application is for new ways of working in office-based organisations. With current trends for home working, part-time working, and so on, many high-cost office workplaces are under-used. Some workplace-sharing is the obvious response – but how much? It is essential to minimise the risk of congestion at busy times. CAR’s simulation studies reveal the trade-off between higher workplace utilisation (good) and the risk of congestion (bad), allowing managers to make informed decisions. This method has already been used successfully in a number of private sector companies.

Simulation is equally valuable in educational institutions, especially for the strategic planning of teaching space. Simulation is different from timetabling, which processes vast quantities of precise but ephemeral data. Simulation manipulates a small number of critical parameters and explores the envelope within which timetabling is possible. CAR is active in simulation studies for higher education institutions.

For more information see:

Fawcett, W. (2009), ‘Optimum capacity of shared accommodation: yield management analysis’, Facilities, vol.27, no.9/10, 2009, pp.339-356.

Fawcett, W. and Rigby, D. (2009), ‘The interaction of activity, space and cost variables in workspace sharing’, Journal of Corporate Real Estate vol.11, no.1, 2009, pp.38-51.

Fawcett, W. and Song, J.Y. (2009), ‘Modelling the use of space and time in the knowledge economy’, Building Research & Information vol.37, no.3, 2009, pp.312-324.

Fawcett, W. and Chadwick, A. (2007), ‘Space-time management and office floorspace demand: applied experience and mathematical simulations’, Journal of Corporate Real Estate vol.9, no.1, 2007, pp.5-24.

Fawcett, W. (1996), ‘Architecture: functional approach; or, the case for user research’, Architectural Research Quarterly vol.1, no.3, 1996, pp.8-15.

To find out more about activity simulation for flexible offices, read this article that first appeared in the March 2013 edition of Facilities Management, published by LexisNexis.


William Fawcett
01223 460475

Simulation of college hall showing the impact of seating conventions on cross-disciplinary encounters. They are four times more likely at the high table (below) than in the main hall (above).