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CategoryProperty Services
Approved byVice-Chancellor, 28 November 2016
Date Guideline Took Effect18 September 2019
Last approved revision 
SponsorChief Operating Officer
Responsible officerStrategic Architect

Please note that compliance with University Guidelines is expected in normal circumstances, and any deviation from Guidelines – which should only be in exceptional circumstances – needs to be justifiable.


To supplement and provide guidance on the implementation of the Space Management Policy, ensuring that existing, new or refurbished space is utilised in the most effective manner across University Campuses. The objective of the policy and guidance is to create space which:

  • Best meets the strategic goals of the University
  • Is efficient and future flexible
  • Is environmentally sustainable
  • Is financially sustainable
  • Is equitable, consistent and fair
  • Maximises the utilisation of space across all University Campuses; improving utilisation rates
  • Effectively utilises University Assets, minimising the amount of additional built or leased space required to meet the operational needs of the University

Organisational scope

These guidelines apply to all University property whether owned or leased.


Equivalent Full Time Student
Equivalent Full Time Student Load. A value representing the student load for a unit of study or part of a unit of study, expressed as a proportion of the workload for a standard annual program for students undertaking a full year of study in a given year of a particular course.
Gross Floor Area m². As defined in the TEFMA Space Planning Guidelines, i.e. the sum of fully enclosed area and unenclosed covered area.
Full Time Equivalent. A value for measuring staff resources. Like student EFTSL it is a measure as compared to a standard full-time workload.
Tertiary Education Facilities Management Association. A professional association supporting higher education across New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.
Useable Floor Area m². As defined in the TEFMA Space Planning Guidelines, i.e. floor area measured from the inside face of the walls and deducting all the common use areas (corridors, etc.) and non-habitable areas (lifts, stairs, service ducts etc). Note: corridors provided within 'open plan' offices are considered to be useable floor area.
A space allocated to support work activities e.g. workstation in activity based workspace, desk in shared room, or single occupancy office.


  1. Space Management

    1. The University of Otago Space Management Policy sets out the Management Principals for use of space.
    2. The University of Otago Property Services Division manages space planning and has developed guidance for flexible and quality space, working towards meeting current and future needs of the University. Space efficiency reduces building costs, in terms of both capital and operating expenditure. The University looks to make best use of its space to ensure it becomes a sustainable resource, meeting the needs of the operation and ensuring an enduring legacy for future generations.
    3. The University looks to improve utilisation year on year working towards a target optimal utilisation of space.
    4. The Asset Management Unit maintains a database of occupancy of all University building spaces, which is used as a basis for allocating space and for charging internal rent. It is important that the Asset Management Unit is advised of all changes in use and occupancy in order to maintain this important management tool.
    5. Given the varied building portfolio it may not always be possible to utilise space to its theoretical maximum. A sensible and pragmatic approach should be taken within the constraints of existing buildings.
    6. Departments and Individuals are occupants of a space for a time and purpose to best align with the strategic priorities of the University. Allocation of space does not imply a permanent allocation and is therefore subject to change as required over time to ensure optimal utilisation of space for the University as a whole.
    7. The efficient use of existing space, including shared use of specialist facilities will take precedence over the construction or provision of new space.
    8. New, refurbished and existing spaces will be designed, configured and allocated to provide for flexible use in order to assist in maximising space utilisation and minimising ongoing costs while supporting innovation and collaboration.
    9. Data relating to space condition, utilisation and occupancy will be used to inform and support decisions relating to new build, refurbishment or redesign needs and scope.
    10. Efforts will be made to collocate departments and facilities, and to share facilities across multiple or all departments, to ensure most efficient use of space and operational efficiency.
  2. Space Use: Office Accommodation

    1. Office Accommodation Principles
      1. The University aspires to create modern, flexible, varied and appropriate working environments that allow staff to perform to their best. The University will utilise the guiding principles set out in the New Zealand Government Property Group guidelines for office design to assist and guide new or refurbished space development.
        View the New Zealand Government Property Group guidelines for office design
        • Open Plan Working Environments: Shared open plan collaborative work spaces for communal activity supported by collaboration space for use by individuals or for group communication and socialisation.
        • Shared Collaborative and Quiet Spaces: Shared space which supports group collaboration and meetings and flexible quiet space which supports individuals undertaking concentrated work at times.
        • Utilisation of Technology: Harnessing technology to allow staff to do their job.
        • Mobility & Adaptability: The desk is no longer considered the only viable work setting. Dynamic working environments embrace a wide range of technologies, spaces and settings that encourage areas for high concentration work, discussions and collaboration.
        • Consistent Design: Staff move while the furniture stays in place. A fixed, generic layout will be designed to maximise the efficiency of the floor plate. Teams should be formed and reformed around the requirements of projects and activities, not pods of desks.
        • Choice of Workplace Settings: The design of the open-plan working environment should be dynamic enough to enable staff to choose from a range of work settings.
        • Safe and Secure Environments: The University is committed to providing safe and secure work environments for all employees and visitors, including clients and contractors; considering the needs of people with disabilities in the design and fit-out of the working environment.
        • Spaceless Growth: In any expansion The University will first maximise the current space before acquiring additional space.
      2. Further details around the specific use of the principles are covered in the University Design & Facility Standards.
      3. Details of space standards are set out in the University Design & Facilities Standards.
      4. The needs of staff undertaking teaching or research will be taken into consideration alongside these principles to ensure that space is appropriately located relative to teaching and laboratory facilities, however it need not be directly adjacent in all cases.
      5. For smaller scale adaptations where there are constraints on configuration, these principles will still apply as far as is practicable in the circumstances.
    2. Office Accommodation Allocation
      1. Staff will be allocated space in shared work areas or single occupancy offices depending on the availability of space, the requirements of their roles, levels of space utilisation and building configuration.
      2. Staff working across multiple University buildings or campuses will be allocated a workspace at their primary location, with access to hot-desk facilities at secondary locations.  Multiple dedicated workspaces are not supported.
      3. Administrative functions should be centralised where possible to allow sharing of task and job roles.
      4. Space should be adequately supported by ancillary cellular space for meeting, hot desking, focussed work and breakout. Communal space increases informal and social interaction and is intended to help support knowledge sharing.
      5. New build or refurbishment project teams should identify exemplars of best practice relevant to the proposed work function to help demonstrate shared environments and their support spaces.
      6. Right-sizing the spatial requirements and increasing the quantity of shared accommodation can help realise the following benefits:
        • Improved flexibility and sustainability
        • Improved efficiency
        • Reduced Capital and Opex costs to both University and individual Divisions & Departments
        • Improved staff and student satisfaction
        • Improved collaboration and social interaction
      7. Office space should not be designed at a density detrimental to the health and wellbeing of staff. Density of spaces should not be increased without consultation with Property Services.
    3. Meeting Space
      1. Meeting space can be both formal and informal space and will be made available to all building users.
      2. All staff will be granted access to appropriate meeting facilities, in their building where available and otherwise in close proximity.
      3. Meeting rooms should be available for use by all. Meeting rooms will all be bookable on a shared booking resource available to all staff.
    4. Staff Facilities
      1. Staff common rooms, tea rooms and kitchen spaces will function as staff break-out areas and informal meeting spaces and will not be allocated or dedicated to specific departments or divisions; staff rooms will be accessible for all building occupants and will be shared across departments.
      2. Staff facilities may not always be created to a size and scale where all department or building staff can congregate at one time. Where special events involving large numbers of people are required, departments should consider use of larger facilities which may be outside of their building or department; infrequent large gatherings do not necessitate provision of additional space.
      3. Staff facilities will take into account the number of prospective occupants to provide adequate, fit for purpose space.
      4. Occupants will be jointly responsible for management of the space.
    5. Reception Areas
      1. Reception areas will be customer-focused. They will normally include some form of staffed area and will have space adjacent for a range of support functions from copy and hand-in facilities to PC access. This will be dependant upon function and location.
      2. Reception desks should be easily maintainable, secure and readily accessible for staff and students. All receptions should incorporate a designated wheelchair access space in accordance with current building code.
  3. Space use: Student space

    1. Allocation of Space for Students
      1. The University endeavours to provide space appropriate to the needs of undergraduate and postgraduate students supporting a range of pedagogical learning and teaching methods, research, and social learning spaces.
      2. Student space should acknowledge the changing nature of technology within the student environment and should support learning and study in a wide variety of environments to encourage the activation of buildings and space. Adequate power and data provision should be provided to all of these spaces.
    2. Undergraduates
      1. Undergraduates will not be provided with dedicated space for individual students.
      2. Collaborative learning and interaction spaces should be provided within departments/buildings to allow undergraduates to stay within their department and benefit from increased interaction with peers and staff; refer Social and Informal Learning Spaces below.
      3. Undergraduates should have access to good quality study and learning space both in library buildings and in other spaces across campus. These spaces should be varied in nature and acknowledge the different learning environments required to suit differing student preferences.
    3. Postgraduates
      1. Where possible postgraduate space should be allocated close to academic space to allow supervision and interaction.
      2. Workspaces will be made available for postgraduate students in dedicated shared work areas depending on the postgraduate student's research activities and space availability, and subject to the Resources for Graduate Research Candidates – Guidelines.
      3. Workspaces will be managed in a collaborative and flexible way across departments, so that space can be reallocated to respond to changes in the relative number of postgraduates in different departments.
      4. Postgraduate space should be supported by access to sufficient meeting spaces to allow for confidential conversations and teleconferencing when required and have access to student amenities including space for eating and refreshments and social spaces which encourage interaction.
    4. Social and Informal Learning Space
      1. Students spend a large proportion of their time outside of the classroom. Students and academic departments value time spent with peers discussing academic work. Creating spaces for spontaneous discussion is particularly important and should be included within every remodelling and capital project.
      2. Spaces should be flexible and allow regular reorganisation of the layout both by students and staff. They can be located in rooms, or within circulation space (subject to compliance with fire regulations). There should be a variety of furniture types, to allow flexible working and suit personal preferences.
      3. Consultation with the ITS Division on the provision of equipment and facilities is essential, before planning these spaces. Traditional catering and Library spaces will also provide this type of learning space.
    5. Allocation of Space for Teaching
      1. Teaching spaces will be provided as required to suit teaching pedagogy. Consideration should be given to future pedagogy and flexibility of space to support varying teaching styles.
      2. Formal learning spaces are one of the most visible components of campus life. Formal learning spaces require line of sight, good acoustics, technology enabled and a focal point at the front of the room. When designing the teaching space it is important to understand what type of learning is required and support this with the appropriate layout and furniture.
  4. Current and targeted space usage

    1. Space usage and utilisation is captured and managed by the Property Services Division under Asset Management. Information is used to inform decisions around space usage.
    2. TEFMA carry out an annual benchmarking survey of University space which provides data on a variety of efficiencies for comparison with other Universities. Whilst direct comparisons are difficult to draw based upon variability of levels of research and teaching, it provides high level comparison.
    3. Space is a valuable resource and comes at a high capital and operational cost. The University currently has too much space, inefficiently utilised, and looks to make better use of its space to ensure it becomes a sustainable resource, meeting the needs of the operation. The University has set aspirational targets as defined below (d-g) which will be assessed on an annual basis.
    4. UFA to EFTS
      1. Current TEFMA ratio of UFA to EFTS: Otago Actual 2016: 12.34m2
      2. University of Otago aspirational UFA to EFTS: 2024: 10.00m2
    5. UFA to GFA
      1. Current TEFMA ratio of UFA to GFA: Otago Actual 2018: 61.8%
      2. University of Otago aspirational UFA to GFA: 2024: 65.0%
    6. Staff office utilisation
      1. Current ratio of UFA (office) to FTE: Otago Actual 2018: 12.48m2
      2. University of Otago aspirational UFA (office) to FTE: 2024: 10.00m2
    7. Postgraduate space utilisation
      1. Current ratio of UFA (postgraduate office) to postgraduate EFTS: Otago Actual 2018: 7.27m2
      2. University of Otago aspirational (postgraduate office) to postgraduate EFTS: 2024: 5.00m2

The above figures are used for benchmarking only and does not mean that staff are allocated these figures per person within their localised working environment. The UFA includes allocation of space to communal facilities such as meeting rooms.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this guidance document or need further clarification, contact:

The Strategic Architect
Campus Development Division

Please note: These Guidelines update and replace the Space Allocation Guidelines which were in effect until September 2019.

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