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How Do Space Utilization Requirements Affect Master Planning?

Recommendations in facilities master plans must conform to the USDA and Forest Service space utilization requirements. Your Region may have more detailed requirements, so check with your Region or Station Facilities Program Manager (Web site available only to FS and BLM employees) before proceeding.

DR-1620-002, Space Management Policy is quite specific about the allowed space per person in new or extensively renovated USDA offices. In 2014 and 2015, a series of AGPMR Advisories modified the definition of the personnel count and added a requirement that any exceptions to the maximum allowable space be approved in writing by the WO Office of Regulatory and Management Services and a copy sent to OPPM. The latest Advisory is AGPMR Advisory 16-01, Space Utilization Rate Policy, issued December 7, 2015. It identifies the parameters for space utilization rates within the USDA.

The maximum allowable space for new or extensively renovated USDA office buildings is an average of 150 SF of usable space per person. To apply the USDA space utilization requirements, you have to know the “usable space” and the “personnel count”, and plug those numbers into the “UR calculation”. Here’s how to do it:

Determining Usable Space (usable square footage or USF)

Usable Space is standard office–type construction that includes the following:

  • Offices are where personnel primarily conduct their work, with or without dividing walls.
    Examples: individual workspace such as open workstations, enclosed private and shared offices, and touchdown stations.

  • Support space contains “back of house” and collaborative activities supporting office work.
    Examples: automated data processing (not raised-floor), break/lunch, team or informal meeting, conference and training, file, office supply, printer/copy/fax/mail areas, and storage areas or rooms.

  • Circulation is the internal “spaces between the spaces” that personnel travel within a usable space’s workplace setting, including halls used only by Forest Service personnel and internal aisle ways and space around workstations.

Spaces that are not included in Usable Space are:

  • Common Area is generally fixed building support space that is either public space or is used by other tenants in the building and by building management, as well as by Forest Service personnel.
    Examples: atriums, courtyards, electrical/telephone/mechanical rooms, janitorial closets, lobbies, public corridors, restrooms, and vestibules.

  • Special Space is enclosed space that has special structural features constructed for non-office purposes. Do not confuse this type of space with the “special purpose space” authorized under the delegated leasing authority in AGPMR 102–73.170.
    Examples: auditoriums, cafeterias, child care centers, commercial kitchens, credit unions, courtrooms, raised floor data centers, fitness centers with lockers and showers, garages, greenhouses, laboratories, light industrial space, medical units, sheds, specialized storage such as walk-in freezers or coolers, retail space, vaults, warehouses, and workshops.

USDA requires using BOMA’s definition of how to measure USF. This complex definition is explained reasonably plainly by the National Center for Education Statistics. Note that USF does not include the exterior walls of the building, nor the walls separating common area or special space from usable space.

Determining Personnel Count

Count the total number of the following who telework less than five days a week and are permanently assigned to the location:

  • Full and part–time USDA employees
  • Resident contractors (including employees of other agencies, partners, and local cooperators). Do not include janitorial staff, construction workers, movers, security guards, and all other contractors who do not work from a desk and are not typically considered “office workers.”
  • Seasonal hires, term employees, interns, and other temporary staff if they predominately work in the office and are employed for three months or longer.

Utilization Rate (UR) Calculation

To calculate a UR, perform the following steps:

  1. Calculate the sum total of all USF.
  2. Determine the personnel count for the subject location.
  3. Divide total USF (result of #1) by the personnel count (result of #2).

Example: 13,500 USF 90 people = 150 USF/person. The UR is 150. This complies with the maximum UR threshold in DR 1620-002.

Forest Service Policy

In December 2016, the Forest Service issued an update to Forest Service Manual 6440 Real Property Management, that that added to the USDA requirements for office spaces. All newly purchased, built, leased, re–leased (unless lease extension is 3 years or less or extension terms were pre–negotiated), and GSA–assigned office space, and existing offices that are renovated must be designed to:

  • Limit the size of individual work stations to 36 square feet.
  • Limit the number of private offices to 5% of the number of full time employees.
  • Incorporate touchdown/hoteling workstations.
  • Use systems furniture.
  • Provide high quality space by including features such as low partition cubicle walls to allow light to penetrate the workstations; organizing work stations to encourage collaboration among colleagues; incorporating meeting areas, enclosed telephone rooms, focus rooms, and huddle rooms throughout the office; and so forth.

These design concepts are more fully explained in the Forest Service National Workplace Design Guidelines.

The USDA National Space and Design Guide guides space planners and designers in implementing the USDA Space Management Policy and Advisory. It includes guidance on assessing space needed for a work group, requesting new space, and design. The design guidance includes suggestions for layouts of various sorts of work spaces, floor plans, and furnishings.

A written exception is required to implement an office design with any of the following conditions:

  • The utilization rate exceeds 150 square feet per person
  • Private offices exceed 5 percent of the total number of full–time employees
  • Workstations exceed 36 square feet

The exception must be signed by the Regional Forester and AQM Director, then routed through the WO Director of Engineering and sent to the WO Director of AQM. See FSM 6447.3 for more details.


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