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Transmittal Notice

  1. Explanation of Material Transmitted: This chapter provides policies and procedures to evaluate administrative space utilization rates on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campuses and in leased facilities. This revision explains new regulations and procedures established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the NIH Space Recommendation Board (SRB). In addition, updates were made to provide more accurate definitions, define new terms, and accurately reflect the responsibilities of the stakeholders to this policy.
  2. Filing Instructions:

Remove: NIH Manual Issuance 1210, dated 03/11/2008.
Insert: NIH Manual Issuance 1210, dated 07/23/2014.

PLEASE NOTE: For information on:

The purpose of this policy is to maintain administrative space within the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) targeted Utilization Rates (URs) to facilitate optimal use, recapture and re-assign space when viable within the NIH community as needed. This policy also allows NIH to respond effectively to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Real Property Asset Management Plan (RAMP) reporting requirements to reduce URs exceeding the targeted rate. The policy will be used for facilities in which the predominant use is administrative. The policy is applicable to all NIH campuses, throughout the National Capital Region (NCR) and beyond the NCR, and to all leased facilities. This policy excludes office space in laboratory facilities. 

The NIH occupies approximately 20 million square feet of rentable space on the Bethesda campus and in NCR leased facilities, of which approximately 23 percent is administrative.

The majority of NIH’s administrative space is located in leased facilities off campus. On the Bethesda campus, buildings 1, 2, 3, 12, 31, 45, and 60 are primarily administrative facilities.

NIH’s standard UR is 160 net assignable square footage/feet (nasf) per person for both on-campus and off-campus facilities. This standard UR is a means of controlling the allocation of administrative space assignments; and allows the NIH to meet the maximum 170 USF (useable square feet) per person guideline established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (See Item #1 of Section D. References.). 

NIH’s Institutes and Centers (ICs) and the Office of the Director (OD) Programs occupying space in administrative facilities must strive to maintain URs at/near the NIH target UR of 160 nasf per person. If the Office of Research Facilities Development and Operations (ORFDO)/ Division of Facilities Planning (DFP) annual UR analysis determines that any IC or OD Programs exceed the target UR goal of 160 nasf per person, the IC or OD Program may be required to relinquish space at the location exceeding the target UR, if economical. If an IC or OD Program requests additional space and its utilization rate is above 160 but below 180 nasf, an evaluation of the existing space will be completed to determine if the request will be approved, or if the IC or OD Program can utilize existing space, with minimal impact and cost.

  1. HHS Facilities Program Manual (Volume II), Section 2-4 Utilization Rate for Office and Related Space.

  2. Memorandum dated March 29, 2005, signed by Chairman, Facilities Working Group, Subject: Update to the Space Justification Document Process.

  3. ORFDO Space Request Website:

  4. Space Justification Document (SJD) template, including a link to a Word version:

  5. NIH Census:

  6. NIH Rules for Calculating Space:

  7. NIH Manual Chapter 1743, "Keeping and Destroying Records," Appendix 1, NIH Records Control Schedule

  8. NIH Delegation of Authority, Property: Real, No. 05 entitled “Space Management”:

E. Definitions

  1. Administrative Space: Space primarily used for offices, private and open work stations, including internal circulation space, plus associated storage and any other program space in a building with a predominance of administrative space.

  2. Census: The NIH Census is used for NIH Master Planning and for ICs and OD space planning purposes. The census is based on an annual June 30 snapshot of the NIH Enterprise Directory (NED) to capture staffing data.  The census counts staff with an NIH Identification (ID) who occupies NIH facilities on a regular basis. "Staff" includes employees Full-Time Equivalent (FTEs), Contractors, Guest Researchers, Fellowship Appointees, Tenants and Volunteers. A space evaluation census is used in determining the calculation of utilization rates. This includes all the staff identified above plus special government employees and excludes summer students. No distinction is made for part-time or limited-term employees, each of whom is counted as a whole number.

  3. DFP Space Coordinator: The analyst in charge of reviewing and evaluating Space Justification Documents (SJDs) received from an IC or OD Program.

  4. Facilities Information Management System (FIMS): A Computer Aided Facility Management system (CAFM) to support space management for NIH. The system includes floor plan drawings and reports of NIH facilities via the internet. It allows viewing and printing of CAFM drawings from an intelligent data source; it contains details including but not limited to, room numbers and types, and IC/OD Administrative space assignments shown by the designated IC/OD Program color code.

  5. Facilities Working Group (FWG): Advises the NIH Steering Committee, the NIH ICs and the NIH Director on matters pertaining to the planning, acquisition, development, and use of land and facilities for the pursuit of the NIH mission.

  6. Joint Use Space: Shared spaces and amenities that are used by more than one IC/OD Program that may include cafeterias/vending stands, auditoriums, day care facilities, health units, data centers, fitness centers, travel offices, credit unions, conference centers, training centers, and libraries. A pro-rata share of joint use space is included in each tenant’s assigned useable square feet.

  7. NIH Director’s Reserve (DR) Space: The “NIH Director’s Reserve Space” is space within the NIH space inventory that is available for loan or assignment by the SRB, on behalf of the NIH Director. The DR Space provides space for new initiatives and swing space for programs displaced while NIH renovates/makes improvements to their “permanent” assigned space or facilities. On May 13, 2002, the NIH Director established a “rolling NIH Director’s Reserve Space” of 25,000 nasf for research space and 25,000 nasf for administrative space. The cost of the unassigned NIH Director’s Reserve Space is factored into the space billing rates as a vacancy factor.

  8. NIH Steering Committee: A group of NIH officials that provides efficient, transparent, and shared governance at NIH.  The NIH Steering Committee’s purview includes corporate governance issues, and in this regard it will; 1) Maintain stewardship over corporate resources, 2) Provide policy oversight to assure achievement of NIH’s mission, and 3) Assure that mechanisms are in place so that NIH is operating within established standards.

  9. Pro-Rata: An amount to be paid based on the share of space occupied by an IC or OD Program.

  10. Office Support Space: Support spaces in an office are typically used for secondary activities. Office support space includes such spaces as: file storage, reception areas, copy rooms, conference rooms, supply storage, circulation, training rooms, LAN or telephone rooms, libraries, break/kitchen rooms and any similar space assigned to a specific tenant.

  11. Space Analysis: URs for ICs and OD space (or just for ICs and OD) by building are determined by dividing the total nasf assigned to the IC/OD in the building, including internal circulation space, dedicated conference rooms, break rooms, and other space assigned to the IC, by the number of IC staff in the building, based on the space evaluation census. This calculation excludes NIH-wide, joint use space, such as the Office of Research Services (ORS) managed conference rooms and cafes.  An IC/OD Program is not eligible for additional administrative space in a building if the program’s utilization rate (UR) in that building or an adjacent (directly next-to or adjoining) building is greater than 180 nasf per person. If the IC/OD Program’s UR falls in the range of 160-180 nasf per person, any request for additional space will be evaluated and approved based on the efficiency of the existing space.

  12. Space Justification Document (SJD): SJD is an official document from an IC or OD Program requesting new, expansion, or replacement space. An SJD is also used when an IC or OD Program is requesting to relinquish space.

  13. Space Recommendation Board (SRB): The SRB is a standing subcommittee of the NIH Facilities Working Group (FWG) which meets monthly to advise the NIH Steering Committee and the NIH Director, who has the delegated authority to assign space, on strategic facility planning and priorities.

  14. Target Range (Utilization): A range in net assignable square feet that is 160-180 nasf per person for on-campus and off-campus administrative facilities.

  15. Under-utilized Space: Assigned administrative space that exceeds the target UR of 160-180 nasf per person.

  16. Utilization Rate (UR): The rate at which an IC or OD Program occupies space, measured by nasf per person. The UR captures offices, open work stations, and includes internal circulation space, storage, conference rooms, and special spaces (e.g., high density file rooms, LAN closets, break/kitchen rooms, reception areas, meeting/training rooms and libraries). The UR does not include joint-use space such as ORS managed conference centers, cafeterias, retail space, health units, etc., or other spaces specifically identified as excluded on a case by case basis.

  17. Net assignable Square Feet (nasf): The area of a floor or office suite that is suitable for occupancy, including secondary corridors found within locked tenant areas. It excludes shared space such as main egress corridors, hazardous waste marshaling areas on the loading dock, and other non-programmable space. In calculating nasf no deduction is made for columns and projections that are necessary to the building.

  18. Usable Square Feet (USF): The office and office support space area assigned to a specific tenant, including a pro-rata share of any joint use space. The inclusion of joint use space in the USF calculation is the General Service Administration (GSA) standard.

F. Responsibilities

  1. IC and OD Programs will: provide accurate staffing data in the NIH Enterprise Directory (NED), for the annual NIH Census.  If the UR analysis results in under-utilization of space, the IC or OD Program will work with DFP to reduce or eliminate this space.

  1. Division of Facilities Planning (DFP):

    1. Provides staff support to the SRB in coordinating the programmatic and facility analyses of the utilization of administrative space, identifying options, and developing recommendations, with technical input from the Space Advisory Team (SAT) comprised of representatives from the Office of Research Facilities Development and Operations (ORFDO), the Office of Research Services (ORS) and the Center for Information Technology (CIT), if needed.

    2. Will evaluate the UR data calculated for each IC and OD Program by building. The UR is calculated by dividing the assigned space by the IC/OD staff identified in the space evaluation census (space and census data as of June 30th). DFP will identify and analyze space usage and prepare a report for SRB.

  2. Space Recommendation Board will:

    1. Allocate space to individual IC and OD Programs

    2. Make the final decision on DFP’s recommendations for ICs and OD Programs to retain or relinquish under-utilized space.

    3. Notify ICs and OD Programs with under-utilized space and request them to work with DFP to justify retention or relinquishment of this space. 

  3. Facilities Working Group: is responsible for evaluating NIH’s programmatic needs, balancing competing priorities, exploring alternative means of meeting NIH’s changing needs for capital facilities and reconciling them into a rolling five-year Strategic Facilities Plan, which includes the annual Buildings and Facilities (B&F) Plan, Leased Facilities Plan, and Freeze the Footprint Strategic Plan.  

  4. ORFDO/DFP Space Data Team: is responsible for providing the necessary census and space assignment data to allow determination of IC and OD Offices URs, and make required changes in the assignment of space.

  5. The ORFDO, Division of Budget and Financial Management (DBFM): is responsible for making any rent changes resulting from SJD and SRB decisions.

The procedures that follow define the steps to be used by DFP to conduct an annual review and analysis of URs and to take the necessary action to obtain justification for an IC to retain or relinquish under-utilized administrative space.

Step #1: DFP assembles the data for the UR study as follows:

  1. The DFP Space Data Team prepares an excel data table using the completed annual NIH Census (locked in on June 30th and the nasf (in the Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) system at that time) by IC and OD Programs, and by building.
  2. The DFP Administrative Space Coordinator or Analyst receives the pivot table from the Space Data Team, and evaluates the data. The DFP Administrative Space Coordinator or Analyst identifies ICs or OD Programs with under-utilized space in excess of the above mentioned criteria.

Step #2: Upon completion of the UR study, DFP develops a presentation of its evaluation for review by the SRB, recommending approval to proceed with requesting IC and OD Program justifications for under-utilized space. The presentation will include:

  1. Overall analysis of administrative facilities URs by IC and OD Programs, by building;
  2. Identification of ICs and OD Programs with under-utilized space in excess of the standard UR target range, a listing of the evaluation criteria, and a strategy to create contiguous blocks of space to be relinquished;
  3. Identification of potential IC and OD Programs that could backfill the space from pending SJDs.

Step #3: Upon SRB approval of the above recommendations, DFP prepares a memorandum to be signed by the SRB and forwarded to the IC Director or OD Office Director or designee with under-utilized space and with a copy to IC Executive Officer. The memo includes the following:

  1. Define the analysis and indicate the amount of space identified as under-utilized;
  2. Request the IC or OD Programs to confirm that their NIH space inventory is reflected accurately;
  3. Identify any initiatives that are not reflected in the latest census or any other staff not captured in the census;
  4. A SJD number will be assigned for tracking purposes, and the IC or OD Program will be requested to submit a justification why the space should not be relinquished (or justification to retain), subject to SRB approval;
  5. DFP may recalculate UR based on updated information from the IC or OD Program. If UR still exceeds maximum, the program will have one more year to bring it down. This would mean including in their next year’s budget any necessary renovation funds to achieve the UR reduction;
  6. If the IC or OD Programs have not reduced the UR the following year, they will receive a memo from the SRB requesting them to identify a contiguous block of space to be relinquished at the program’s expense.

Step #4: Upon receipt of the IC or OD Program SJD, the standard process of evaluation and presentation to the SRB will be conducted based on the following criteria:

  1. Acceptable justification for IC or OD Program with under-utilized space are as follows:
    1. Future initiatives that will result in additional staff. The IC or OD Program must provide a plan to house the additional staff prior to bringing them on-board, approved by the respective IC Director or Deputy Director for Management (DDM) for the OD Program, within the under-utilized space; and,
    2. If the IC or OD Program plan determines their existing space will not accommodate the new staff without major alterations, the SRB may require the IC or OD Program to have a study conducted to demonstrate whether the IC or OD Program could achieve an acceptable UR by; 1) doubling up in offices, 2) setting up workstations in open areas, or 3) creating private offices in open areas.
  2. SRB opportunities to consider capturing under-utilized space are as follows:
    1. IC or OD Programs, on-campus, that exceed the 180 UR, and where there is an opportunity to isolate a minimum of 250 nasf (typical front and back office), will be considered for assignment to the NIH Director’s Reserve Space (DR);
    2. IC or OD Programs, off-campus that exceed the 180 UR, and where there is an opportunity to isolate contiguous space at a minimum of 1,000 nasf will be considered for assignment to the NIH Director’s Reserve Space (DR). If space is not contiguous, the SRB may request the IC or OD Program to realign staff and make the necessary alterations at the program’s expense in order to isolate a contiguous block of space to be assigned to the DR;
    3. If the amount and location of the under-utilized space is not deemed as acceptable for reassignment to another IC or OD Program, the SRB would receive a recommendation from the Division of Facilities Planning not to assign the space to the DR; and,
    4. If under-utilized space to be relinquished is acceptable, the SRB decision is documented in a memo identifying the estimated reduction of rent amount (per location and in net assignable sq. ft.), and estimated Fiscal Year (FY) in which rent stops and includes any forced move agreements.
  3. The SJD Log and floor plans are updated to reflect the decision and related data.

Step #5:  NIH Director’s Reserve Space; NIH policy authorizes the ORFDO, DFP to have up to 25,000 net assignable square feet (nasf) each, of research and administrative space available in any FY. If an IC or OD Program is required to relinquish under-utilized space to the DR inventory that would exceed the 25,000 nasf, the IC or OD Program may be required to continue to fund the rent until the DR threshold falls below the maximum. Every effort will be made to reassign the space to another IC or OD Program to minimize the amount of time required to fund the rent.

H. Records Retention and Disposal

All records (e-mail and non-e-mail) pertaining to this chapter must be retained and disposed of under the authority of the NIH Manual Chapter 1743, "Keeping and Destroying Records," Appendix 1, NIH Records Control Schedule; Sections 1100 - General Administration, Item 1100-B-1, "Policy Files," Section 1300, "Station Management," and Section 2600, "Procurement, Property and Supply Management," B. Public Buildings and Space including any other applicable item.

NIH e-mail messages, including attachments that are created on the NIH computer systems or transmitted over the NIH networks that are evidence of the activities of the agency or have informational value are considered Federal records.  These records must be maintained in accordance with current NIH Records Management guidelines. Contact your IC Records Liaison for additional information.

All e-mail messages are considered Government property, and if requested for a legitimate Government purpose, must be provided to the requester. Employees' supervisors, the NIH staff conducting official reviews or analysis, and the Office of Inspector General may request access to or copies of the e-mail messages. E-mail messages must also be provided to the Congressional Oversight Committees, if requested, and are subject to the Freedom of Information Act requests. Back-up files are subject to the same requests as the original messages.

I. Internal Controls

The purpose of this manual chapter is to provide a complete understanding of the utilization of administrative space, the process to identify under-utilized space, and the use of the SJD process to relinquish space.

  1. Office Responsible for Reviewing Internal Controls Relative to this Chapter: Through this manual issuance, the Division of Facilities Planning (DFP), Office of Research Facilities Development Operations (ORFDO) is responsible for the method used to ensure that controls are implemented and working.
  2. Frequency of Review (in years): Annual review
  3. Method of Review: The DFP will maintain oversight and ensure effective implementation and compliance with this policy through the annual NIH Census and the Floor Plan System and present its findings to the NIH Space Recommendation Board.
  4. Review Reports are sent to: Review reports are sent to the ORFDO Director and the Deputy Director for Management (DDM). Reports will indicate that controls are in place and working. Issues of concern will be brought to the attention of the ORFDO Director.

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