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HCDE Space Assignment and Management Policy

Approved 4/19/2023

1. Introduction

The Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering is assigned space in Sieg Building. The Chair, Space Committee, and Administrator are responsible for managing research, instructional, and office space in a manner that is equitable and assures efficient use of this limited resource.  

This document defines a set of general guidelines for efficient use of space in the Department in the following classifications: research space, teaching space, faculty offices, staff space, administrative space, and multi-use space. The guidelines are advisory to the faculty and to the department chair and are not intended to impose rigid constraints.

2. Goals and Principles of Space Management 

The need for research and office space by individual faculty members varies from year to year, so formula-driven allocation is tempered by strategic thinking and the understanding that decisions take time. This strategic thinking, understanding, and implementation is the charge of the HCDE Space Committee. Because long-range planning is fraught with uncertainty, it is understood that adjustments of decisions will be made. The College of Engineering and HCDE manage their space dynamically; no space assignment can be considered permanent even if it is outlined in an offer letter. It may, from time to time, be necessary to impinge on the space needs of individual faculty members, students, or whole research groups in order to meet the department’s mission and strategic goals. It is clear that needs for space sometimes arise quickly because of good fortune in fundraising, and the Department will attempt to accommodate such needs in a timely manner. 

The goal of this space policy is to maximize the beneficial use of space that is available for use by faculty, staff, and students. To be effective, such a policy must be clearly delineated and must include sufficient flexibility to respond to changing needs and opportunities. It also must be administered in a fair, consistent, and transparent fashion, relying primarily on the good will of the affected individuals and the recognition that achieving the best departmental outcome sometimes requires a difficult and imprecise balance among competing, worthy options for a limited resource. 

With that in mind, the following general principles can be articulated.

  1. All allocations and all usage of space must conform to applicable health and safety standards and other facilities regulations. No exception can ever be made to this principle. 
  2. In addition, appropriate security must be provided to protect individuals and property, confidential files, computer access, etc.
  3. Delegation of space management to PIs is consistent with the University’s overall hierarchical approach and provides the advantages of local control and oversight. However, this delegation is neither permanent nor binding, and department-wide needs and opportunities can override previously existing arrangements. 
  4. Frequent (e.g., annual) reassigning of space impacts continuity and stability and should be avoided. However, at times space must be reallocated to maximize its beneficial use, taking all departmental needs into account.
  5. Whenever possible, space assignment should accommodate adjacency. Adjacency may improve proximity to research laboratories and graduate students, enhance contact between colleagues with similar interests, and address issues associated with individual disabilities.
  6. Any disagreements that arise over space allocations should be resolved via discussions with interested parties, with assistance from the HCDE Space committee. 
  7. The chair has the authority to make final decisions in all cases.

3. Types of Spaces in HCDE

3.1 Departmentally Managed Instructional Space

The following guidelines apply to departmentally assigned (as opposed to UW centrally managed) teaching and laboratory space predominately used for instruction.

  1. Teaching and other instructional activities have priority over all other activities. Studio classes should have a dedicated space during the scheduled studio time.
  2. Students working on class-related studio projects should be given flexible access to instructional studios, within the constraints imposed by safety regulations and the higher priority assigned to regularly scheduled studio classes.
  3. Spaces are reserved through HCDE’s room reservation system. Students are welcome to use the instructional spaces when no other classes or meetings are being held.

3.2 Shared Instructional Space

HCDE also shares instructional space with other departments in engineering, as governed by MOUs with those departments and/or the College of Engineering. Priority for those spaces is determined by those respective MOUs.

3.3 Faculty Offices

The priorities for space assignments and use for spaces that are of type “office” are:

  1. HCDE core faculty (i.e., tenure track, teaching faculty, and research faculty) whose appointment is primarily in HCDE and/or who do not otherwise have office space in another building. Each full time faculty is assigned one office, however, the office originally assigned to the faculty member (e.g., in the offer letter) is not guaranteed for the lifetime of the appointment. Within this category, preferences will be assigned in order of rank /seniority.
  2. Research scientists, research associates, post-docs and research engineers. These individuals are assigned shared offices. There is no preference or difference based on rank. Single-office assignment to an individual is also an option if available, though may not be guaranteed for the lifetime of the appointment.
  3. Visiting Faculty, Visiting Scientists, and Lecturers. These individuals are assigned shared or drop-in offices. Single-office assignment to an individual is also an option if available, though may not be guaranteed for the lifetime of the appointment.
  4. Emeritus Faculty (all ranks). Space is not automatically assigned to Emeritus Faculty. The department will maintain a shared office space for Emeritus Faculty.
  5. Adjunct and Affiliate Faculty. Space is not normally assigned unless such individuals are teaching, in which case a shared office may be assigned, if needed.
  6. Faculty on leave. Offices of faculty on extended leave away from the UW may be assigned to another occupant, if the faculty on leave does not need regular access to the office. The office may also be re-assigned for other temporary use, after consultation with the faculty member on leave.

3.4 Staff, Support, and Administrative Space

  1. Staff are assigned individual or shared offices, depending on the needs of their job and space availability.
  2. In a shared office or common area, efforts will be made to provide the desired level of individual privacy (e.g., by placement of partitions) within the constraints imposed by cost and other uses of the space.
  3. Technical staff and research staff should be located proximate to the facilities and faculty they support.

3.5 Workspaces for Graduate Students (TAs, RAs, and full time PhD students) and PostDocs

  1. Teaching Assistants should be able to meet with students in a manner that does not interfere with other departmental activities. Conference rooms or other common meeting areas may be used for this purpose.
  2. Full-time HCDE Ph.D. students and funded MS students should be provided with a workspace in a shared lab and minimum setup. They will be assigned to the lab of their PhD committee chair or rotation advisor. Students who are co-advised by faculty in different labs should be assigned only one desk, but can be provided drop-in space in another lab. Each lab should identify and administer their own process for assigning workspaces to PhD students on an annual basis as new students join - this could be based on frequency of working in the lab, seniority, etc. 
  3. Post Doctoral Associates whose primary appointment is in HCDE should be assigned space in a shared office whenever possible. If office space is not available, a workstation in a shared lab should be assigned.
  4. Workspaces should be configured for student success, including access to wired internet if needed, 110V electrical, lockable space for personal items, and reasonable climate control (e.g., access to opening windows, fans, heaters, etc.).

3.6 Research Lab Space

The following guidelines apply to space predominately used for research by faculty, staff, and students for specialized research needs beyond student workspaces.

  1. The department should supply adequate space for all active research projects. Funded projects may have priority over long-term unfunded projects.
  2. Whenever possible, research groups with compatible interests and/or shared laboratories or equipment should be placed in adjacent space.
  3. Shared space and facilities shall be prioritized over space and equipment used by single faculty members.
  4. The use of shared laboratory space should be determined by all faculty using the space, with a single faculty member appointed as the manager/contact point for the laboratory.
  5. If applicable, a research project or center could be assigned dedicated space, consistent with the needs of that project. In the event of substantial increase of space needs for new projects, space arrangements must be made prior to proposal submission. Project or center specific space should have a time-limited assignment and an MOU on the space assignment should be drafted. An MOU template is available on the College of Engineering Infrastructure Division website (See section 4.3 in this document for more details for requesting space).
  6. Laboratory space is not to be used for long-term storage. Directors of shared laboratories should lead annual evaluation of equipment and supplies.
  7. Adequate space should be provided for new faculty members and, to the extent possible, should be agreed upon prior to and be ready for use at the beginning of their appointments. Again, shared laboratories and equipment are encouraged and prioritized for new faculty.
  8. Senior faculty and/or laboratory directors should ensure that new faculty are given guidance and help in using shared space and understanding any relevant rules and agreements.
  9. The PI(s) of the space are responsible for developing and implementing a safety plan consistent with EHS requirements.

3.7 Space for Unfunded Graduate Students  and Undergraduate Research Students

  1. Unfunded Ph.D. students will be provided a dedicated workspace in a lab when possible, but this is not guaranteed. They may access drop-in space within their committee chair’s research labs.
  2. Ph.D. students on leave will not be provided a workspace. They may access drop-in space within their committee chair’s research labs.
  3. Unfunded MS students will not be provided a workspace. If available, unfunded MS students should be provided a general assignment study/group collaboration area.
  4. Undergraduate researchers generally will not be assigned dedicated desk or office space. Exceptions may be made in the case of projects involving a significant number of students. Investigators bringing undergraduates on at 20hr/week or more per week, e.g., in the summer, are encouraged to assign those researchers a work station in their lab for the duration of the appointment, if feasible.

3.8 Other Student Space Needs

  1. Student societies and extra-curricular activities in the department are provided access to common spaces outside student services and/or may reserve spaces via HCDE’s room reservation system.
  2. Extra-curricular student activities that require additional space may be assigned additional space. This shall be done on a case-by-case basis and reviewed annually by the Space Committee.

3.9 Common Spaces

  1. Common space that is suitable for tutoring, office hours, DRGs, research activities, meetings, or other intermittent activities should be placed under HCDE’s room reservation system accessible to appropriate groups.
  2. Regularly scheduled seminars and events should request to use university general assignment classrooms when appropriate to reduce demands on conference rooms.

3.10 Space for Storage and Specialized Needs

Items in long-term or medium-term storage should be stored off-campus or in other facilities unless frequent and/or immediate access is required. Storage items requiring frequent access should be stored in on-campus departmentally-assigned facilities that are not useful for higher-priority needs (e.g., in unheated and/or unlit laboratory space).


4.1 Logistics of Space Management

  1. Space Manager (formerly GEOSIMS) will be used to disseminate general space information ( with input from the Space Committee. More detailed space information can be available as a report that can be requested from the Administrator and/or Building Coordinator.
  2. An annual space walk-through should be conducted by the Space Committee and should be open to the faculty and staff. Questions about space usage that arise during the walkthrough should be addressed to the relevant faculty. Results of the survey will be used to make recommendations to the chair regarding space reallocations and other possible changes (e.g., upgrades via minor modifications), after consultation with current and potential users.
  3. A periodic review of these policies should be conducted every 5 years by the Space Committee or more frequently if the Space Committee or other departmental personnel identify issues that should be addressed. Revised policies must be voted on by the departmental faculty at a faculty meeting during the academic year.
  4. Allocation of new space can be done at any time by submitting a formal written request to the chair. The Space Committee will review the request and make a recommendation to the chair. The chair will have the final decision. Request of significant new space or renewal of existing space should be done before grants are submitted for review as described in section 4.3 below.

4.2 Decision-Making and the Role of the Space Committee

Decisions to assign or reassign space assigned to the department are made by the department chair and Administrator by recommendation of the Space Committee. A critical concern for the Space Committee in both annual review and ad hoc activities is long-term strategic planning for the department. This committee must both prepare for growth (e.g. faculty recruitments, new initiatives, grant success) and respond to contractions (e.g. retirements, long-term funding declines).  

Reduction or re-allocation of space will be alerted by a significant drop in research personnel, sponsored research funding, and number of research grant submissions. A decrease is considered “long-term” when it extends for longer than two calendar years without explanation. The Space Committee will serve as a review panel, and the primary faculty member to which the space is assigned shall review the immediate and long term needs of the space (i.e., a peer review process of space).

Should a faculty member be in a situation where assigned space is underutilized for more than two years, that space may be wholly or partially reassigned. The department will strive to provide 9-12 months advance notice before the PI must vacate the occupied space. In such situations, the Chair will discuss the committee’s recommendations with the affected faculty member prior to a final decision. The faculty member will have an opportunity to describe their circumstances and program needs prior to a final decision by the Chair. 

4.2.1 Research Space

Factors that may be considered by Space Committee for research space allocation or reallocation to determine the need for a peer-review of space allocation to a faculty member, research project, or research area:

Priority factors for research/laboratory space

  1. HCDE core faculty
    Faculty assigned “research/lab” spaces are responsible for allocating workspace in those spaces for students supervised by the faculty member. Our goal is to provide lab spaces that will allow each research active faculty member to seat a minimum of 3 students, with 3 to 4 rotating desks per lab. Priority of the workspaces should be to (1) HCDE PhD students, (2) other funded students, and (3) students supervised but not otherwise funded.
  2. HCDE research scientists and postdoctoral fellows (and other professional and classified research staff funded by PIs in HCDE) 
  3. HCDE visiting faculty and scientists
  4. HCDE emeriti faculty

Other factors that may be included:  

  • Size of research team (grads, post-docs, technicians, undergrads, visitors) per square foot
  • Specialized equipment needs, including safety/access needs
  • Research expenditures per square foot
  • Indirect costs per square foot
  • Research awards per square foot
  • Shared resources “nominally” assigned to a PI but used by multiple PIs and labs
  • Use of space for educational activities
  • Funding trends and temporary causes (such as leaves)
  • Availability of other space on campus suitable for needs

4.2.2 Office Space

Priority factors for office space allocation or reallocation:

  1. HCDE core faculty (i.e., tenure track, teaching track, and research track)
  2. HCDE permanent academic and operations staff 
  3. HCDE research scientists
  4. HCDE visiting faculty and scientists (if no office space available, must find safe and suitable space in labs)
  5. HCDE part-time lecturers (and equivalent part-time teaching appointments)
  6. Postdoctoral fellows funded by faculty in HCDE  (if no office space available, must find safe and suitable space in labs)
  7. HCDE emeriti faculty
  8. Other individuals including temporary staff, consultants, student groups or individuals not specifically named above.

Within each category, rank, seniority, frequency of working from campus vs. home, accessibility needs and/or functional needs shall be considered in making priority decisions.

4.2.3 Departmentally Managed Instructional Space

Factors considered by Space Committee for departmentally managed instructional space allocation or reallocation

  1. Core vs. elective
  2. Size of course
  3. Pedagogical need for space
  4. Need for access to design lab materials
  5. Need for hybrid arrangement

4.2.4 Common Space

Factors considered by Space Committee for common space allocation or reallocation, including conference rooms, the Make Lab, storage, etc.:

  1. Number of users
  2. Duration of use
  3. Within department use vs. external use
  4. Availability of other space on campus suitable for needs

4.3 Requesting New Space and Requesting Refurbishment

If a faculty member finds that their allocated space becomes inadequate to meet research needs, they may initiate a request for new space or refurbishment of existing space. The process is to notify the Space Committee, who will perform an ad hoc review based on the above factors and metrics and make a recommendation to the Chair. 

For large proposals (e.g., Center grants or proposals large enough to fund three [3] or more new research staff not otherwise covered by PhD or Postdoc lab space) it is the responsibility of the PI to discuss and negotiate space needs with the Chair, Space Committee, and/or College of Engineering Vice Dean before submission. 

The following outlines the procedure to request new space or refurbishment 

  1. Faculty member(s) shall send a request for additional or new space to the departmental chair and the Chair of the Space Committee via email.
  2. The Space committee will review the request, available space, and if applicable, the cost of refurbishment. Based on the space availability and availability of funds, this group will make one or more recommendations for space assignment. If the department cannot accommodate space within HCDE-managed space, the COE Vice Dean should be consulted.
  3. The Department Chair or Space committee chair, a selected representative from the Space Committee, and the PI will meet to discuss the proposed space assignment. If needed, multiple meetings will be held until the group comes to a resolution. In the case that a resolution is not found, the Chair will make the final decision.
  4. The chair’s assistant will send a confirmation email to the PI, Space committee, and Department Chair on the space assignment.
  5. The list of space assignments and floor plans included in a time-limited MOU will be written to reflect the new space assignment, if appropriate.
  6. Space Manager will be updated, if appropriate

4.4 Other Considerations

4.4.1 Temporary Space Assignments

Temporary space assignments may be made by the Chair separate from the formal Space Committee review process. Such temporary assignments will be reviewed on an annual basis. At the request of the faculty member, research scientist, or research center, temporary assignments may be reviewed by the Space Committee during their annual review and may be formalized as long term assignments.

4.4.2 Long Term Space Assignments

Long-term space assignments require full deliberation by the Space Committee and final approval by the department Chair. Long-term space assignments will all include a specific termination date, upon which the space assignment must be reviewed and reassigned or re-allocated by the Space Committee with approval by the Chair. The default duration of a long-term space assignment will be 5 years.

4.4.3 Factors that may Result in Re-allocation of Space

Changes in lab utilization by HCDE PhD students will be considered by the Space Committee as the primary reason for a re-allocation of lab space assigned to a faculty member. This includes scenarios of both underutilization and overcrowding.

Other factors that may result in the reallocation of space include, but may not be limited to:

  • Acquisition of new HCDE spaces
  • New hires and retirements
  • Changes in laboratory requirements, such as a need for specialized equipment
  • Opportunities for strategic realignment across faculty, or across College/University

Should a faculty member be in a situation where assigned space is being reassigned, the department will strive to provide 9-12 months advance notice before the faculty member must vacate the occupied space. In such situations, the Chair will discuss the Space Committee’s recommendations with the affected faculty member before a final decision.