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Spaceshaper FAQ

Find out more about how Spaceshaper works through the frequently asked questions below.

Understanding Spaceshaper

How is Spaceshaper different from other tools?

There are a number of tools available to measure quality of public space. Spaceshaper was developed to complement these, but is unique because:

  • It is designed to be used in all types of public space: streets and squares as well as parks and green spaces.
  • It uses structured criteria like the Green Flag Award but has been specifically developed for users as well as professionals.
  • It is subjective rather than objective: the most important part of the process is sharing and understanding different people’s perceptions of the space, building relationships and planning improvements. It is not about a final score that can be used to compare with other spaces.
  • The criteria are spread across a broad range of issues, not focusing on management, which is the role of the Green Flag Award, or taking the market research survey approach such as GreenSTAT.
  • Questionnaire data is stored so that changes in people’s perceptions can be easily measured over time. This is to encourage managers to maintain dialogue with users over a long period of time and continually build up the data, bringing in new groups and individuals.

Is Spaceshaper a Design Quality Indicator?

Spaceshaper is part of the Design Quality Indicator (DQI) family (www.dqi.org.uk). The DQI is a method of evaluating the design and construction of new buildings and the refurbishment of existing buildings.

Can Spaceshaper be used to look at more than one space at a time?

Spaceshaper was designed to be used to look at a single space but has successfully been used to look at a network of spaces, for example on a housing estate. Additional guidance is available to facilitators being asked to do this.

Can I adapt the questionnaire for my site?

No. The idea behind using a standard questionnaire is that it encourages people to think about a whole range of issues of quality, not just the obvious ones like litter and dog mess, although these are important. On the day, participants can designate any of the questions as inappropriate.

Can I compare results across different sites?

No. Each time the toolkit is used, it is completed by a group of people unique to that space. This subjective data is therefore not comparable between sites. It provides a baseline for a space as opposed to being a national benchmarking tool.

How can Spaceshaper be used to think about a space in the context of other spaces?

The facilitator, through discussion with the group, use of maps and the site visit will encourage participants to think about other spaces near by and how they relate to the space being assessed.

Organising a workshop

How do I apply to run a Spaceshaper workshop?

  1. Contact Kent Architecture Centre to get the latest list of approved facilitators
  2. Fill in the application form (download from www.dqi.org.uk/spaceshaper/apply/editapplication.aspx)
  3. Submit the completed form to spaceshaper@cabe.org.uk (we need one week to turn this around).

How many people attend a workshop?

Between 15 and 25 people is ideal. Many more people will make it harder to keep the whole group involved in the discussion and to complete the data entry; fewer and it may not be worth organising it.

How long does a workshop last?

About 4 hours. Workshops involve visiting the space, filling out the questionnaire, a break and then discussing the results. It is a time commitment, but one that has proved worthwhile.

Is there a limit on the size of space you can assess using Spaceshaper?

There is no limit but the tool works best when people can walk around the whole space during the workshop as well as have time for the other activities. Sessions have been done in larger spaces using vehicles to get round the space.

How much does it cost to use Spaceshaper?

The tool is free to use but you have to use one of our trained facilitators. The overall cost will vary from project to project, dependant on what you need to pay for. This may include: venue, catering, transport, materials, equipment, organisation time, advertising and the Spaceshaper facilitators fee.

Facilitators are independent of CABE Space and are employed directly by the organisation who wants to use Spaceshaper. Most facilitators charge between £400 and £600 a day. Including preparatory work, the event and the workshop you may be looking at four days of their time plus expenses. As a ball park figure, you are unlikely to pay less than £2,000 for an external facilitator to run your workshop. For that you will get:

  • a tool that will help deliver your community engagement targets or work programme
  • a package that will address your duty to involve
  • an opportunity to meet and better understand the needs of a range of users of the space
  • clear simple immediate action
  • a report that can be used to provide evidence of engagement, and support for proposals

CABE is keen to promote fee free workshops where possible. Some trained facilitators may be happy to facilitate for your group as their first session in order to gain full accreditation. Some councils may also be happy to facilitate for each other to keep costs down. Contact Kent Architecture Centre on spaceshaper@cabe.org.uk to find out what opportunities are available.

Why do I need a facilitator?

The facilitator has proved an essential part of the process. They will take your group through the workshop, explaining the questionnaire and using the software to display, manipulate and interpret the results. They are skilled at putting everyone at ease and making sure the discussion is productive and not dominated by a single issue or group. The facilitator can offer independent advice about your space and bring in experience from other spaces.

Can I use the questionnaire with people that don’t know the space?

Spaceshaper aims to make the most of local knowledge. To achieve this, the questionnaire is aimed at people who know the space well, whether a regular visitor or a passer by. Those who don’t use the space are an important group to canvass as part of your wider project, but may struggle to fill in the questionnaire.

Can I use the questionnaire without the facilitator or the software?

No. The questionnaire has been designed to be completed with the assistance of a facilitator who can take participants through it, put it in the context of the space you are looking at and answer any queries.

The Spaceshaper software enables the questionnaire data to be stored and presented in a number of different ways, which your facilitator will use in the workshop to help the group discuss the space and plan improvements. Facilitators have been trained how to use this software and are the only people with access to it.

Who owns the results of the Spaceshaper workshop?

The client (who commissioned the workshop) owns the data. CABE holds the information in a central database. No personal data about workshop participants is held by CABE.

Interpreting results

Do people get to see the questionnaire results there and then on the day, and if so, how?

Yes. Time is built into the workshop to input the information from the questionnaires into the software, so that participants can see ‘instant’ results. This includes all the likes and dislikes, how people rated the space and what is most important to people. The results are shown on a screen so everyone can discuss their meaning in more depth and identify priorities for change. Feedback has shown that the ability to see instant results is a valued feature of Spaceshaper.

How does the questionnaire become the spider and bar charts?

The ratings people give to the 41 statements become the spider diagram and show perceptions of the space. The pie charts become the bar charts and show the relative importance of the criteria to the participants.

Including the community

How do I get local people involved in Spaceshaper workshops?

Spaceshaper works best when you involve a diverse mix of local people with potentially different views on how the space works. Local community groups and associations can be very helpful to put together a broad invite list and promote your project. If links to local networks have not been established, this needs to be resolved before using the Spaceshaper tool. Otherwise you may risk poor attendance.

Order copies of our short and accessible introductory leaflet to give people a taste of the tool by emailing spaceshaper@cabe.org.uk.

Which age group is Spaceshaper aimed at?

Anyone above the age of 14 can be involved in a Spaceshaper workshop. We are currently developing a young person’s version of the tool for 9-14 year olds.

See our Spaceshaper 9-14 page for more information.

Does the tool engage the most disadvantaged communities?

The tool has been designed to be as accessible as possible and has successfully been used in a wide variety of settings. Introductory events are proactively promoted to a wide audience, including non professionals by working with Local Authority and Housing Association community engagement teams and councils for voluntary services.

How inclusive is a Spaceshaper workshop?

CABE makes every effort to ensure that Spaceshaper workshops are as accessible as possible. The Spaceshaper questionnaire is available in large print and Braille and has been used successfully with blind and partially sighted people. CABE can assist with other accessibility requirements on request with sufficient notice. In most cases, the Local Authority client will be best placed to provide items such as hearing loops and wheelchairs ramps via their Consultation, Equalities or Access officers.

How is inclusive design reflected in the questionnaire?

Spaceshaper aims to ensure that public spaces can be enjoyed and used safely, easily and with dignity by all regardless of disability, age, gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality, race or religion. The approach has not been to include specific questions in relation to, for example, disabled access. Instead the principles of inclusive design have been incorporated throughout the questionnaire: if you would like to test whether your space can be enjoyed by all you will need to ensure that a range of people complete the questionnaire. The broader the range of perspectives you get, the richer the debate, discussion and results will be.