2012 FES overview and summary reports

Survey highlights

The 2012 floor space and employment survey (FES) was the second full survey within the local area’s current boundaries.

The fieldwork started in January 2012 and took around 10 months to complete. Fieldwork for the 2007 FES was undertaken between November 2006 and October 2007.

The 2012 results form the most comprehensive data set of all businesses, floor space, employment and capacity measures across the City of Sydney’s local area.

Summary reports covering the City of Sydney Local Government Area, the CBD Precinct, and for each of the 10 villages are available for download below.

Total figures

In 2012, within the whole local area there were:

  • 26,988 sites
  • 26,148 buildings
  • 21,644 business establishments employing workers.

Total internal floor space increased by 1.34 million square metres (up 2.8%) between the 2007 and 2012 surveys to 35,285,393m².

Harris Street village had the highest net increase of total internal floor space with 241,409m² (up 8.9%). Chinatown and CBD South village had the highest increase in business floor space with 152,893m² (up 7.6%).

The number of businesses employing workers in the City grew by 10.5% to 21,644 establishments.

In 2012, the City accommodated 437,727 workers, an increase of 52,306 (up 13.6%) from the previous survey with 51.9 % of the City’s employment located in the CBD and Harbour village.

The total number of dwellings counted in the local area was 98,986 representing an increase of 5,054 dwellings (up 5.4%). The estimated resident population rose by 16,899 to 183,492 residents at an occupancy rate of 1.85 persons per dwelling.

There were 20,299 hotel rooms (up 12.3%), 4,541 serviced apartments (up 19.1%) and 6,223 backpacker beds (up 60.9%) counted in the 2012 FES.


The City’s FES uses a composite City-based industry classification to report on the various industry sectors across the local area, categorised by the main function of a business.

This allows for analysis of emerging sectors including creative industries, ICT (information and communications technology), and tourist, culture and leisure, as well as traditional industry sectors such as finance and financial services, food and drink, and retail and personal services.

The finance and financial services sector had the greatest number of workers (96,517) in the local area making up over one-fifth (22.0%). Employment in this sector grew by 6.1% between the surveys.

The professional and business services sector had the greatest number of business establishments across the local area with 16.5%. The retail and personal services sector contained 15.5% of all businesses.

The professional and business services sector also had the highest growth in the number of establishments with a net increase of 748 businesses. The food and drink sector grew by 540 businesses.

The tourist, cultural and leisure sector occupied the most internal business floor space at 16.7%, followed by the transport and logistics sector at 11.3%. Total business floor space accounts for 46.9% of all internal floor space across the local area, with internal floor space in households accounting for 32.3%.

Space usage

The FES collects data on how individual spaces are used across the entire local area, both internal and external. There are 14 main space use divisions. 

The main divisions include office, residential, shop/showroom, restaurant/eating, common area and parking.

Residential space use comprised the largest proportion with 9,372,219m² (26.6%), growing  by 4.5% between the surveys. Office use occupied the second largest proportion at 8,098,936m² (23.0%), growing by 7.8%. 

Space use devoted to common area made up 12.7% and parking made up 13.1%. Shop/showroom space accounted for 2.8% of the City's internal flor area, while restaurant/eating space made up 2.0%.

Nearly 60% of all workers were located in open-plan office space while space use devoted to common area made up 12.7% and parking made up 13.1%.

The top 4 space use divisions accounted for more than three-quarters (75.4%) of all internal floor area. More than 80% of all employees worked in office space, followed by restaurant/eating (6.7%) and shop/showroom (5.5%). 

The average work-space ratio (WSR) (the amount of business floor space per worker) across all industry sectors in the local area fell from 41.5 to 37.9 square metres per person, as employment grew at a greater rate than business floor space. 

The lowest average WSR across the villages occurred in the CBD and Harbour village with 27, while the highest was in the Green Square and City South village with 80.5 square metres per person.

There are a number of different types of office space uses collected in the FES. The majority of employment is found in either partitioned or open-plan offices, and these have among the lowest WSRs of all individual space uses across the local area. 92.8% of all office-based workers are located in either traditional partitioned offices (20.5%) or open-plan offices (72.3%).

The average WSR for partitioned and open-plan office spaces (combined) fell from 13.8 to 13.1 square metres per worker between the surveys. 

The lowest average WSR for partitioned and open-plan office spaces (combined) was 11.6 in the CBD and Harbour village.

Visual spatial analysis

The 2012 FES was captured using a geographic information system (GIS) to provide a visualisation and spatial analysis of the City's floor space uses, in both 2 and 3-dimensions.

The GIS database contains information about 26,148 buildings, 21,644 business establishments and approximately 690,000 spatial records that can be examined at any level to provide a point-in-time snapshot of floor space use and employment across the local area.

Last updated: Friday, 28 February 2014