Maximizing Space Utilization

Measuring, Allocating, and Incentivizing Efficient Use of Facilities

Topics: Academic Affairs, Deferred Maintenance, Facilities and Operations, Administration and Finance, Energy Management and Sustainability, Space Utilization, Capital Planning, Budgeting, Research Parks, Research Enterprise, Interdisciplinary Research

The End of the Building Boom

New Focus on an Old Problem

While managing academic facilities is a perennial challenge, the recession that began in 2009 has focused renewed attention on improving space utilization.

Managing space well is a key driver of institutional performance:
• Building and maintaining space are major costs
• A lack of space places limits on an institution’s ability to support its mission
• Using space effectively can boost productivity in teaching, research, and other activities
The importance of effective space management has increased dramatically as “doing more with less” has become a common refrain on campuses across the nation. Despite constrained resources, many institutions still have plans to grow enrollment, launch new programs, and expand their research enterprise. While in the past each of these aspirations might have led to new construction, administrators are now looking for ways to leverage underutilized capacity on campus. Historically, facilities management has focused on construction and maintenance, but now the need to optimize the allocation of space has become paramount.

New Focus on an Old Problem

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The Bubble Bursts

The past decade witnessed the largest building boom since the 1960s. Colleges raised and borrowed unprecedented amounts to fund renovations and new building. But a changed economic environment in 2009-2010 has dramatically slowed construction on most campuses.

Many campuses went through a building boom between 2001 and 2008, with construction decisions often driven more by the availability of funds than by strategic space planning. As funding has become harder to fi nd, construction is slowing. Even though higher education has never had more space than it has now, many campuses feel space constrained. For the past decade it has been easier to build new space than to effi ciently allocate existing space, but that perspective is now changing. Most campuses are now looking at how to do more with their existing space. Architects and space planning fi rms report declining requests for new building plans and increasing requests for space utilization studies.

The Bubble Bursts

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The Deferred Maintenance Hangover

While institutions were focused on growth, many failed to maintain existing buildings appropriately, leading to soaring levels of deferred maintenance. Most campuses will be saddled for years with large costs for bringing down this backlog, further limiting resources to invest in new space.

Sightlines estimates that between 2000 and 2008 deferred maintenance per gross square foot of space rose from $56.55 to $65.68. For a typical public university (3.1 M GSF) total deferred maintenance increased by $28 M over the decade, while the typical private university (2.0 M GSF) saw an $18 M increase. This “hangover” from the building boom is likely to worsen. Experts estimate that two thirds of the cost of a new building is incurred after construction is complete. The consequences of the building boom are likely to further limit new construction in the coming years and to put increasing pressure on utilization of existing facilities.

The Deferred Maintenance Hangover

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Maximizing Space Utilization

The Drivers of Space Growth