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Abstract: Space Planning and Administration


U.S. higher education is more than three centuries old, but space planning and management have emerged only in the last 20 to 25 years, with processes in place to inventory, classify, and create databases. The new focus is on managing space, preparing for new structures, and using existing space more efficiently while offering flexible and cost-effective support for university programs. Space is not free; it has substantial costs (e.g., capital, operating costs, maintenance, programmatic changes, modernization) and is a scarce resource that usually must be managed. Campuses must not only now focus on the amount of needed program space but also its quality, functionality, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness alignment with ever- changing program needs (see Figure 4.4).

Map of good space planning is key for a successful campus

Figure 4.4. Good space planning is key to a successful campus

Various Dimensions of Space

Space has five components: (1) amount or space quantity, based on projections, inventory, and analysis; (2) condition or space quality, with periodic facilities audits and coordination with the space inventory; (3) effectiveness or functionality, with flexibility to support current and future needs; (4) location or adjacencies, with space plans to counter haphazard growth; and (5) cyberspace, with space for data transfer, data storage, information technology (IT), communication, bandwidth, and new technologies.

Indoor, Outdoor, Underground. The  five  components of space can be inside, outside, or underground (IOU). Campuses manage access, integration, and connectivity among all spaces. Outside spaces vital to campus success include outdoor learning environments, research areas, gathering spaces, art displays, trash and recycling bins, signage, circulation roads and paths, site lighting and furnishings, parking, and athletic fields and courts. If not well planned, underground resources (e.g., access tunnels, fuel and water storage systems, habitable spaces and corridors) can drive costly utilities relocations over the years.

Other Helpful Definitions. Issued in 1973 and updated in 1992, the pioneering and still standard NCES Higher Education Facilities Inventory and Classification Manual (FICM) defines buildings, room use, and classifications. This section defines (1) assignable square feet, usable space for equipment and furnishings; (2) nonassignable square feet, connecting assignable spaces (e.g., hallways, stairways, restrooms, closets, building structure); (3) net square feet (assignable and nonassignable), total space for specific user; and (4) gross square feet (assignable and nonassignable), total space within a building.

Space Utilization. This term refers to frequency of space use and can be measured by total hours of use or as a percentage of use during a specific time frame (e.g., weekly, every semester, annually).

Space Efficiency. This term refers to occupancy rate when in use, often used to determine instructional or laboratory space needs or to measure how well current spaces are occupied, taking into account any requirements (e.g., maximum capacity to meet egress requirements, maximum course enrollment).

Stations. Stations are individual places or  settings where an activity occurs (e.g., classroom seats, office desks, library chairs, laboratory counter space or fume hoods, residential hall beds).

Space by Funding Type. The definitions apply to basic funding classification types, each with different methodologies and performance metrics. (1) Non– revenue generating space supports the institutional mission directly (e.g., administration, academics, instruction, special purposes, library) but does not have any direct revenue and is supported by academic revenues. (2) Revenue generating (auxiliary) space supports the institution, produces a revenue stream to cover some operating and capital improvement costs, and can generate excess revenues (e.g., printing, housing, food services, athletic facilities, student union bookstore,). (3) Research space serves an academic mission but might have independent funding.

Managing Existing Space

Space Inventories and Databases.  Database applications enable campuses to monitor and document use, quality, quantity, and allocation of space, tracking key units (e.g., property, facilities, rooms, equipment). The optimal system has electronic databases with qualitative and quantitative data and communicates with other databases (e.g., classroom scheduling, human resources), using common tags, codes, or references and sometimes CAD and GIS. No products are perfectly adapted to its inventories or fixed asset databases, so the university can choose different software for each type of information (e.g., based on cost, ease of use, ability to communicate with existing software).

Space Classifications. Benchmarks and a common language allow schools to evaluate programs, share data, review policies and procedures, and analyze data. FICM is the most common classification system.

Room Use Space Categories. Spaces are classified in many categories based on current activity, often using FICM higher education use codes (and numeric and descriptive space classifications), adopted by many state governments and university systems (often with unique subcategories). With FICM, schools can compare and share data (see Figure 4.5).

Figure 4.5. Abbreviated list of FICM Codes
Space Type Classification Code
Classrooms 100
Laboratories 200
Offices 300
Study 400
Special Uses 500
General Uses 600
Support 700
Clinical 800
Residential 900
Unoccupied 000


Space Allocation.  Campuses  allocate  space  in  many ways (e.g., central office; department  administration  of its own space), but good (and regularly evaluated and modified) data on space allocation are key to expensive (from $10 to $40 per square foot per year) capital investment, maintenance and operating costs annually, and periodic renewal and replacement. Allocation issues include office space for part-time and retired employees, research space, revenue generating versus non–revenue generating space, program or enrollment changes, institutional strategic plan effects, space sharing, and space scheduling methods.

Data Management. Maintaining a consistent space inventory requires a staff member who is trained in and owns data collection and updating (rather than input  from part-time students, surveys, or programs). Regular scheduled audits are needed  to  verify  databases because of many revisions due to construction, renovation, and  space  reassignments.  For  reporting (and avoiding confusion from  constantly  fluctuating data), many campuses consider a standard census date (e.g., after fall semester add/drop) data snapshot.

Space Management. Campuses need to measure, understand, and plan for all five space types. Space management and its space planning are new. Space management changes are driven by three major areas: overall programmatic challenge of linking academia and facilities to use space efficiently; space planning (e.g., quality versus quantity; space use versus ownership); and impact of ever-changing IT.

Space Requirements/Analysis

Why Analyze, Why Plan. Space planning is relevant to all aspects of campus planning (e.g., from long-range master to project planning). It allows campuses to link needs for near-term and long-term issues.

Largest Asset. Many universities struggle with overall planning and management of space, and some have more than 20 million square feet of space on a single site, with buildings as the largest campus asset and building operating and maintenance costs approaching building replacement values in 10 to 15 years.

Cost of Facilities. Facilities costs rise rapidly each year, and in higher education, they cost more, have higher value, and are a larger asset to be managed. Technologies have a major impact on the types (and perhaps number of) facilities built. Hybrid models are driving new space types. The more flexible the building space, the better; initial costs are higher, but the life cycle is more cost-effective. The football field syndrome refers to seldom-used facilities that require space management to increase use (important because 75 percent of campus space is associated with activities other than instruction).

Program Success. Space has a significant  impact  on the capability of a program to obtain and maintain accreditation. Enrollment growth, pedagogical changes, demographics, and scheduling changes affect space needs and the budgets needed to maintain and operate those spaces.

Capital Planning, Renewal and Replacement, Maintenance. In developing space planning programs, needs and the five space planning elements are considered over at least a decade if not longer to improve the process and marry program-driven capital, maintenance, modernization, and repair and replacement.

Level of Detail for Analyzing Space Needs. Space assessments are done for many reasons (e.g., master plan, use assessment, programming and project planning, reporting), and each requires specific details.

Amount and Type of Space

Required Data. (1) People data (faculty, staff, student, visitor input) drive space management and planning. One shortcoming can be human resources and facilities data that have no consistent coding or do not communicate well. A data management system must consider both data sets and use a common department   or program code for each space.  (2) Time issues are one  of the largest space variables. For years, studies recommended ways to formulate capture and reuse of spaces and determine  when  spaces  reach  capacity based on use.   Planners spend a lot of time on  classrooms, laboratories, time dependency, and efficient use, even though classrooms can make up as little as 5     to 10 percent of many campuses, and laboratories 10 to  20 percent. Pressure to use spaces in evenings and weekend downtimes  affects  security,  lighting, mechanical and electrical use, operational cost, maintenance, and lifetime costs. (3) Credit hours  are often used by planners to evaluate instructional  space and determine the number of contact hours needed to support  a  class.  Many  campuses  measure  contact hours that a program supports, using the best variable data available. Traditional credit hour per contact hour ratios likely will change as team and project approach teaching are used; new learning environments are integrated; and hybrid space types are needed. Hybrid- type or integrated learning spaces are used at  higher rates and are more efficient as traditional hours on most campuses vanish. As campuses  become  more  flexible and create multi use spaces, new planning variables are needed to determine space needs and accountability.

Approach. Space planning guidelines specify aggregate square footage for each institutional space type, guiding new space planning and assessing space distribution efficiency. Guidelines are not absolute but are reasonable reflections of unique institution and academic mission, supported by the administration. No single reference offers recognized space guidelines and design standards, but one can serve as a benchmark (especially if time or resources are unavailable for planning guidelines or studies) from the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education and the Council for Educational Facility Planners International and many from the State Post-Secondary Higher Education Commission.

Quality of Space

Building audits address building systems, not space, but space quality can be analyzed, using weighted criteria (e.g., sight lines, air quality, technology, furnishings, light, power, acoustics, accessibility).

Space Productivity Measures

In the private sector, financial return (targeted rate of return) is a common productivity metric, but in an institution, the concept of charging for space is gaining recognition as an incentive for optimizing  use  of available space. User involvement in reducing costs can  be accomplished with a monitored budgeting system (e.g., for utilities or maintenance). If costs rise, further analysis is required to determine whether the current allocation is justifiable or the department can meet its needs in less space. Additional system administration costs can be offset by reducing the need  to  construct new facilities or by generating funds.

Productivity Measures for Non–Revenue Generating Space. (1) Instructional space productivity is measured  by intensity of use; the two key measures are room utilization and seat or station utilization. These two measures support development of a range of data and precise use patterns, including analyses of utilization patterns by time of day, utilization patterns by academic department or school, and seat utilization patterns.

Instructional space evaluation (and follow-up) analyses support objective evaluation and discussion of classroom use (compared to facility-established maximum capacity). (2) Enrollment caps can be unrealistic (e.g., because of rollover from semester to semester). (3) Library space is evolving faster than other campus buildings as it shifts from a centralized institution to a decentralized service organization.

Traditional libraries are supplemented by an information services organization (e.g., integrated computer laboratory, media center, reading room). (4) Special purpose spaces and nonassignable areas support the mission but are not subject to systematic productivity metrics.

Productivity  Measures  for   Revenue   Generating Space. This section describes productivity metrics (and provides examples) for (1) research space, which can be evaluated in terms of financial productivity and annual volume of research dollars per square foot, enabling space managers to perform comparative analyses among institutions, departments, and research teams and with other institutions or national norms; (2) auxiliary space, which generates revenue and can be evaluated with financial productivity measures; and (3) hybrid spaces, a mix of revenue generating and non–revenue generating activity (e.g., student unions), with productivity of each measured by the appropriate standard.

Peer Analysis

Many institutions perform studies to compare themselves to peer institutions, but data must be consistent.

Facility Condition Assessments

This inspection categorizes deferred maintenance and capital renewal needs. Resulting data have many applications, especially if coordinated with financial, maintenance, and operations (e.g., build or renovate decisions; planning, budgeting, maintenance, repair, and compliance; major capital programming).

Good Practices

Over the years, universities have become complex organizations with unique missions that operate like large businesses with increasingly isolated independent subunits.

Program  Driven.  Major  successful  campus  elements are (1) programs for patrons, (2) people who benefit  from or orchestrate programs, (3) resources to run programs, and (4) physical environment (places where programs occur), the newest area. Strategic plans incorporate budget factors, and budget processes are more integrated into programs as an everyday way of doing business. The physical environment must be included in the overall campus planning process and not left to facilities experts.

Partnerships. Faculty, students, and staff call space theirs, protecting (and trying to get more) space; it defines place in the institution, equates program and political success, and supports student and faculty recruitment and retention.  Facilities planners who fought the ownership issue for years might use it as a tool (engaging “owners” to address daily space  issues and improve the planning process), addressing this changing space management strategy with success stories and a plan for change and slow implementation.

Continuous Improvements. More and more program and facility decisions depend on good space data, and campuses are even funded according to space and ultimately the space inventory. Data can be improved by quality checks, data collection practices reviews, verification of consistent coding, use of official occupant codes, maintenance and regular updates, and a reference manual.

Consistency in Reporting. Most campuses update information continually (e.g., weekly, annually, or periodically). To promote data consistency throughout and across years, the institution can use a census date for space reporting and issue up-to-the-minute reports only when necessary.

Trends and Considerations

Changing Paradigm. One of the biggest reasons for doing a better job of space planning is to change the view of facilities. Campuses have developed facilities that forced faculty and programmers to create curricula around spaces and boxes, but new environments use flexible, multipurpose, multiuse environments (e.g., integrated learning centers), so the level of flexibility (or time required to change a space) might be the new planning variable. Integrated spaces tend to reduce ownership issues with custom spaces. Because space exists longer than programs, adaptability is an extremely important factor.

Flexible and Adaptable Space. Active multipurpose spaces that are adaptable and flexible (and promote multitasking and collaboration) are growing more important as universities build partnerships with the private sector and the community. Spaces such as lecture halls will not vanish, but the amounts, types, and numbers of such spaces are in flux. Flexible spaces entail mechanical, electrical, technological, and utility concerns, a major challenge for facilities planners and space planners.

New Planning Teams. Space planning is now more complicated yet more subjective, with programmatic variables driving space needs, so actual users (e.g., faculty, program directors, staff), administrators, and long-ranger planning needs (e.g., flexibility and adaptability) need to collectively determine space issues.

Space  Needs  Are  Shifting.  Some  spaces  are becoming more efficient (e.g., online courses, information sharing across technology), but other activities demand new spaces (e.g., hands-on or collaborative spaces). On balance, although there is a major shift in type of space needs, the total amount of space needed per student or faculty (or staff) member is relatively steady compared to the last decade.

Internal Lease Programs. Many campuses see space hoarding by those who do not maintain and operate it; and a lack of communication resulting in poorly assigned, designed, maintained, or equipped space. A stronger business model (e.g., the internal lease where programs pay only for what they use, creates an incentive to release unneeded space) might improve accountability and enhance the cooperation that will be key in responding to rising costs, recognizing that technology and furnishings sometimes are more costly than the building and might double operating costs in the next 15 to 20 years.

Planning  for  Unknown.  Universities  must  balance facility longevity with space flexibility as traditional statistical planning models and program-by-program space allocation become obsolete. (1) Planning by cubic foot (not square foot) is a coming change, with  technology emphasizing  vertical  space  (e.g.,  space types, sight lines, how different media are seen, acoustics).  (2) Technology,  how  space  is  equipped, space flexibility, and space location make a space important. Rooms and boxes are less important, as evidenced by recent project budgets. As Internet II and Bluetooth become more prevalent, space planning is affected (e.g., information delivery by bandwidth or wireless). Now anything of a physical nature can be tagged (e.g., Bluetooth in kitchen appliances).   (3) Models, a proactive approach at some campuses, focus  on space obsolescence and needed space types for program support. They are  developed  based  on variables about how a specific  campus  runs  and operates (not on national averages). Software programs claim space planning components, but many are space inventory and classification subsystems of a database focused on other types  of  performance,  so  the university needs to build the planning component.

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