From Lagging to Leading: A Call to Action

Facilities actions must move from a lagging response to a leading planning element.

We’re asserting that campus planning must be transformed. Facilities stewards can longer be asked to react to the next trend or change in play: They must lead the conversation.

Institutions have intentionally crafted “timeless” campuses that enable all manner of remarkable educational endeavors and countless associated activities that have been in high demand. Spaces built to address yesterday’s challenges have been adapted and modified to address the next set of incremental changes. Some of those efforts have been successful and others haven’t. All have come at great effort and expense. This long-standing practice worked when large pools of eligible students existed, thus providing adequate financial resources. Hence, this reactive financial model has, to this point, proven acceptable.

Moving forward, new academic programs and the ways in which academic and co-curricular programs need to change will require significant campus transformation. Ever-shrinking resources must be employed exactly where they will serve the institution most effectively. In turn, institutions must create consensus regarding their priorities.

Here’s why. In almost all instances, programmatic changes are facilities changes.

Moving forward, those changes may reveal that not all space in use today is necessary tomorrow. But not all space is equally flexible. Therefore, the most effective use of campus facilities will result from the careful coordination of programmatic and space changes. It has also long been known that service and utility infrastructure is not infinitely expandable, and money “lost” to expansion of such services when adequate resources are already available is simply unacceptable.

The collective desire to leverage technology is a double-edged sword that must be managed carefully. While technology can in many cases dramatically improve user experiences, such technologies come with accelerated replacement cycles (in the extreme think smart board versus chalk board), infrastructural demands and expanding training expectations for those caring for it. Managing operational technology requires advanced knowledge of the technology itself and the operational equipment and systems, further decreasing the available talent pool and increasing the cost to secure qualified candidates.

Finally, the pandemic taught everyone that even empty buildings require resources to care for them. Campuses that do anticipate this need may be facing immense investment in un-utilized spaces as teaching and working become more flexible, hybridized, and virtual.

Undoubtedly, the physical campus defines more about the future of the school than is frequently understood. Paying attention to the information the campus facilities and infrastructure is providing us has never been more urgent or more critical to ensuring resources are optimized and meaningful change is implemented.

So, what are your facilities telling you and how might you act differently moving forward?

We recommend considering these four business variables to organize your thinking on this question:

Embodied Debt – Current demands being made by campus buildings can’t be ignored and are becoming greater concerns to institutional budgets.

Risk Exposure – Personal safety, program support and investment disruptions must all be considered.

Future Program Compatibility – Ongoing instructional paradigm shifts are becoming harder and harder to accommodate successfully.

Adaptability – As time goes on, the nature of the campus becomes ever more linked to the built environment and makes adapting to an evolving customer profile with diverse community needs all the more challenging.

Planning must be transformed at our institutions. Facilities actions must move from a lagging response to a leading element. This will require a bold, collaborative approach to drive a forward-looking, future-focused decision-making process adopted by the entire campus community.

About Gordian 

Gordian is the leading provider of Building Intelligence Solutions, delivering unrivaled insights, robust technology and expert services to fuel customers’ success through all phases of the building lifecycle. Gordian created Job Order Contracting (JOC) and the industry-standard RSMeans Data. We empower organizations to optimize capital investments, improve project performance and minimize long-term operating expenses.

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