Education Facilities Managers Rank Safety, Security as Top Priorities

A new survey from Honeywell Building Technologies reveals that within the last 12 months, 93% of schools experienced an emergency incident due to an infrastructure malfunction. Also, 43% reported a cybersecurity or physical site breach in that same period. Almost half of the education facility managers surveyed (45%) said that site security—including access control and video surveillance—as well as fire and life safety systems counted among their top priorities in the next 12–18 months.

The report, “Rethinking Educational Facilities as Digital Entities,” discusses the assessments, challenges and priorities of education facility managers across the U.S., Germany and China. Covering school facilities from pre-kindergarten through high school, as well as colleges, universities, and trade schools, it reveals concerns about issues like physical infrastructure (such as outdated HVAC systems) and how to enhance and invest in digital infrastructure for the sake of security, safety, building health and emergency response.

“Education facility managers are tasked not only with creating an environment conducive to learning, but also with protecting the safety of their students, staff and campuses—while, at the same time, managing new challenges to address asynchronous learning,” said Michael Cavanaugh, vice president and general manager of Building Management Systems, Honeywell Building Technologies. “Physical safety tops their list of concerns as they also shift emphasis to areas like improving indoor air quality, which has been shown to positively impact student performance.”

According to a press release, the survey’s results revealed five common themes among all three countries:

First, safety and security remain top priorities. About 52% of respondents listed site security as one of their highest priorities, including 34% who said that improving site security through various means was their top priority. Concerns regarding facility security included physical security and access control (77%); communication with staff, students and parents (76%); identifying the root issues of security and intrusion (73%); and reducing air filtration and contaminants (74%).

Second, as the COVID-19 pandemic winds down, the importance of healthy buildings has gained renewed focus. About 63% of respondents said they are more willing than they were before the pandemic to invest in healthy building solutions. About 58% ranked healthy buildings as a top priority, while 60% said it will continue to be a top priority after COVID. The most important aspects of healthy buildings (according to education facility managers surveyed) are improving indoor air quality (49%) and a means of real-time access to a building’s health metrics (47%).

Third, educational institutions continue to weather infrastructure and budgeting concerns. Facility managers in the education vertical cited more challenges than those in other industries like healthcare or commercial real estate. About 23% of respondents said they’ve experienced at least one emergency related to fire, gas, smoke, overheating, or water in the past 12 months. About 56% reported similar, but less serious, infrastructure malfunctions like power or network outages. About 70% said they have faced difficulties budgeting for upgrades or replacements that would fix those infrastructure problems.

Fourth, the progress of technology has complicated the infrastructure needs of educational facilities. About 71% of respondents said they have trouble keeping up with the pace of technological change. Less than 40% of respondents said they have digitally enabled technology related to gunshot detection (15%), a means of accessing real-time building health data (27%), remote building management (35%), or aspirating smoke detection (34%).

Finally, smart building solutions appear to be a popular trend in leading to healthier and safer schools. About 64% of respondents said they are more likely to invest in smart building solutions than they were before the pandemic. 56% said a single platform that can manage all building systems and provide a single source of data is the most important facet of a smart building.

The full report is available online.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at [email protected]