Space Race

 “Space is a hot commodity,” said Patty McIntosh, campus planning manager, Oregon State University. Managing that space presents a formidable task. How do administrators handle the space they have now, and when do they decide it’s time to build out? College Planning & Management gets a feel for the landscape.

Five years ago, Paul Abramson, president, Stanton Leggett & Associates, and Ed Bernape, space planning consultant, co-wrote Space Planning for Institutions of Higher Education. In this book, the two took a very scientific approach to plotting out a school’s space needs. “These guidelines have been tested and proven for decades,” said Bernape. “They vary by size of school and whether they are research or liberal arts institutions.”

There are also accepted national spaces planning guidelines from organizations like the Council of Educational Facilities Planners. No matter where the formulae comes from, they provide an estimated starting point. “Our calculations were based on the percentage of hours of use per a week and percentage of seats filled,” said Abramson.

In the 2008 Maryland Community College Space Utilization Report, the following space factor formula was used:
Space factor = Net Assignable Square Feet (NASF) – Station Size (SS) divided by Utilization Rate x Occupancy Rate. 

They also made a distinction between classroom use and classroom utilization. Classroom use is the time in which the room is occupied. Generally, only scheduled assignment of classrooms is recorded at a campus. Classroom utilization is a measurement of the number of stations occupied compared to the total number of stations in each room. To account for periods of no classroom use, most colleges target a percentage of available classrooms in use as an indication of full use. By national standards, a target utilization rate of 66.7 percent of the seats in a room occupied throughout the duration of the instructional week is considered to be fully utilized.

Other areas are judged under other standards. “Labs, for example, would be used for about half that time but have a higher percentage of seats filled,” explained Abramson. Recreation, office, and other administrative spaces also receive their own special considerations.

Tracking Available Inventory
Tracking a school’s present inventory of space is a “continuous project,” said Bruce Gillars, director of space planning and management, University of Utah, who updates a database to constantly to keep tabs on the institution’s more than 12M sq. ft. feet of space.

All space managers want to keep a multi-level eye on their inventory. “We look at our space in three different ways; tactically, strategic, and reallocation,” said McIntosh. “Our tactical view is a large general picture, while the strategic view digs down farther. Reallocation takes those two views into account to make the actual decisions and assign space.”

 “Requests for space come from a variety of venues,” said Howard Wertheimer, director of capital planning and space management, Georgia Institute of Technology. At more than 14.5M sq. ft., with half being built in the last 12 years, the school’s appetite for space has been robust. Yet building out new space is inevitably a last option.

“We always try to densify and reshuffle our existing resources before building,” said Wertheimer. “Maximizing our available stock is always the most sustainable option.” When doing this, Wertheimer takes many factors into account. Geographic proximity, for example, plays a role in the decision-making process. “We are set on only 400 acres with a robust transportation system, so getting around is simple,” he said. “Still, we want to schedule usage in a way that makes sense.”

Making Use of Older Spaces

Age of buildings is another factor that comes into play. The University of Utah is a huge, spread-out campus with many older buildings. “Sixty-five percent of our general classroom buildings were constructed before 1970,” said Gillars. “And many of our science buildings are just as old. We are right in the middle of a one-year study to see how we can use these older buildings to teach and deliver content in a current manner.”

Scheduling also plays a role. “Professors often don’t want to teach on 8 a.m. on Monday or 4 p.m. on a Friday,” said Abramson. Wertheimer agreed. “Even on other days of the week, those time slots are not desirable,” he said. “Yet as we grow, the appetite for space becomes such that those spots will have to be filled. We have an executive MBA program that uses their building from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., six days a week. That’s a great utilization model and works well in this situation. For other units, the ‘off’ time slots will probably have to be rotated.”

Then There Are the Students
Along with instruction and administration space, student-use space also has to be considered. “We give as much consideration to the student groups as to any other institution,” said McIntosh. “For instance, we have a student group that wants land for composting. We also have student groups that might want office space. We can’t apply office space standards to transient students, but we try to furnish them with comparables. Their requests are just as important as any dean that needs space.”

Filing for and allocating space requests take time, “Between three to six months,” admitted McIntosh. “Often people get tired of waiting and make do or negotiate internally.” This is not a bad solution. In fact, space planning managers usually only get involved when two departments are vying for the same space. “No one on a college campus ‘owns’ a space,” said Wertheimer. “Even though they may think they do.”

 “When I first took this job, a mentor pulled me aside and said, ‘People will spill blood for two things; money and space,’” recalled Gillars. “Everything is political and everything is a negotiation. It’s my job to foster a win-win situation for all of the players. I do that by remembering that each person’s reasons are not only valid, but also the most important thing in the world to them.”

 “For the most part everyone plays in the sandbox well together,” concluded Wertheimer.