What's Next

Linguist Geoff Nunberg’s word for 2011 is “Occupy.” As in “Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Slovakia. Occupy Saskatoon, Sesame Street, the Constitution. Occupy the hood.”  The word embodies a feeling that is sweeping college campuses around the nation. But that feeling is not necessarily political. “There is this bubbling anger and tension among students today,” says trend-spotter Marian Salzman of Euro RSCG Worldwide in an interview about her booklet The Big Little Book of Nexts: Trendspotting for 2012. “And that has manifested itself into a ‘me vs. we’ and ‘us vs. them’ mentality.”

“People are more divisive over every little nuance from politics to diet choices,” she continues. “Even as we become more ethnically inclusive we are looking for ways to be on our own.” Students have also become more demanding in what they want from colleges. “A college degree doesn’t have the same caché as it used to. Students realize that education is no longer a four-year proposition but something that goes on for life.”

Because of this, Salzman insist that, “students want classes on demand and value for their money. Classes must be offered in a variety of ways so everyone can create their own unique experience.” And that’s after potential students finally get to college. “I think that young people right out of high school will put off college and instead explore several years of service or internships before they invest in an education.”

Schools are morphing to accommodate new technologies, teaching styles, and student attitudes. But is it enough? Professionals in various fields report on what is happening on college campuses now.

Who’s Hungry?
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, halal: these are the new realities of food service and today’s dining programs are stepping up to the plate. “Special dietary needs are the norm now,” says Nona Golledge, director of KU dining services at the University of Kansas (KU) and president of the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS). Case in point, the University of North Texas just opened an all-vegan dining hall. “It’s our job to meet those needs as best we can.”

That means flexibility in everything from food choices to cooking styles to even the hours dining services are open. “Many schools are now offering late-night or even all-night options,” Golledge continues. These options can span the gamut from grab-and-go offerings to cafés to food trucks. The central cafeteria with cooking stations can cater to individual needs and tastes while cutting down on waste. “Cooking to order means you only prep the food you need,” says Golledge.

Sustainability on campus continues to grow strong and food services are an obvious place to go green. Many more colleges and universities now choose to go trayless in their dining halls, which saves on waste while reducing water and energy consumption. Locally sourced foods, composting, and campus gardens are also becoming more popular.

Students also demand more healthy options, as well as transparent nutrition labeling and portion sizing. For example, St. Edwards University, with its main campus in Austin, TX, has a “Simple 600” program that provides full meals in 600 calories or less. Signs near service areas display the proper portions to meet the caloric specifications (e.g. one bowl, one side). Another example is the University of Connecticut’s Healthy Husky program, which clearly identifies menu options that are 300 calories or less with 30 percent or fewer calories from fat. They also have Spa Foods, which are 450 calories or less and low in fat (fewer than 10 grams).

Is the Heat On?
As more schools work to reduce their carbon footprint, they look towards alternative energy options. Should they explore biomass? “At first glance an institution thinks more about their electricity consumption when they think green,” says Adam Sherman, program director, Biomass Energy Resource Center. “But more and more they are looking to heating and cooling as well.”

The price of natural gas may have had something to do about this. Schools that heat with this product have enjoyed falling prices over the years, and domestic production is up thanks to the success of fracking projects. However, schools that rely on Number 6 or Number 2 heating oil for their needs have seen their costs steadily rise.

Biomass has a history of low, stable prices that are unaffected by global economics and political events. Woody fuel can come from various sources, depending on the school’s geographic location. And even if the price were to double, it would still be a less expensive option than oil.

But is it clean? “I don’t want to green-wash here,” says Sherman. “There are emissions. But the carbon benefits play out over the long term. Biomass isn’t a silver bullet, but when used in concert with other solutions it offers a proven, sustainable heating option.”

Are We There Yet?
Online classes are old news, but in August 2011 South Texas College (STC) in McAllen, TX, went one step further by introducing an entire online school. “In a brave move that few colleges have dared to take, we are offering every service available to our traditional campus students — all online,” says STC President Shirley A. Reed. Not only will students have access to a wide catalog of course offerings and entire programs, they will also have access to online library services, admissions, advising, payment services, financial aid, bookstore, and testing. An online chat function allows students to ask questions of Student Affairs Division staff. This is in addition to the existing ability to chat live with instructors and participate in group discussion boards.

“Students today are what I call ‘time-challenged,’” explains Dr. Brett Millan, associate dean for distance learning, STC. “They work. They have families. Even if they live across the street from a campus, a traditional schedule may not serve them well.” Because of this, online students have a higher dropout rate than their on-campus peers. “They want to succeed in school, but life gets in the way.”

By offering the whole college experience — classes, programs, and services — online, STC hopes to ease the time crunch these students feel. There will even be a community component. “Students who are socially connected have a lower dropout rate,” says Millan. “So we are looking at creating online clubs, social networks, and wellness programs.”

Mind Your Qs and Rs
You know those strange, quilt-like pictures that are showing up on magazine pages, flyers, and other printed literature? Well they are more than just pixelated decoration; they may just be the next big thing on your campus. Described as a “barcode on steroids,” Quick Response (QR) codes are everywhere, and scanning them with a smartphone or tablet can create a more interactive experience for your audience.

Originally used to track auto parts, the square codes work on a horizontal and vertical plane, allowing a large amount of data to be crammed into a small space. Scan it with a downloaded app on a smartphone and a website with more information will open. “It allows us to capture the moment,” says Jim Roberts, director of marketing communications at Pennsylvania’s Misericordia University. “It takes our audience right where we want them to go and eliminates human error when typing in a long URL.”

Roberts is using the code in marketing materials, such as a direct mail piece about summer classes. “The piece depicts a man mowing a ‘lawn’ but the grass is college credits,” Roberts continues. “A QR code decorates his t-shirt. When scanned it opens the browser right to the summer schedule.”

Other schools are using the technology, too. “We’ve started using QR codes for on-campus locations, such as a banner for our College Center construction project,” reports David W. Shapiro, director of information technology services, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA. “Each code, with an associated image, allows the user to instantly retrieve information. Some of the QR codes we’ve placed on this banner are linked to dining updates, parking information, and construction schedules.”

“We develop special content to go with our QR codes,” says Tracy Syler-Jones, vice chancellor for marketing and communication at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth. “If someone is going to take the time to download a reader onto their phone, we want to make sure that the content is added value and not a website or other material that is readily found online.” For example, when TCU played in last season’s Rose Bowl, they developed a print ad for the Los Angeles Times that included a QR code linking readers to video highlighting TCU traditions. “It was pretty exciting because we actually had people from Los Angeles email to tell us that they’d never even heard of a QR code before and how great it was to download the video and be able to see TCU online as well as in the ad.”

Roberts cautions that QR codes are not perfect yet. “The website the 
code takes you to must look good and work well on a mobile device,” he 
cautions. “And the information it leads you to must be current and relevant 
to the situation.”

What’s in Store?
“2012 will be the year of the textbook rental,” predicts Charlie Schmidt, director of public relations, National Association of College Stores (NACS). In an effort to better serve their student population and provide the best value for their textbook dollars, more and more schools have moved to this model.

“In 2009, 300 out of our over 3,000 members offered a rental program,” he says. “That number has jumped to 2,200 in the fall of 2011. We think it will go to 2,400 this spring.”

Students like the idea of renting books because it puts all of the risk on the store. They get course material for anywhere from 33 to 55 percent of the cost of a new book without worrying about resale. “All the stars have to align for resale,” explains Schmidt. “Sometimes a store won’t buy a book back if the professor has changed materials.”

The renting model works best when there is an agreement between the store and the faculty to use the same edition for at least three semesters. Large classes help the economy of scale make sense. And the store must have extra space to warehouse the books when not in use.

Of course, stores won’t need all that space once schools transition completely to ebooks, right?

“The printed copy will never go away,” insists Schmidt. “Last fall digital books made up three percent of the market, and it could reach 10 to 15 percent by the fall of 2012, but there are hurdles.” These roadblocks include the need to flip back and forth from multiple sources and the fear that hardware will malfunction. “Studies show that 75 percent of students still prefer the hard copy of the book.”

 Aside from textbook sales and rentals, student stores continue to branch out, offering unique services like computer sales and maintenance, ticket sales, school merchandise, and convenience items. “Selling local and organic merchandise and food is a great way to get to a student’s heart,” says Schmidt.

Tech Check
Changes are coming in the way that buildings are designed, built, and eventually maintained. Dick Thomas, vice president, SHP Leading Design, talks about BIM, IPD, and laser scanning.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a three-dimensional design and construction technology that allows teams to communicate easily. A three-dimensional prototype is created, shared, and edited by all the stakeholders. Design problems are identified early in the process, saving time and costly, last minute changes. Virtual walkthroughs predict building performance.

“There are many opportunities for facility managers to use BIM after the structure is completed,” says Thomas. “The document gives quick access to the building and equipment. Problems can be diagnosed, the right tools can be sent to the job, and the work can be easily recorded after the fact. It could save lots of time and money.”

Transitioning to BIM will take time, however. “It’s not a simple proposition to move thousands of records to a new system. The human side is daunting,” Thomas admits. “Still, I predict that in five to 10 years the majority of institutions will shift to the BIM methodology.”

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a trend that is often associated with BIM. This is a design and building process that brings all of the players to the table early and demands an agreement to work together for the best outcome. “Instead of the traditional, linear model of work, which passes the project from designer to engineer to contractor, IPD has everyone together from the start,” says Thomas. “Participants share the work and the risk.”

A popular model in Canada, Europe, and Australia, IPD has yet to fully take off in the U.S. “There is still the attitude that if your architect and contractor are not adversaries then the owner is not getting the best value,” says Thomas. “That’s just not true.” Thomas says that LEED certification may eventually push the IPD model further in this country. “There is a mandate for collaboration in LEED.”

What does IPD mean for facility managers? “FMs would be key players early on in the design process,” promises Thomas. “And that makes sense. This group is the one that really knows how a building performs.”

Laser scanning offers a huge advancement in how institutions record their existing asset information. The ability to scan an existing asset — be it an object, space, or building — through the use of laser scanning machines has become cost-effective and user-friendly in just a few short years. The degree of accuracy that results from this kind of effort is a hundred-fold better than historical “by hand” methods. The potential to “digitize” an institution’s asset base is opening up the opportunities for applying BIM technologies going forward in ways not possible before.

“It assumes you have an iPad or other tablet to work with,” says Thomas. “Some schools are waiting to see if the return on investment plays out, but in five years I think it will be the norm.”

It’s a Small World
The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by five percent, to 723,277, during the 2010/11 academic year, according to the Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This represents a record high number of international students in the U.S.

Increased numbers of students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level, largely account for the growth this past year. Chinese students increased by 23 percent in total and by 43 percent at the undergraduate level. These increases have been felt across the U.S., with the top 20 host universities and top 10 host states each hosting more international students than in the prior year. Women represent approximately 45 percent of the total number of international students.

These strong increases have significant economic impact on the U.S. as international students contribute more than $21B to the U.S. economy through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Higher education is among the United States’ top service sector exports, as international students provide significant revenue not just to the host campuses but also to local economies of the host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, and support for accompanying family members.

Some schools are taking advantage of the interest in an American education and are exporting the services to their front door. Harvard Business School has announced a new program in India with a focus on entrepreneurship, strategy management, innovation, and corporate accountability. Trend-spotter Marian Salzman of Euro RSCG Worldwide offers an observation: “Don’t be surprised to see more top American universities breaking ground on programs in places such as India and China, where a whole new generation of would-be corporate raiders is ripe for the picking,” she predicts.

Trending Green
Green building will continue its rebound globally in 2012 in spite of ongoing economic difficulties in most developed economies, observes green building consultant Jerry Yudelson.

“What we’re seeing is that more people are building green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its components,” explains Yudelson, principal of Tucson, AZ--based Yudelson Associates. “However, in 2010 and 2011, the continuing slowdown in commercial real estate and the end of recovery funding put a crimp in new green building projects.”

In 2011, LEED in new construction accounted for about 20 percent of all put-in-place space, with domestic LEED project registrations up almost 40 percent vs. depressed 2010 levels. However, Yudelson sees faster growth in green retrofits, ongoing college and university projects, and NGO activity as serving to backstop the fall in commercial and governmental construction.

The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from new building design and construction to greening existing buildings, Yudelson predicts. “One fast-growing LEED rating system the past two years has been LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EBOM), with cumulative floor area in certifications now greater than in existing buildings, and I expect this trend to pick up in 2012,” he says.

Other green building trends Yudelson observes include:
  • Increasing awareness of the coming global crisis in fresh water supply, leading building designers and managers to take further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings with more conserving fixtures, rainwater recovery systems, and innovative new water technologies.
  • Zero-net-energy designs for new buildings will become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors, as LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications and labels become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage.
  • Performance disclosure will be the fastest emerging trend, highlighted by new requirements in California, Seattle, and other locations. Commercial building owners will need to disclose actual building performance to all new tenants and buyers and in some places, to the public at large. This trend is already established in Australia, for example, and will spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor carbon emissions from existing commercial and governmental buildings.
  • Green buildings will increasingly be managed in the “cloud,” as witnessed by the large number of new entrants and new products in fields of building automation, facility management, wireless controls, and information technology in 2011.
  • Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow with the prospect of increasing utility focus on aggressive state-level renewable power standards (RPS) and goals for 2020.