By Ray Dufresne, Vice President, VFA, Inc.
My recent article in Facilities Manager addresses the fact that at colleges and universities today, the increasing number of students is putting new pressure on facilities – and on facility managers. Most schools will soon be falling short in their ability to support students, if they are not already.
Student needs are also increasingly different, and most campus facilities have not kept up with the changing times. An example of this, recently described in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s The Digital Campus, is a professor at Virginia Tech who leads highly interactive classes with up to 3,000 students in the largest space on campus and guest speakers via Skype who receive questions from Twitter, and runs other classes from his office space with hundreds of students online.
With changing technology and user needs, numerous questions must be asked. Are the classrooms and labs up-to-date? Do they allow for interactive work? Are facilities going to waste – and costing money to operate? Can facilities be easily modified or re-purposed to accommodate changes?
Given the increasing student population, and their demands to learn differently using technology, now is the time for colleges and universities to assess both the functional adequacy and facility condition. By combining best-of-breed methodologies for these assessments with sophisticated decision support tools, schools can develop objective plans for the future, using a rational process to determine how to allocate funding where it will have the most impact and best support educational goals. Analysis based on accurate data results in objective prioritization, a clear path to decision-making, and, ultimately, intelligent investment choices resulting in cost savings over time.