Making the Case to Increase Facilities Funding
The Ontario University System is comprised of 19 universities, including schools such as Carleton University, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. Programs in arts and science are offered at the undergraduate level system-wide, while several universities also offer doctoral law, education, engineering, medicine or nursing programs. The entire system encompasses over 70 million square feet of facilities.
Historically, each university in the system had its own method for compiling data about facility condition, prioritizing capital projects and estimating costs. Neither deferred maintenance nor renewal needs were planned on a system-wide basis. However, several changes in the Ontario education system increased the urgency of having consistent facility data and better tools for system-wide planning. Population growth and increasing rates of participation in university education meant enrollment in the system was expected to increase by as 40 percent by 2010. The province was also planning to transition its high school system from a 13-year to a 12-year program, doubling the number of incoming freshman. University officials realized they needed better data and more sophisticated tools in order to make a persuasive argument to the provincial government for more funding to address these needs.
The University System’s solution was the Facility Condition Assessment Project, which had two primary goals. The first was to provide consistent and comprehensive facilities data to the Ontario university presidents and the provincial government. The second was to deliver best practice facility management tools to the universities’ physical plant departments. Each university in the system assessed 20 percent of its building portfolio each year using VFA assessment methodology. Assessment information related to condition and maintenance requirements was captured in VFA.facility, which serves as a central source for managing and analyzing facility information. Physical plant directors use the software’s built-in cost data to estimate the cost of facility projects, while “what-if” planning tools allow users to see how a particular investment will affect a facility’s condition and funding requirements over time.
With accurate information and sophisticated analytic tools, the universities have a better understanding of the impact of investment decisions and can effectively make the case for funding facility projects. Less than two years after the creation of the FCAP, the Ontario government awarded the University System $93 million in deferred maintenance funding – an increase of $40 million from previous years. This funding level was based on requirements from only 20 percent of the universities’ physical structures. Funding for the universities’ Facility Renewal Program has increased by $80 million over a nine-year period. In 2009, the Ontario University System was able to complete their 8th comprehensive system report with the help of VFA’s solution.
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