How Facilities Management Trends Are Influencing Higher Ed

by Elizabeth Dukes on July 30, 2018

It’s unlikely you’ll find “facility management” high on the list of priorities for any college or university. Because to many university leaders, it just isn’t all that important.

But in reality, proper facilities management (FM) has a major impact on the success of a higher education institution. And since innovative colleges and universities have begun to recognize how important FM is, they’re now embracing some of the more popular facilities management trends.

Here are a few of the ways higher education institutions have started mirroring their agile commercial cousins.

Leveraging Technology

“Universities have a ton of data, but it’s not typically aggregated in a way that allows them to assess opportunities for savings,” says Kevin Wayer, co-leader of JLL’s Higher Education practice. While universities have, of course, incorporated technology into their curriculums, they’re now beginning to take advantage of the same kinds of technology enterprises use in their work environment.

These solutions collect and organize data related to …

  • Asset utilization and performance
  • Service ticket submission and tracking
  • Energy use
  • Property management
  • Space utilization

With this technology, universities can reduce wasted spend, extend the lives of equipment, better negotiate leases, more effectively manage space and improve maintenance management.

Reconciling Old and New Facilities Management Trends

Like growing businesses, higher education institutions face two distinct problems:

  • The team members who are experts on legacy systems are retiring. Their departure also means the loss of critical facilities knowledge.
  • Finding professionals who understand modern, complex buildings is difficult.

But just as an enterprise can take advantage of knowledge management software, so, too, can a university. By documenting all of the standard operating procedures, colleges can ensure newer employees have the information they need to properly manage older systems. Another popular option is to use automated building maintenance systems to capture critical data about spaces and assets.

As far as the second challenge goes, higher education institutions can have facilities managers attend conferences and educational seminars as well as schedule hands-on training. As a result, the facilities team will have the skills and experience to confidently use the technology the university needs to operate efficiently.

Smarter Space Utilization

A common pitfall is concentrating only on improving the aesthetic of a campus by building newer and “prettier” facilities. This is because, like employers, universities need to attract potential students. And one of the most effective ways to do this is with more impressive and modernized buildings.

But if a university invests too much in new real estate instead of focusing on more efficient utilization of the property it already has, they’ll unnecessarily increase operational costs. More facilities require larger FM teams as well as increased maintenance and more heating, cooling and lighting costs.

Instead, innovative higher education institutions are using space utilization studies to find ways to repurpose the property they already have. This includes creating places for students to socialize on top of parking garages and in empty spaces between buildings. Finding creative ways to better use existing space is one of the most popular facilities management trends.

However, the universities who are most successful at improving utilization are the ones who develop a comprehensive strategy before even scheduling a study. These universities understand how important it is to ensure every department is aligned on the institution’s goals and priorities—both in the short term and long term.

Improving Environmental Friendliness

When a college ignores its environmental impact, the damage is twofold. First, it deters students from applying. And second, it can lead to costly fines from the EPA.

But rather than just ensuring they comply with government regulations, many universities have begun embracing one of the newer facilities management trends of taking a more proactive approach to environmental friendliness and sustainability. Higher education institutions are partnering with associations like APPA and the Campus Safety Health and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA) to stay on the forefront of environmental compliance requirements.

While universities can often navigate these requirements on their own, collaborations with third-party experts can even further decrease the risk of non-compliance. Not only that, these agencies can help universities identify opportunities to maximize existing resources and improve sustainability that the institution may never have recognized without the outside organization’s help.

Updating the way a university manages its facilities is by no means a simple process. But by taking a data-driven yet flexible approach, a college has a greater chance of changing its FM for the better.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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