4 Reasons Why Universities Should Treat Their Space as a Strategic Asset – Part 1

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In my previous blog post, “4 Reasons Why Universities Should Treat Their Space as a Strategic Asset” I introduced this four part series which will explore why universities should be should begin to think of their physical space inventory as a strategic asset and how an integrated space centric technology approach can help them manage their campus more effectively in today’s highly competitive campus environments. In this part of the series I will focus on how cost reductions can be achieved through areas such as increased space utilization. We’ll explore how a unique focus on utilization can help you find the space you didn’t know you had.

Cost Reduction

When it comes to talking about cost reduction in terms of space on University campuses we really need to focus on two primary elements that can provide us with opportunities for reducing costs. The first strategy is to maximize the capacity of your existing space portfolio and second and probably more probable would be increasing the utilization of the spaces that you already have in your physical space inventory.

Maximize the Capacity of Your Existing Space

It’s important to understand the difference between capacity and utilization as this introduces an important concept that makes a portion of these cost reductions (savings) possible. The definition of capacity is the theoretical design limit for a given space that takes into account the maximum number of individuals a space or spaces has actually been constructed for. The definition of utilization looks at how many people truly use that space/capacity and also adds in the additional factor of how often the space is actually scheduled for use.

There are some basic approaches that you can take when it comes to manipulating room capacity beyond what may have been the original design capacity. This is not always recommended because spaces are typically designed with a specific function and layout in place. That being said the most common and simplest method of affecting capacity is to use a different method of arranging the spaces you currently have. This could be as easy as rearranging the existing furniture, supplementing it or removing some to convert it from for instance classroom style to theatre seating. By looking at the way your spaces are actually laid out you could make some basic changes to increase capacity by re-evaluating how you set them up with existing furniture and resources that you have.

Analyze the Utilization of Your Existing Space

A second approach can happen when you begin to analyze the utilization of your existing space and plan for and schedule how you will increase the utilization of all your spaces by maximizing the amount of time that there are used on a daily basis.

I’m going to demonstrate a quick calculation in to demonstrate how a simple increase in efficiency can help you to think about the opportunities that you have for finding additional space in your existing portfolio. Take the example of a 1 million square foot campus portfolio. If you look at industry norms in the higher education market, the Assignable Square Feet (ASF) percentages for a 1 million Gross Square Foot (GSF) portfolio is about 50 to 65%. In our one million gross square foot portfolio there would be approximately 500,000 – 650,000 assignable square feet in that space. For the sake of simplicity. Let’s take 600,000 square feet and look at what a 1% increase in utilization would look like. By performing some basic math, we can determine that a 1% increase in utilization of 600,000 square feet of assignable space equals 6,000 square feet of newly found space that could be used for instruction staff space, swing space etc. just by using what we have with a higher degree of utilization.

Let’s break this down in another way and look at examples of room capacity and what happens when we examine the sizes of specific types of rooms ranging from basic classrooms which could as small as 350 square feet or discussion rooms which may be 500 square feet, seminar rooms at 600 square feet or group work rooms at 750 square feet. If we take that 6,000 square feet of newly found space and divide by the typical size of a lecture room, discussion room, seminar room or group room you will see that we virtually gain 8 – 17 new spaces with only a 1% increase in the utilization of our existing space.
Cost Reduction Calculation
Now of course we didn’t really discover additional rooms in our facility, but we can infer from this is example that better utilization means that if your existing space is not utilized 100% of the time at 100% capacity then there actually space at your disposal that can used more effectively to help address your campus space needs. By taking better advantage of what we currently have we maximize our investment in our buildings by utilizing every square foot of existing space as effectively as we possibly can. This means we are not paying for space that when empty isn’t supporting the ultimate mission of your campus.

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