Understand the Value of Your Space to Reduce Costs and Make Strategic Decisions


For many universities, conducting accurate annual space surveys is a huge challenge. Among other things, this often requires each department to verify floor plans, room functions, and department allocations, particularly instructional space versus organized research space. These surveys are often conducted manually leading to incorrect and inconsistent data, hours of wasted staff effort, and lower indirect cost recovery (ICR) rates.

In our previous blog, we explored Indirect Cost Recovery in detail and examined how technology plays a role in driving ICR. Today, let’s examine how universities leverage technology to gain a better understanding of space so they can get insight into how expensive space is being used and make strategic decisions.

Higher Ed Real Estate: Expense or Asset?

There’s no question that academic space is costly and research space is one of the most expensive types of real estate that a university can have. In fact, the national median cost per square foot of academic space is $396.67/sq ft and medical-related space is $515.53/sq ft. With a greater understanding of your space and how it’s being used, you can map your current assets, identify opportunities, and determine future needs.

Universities are using the FM:Systems space management platform to bring all of their real estate data together, simplifying reporting, improving ICR rates and getting insight for more informed, strategic decision-making. For example, perhaps there’s unused space that can be rented or sold for extra revenue or reallocated to a growing department. Or you might enable data-driven decisions on which faculty members are granted research space based on the productivity of their current space. These types of decisions can transform costly space into a more strategic asset.

Why is it important to automate space and facilities reporting?

With visibility and insight to defensible data about your facilities and their utilization, universities gain confidence when submitting reports to the federal government and negotiating indirect cost recovery factor. Applied analytics provides further insight into the cost of your research space and helps you identify opportunities to be more efficient. Additionally, universities leverage dashboards with data visualizations to get a clear picture of current vacancies and ownership breakdowns. How could you allocate space properly without it?

“For the first time, we have reliable and fast access to information about which spaces are being shared, how they’re being shared between departments, and how they are being shared amongst multiple grants.” 

-Shuli Steele, Space Manager, University of Denver (full story)

How FMS:Workplace reduces costs and improves space utilization

FM:Systems has a specific focus on understanding the unique needs of universities and offers turn-key solutions with higher ed requirements built right into the system. More than 350 universities count on our solutions to help them identify opportunities to combine space and save on real estate and operating costs such as lighting, janitorial services, and climate control.

To reduce costs, universities need the ability to track and monitor unused research space, preventive maintenance schedules to keep equipment running, and the location and condition of other valuable research assets. That’s why more universities are leveraging FMS:Workplace as a single source of truth for this information that is accessible across multiple divisions. Permissions can be set to provide selective, secure access to data, reports and floor plans as well as shared with relevant stakeholders on demand.

Real-world results: University of Delaware

Established in 1743, the University of Delaware (UDel) maintains both historic and modern buildings situated around an expansive lawn know as The Green. The campus real estate portfolio consists of 2300 acres and roughly 10,000,000 square feet presenting unique challenges for the Facility Management team.

In August 2019, the UDel team began normalizing space utilization and allocation plans by creating graphical, interactive displays available to a larger audience through the FM:Systems Space Management platform. The top priority was creating a single source of truth for the university’s space data, enabling accurate reporting and planning across the university and transparency across the colleges.

“We started our implementation in August, we were live by October, and then we started this gathering, this great gathering, of data. FM:Systems gives us one system, a true system of record, that is available in real-time. And it is transparent across the university, which helps us build and sustain trust. As it pertains to space management and facilities in general, our goal is to consistently provide great data.” 

– Dan Yohey, Space Manager, University of Delaware

FMS:Workplace has empowered UDel to make better informed real estate decisions on a broad spectrum. The system provides an accessible, intuitive view into space availability and space allocation for colleges, departments and administrators across the campus.

FMS:Workplace has also been critical in demonstrating portfolio value to senior leadership: clear data on how space is being utilized and what the real portfolio looks like informs real estate strategies and initiatives, as well as proving out funding requests, research grant allocation and project approvals.

Additionally, when the decision was made to have classes online when the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged, UDel leveraged the Leasing module within FMS:Workplace to temporarily close 135 buildings. This allowed them to reduce operational expenses as well as think strategically about building lease expiration dates and future needs.