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How has the pandemic changed college and university facility planning?

How has the pandemic changed college and university facility planning?

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed college and university facility planning. A majority of teaching and learning now takes place either entirely online or through a hybrid setup. While there is no reliable prediction of how the pandemic will develop in the future, it is clear that higher education institutions are committed to continuing the pursuit of their educational mission.


When campuses do eventually reopen, there will be many impacts on facility planning. According to a new national study, student enrollment is fast outpacing U.S. universities’ ability to accommodate their enrollees in academic and residential facilities.

As a result, more than half of the school leaders surveyed recognize the need for more flexible staff and faculty offices. At the same time, 48% of sadi plan to expand multicultural student spaces over the next year to make campuses more inclusive and equitable.

The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and brightspot conducted the study, detailing critical changes over the last year and how colleges and universities plan for the next three years. The study surveyed 88 higher-education institutions across the country who shared data on their buildings and recent and planned changes to their facilities.

The study demonstrates Covid-19’s impact on how universities and colleges will plan for new facilities. Here we examine the four key takeaways from the 2021 Campus Facilities Inventory (CFI).

  • About six out of 10 universities plan to update campus master plans in the coming year.
  • Public schools with more extensive real estate portfolios than private schools are more likely to build new facilities over the next three years. Yet, private schools provide more space per in-person student than public schools.
  • About 62% of respondents will build out more flexible or unassigned staff workspaces, and 54% will do so for academic work facilities.
  • As hybrid and online learning increases, growth in campus facilities is unlikely to keep pace. “In-person student enrollment is the strongest predictor of the amount of instructional space on campus across all campus settings,” according to the survey authors.

Regardless of how the pandemic alters capital planning for higher education, it remains vital that facility planners at colleges and universities are aware of useful-life maintenance issues.

It is possible to significantly improve the efficacy of facility capital planning through collecting data on equipment life cycle, repair schedules against industry standards and benchmarks.

All of these factors influence the amount of capital to be conserved for significant renovations and replacements. In addition, this data makes the facility planning process much smoother and helps the higher education facility department maintain a reliable maintenance schedule.

Data is critical in helping college and university facility managers determine the best approach to motivating supervisors and technicians to stay on track with a high-functioning preventative maintenance program.

One of the best features of FOUNDATION is that it is a cloud-based data collection system, which can update physical asset information in real-time or even on the go.

Mobile data-collection technology empowers higher education facility planners in many ways, including managing work process flows, tracking physical assets, and supervising facilities. In addition, mobile tech helps facility planners communicate, collaborate, and manage workloads more efficiently.

One of the most profound benefits of implementing technology like FOUNDATION is the platform's built-in ability to automatically prioritize capital spending projects based on your college or university's specific needs related to its mission and fiscal goals.

Top 3 Benefits of the FOUNDATION platform:

  1. Develop multi-year capital plans with projects explicitly targeted to the organization’s needs, like renovations, space relocation or consolidation, or utility infrastructure improvements.
  2. Gain approval on increased funding for deferred maintenance projects.
  3. Make strategic decisions based on real-time building data so that your facilities team can effectively align with the institutional mission and optimize funding for the future!

Talk to us directly. Schedule a 5-min discovery call with our team to learn how Intellis software improves facility capital planning for colleges and universities. 

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