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How to Create Healthy Learning Environments

Providing students with a learning environment that enables them to maximize their potential is at the heart of what you do. However, the challenges for higher education facilities are mounting. College and university buildings are, on average, 42 years old and at a troubling D+ for infrastructure; according to America’s Infrastructure Report Card, deferred maintenance and dollars for capital renewals are growing larger every day. So, what can facilities leaders do?

Creating Healthy Learning Environments: A Guide for Higher Education Facilities

Top-quality facilities management in the higher education sector is essential to the success of university students and staff. In this blog, we identify the four key areas of improvement that facility managers must focus on to create healthier and more effective learning environments.

Higher-Education-FM

Key Areas of Focus: Creating Effective Learning Environments at Higher Education Institutions 

University students spend 20 to 30 hours a week in classrooms and labs. At Intellis, we know that educational institutions want to match their students' dedication to working in one setting with a commitment to ensuring their atmosphere is healthy, safe, stimulating, and prepared to meet the individual needs of their learners.

Addressing the Challenges on Campus

Those of us in the facilities management sector instinctively recognize the positive correlation between environmental factors and both employee and student productivity and morale, yet the implications of these findings for higher education have yet to be acknowledged and translated into action.

Extensive research has demonstrated that the health of students and staff is directly influenced by the health of facilities. Studies have shown that test scores and student achievement improve as much as 5% per student the better the facility conditions are. 

Educational institutions set great store by the standards of teaching and research they provide, yet, as facility managers know very well, excellent learning standards are only possible when estate fabric is sufficiently well maintained to satisfy the basic human needs of its users. It might not necessarily get the glamorous headline on the front page of a university prospectus, but the assiduous management of facilities so that students and staff feel safe, rested, warm, well, and comfortable at all times is nonetheless the foundation on which all other achievements depend.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs demonstrates that a person's basic biological and physiological needs must be met before achieving the ability to thrive and perform creatively and intelligently at full potential. Students must feel fed, rested, well, safe, and comfortable before they can truly engage intellectually, emotionally, and socially.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

Our students deserve the best, and the best isn't humid classrooms, poor lighting, or bad air quality. An improved indoor environment and air quality can help everyone, especially university students, who are more susceptible to infection than adults.

Every aspect of your physical assets—from the design of a building to the cleanliness, lighting, and ventilation—impacts the mental state of both students and staff in educational facilities. Proper facility maintenance is truly the unsung hero in the education industry, and we're here to help you do your best work.

Discover how Intellis helps Higher Education Institutions Improve Campus Facilities and Grounds.

How to Improve the Learning Environment

Here are the top environmental conditions that contribute to student success:

1. Lighting: poor lighting can be a massive distraction to student learning. Lighting in the classroom should be high enough for students to see optimally but natural enough to be soothing.

Helpful tips:

  • Make the switch to LED bulbs.
    • Good LED bulbs can provide just as much light as fluorescents but are longer-lasting (and more efficient). They are also easier on the eyes and trigger a sense of well-being and better cognition in the brain.
  • Use window film.
    • Apply window films to reduce the glare from sunlight in classrooms, which causes students to squint. This is an easy and cost-efficient way to correct the issue.

2. Noise: Noisy distractions from hallways and nearby rooms can disrupt students’ ability to focus and hear.

Helpful tips:

  • Check the HVAC system.
    • Old or ill-functioning equipment is a huge source of noise, so check to make sure yours is working properly to serve students and staff. Modern, energy-efficient models not only save on energy usage but also can significantly reduce noise.
  • Check the efficiency of all assets.
    • The HVAC system may not be the only thing disrupting your classes. Vending machines, refrigeration, copiers, etc., create noise that carries, so ensure these pieces of equipment are functioning properly and positioned on the noise-reduction setting.

3. Temperature: Poorly regulated temperatures make it difficult for anyone to focus and do their best when shivering or sweating. Stuffy, warm rooms naturally lead to drowsy learners, and a chilly environment may keep students alert, but they’ll also be uncomfortable and have difficulty performing at their optimal level.

Helpful tips:

  • Upgrade HVAC.
    • A poorly functioning HVAC system can cause many disruptions. If it’s not keeping students warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it’s time to look into a new model that not only has the desired performance but is also more energy efficient.
  • Assess the roof.
    • Consider upgrading to a cool roof, which has high solar reflectance and reduces cooling load.

4. Air Quality: Poor air quality can have big consequences, including student and faculty illness, a rise in absenteeism, and serious repercussions for students with asthma, allergies, and other breathing difficulties.

Helpful tips:

  • Check HVAC and Vents.
    • HVAC comes up frequently because it has a great impact on a school, and it is hugely important to maintain this asset. If systems aren’t working properly, that weak performance could lead to issues like mold growth and leaks. The same goes for your vents. Dusty air circulation can also lead to student illness and absenteeism.
  • Review CO2 DVC options.
    • CO2 DCV systems provide outdoor air delivery into your building, letting fresh air circulate through classrooms and other spaces will help staff and students feel more at ease in their environment.

Managing facility maintenance at higher education institutions demands organization, accountability, and reliability. Our facilities planning system offers multi-site functionality to help you manage affiliate sites across networks, buildings on campus, outdoor fields, and everything in between.

 

Capital Planning in Higher Education

Making strategic decisions that transform your institution and improve ROI is no easy task. Financial officers of educational institutions are well aware of the struggle of facilities maintenance, planning, construction, and expansion. Around half of facility planning staff at US Universities have expressed that their current budgets and business models will not sustain the campus for over 10 years, which is what is expected.

As expenses rise, less budgeting is allocated to facility management, proving that budgeting correctly is key to a successful campus. Most schools and educational facilities lack efficient technological support for the long-term facility planning and budgeting process. Using facility management software, such as FOUNDATION, can vastly improve the daily management of essential physical assets.

Condition Assessment and Capital Planning Systems

Embracing technology is key for facility managers at colleges and universities. Structured and organized FM has the potential to improve the physical performance and appearance of a building and its systems, increase users' satisfaction, and improve the efficiency with which the building is maintained and operated.

Facilities leaders can address issues with the help of facilities management software, which enables you to clear the backlog of deferred maintenance, measure performance, and implement sustainable models for smart planning and capital investment that will better align your facilities department with the school’s mission. This will help you achieve your goals and ensure the success of your educational institution for generations to come.

Align Higher Education Needs and Goals to the Budget

FOUNDATION is the only software of its kind to provide customized systems for evaluating a myriad of aspects of facilities, reports based on these assessments, project planning for renovations and updates, spending oversight, and capital planning to align your needs and goals to your budget properly. FOUNDATION has been proven successful on over $50 billion in building and infrastructure plans ranging from large and small environments. It continuously improves budgets using feedback from project history. With these tools, higher education facilities of all sizes are empowered to plan for changes and maintenance, better serving their boards, budgets, employees, and students.

Key Benefits: FOUNDATION: Your Smart Capital Planning and Condition Assessment System

Intelligent

  • Implement smart, automated software that you can rely on
  • Capture the full picture of your facility operations in one integrated database
  • Track and analyze all work, assets, and equipment from one dashboard

Predictive

  • Identify issues before they arise so you can create action plans sooner
  • Make data-driven decisions to save your school time and money
  • Create action plans to achieve your goals and own your operations

Innovative

  • View the full data story of your operations in one place
  • Share reports quickly and easily to gain buy-in from key stakeholders
  • Join a community of education leaders; share and learn best practices

Talk to Us Directly!

Schedule your free discovery call with us to learn how we can help you create healthy learning environments on campus.

Schedule Now

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Learn how to improve the learning environment in higher education institutions. Discover the key areas of focus and top environmental conditions that contribute to student success, including lighting, noise, and temperature. Find out how Intellis can help improve campus facilities and grounds for a healthier, more effective learning environment.

 

Resources

American Society of Civil Engineers. "2017 Infrastructure Report Card", https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/schools/.

Uline, Cynthia (2008). "The walls speak: the interplay of quality facilities, school climate, and student achievement," Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 46 Issue: 1, pp.55-73, https://doi.org/10.1108/09578230810849817.

Zimmerman, Greg. "The Tricky Business of Measuring Occupant Health and Wellness," Facilities Net, https://www.facilitiesnet.com/green/tip.aspx?id=41033.

Zimmerman, Greg. "Cooling Crisis: Study Ties AC in Schools to Student Performance," Facilities Net, https://www.facilitiesnet.com/hvac/tip.aspx?id=41584.