Impacting Campus Change With Facilities Data Assessments

College and university facilities needs continue to grow due to aging buildings and infrastructure, limited capital funding and strained operations. In the age of Big Data, there are modern ways to assess campus needs. In a recent webinar in partnership with American School & University, Sandy Sheahan, Associate Director of Operations at Colorado State University (CSU), explained how data has changed the university’s facilities strategy.

Before the Data: A Steady Growth of Deferred Maintenance

Here is some context for how CSU turned to facilities intelligence solutions and data collection for help. Back in 2012, Colorado State University stakeholders were looking at the campus from the perspective of maintaining positive forward momentum despite reduced state funding. Their goals were ambitious: provide a high-quality education to their students while keeping the faculty-student ratio status quo. The challenge, though complex, was easily identified – grow the campus and meet the funding gap between what was needed to operate and what the state was providing in funding.

Deferred maintenance issues
Neglected buildings created lots of deferred maintenance on CSU’s campus.

The facilities needs were clear and included educational labs and facilities, student housing, structured parking, infrastructure needs and auxiliary maintenance. The expectations for 2020 were laid out – 1.8 million square feet of new space at an estimated $1.4 billion in construction costs. With 35 new buildings coming online from 2010 to 2017, the facilities data showed a steady growth of deferred maintenance. As new buildings came online, older facilities were neglected. The campus looked and felt great to students and staff but from a facilities manager’s perspective, Sandy’s team could see the maintenance needs lurking behind the walls, under the ground and overhead.

“The Sightlines data we received really helped us take a look at the information to see that most of our funding had been diverted to new spaces and not to the existing facilities. Those are still in need of a lot of upkeep and funding just to maintain their current condition, not even to improve them.”

Sandy Sheahan, Associate Director of Operations at Colorado State University

A Hard Look at the Numbers

Sandy Sheahan was on a mission to prove CSU needed additional facilities funding but she needed the evidence. So she turned to Sightlines to gather and analyze data for a clearer picture of campus needs. Sightlines’ first step was to dive into total capital investment spending. They uncovered that about 70% of the capital investment spending was going to support new space and non-facilities spaces between 2010 and 2014. Next, they took a look at operational costs.

Sightlines has tons of verified higher education data. Member Services teams travel to over 360 schools across North America each year to collect, qualify and verify over 200 facilities metrics. With a database that includes over $14.6 billion in capital and operational budgets for North American universities and colleges, Sightlines can compare spending amounts across peer institutions to establish a benchmark. One of the big findings that came from this analysis was that CSU’s facilities operating budget was much lower than comparable peer institutions, to the tune of over $6 million.

Sightlines Graphs and Data for Colorado State University
A sample of the data Sightlines provided CSU.

Leveraging Facilities Intelligence to Make the Case

By leveraging Sightlines to make the case for more facilities funding on campus, Colorado State University has entered a new era of facilities and operations management. They now have a long-term strategic plan that includes improved planned maintenance, additional funding to the tune of $6 million for preventative maintenance, building renewal programs and creating a utility-controlled maintenance board. Armed with facilities benchmarking data to support decision making, CSU has experienced greater visibility into their facilities and operational needs and constraints and optimized their limited capital resources to gain greater support from university management.

Watch the on demand webinar “Using Data to Assess Need and Impact Change on Campus,” to learn more.