Explore Before You Build: The Space Utilization Study
By Jeffrey Sronkoski and Michael Lundeen
Facility costs are rising. Capital funding is scarce. What can higher education institutions do?
Most colleges and universities know that their facilities have tremendous value. They also know it costs much more to build new than to remodel.
More than ever before, institutional leaders are exploring every option to maximize reuse of their existing facilities. One of the more valuable tools that assists in making this happen is the Space Utilization Study.
Data Tells All: The Space Utilization Study
How is a college using its space? Are some rooms packed while others are half empty? How does a Tuesday morning compare with a Friday afternoon? These are just a few of the questions that the Space Utilization Study explores. The study helps institutions evaluate how much space can be repurposed. It also helps them minimize the amount of new space needed. The result is significant savings in capital costs.
Several years ago, Joliet Junior College needed to respond an anticipated major population increase. But before the board of trustees decided on adding any new buildings, its members wanted to know how well the college was using the buildings it already had in operation. As part of a comprehensive master plan, a Space Utilization Study was completed. It analyzed usage of over 150 rooms, then compared square footage per student and parking per student data to eight of its college peer institutions. The findings helped drive and justify the college’s master plan.
Space Utilization Studies also spark a variety of questions that planners and administrators can explore. For instance, a study that we did revealed that the client had poor utilization in a lecture room. When questioned, faculty said that nobody wanted to use the room because it had subpar sound isolation from the adjacent lecture space.
The Space Utilization Study might show that a $25 million new science facility isn’t needed just yet. It might reveal that the classrooms are in dire need of renovations, or it could show that some departments need to be expanded. No matter what its findings, the Space Utilization Study will point the way to the most cost-effective use of facilities.