Facilities (Campus Spaces)

Another Approach to Deferred Maintenance

When we talk about deferred maintenance, we tend to think of it in terms of money — money that isn’t there. However, there are other ways of looking at the challenge.

“The most sustainable building ever is the one you don’t build,” says E. Lander Medlin, executive vice president APPA, Leadership in Education Facilities. To that end, addressing space utilization to reduce new construction is one way to attack deferred maintenance challenges. And it makes sense. If you increase space use, you don’t need to build new facilities. If you don’t build new facilities, you don’t need to maintain them. If you don’t need to maintain new facilities, you don’t need to syphon maintenance dollars from existing facilities to new facilities.

“Our utilization rates are really poor,” says Medlin. “The average for all spaces is 47 percent. In addition, just six to nine percent of total campus space inventory is classrooms, and main classroom usage occurs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“What if we create a policy that expands class scheduling times?” she continues. “For example, let’s schedule classes Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and even as late as midnight and even schedule classes for Saturdays.” Beyond the classroom, she indicates, what if we use hoteling for adjunct faculty? This is where adjuncts register to use cubicle office space for student hours. As opposed to a slew of offices, of which each may be used just a few hours per week, a slew of cubicles takes much less space and, via registration, can be used full-time.

Medlin admits she is raising a complicated, politically charged issue, but also says it is one that senior institutional leaders must address. For encouragement, she cites the success of one institution’s expansion of class schedules. “The board chair and president made a conscious decision to expand class schedules from Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.,” she details. “They drove the policy from the top down and, as a result, they went to 85 percent space utilization and didn’t have to build two buildings.”

“We have to get our heads in the game about how we can do this,” Medlin continues. “This isn’t just an APPA issue; it’s being discussed in a number of associations, and we’re working together to organize a summit to promote policies to drive increased space utilization. The people on the ground are in agreement and ready to make it happen; it simply has to be pushed through from the policy side. We can’t ignore it.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

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