Higher education master plans provide direction, prevent wasteful spending
By John Holbert
Like any other organization, higher education institutions change over time. Buildings age. Infrastructure wears out. Programmatic needs evolve. The best way to plan and prepare for these inevitable occurrences is to develop a master plan and conduct facility assessments.
Higher education master plans rely on analysis of several factors – including projected educational trends, changes in demographics, financial and economic forecasts, and societal shifts (e.g., long-term effects of COVID-19) – to provide a blueprint of the future growth of a campus and the ability to meet the associated needs of that growth. The plan addresses such things as when and where buildings will be constructed, how to provide for the necessary supporting infrastructure, and plans for minimizing energy use, reducing the carbon footprint, and investing in renewable opportunities such as solar and wind energy.
Facility assessments are a key component of master plans, providing an analysis of building systems and infrastructure and their ability to support future needs. These analyses should be completed every five to 10 years and can be general or detailed, depending on the breadth of information needed. Such assessments should provide:
- Comprehensive inventory and equipment information
- Information to help estimate the cost of deferred maintenance
- A repair or replacement strategy
- Existing deficiencies in operations and opportunities for improved energy efficiency
- Compliance issues with existing or new/updated codes
In the end, a properly conducted facility assessment enables facility staff to truly know the condition of all systems and equipment. This enables forecasting, planning, and prioritization of maintenance and replacements – and a wiser use of limited dollars.
To receive the most comprehensive master plan and facility assessment for your campus, make sure your engineer can demonstrate vast experience and knowledge in both endeavors, and then get them involved early in the process alongside others on your team.
Master plans do require a significant investment in time and effort, but the payoff is being able to avoid potential wasteful spending and uncoordinated expansion that can occur when a plan is not in place.
Related reading: For analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 and other challenges on the higher education market, read Gordian’s newest edition of “The State of Facilities in Higher Education.”