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Universities are becoming aware of the need for more space as students get ready to return to campus for the fall term. As the semester approaches, space planners in higher education are at the center of disputes about space because there isn’t enough of it. They keep coming back to one central question: What has happened to campus space since universities sent students home?
Everything from the design of buildings to their maintenance may need to change to fit a new framework. The goal of a higher education space planner is to improve the student experience, which requires a re-evaluation of conventional campus space planning. Here are some challenges that higher education institutions should think about now and in the foreseeable future.
1. LIMITED CAMPUS SPACE HINDERS HOUSING NEEDS
As the fall semester begins universities find themselves overbooked due to increased enrollment. Lack of housing is one of the biggest concerns in higher education right now. Universities, without enough dorm space, are turning to hotels and even neighboring campuses to accommodate students.
While some overbooked institutions, such as the University of Tennessee and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are using hotels as a means of housing their students. University of Iowa, on the other hand, reopened a residence hall it closed five years ago as temporary dormitories.
McCoy Real Estate had an interesting suggestion for the University of Arkansas, where enrolment has increased by approximately 1,000 students year over year. In a tweet, they advise parents of an out-of-state University of Arkansas student who does not have on-campus housing to buy a house for their child.
Purdue made the clever decision to purchase a four-story Aspire complex on State Street as an inventive solution to the housing problem. The big purchase is a necessary stopgap measure as they brainstorm long-term solutions for campus space planning.
2. MORE LAB SPACE NEEDED
The fight for the label “research university” has colleges drawing attention to their lack of labs and allocating space and resources to lab development in their master plans. Brown University responds to this need with a massive acquisition. In July of this year, Brown University acquired 10 properties in the Jewelry District from the Care New England health system, with intentions to construct a new laboratory. Brown wants to expand its research capabilities and be prepared for pandemics in the future.
Brown University isn’t the only one in the quest for additional laboratory space. However, the question remains: how can higher-learning institutions add these types of buildings quickly and without significant expense? Adaptive reuse, a practice within facilities management of repurposing old space into new building types instead of a complete demo and rebuild, is a reasonable solution. Adaptive reuse can assist universities in converting existing facilities into sustainable and cost-effective laboratory space with little time and expenditure.
3. VALIDATING ROOM, BUILDING AND COMMON SPACE RESERVATIONS
As campus footprints shrink, higher education space planners are looking to provide building occupants with the space they need. Room reservation technology only gets them so far – not all booked spaces get used in the end. Colleges turn to campus space planning teams to free up bookings or direct students to underutilized spaces. For instance, Thomas Jefferson University located in Philadelphia, has a smart space management team, Space Management & Room Reservations (SMRR). They schedule events and classes in individual spaces on campus and work to accommodate non-academic events.
University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University require students to reserve rooms and spaces on-campus for events and meetings. The need for validation arises because faculty members believe they require privacy from time to time. According to Margaret Serrato, workplace strategist at AreaLogic Workplace Strategy, the need for privacy and a quiet place to do heads-down work that is accessible to students is important. Providing the right workspaces to accommodate the ways that individuals work is a reasonable resolution.
HOW CAN OUR SOFTWARE HELP HIGHER ED SPACE PLANNERS?
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, one of our customers, used our software to help them decide library staffing hours and cleaning schedules, among other things. Lambent Spaces enables customers to gain actionable insights and historical overlays for predictive analytics with spatial intelligence. With our software, customers can understand estimates of peak usage and density to best optimize their space.
Nupur Patra contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Lambent. She is currently a Graduate Student at Northeastern University in the Digital Media program.
Although a lot of parents argue that video games aren’t good for their children, it’s possible all that screen time may translate to college scholarship dollars. In the past decade, universities have integrated esports into their athletic departments and worked to recruit top-tier gamers across the country.
An award-winning collegiate esports team could potentially entice students and help boost enrollment, and the 2018-19 school year data shows 200 colleges in the U.S offered $16 million in esports scholarships.
They may not need ice-cold arenas, but these players don’t sit alone in their rooms. In order to create an optimal experience, higher education facilities leaders have to find the proper space and equipment for collegiate esports teams to practice and compete.
JUST HOW BIG IS ESPORTS?
League of Legends is a multiplayer online video game known to be one of the largest esports both worldwide and at the collegiate level. The 2018 League of Legends World championship generated over 26 million hours of viewership, and the finals drew over 2 million viewers alone.
According to technology consulting firm Activate, esports will reach about 800 million viewers worldwide by 2024. In total, esports produced a whopping $2.7 billion in revenue in 2020 and is expected to nearly double by 2024.
HOW CAN UNIVERSITIES CREATE SPACE FOR ESPORTS?
In order for these teams to succeed, players need the proper equipment and space to practice and compete. These spaces are referred to as “arenas”, but they aren’t nearly as expensive to create as traditional sports arenas. Many of these arenas include desks with gaming chairs and monitors for players as well as large screen monitors for fans to watch their teams compete.
Because esports is a relatively new collegiate program, many universities are utilizing old classrooms and spaces to accommodate esports rooms and arenas. But UC Irvine is one example of a university that went all in and created a space entirely devoted to esports. Their 3,500-square-foot arena is the first of its kind, housing 36 iBUYPOWER computers, Logitech gaming gear, and gaming chairs. The arena also has a “Console & Community Corner” where clubs and organizations can host events and meetings and even demo virtual reality.
OLD BUILDINGS VS. NEW FLEX SPACE
Just last year, the University of Warwick in the UK announced that they plan to invest in a massive esports center on their campus. The center is meant to give players a space to practice their skills and even allow for research into the world of esports – combining sports and academics. The center will also serve as a venue for future esports events. What makes this space so unique is that it’s configurable – this allows it to be taken apart and moved to larger locations for bigger esports events on campus.
Software from Lambent helps universities evaluate their spaces in order to create recreational facilities like esports arenas. By collecting space utilization data, campus leaders can pinpoint where space is underutilized and decide how to improve its usage.
In 2020, one of the top-ranked college esports programs was at the Maryville University of Saint Louis – and it’s not surprising that they won the 2016 League of Legends championship with a 40-0 record. The university offers a state-of-the-art practice facility with the best internet possible for low ping and high FPS (frames-per-second).
Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Lambent. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.
Directors of facilities are no strangers to the many struggles and responsibilities that come with their job titles, but the pandemic has introduced entirely new challenges. Already a member of upper facility management, their strategic outlook is now vital to successful return-to-office strategies.
On top of their pre-pandemic responsibilities, facility professionals have to figure out how to create a safe and collaborative work environment, one that encourages employees to return to the office. It can be hard to limit a Facilities Director to-do list to just a few, but here’s our take on the top 6.
1. SUSTAINABILITY – HIGH-PERFORMANCE BUILDINGS AND ESG
Sustainability isn’t anything new for facilities directors, who are trained to think about everything from eco-friendly supplies to whether to expand corporate footprints. A lot of that falls into the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) bucket, and the pandemic highlighted the importance of measuring environmental impact at every turn. High-performance buildings are often talked about in terms of energy and water efficiency, high-quality indoor environments, and conservative resource use. Some estimates say sustainability efforts can improve operating profits by up to 60%. And a focus on sustainability is appealing when it comes to softer ROI numbers since consumers and potential employees often prioritize sustainability, and want to buy from and work for companies that do as well.
2. MANAGING HOT DESKS – FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE
Hot desking has gained traction throughout the pandemic as a way for employers to reopen with less corporate space, or in newer spaces. Although offices are beginning to fully reopen, hybrid office schedules – with employees in the office 2-3 days a week – are increasingly popular. So how is a facility management expected to support and navigate this new way of working?
Many facilities directors utilize schedulers to allow employees to reserve desks ahead of time on a first-come, first-serve basis, and hot-desking and hoteling software is on the rise. But both of these rely on employees and collaborative teams utilizing their reserved spaces – that is, following through on their vision to bring teams in on certain days. The challenge lies in invalidating those occupancy requests and determining the number of desks and spaces needed over time.
3. SMART PEOPLE COUNTING – OCCUPANCY ANALYTICS HERE TO STAY
The post-pandemic hybrid work model has transformed how offices function. Facilities directors need a better understanding of which spaces are actually occupied and how to create a work environment that provides employees a sense of belonging and ownership. Creating occupancy reports using space utilization software is one way to do this. Occupancy analytics can help these directors determine employee density in existing spaces and decide whether office spaces are underutilized or not. These analytics can also integrate with other scheduling and collaboration tools to aid with any other space-related decisions.
4. DEEP CLEANING – SANITIZING THE NEW WORKPLACE
The pandemic has completely altered the way that people think about their office cleaning crews. Facilities managers have to prioritize more thorough and oftentimes more frequent cleaning crews. The ability to communicate to workers that office spaces are professionally cleaned on a regular schedule is crucial if facility directors want to be able to persuade employees to come back to work. Most employees will be expecting to see communications around cleaning vs disinfecting and will want to know when a space was last cleaned. This can help with return-to-office choices, and help employees feel safer.
5. DEFERRED MAINTENANCE – COSTLY AND PROBLEMATIC
Those of us who aren’t managing facilities don’t always fully understand how much goes into properly maintaining an office building, including how much budget needs to be assigned. These misconceptions can lead to maintenance repairs being deferred.
Deferring maintenance changes the process from a proactive one to a reactive one. Reactive maintenance means the asset itself picking the time when it needs emergency service or total replacement. This can cause disruptions during peak occupancy hours or even a complete shutdown of the facility. Studies have shown that on average, for every dollar “saved” by deferring proper maintenance, there can be a four-dollar increase in future repair costs. Today many facilities departments are at risk for deferred maintenance due to indecision about how and whether companies are reopening.
6. FLEX SPACES – TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK
Offices have been left with a lot of underutilized space and less than enthusiastic employees due to the hybrid work model, so facilities directors must get creative in order to solve both issues. One way to do this is by designing flex spaces.
Flex spaces involve creating spaces that are multi-purpose. Many businesses are replacing desks with couches and televisions in conference rooms to create more welcoming and inspiring spaces. This can help facility directors redesign the office to become a more efficient and collaborative space, subsequently boosting employee morale. Instead of separating different teams on various floors, creating flex spaces can unite teams and allow them to work more collaboratively in the office.
In redesigning the new office space, the goal for employers is to create flexibility without adding any unnecessary space. Flex spaces are able to foster collaboration between teams while also utilizing rooms that would otherwise be left unoccupied.
Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Lambent. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.