Laying the Foundations for Successful Learning

Benjamin Dutton
Strategic Facility Consulting helps higher education providers attract students by maintaining a more inspiring environment on squeezed budgets.

Higher education is an increasingly competitive environment, where institutions vie with each other to attract students. Higher tuition fees have led to more discerning students who expect an inspiring environment that offers quality, connectivity, safety and security.

Students and their families are not the only ones seeking value for money. Universities and colleges face tough decisions in balancing their budgets in a climate of funding cuts and falling endowments. Estate management may sit low on the priority list, with both capital and maintenance programs often constrained until student/faculty satisfaction and retention are affected. Delayed capital projects typically place strain on existing facilities. Maintenance tends to be the poor relation, with backlogs quickly mounting up.

Faithful+Gould’s Strategic Facility Consulting (SFC) service empowers public and private higher education estate holders, enabling good stewardship of resources.

Faithful+Gould’s Strategic Facility Consulting (SFC) service empowers public and private higher education estate holders, enabling good stewardship of resources. We help facilities professionals assess the estate’s current performance levels and we provide options for improvement.

The SFC service is tailored to individual needs and is suitably pitched to meet the client’s goals for the exercise, avoiding a too high-level or too granular approach. Beginning with a facility condition assessment, we develop objectives and fee constraints as the basis for an estate strategy that meets current and future needs.

Our methodology is differentiated by its analytical approach, using qualitative assessment that interrogates facility failure points. We ask ‘what if…?’ when considering
options, and our estimators provide accurate costs. This is a much deeper view than a typical 'statistical useful life' equation, leading to recommendations based on code, condition, efficiency and risk.

Our methodology is differentiated by its analytical approach, using qualitative assessment that interrogates facility failure points.

Outcomes usually include a switch from reactive to proactive capital and maintenance spending. Clients find that they can do more with less money, by making smarter choices and targeting their spending toward their highest priorities. Our recommendations can also play a role in obtaining funding, showing credible data that supports the funding application. We support our clients in making best use of the data we’ve collected, so that they can continue to make informed decisions.

Higher education clients use our SFC service in different ways, depending on their needs. Georgia Tech is an interesting example of SFC utilized for maximum long-term benefit. Our relationship with the university began four years ago, when we evolved its condition assessment program, assessing a very diverse portfolio of buildings.

With buildings ranging from more than 100 years old to former Olympic buildings and everything in between, Georgia Tech has faced many challenges on the way to developing its current forward-thinking facilities approach. We have supported the university with a range of projects including the library, which had multiple problems including mechanical, electrical, structural, plumbing and fire protection issues.

SFC has the potential to transform the approach to capital and maintenance projects.

Our SFC exercise explored and costed the options, comparing the investment needed to maintain the existing library, versus a renovation project that better suited current and future needs. The assessment provided data that could be used to seek donor funding for renovation and the university successfully launched the project, with construction now under way.

We have also developed an integrated asset management system for Georgia Tech, creating a tool that can be used going forward as we update the condition assessments every five years. The asset management system collects large amounts of data from the buildings, and makes the data easy for the university to access, utilize and manipulate. Georgia Tech can link this data with maintenance, operations and funding processes, so that the system works hard for them.

SFC has the potential to transform the approach to capital and maintenance projects. In addition to higher education, we are successfully using the service to benefit clients in the healthcare and aviation sectors.

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