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A Learning Facility’s Influence on Outcomes: Have You Assessed Yours Lately?
One of the greatest assets for a college or university is its facilities. The cost to operate and maintain those facilities is also one of its largest investments and expenditures. With shrinking resources and budget limitations, it is critical to understand the utilization and condition of facilities and infrastructure to appropriately plan, protect and maintain in conjunction with the institution’s mission, values, and goals.
Research has shown the quality of facilities influences student, faculty, and staff satisfaction, performance and learning outcomes. Regular facility conditions assessments and resulting deferred maintenance plans are a state regulatory requirement for most public education institutions. They identify compliance with health, welfare and safety requirements, and can identify pending warranty issues relative to building systems, components, and equipment. Ultimately, they are a strategic tool used for budgeting, financial management, cost control, and decision making. Development of a long term capital asset management plan goes hand in hand, complementing the institution’s strategic plan and an important component of its campus master plan.
Step One: determine the steps, timeline, rationale, framework, and goals that will guide the assessment process
Step Two: understand the existing use and condition of the facility which typically includes:
- Visual inspection, walk-through, and interviews with key staff
- Inventory of the facility’s functions, components and systems, and establishes a baseline measurement
- Aspects such as age and useful life, condition, efficiency, maintenance policy and records, performance and expense history, utilization, function and capacity of the facility components
Step Three: analyze each component, its condition rating, cost to repair, cost to replace, actions and cost to maintain, its priority, and the probability and consequence of failure. This analysis will inform the development of the capital asset management plan, and prioritize those items that are short term and critical to immediately address; mid-term, those things to address in the next 3-5 years; long term, in the next 7-10 years; and future, items to consider beyond 10 years.
A comprehensive facility assessment results in:
- A plan that gives facilities, operations and maintenance personnel the support and road map for maintaining equipment, systems, facility components and infrastructure necessary to do their job
- The rationale for administrators and leadership to budget and plan; it is proactive, minimizes unplanned costs, outages, downtime and other negative impacts Assessments not only look at campus buildings but also campus site, infrastructure, the physical plant, utility source, distribution and usage. Ultimately, it results in a capital asset management plan to protect and maintain these critical physical assets, in other words, achieving sustainability and stewardship for the institution.