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Bob Hunt, Managing Director Public Institutions (image)

Regional Oversight Manager, Occupancy Planning

Kelly McDermott-Smith, Vice President, Consulting (image)

Vice President, Consulting

Kevin Wayer, Co-President, Public Institutions (image)

Co-President, Public Institutions


July 2018 | 10 min read

New real estate approaches are benefiting the educational mission.

A new era has arrived in how colleges and universities manage their real estate. If your institution is like most, you’re seeing evolving expectations for student living and learning experiences. And, you may be anticipating future growth. Yet, your operating budgets are likely flat and your resources constrained. How can you resolve these competing realities to enhance the campus experience?

Many forward-looking institutions are exploring leading practices from private sector organizations. In the quest for efficiency, many institutions are adopting new technologies to automate tasks and generate valuable data about building performance and energy usage. They’re using space utilization studies to inform facility decision making. Through benchmarking and metrics that matter, they’re learning how to position their real estate departments for success.

In the quest for efficiency, many institutions are adopting new technologies to automate tasks and generate valuable data about building performance and energy usage.

By evaluating technology, occupancy and performance, college and university real estate teams are significantly reducing operational expenses. The savings provide for opportunities to reallocate or reprioritize budgets toward the age-old challenges of deferred maintenance, while enhancing the campus experience. The following four trends reveal how smart campus real estate management can support your mission and help your institution grow without growing your real estate footprint.

Trend #1: Performance benchmarking is driving campus efficiencies.

College and university real estate teams often evolve organically as their institutions grow, using longstanding familiar processes. Increasingly, institutions are reexamining the mindset of “we’ve always done it this way” by benchmarking their processes, technology and organizational structures against the leading practices of other higher education institutions or even the private sector.

As a result of benchmarking, universities are learning how to better integrate real estate with campus needs, reduce costs and optimize the use of their facilities.

P3s can be used to address many different types of issues, but the core reasons they are typically used involves one or more of the following elements:

There are two predominant categories of P3 structures, each of which can be hybridized in a number of ways.

For example, JLL recently helped an Ivy League university benchmark its talent, transaction management processes and real estate technologies. Following this assessment, the university was able to improve the integrity of its real estate data and make better real estate decisions—leading to increased tenant revenue in the institution’s commercial properties and cost savings from process efficiencies.

Benchmarks can be quantitative, measuring characteristics of the real estate portfolio or aspects of workflows. For instance, how much time do maintenance engineers spend actually working on projects versus making trips to the stockroom? What is the cost per square foot of laboratory space in your biochemistry research facility? What percentage of available classroom time is actually used, and by how many students on average?

You also can benchmark your practices and processes against those of other leading institutions. Assessing real estate practices should happen within a comprehensive framework encompassing such categories as management and oversight priorities and norms; technology and data; service delivery excellence; and planning, budgeting and accounting.

The assessment should focus on such questions as:

  • Does your organization charge back space costs to the departments using the space? Chargebacks help departments become more aware of their space use and the cost to their department.


  • Do you apply space standards across your on-campus and off-campus spaces? Standardized layouts help reduce build-out costs and create opportunities to improve productivity and satisfaction. Also important, standardization makes it easier to plan layouts and to accurately allocate space to departments and work teams.


  • Are you using facility management technologies? Today’s platforms automate work-order management, streamline processes and aggregate data about your real estate operations to use in decisionmaking.


  • Are your business processes as efficient as they could be? Benchmarking against leading practices of other higher education institutions will help you identify organizational structures and workflows that reduce costs and improve results.


Comprehensive assessments are helping universities think about their space differently. For example, creating shared spaces and open offices for part-time faculty, while centralizing shared services like printing and copying.

One university department reduced its space requirements by 5,400 square feet—the equivalent of $1.9 million in construction costs—by allocating three part-time faculty to an open office workspace.

Also important, you can use the results of your assessment as the basis of metrics that matter for measuring ongoing performance against your most important real estate goals. Tracking critical metrics and making continuous improvements are crucial for transforming the way you manage your space.


Trend #2: Integrated workplace management technologies are paying off.

Traditionally, many colleges and universities have used individual applications or spreadsheets to capture facilities information. However, neither spreadsheets nor other rudimentary space-tracking methods can provide the real-time data needed for benchmarking or insights you need to optimize your real estate portfolio. Now, leading universities are deploying computer-aided facility management (CAFM) systems and integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) to track and manage their space use more efficiently and accurately. And, these platforms often can be integrated with other facilities or real estate systems.

Integrated applications can automatically track data across multiple systems, including utilization and building performance data. Through a single IWMS or a suite of integrated applications, you can create a university-wide data warehouse and generate real estaterelated key performance indicators quickly and easily.

In Ontario, Canada, 21 provincial universities, along with Durham College, have implemented key modules of an IWMS platform. The implementation includes the use of shared software, standardized training and support, common reporting and analytical tools, and mobile applications. With all universities using the system, they have been able to quickly identify opportunities to improve space utilization and strategic planning—two of the most popular IWMS functions—and avoided $120 million in new construction costs.

Another Canadian institution, Fanshawe College, implemented an IWMS via software-as-a-service (SaaS) within a short three months. With its IWMS software, the facilities team can more quickly respond to occupant requests, with more accurate reporting, while also tracking key data about the college’s facilities.

In contrast, integrating and analyzing data generated by multiple individual applications requires time-consuming manual effort. And, data may be duplicated and inconsistently recorded in different applications, making it difficult to create a holistic picture of your facilities.

System and data integration allows for faster and better-informed decision making, more efficient use of space and comprehensive capital planning. In addition to quickly producing comprehensive reports, integrated systems give leadership access to realtime occupancy data with dashboards and intuitive, role-based views.

A facility management technology platform also can provide essential data for facilities and administrative (F&A) rates in research grant reporting. Certain accreditation programs also have space requirements in their criteria.

The University of North Texas, for example, adopted an FM platform to help track and manage its space. Its IWMS enables the university to allocate actual research expenditures to the associated space, enabling researchers to assess whether they are using their research space effectively.


Trend #3: Data-driven campus utilization studies reveal where space is needed—or not.

The modern campus is a mix of the old and the new. Many colleges and universities built new facilities during the past decade to provide modern learning and living environments for students. Yet, legacy buildings remain, often not used to their full capacity as activities are migrated to new facilities.

No wonder industry studies show that 30 to 60 percent of space at the average campus is underutilized.

However, you can optimize campus utilization by centralizing scheduling and management of your space, and using data to understand usage patterns. Just as the major airlines dynamically assign planes and passengers according to demand, some universities are beginning to allocate classroom or laboratory space by holistic demand rather than leaving it to department managers.

Data can show you where people do—or don’t—want to work and study. If data reveals that legacy buildings are underutilized, for instance, you may be able to develop a strategy for making better use of those spaces and avoiding new construction.

Educational institutions are using space and occupancy planning services to analyze campus utilization, and pursue significant cost savings and revenuegeneration opportunities. To achieve those gains, you need accurate, trustworthy data. With today’s tools and methodologies, it’s possible to cost-effectively harvest and analyze utilization data from multiple sources to inform space planning.

With accurate usage data, you can demonstrate to faculty and leadership that using the space you have more effectively, rather than building new facilities, is the best stewardship of university resources.

Budgets can be reallocated from new construction to deferred maintenance projects that will make your legacy facilities more productive.

Using a utilization study, your real estate team can demonstrate how a department can extract more use out of its facilities and avoid new construction costs. For example, you may learn that classrooms often sit empty in the evening. By extending learning hours, you can offer more classes, prevent overcrowding and avoid the expense of building new classrooms.

One Colorado university improved the student and faculty experience without investing in any new space. A utilization study revealed that classrooms scheduled as a group by a central administrator were occupied 70 percent of the time, while those scheduled by department administrators were used only 50 percent of the time. Furthermore, some prime academic spaces were occupied by administrative functions. With these insights, the university was able to make the most of its facilities, improve the campus experience and ensure that the right spaces were being used for the right functions.

Similarly, you may learn that research teams and principal investigators are not fully using their allocated facilities. Some institutions are repurposing underutilized lab space as classrooms, in lieu of building new space. Conversely, lab space can be shared amongst the various schools within the university system.

With accurate information about student, staff and faculty behaviors and needs, you can uncover opportunities to reduce occupancy costs today.

And, you can review current trends in the context of the vision for your campus to plan long-term real estate strategies.


Trend #4: Organizational integration is making real estate teams more effective.

In many colleges and universities, real estate decision making is decentralized by asset type or function. However, some institutions are beginning to consider centralizing real estate decision making across asset types and effectively advancing their institutions’ mission while strengthening their relationships with multiple stakeholder groups. As a result of this change in thinking, centralized real estate management will likely be the model of the future—and one already proven successful in the business sector.

Centralized real estate management will likely be the model of the future.

This new approach is “empowered real estate management,” in which a centralized real estate organization “owns” the real estate portfolio. In this model, the centralized real estate organization assumes overall responsibility for strategy, administration, budgets and capital investment, and operations.

The process by which this centralized team manages the asset types is documented and understood by all stakeholders, with key performance metrics aligned with the departmental objectives and strategies. In some cases, institutions are physically locating the real estate team, university leadership and department heads together in an open office layout to overcome decision making and data silos.

Key performance metrics are aligned with departmental objectives and strategies.

Centralization can apply to facility management as well as overall space and portfolio management. Integrated facility management is gaining traction as a way to reduce costs, generate greater efficiencies and enrich the student and faculty experience. Institutions like Spalding University are partnering with third-party providers to access a complete facilities management platform encompassing engineering and maintenance, custodial and groundskeeping services. Integrated services deliver savings to help fund capital investments and improve services to occupants.

Grow campus usage without growing your real estate footprint.

As new pressures come to the forefront in higher education, your real estate team can test new approaches to enhance the campus experience.

The old ways of managing campus real estate are quickly being displaced by new technologies, new data-driven strategies and a new vision of what the real estate function can become.

With today’s leading real estate practices, your institution can advance its mission and grow—without its footprint growing, too.