2018 higher education trends: Five campus facility trends to watch

The tech-enabled campus of the future is sustainable, strategic, and cost-effective.

Declining revenues. Aging facilities. Rising pension liabilities. These factors, combined with the pressure of delivering a high-quality and high-tech campus experience that younger generations expect, mean education leaders face unprecedented challenges with limited resources.

With tech-enabled classrooms and connected living and gathering spaces, campuses are evolving to provide today's students with the wired experience they expect. At the same time, it's well-known that higher education institutions are also experiencing significant financial pressures.

That's why higher education leaders are taking a hard look at how they plan, deliver, manage and maintain their facilities. After all, facilities are second only to personnel in campus expenditures. From using energy and space more efficiently, to undertaking deferred maintenance and seeking outsourcing opportunities, more and more colleges and universities are eyeing their facilities as a source of added value and savings.

To address these new challenges, many higher education institutions are turning to new sources for solutions and fresh thinking. Increasingly, colleges and universities are looking to the private sector for tried-and-true ideas. In fact, it's not uncommon to have chief business officers being hired from the private sector rather than academia. These executives are opening the door to fresh thinking about outsourcing strategies and looking at facility management and public-private partnerships as a means of filling those funding gaps.

What can we expect to see on higher education campuses as we head into the new year? Check out five trends that will shape real estate and facilities in 2018:

1. Smarter space utilization will rule the day.

As teaching delivery models have evolved, so have the spaces needed for learning. A traditional lecture hall, for example, may sit empty while professors hold court in smaller classrooms that facilitate collaborative and interactive learning. No wonder many public and private universities are using space utilization studies. Why build new facilities when you could use existing space more effectively?

For certain, brand-new facilities can help ‘sell’ a campus to students, and some donors like the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy on campus. However, stretched resources and the drive for cost-efficiency mean institutions have a greater appetite for repurposing under-utilized spaces.

2. Outsourced facility management will become increasingly top of mind.

In the hunt for savings, college and university business officers are looking closely at how their facilities are managed. More institutions are exploring how out-tasking and outsourcing facilities management can unlock savings while creating a more vibrant campus community. They’re also taking a close look at energy efficiency as a means of reducing costs while alsodelivering on sustainability goals important to trustees, professors, and students.

3. Technology will be leveraged for new real estate efficiencies.

One way to uncover potential savings in campus facilities is to analyze how buildings are used and how efficiently building equipment is operating. Using data and insights tools created specifically for facilities, higher education institutions can translate the data generated from their real estate operations and identify opportunities to reduce energy waste, expedite work orders, extend equipment life or even gain the advantage in lease negotiations.

4. Higher education facility managers will prepare for the campus of the future.

The tech-enabled campus of the future can only become a reality if universities have skilled people to manage smart building technologies and analyze the treasure trove of data coming from sensors and other connected devices. To close the skills gap, universities are investing in education for their facility management teams. More campus facility managers are attending educational seminars and conferences organized by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and APPA, as well as in-house training. The end goal? A facility management team that’s comfortable using the latest building technology to drive efficiencies on campus.

5. Institutions will seek alternative ways to finance a broader range of new construction and renovation projects.

Interest in public private partnerships (P3s) is growing as both public and private higher education institutions seek to fund new developments without tapping public debt. Traditionally used for student housing projects, P3s are becoming more widely adopted for other types of campus and off-campus developments—from mixed-use commercial projects and parking garages to academic facilities.

As we look ahead to 2018, one thing is certain: colleges and universities are looking for creative solutions and partnerships to help realize their goals for the student experience and campus transformation.

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