Planning for Higher Education Journal

New Metrics for the New Normal

Rethinking Space Utilization Within the University System in Georgia
Journal Cover
From Volume 41 Number 1 | October–December 2012
By Gregory Janks, Alan S. Travis
Planning Types: Campus Planning

For the last 15 years, the University System of Georgia (USG) has implemented its campus master plan template, which includes traditional space planning methodologies, with the assistance of many different consultants. This experience has caused the system to question the value of traditional approaches in guiding capital allocation resource decisions. Many USG institutions function reasonably well with far less space in some categories than traditional guidelines recommend, calling into question the orthodoxy surrounding space “needs.” Different consultants report wildly differing estimates of needs for institutions with similar missions, enrollments, and program mix. Moreover, these needs far exceed available capital. In response, the system has formulated a new methodology for measuring the utilization of space to guide space management and capital allocation decisions for individual institutions and the system as a whole. The goal was to create a process that is understandable, easy to implement, and less prone to distortion that existing methodologies, whose calculations are often complicated and unclear. The new approach includes an overlay taxonomy that groups spaces with similar functions into buckets to minimize the effects of miscategorizations and to provide the atomic units for new utilization metrics, greatly reducing the overall number of required measurements and providing information reflective of modern space usage. The resulting metrics provide new thinking, particularly for classroom and social spaces.

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