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3 Challenges Higher Ed Space Planners Need To Think About This Fall

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Universities are becoming aware of the need for more space as students get ready to return to campus for the fall term. As the semester approaches, space planners in higher education are at the center of disputes about space because there isn’t enough of it. They keep coming back to one central question: What has happened to campus space since universities sent students home? 

Everything from the design of buildings to their maintenance may need to change to fit a new framework. The goal of a higher education space planner is to improve the student experience, which requires a re-evaluation of conventional space allocation. Here are some challenges that higher education institutions should think about now and in the foreseeable future.


1. LIMITED CAMPUS SPACE HINDERS HOUSING NEEDS


As the fall semester begins universities find themselves overbooked due to increased enrollment. Lack of housing is one of the biggest concerns in higher education right now. Universities, without enough dorm space, are turning to hotels and even neighboring campuses to accommodate students.

While some overbooked institutions, such as the University of Tennessee and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are using hotels as a means of housing their students. University of Iowa, on the other hand, reopened a residence hall it closed five years ago as temporary dormitories.

McCoy Real Estate had an interesting suggestion for the University of Arkansas, where enrolment has increased by approximately 1,000 students year over year. In a tweet, they advise parents of an out-of-state University of Arkansas student who does not have on-campus housing to buy a house for their child.

Purdue made the clever decision to purchase a four-story Aspire complex on State Street as an inventive solution to the housing problem. The big purchase is a necessary stopgap measure as they brainstorm long-term solutions for campus space planning.


2. MORE LAB SPACE NEEDED


The fight for the label “research university” has colleges drawing attention to their lack of labs and allocating space and resources to lab development in their master plans. Brown University responds to this need with a massive acquisition. In July of this year, Brown University acquired 10 properties in the Jewelry District from the Care New England health system, with intentions to construct a new laboratory. Brown wants to expand its research capabilities and be prepared for pandemics in the future. 

Brown University isn’t the only one in the quest for additional laboratory space. However, the question remains: how can higher-learning institutions add these types of buildings quickly and without significant expense? Adaptive reuse, a practice within facilities management of repurposing old space into new building types instead of a complete demo and rebuild, is a reasonable solution. Adaptive reuse can assist universities in converting existing facilities into sustainable and cost-effective laboratory space with little time and expenditure.


3. VALIDATING ROOM, BUILDING AND COMMON SPACE RESERVATIONS 


As campus footprints shrink, higher education space planners are in action to provide building occupants with the space they need. Room reservation technology only gets them so far – not all booked spaces get used in the end. Colleges turn to space planning teams to free up bookings or direct students to underutilized spaces. For instance, Thomas Jefferson University located in Philadelphia, has a smart space management team, Space Management & Room Reservations (SMRR). They schedule events and classes in individual spaces on campus and work to accommodate non-academic events.

University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University are also in the running to validate rooms and space available on-campus for events and meetings. The need for validation arises because faculty members believe they require privacy from time to time. According to Margaret Serrato, workplace strategist at AreaLogic Workplace Strategy, the need for privacy and a quiet place to do heads-down work that is accessible to students is important. Providing the right workspaces to accommodate the ways that individuals work is a reasonable resolution.


HOW CAN OUR SOFTWARE HELP HIGHER ED SPACE PLANNERS?


The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, one of our customers, used our software to help them decide library staffing hours and cleaning schedules, among other things. Armored Things enables customers to gain real-time insights and historical overlays for predictive analytics with spatial intelligence. With our software, customers can understand estimates of peak usage and density to best optimize their space. 

​​Nupur Patra contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Armored Things. She is currently a Graduate Student at Northeastern University in the Digital Media program.

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