Jan/Feb 2004
Issue 01


this issue...


Focus, Finance, Facilities

Integrating the Three Factors



We are beginning a conversation with this first issue of Perspectives and hope that you, our readers, will find the ideas and topics we present in this and coming issues cogent and helpful to the challenges you face as campus stewards. We envision this newsletter as an extension of our firm's service to our clients in advancing their unique institutional missions and purposes by helping them plan for the creation of meaningful places the landscapes, buildings, and infrastructure that compose a campus. We urge you, as you read and consider the topics we introduce, to share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions from your own perspectives. We invite you to raise questions, present alternative points of view, or suggest topics by e-mailing editor@dlmplanners.com.

Our first topic introduces several important themes that we will write about in upcoming issues. It represents a basic attitude and the key to our particular approach to all aspects of the planning of campuses and their facilities. You will see the theme introduced in this article touched upon in varying ways as we focus in the coming months on subjects of planning process, site design, facility programming, space utilization, and comparative analysis.

Arthur Lidsky

    Three Dynamic Factors:
Focus, Finance, Facilities

When planning a campus, how do you make decisions that will ensure effective facilities and memorable places? Do you approach the task as a program coordinator, an economic specialist, or an environmental designer? The better response demands all three roles. By being clear about your essential focus, cognizant of financial parameters, and aware of the potentials of the physical environment, you can make rational decisions about your buildings and the campus surrounding them.

In the campus planning context, focus means purpose, basic mission, and programmatic goals and objectives. Focus can vary from project to project.

Sometimes the focus of a planning effort is on academic programs, and means devising the physically and organizationally appropriate response that will help the institution better accommodate an existing or changing curriculum, or start up an entirely new one.

Sometimes the focus is related to other functional and administrative areas within the institution, such as campus life, residential, athletic and recreational, administrative, and facility support programs and activities. In other cases, a plan will link and balance the needs of several areas and purposes within the institution.

As campus planners and facilitators the key task is to help users express and support their purposes and missions by describing the environments and facilities that will foster those focal activities.

Meaningful planning efforts will always return to the users' intended focus to evaluate and identify the best design alternative or to establish which course of action among a range of alternatives should have priority.

Finance is an aspect of planning that may seem apparent. Money is always an issue. Clearly, not all institutions have a Croesus on the roster of donors; however, even in cases where there is a generous donor, prudent and purposeful use of funds may enable the institution to do more in the long run.

Capital projects, once completed, immediately begin to deteriorate. It is simply basic physics at work. Foresightful campus stewards will secure their physical endowment (facilities) with a monetary endowment that generates income to fund continued maintenance over time. The typical fund will provide an annual return ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 percent of the escalated construction cost of the facility.

At the inception of a facility-focused project the usual leading question is: How much money can one realistically expect to invest (or raise to fund) or see as a return (e.g., generate tuition) on this facility improvement? Funds may be difficult to raise for certain types of projects.

For instance, where many assent that one crucial campus asset is parking, few donors are interested in funding a parking structure to bear their names. Creative solutions to the challenge may include linking parking improvements to other mission-driven projects, sharing resources with other local entities, or investigating a range of financing options.

Limited funds may also need to be allocated among a number of equally compelling interests. As an example: is it preferable to fund space improvements for a department with high enrollments, such as psychology, instead of physical science departments, for which the school may be particularly noted? Or, can you find creative ways of sharing space resources to stretch construction or renovation budgets more effectively? Wisely elected, the choice is not purely a fiscal one. Physical solutions can shape decisions as much as fiscal limitations do.

Facilities, in our materially oriented culture, are sometimes conceived, funded, and effected as objects to establish prestige. Where this attitude may be useful to some purposes, an alternative conception would view buildings and grounds not as things, but useful spaces (i.e., places).

Campus facilities collectively are the places where focus (mission, activities, curricula, etc.) comes back into view. Where the perceived object (the exterior of a building) establishes campus character and image, it is the void (space), somewhat ironically, that is the useful part of the building. Space directly supports institutional functioning. It matters little, in the fine-grained analysis, whether the sheltering roof is titanium encrusted or not.

Facilities needs are not necessarily solved by building more space. Sometimes renovation and reallocation of space can address mission-driven need and financial limitations.

Other times simple exchanges of space can enhance program delivery by drawing activities that need to be together closer or by giving certain functions more appropriate allocations of space to support the pedagogic intent. For instance, small cubicle spaces might be better used for faculty offices than assigned as art studios for advanced students in thesis preparation, an activity that might benefit from students sharing larger spaces, resources, and ideas.

It is a logical extension to suggest that limitations of space and budget, as fixed variables in a broader equation, may affect program focus.

Even when a project stems primarily from one of the three key factors, it will soon become evident that all three are interwoven in the fabric of decision making. It is difficult to rationally separate the purposive (focus), from the practical (finance), from the physical (facilities).

We will continue to delve into aspects and examples of this dynamic in coming issues.

Charles Craig



Marshall University Campus Plan

Click on the image for a larger view and more information about the campus plan.


DESIGN GUIDELINES - Integrating the Three Factors Campus design guidelines rooted in the precepts of the institution's mission are an excellent tool to integrate focus, finances, and facilities.

Too often, design guidelines are narrowly focused on ensuring that new construction will blend well with a campus's existing architecture and meet certain quality standards. While this is an important goal, a more powerful approach is to incorporate design guidelines as measures that encourage development consistent with your institution's strategic, academic, operational, and student life goals

A Few Examples:
If your strategy is to provide a "student-centered education," including in your design guidelines directions to create student gathering areas lounges, coffee bars, informal student work areas, email/internet kiosks (or wireless access points) within buildings of all types would be a positive way to advance the goal.

If your academic plan emphasizes enhancing the institution's academic reputation through more effective faculty recruitment, your design guidelines could establish standards for faculty offices that improve this critical component of the institution's facility inventory.

If your institutional vision describes an "open, friendly campus accessible to all," the guidelines should include instructions to create facilities that meet the letter of the ADA, as well as to eliminate existing barriers in the project area. Another guideline should support the development of classrooms that are non-hierarchical and encourage student-to-faculty and student-to-student discussion.

If your operational goals outline the need for increased efficiency and lower costs for building systems and maintenance, the guidelines can help achieve that by suggesting building performance standards, and durable, easily-maintained materials and finishes.

Creating mission-infused guidelines requires an expansive, collaborative approach that draws on a cross-section of campus leaders familiar with the institution's "non-physical" planning faculty, administrators, students, and planners so that the guidelines are informed by the institution's goals and can be drafted to inspire project designers to help advance those goals.

George Mathey




Related Topics &
Previous Newsletters

Additional Services



Syracuse University
The winter issue of The Syracuse University Magazine has an article about its recent comprehensive planning efforts, with reference to DLC+A's strategic study of existing space and its inherent potential.

Marshall University
Campus Plan

At its December meeting, the West Virginia Policy Commission approved the Facilities/Land Use Master Plan for Marshall University in Huntington, which had been forwarded with the unanimous endorsement by the University's Board of Governors. Three substudies informed the long-range land use plan. URS Corporation prepared a facilities condition assessment. DLC+A completed space utilization and benchmarking studies. For additional information visit the Marshall University web site.

SCUP Planning Institute
The Society for College and University Planning engaged sixty senior administrators and facility managers from thirty-two institutions across the country in a 3-day interactive workshop in Phoenix, Arizona in late January. Focused presentations included sessions covering: Academic Planning, Facilities Planning, and Budget and Resource Planning. Session leaders included: Sara Beamer, CFO, Emory & Henry College; Fran Gast, VP for Facilities Planning, RISD; Arthur Lidsky, DLC+A; Brian Nedwek, Vice Provost, St. John's University; and Carole Warton, Consultant and former budget officer of the Smithsonian Institution. For additional information visit the SCUP web site.


© Copyright 2004
Creating Campus Solutions

464 Common St., Suite 336
Belmont, MA 02478
T 617 489 1162