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