this issue...

Integrating Space
Needs Assessment




In discussions with people we meet on campuses, a commonly-repeated question is “What is the most important element of a campus plan?” My best answer is make sure the physical planning is supported and informed by a strategy-driven, comprehensive needs assessment and projection. This includes an evaluation of the space available on campus and its effectiveness in meeting program, strategic and operational needs.

This level of analysis is extremely valuable to the process. Some key reasons:


    • The analysis provides substantiated findings to support key recommendations

    • The demands of the analysis demonstrate a rigor that appeals to academic participants and plan reviewers (i.e., the faculty, senior administration, board, donors and oversight agencies)

    • The findings often spark debate and constructive thinking that leads to insight and breakthrough/Aha! results

    • Collecting the data and actually using it to develop information that all can understand and appreciate engages participants and observers from across the college on multiple levels




In these ways, a robust space needs assessment not only reinforces integrated planning, it also acts to integrate, through the process and its results, a wide spectrum of the college community in an activity very constructive to strategic improvement.


By a robust space needs assessment, I mean doing much more than simply crunching space numbers by space type and comparing them to normative or system standards or benchmarks. I mean doing much more than the very helpful, but insufficient, utilization study for teaching/learning spaces that indicates simply the hours per week classrooms and labs/studios are used and the percentage of seats filled. A truly integrative assessment should include:


    • an in-depth analysis of space assigned to all academic departments and administrative/support units

    • a qualitative analysis of the spaces – how well they support current use and what is the best future use to advance strategic goals

    • a thorough understanding of program needs that can only be built up through conversations with department representatives and campus leadership

    • recommendations for future space allocations and required/desirable renovations

    • a calculation of the per-square-foot costs of maintenance and operation, renovation and new construction, adjusted by space type as needed – introducing costs into the conversation is a powerful attention-focusing technique



These elements and the meaning and detail they deliver to a campus plan is the best way to ensure that the campus plan is something greater, more meaningful and long-lived than a glorified site plan.

Institutions are being asked to bring more rigor and accountability to the pursuit of their mission and the management of their campuses. Integrating this type of serious space needs assessment with your physical campus planning is one of the most effective ways to promote transparency and demonstrate the inter-connectedness of your campus, academic, financial, human resources and strategic planning.


George Mathey





On-going Projects

  • Academic Space Needs Assessment for the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Program for the Master Plan for Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia
  • Programming for the Sciences, Psychology and Business at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
  • Space Planning for Stetson University Celebration Campus, Celebration, Florida
  • Update of our 2011 Master Plan for Stetson University’s main campus in DeLand, Florida
  • Programming for the New Campus of Cyprus Metropolitan University, Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus




Recently Completed Projects

  • Campus Plan for Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa
  • Learning Spaces Study for Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, Connecticut



Related Topics &
Previous Newsletters

Additional Services


Copyright 2014
Creating Campus Solutions

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