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Updated 10:20 AM Sept. 14, 2006
 

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Initiative to examine campus spaces


The University is launching an ambitious initiative to explore the utilization of space and facilities on the Ann Arbor campus in order to make the best use of the physical resources that support its core mission, leaders say.

The multi-year space initiative will involve the cooperation of departments, schools and colleges to develop a long-term plan that will be guided by a commitment to academic and research excellence, says Teresa Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“Trends in higher education point strongly toward increased interdisciplinary research and teaching.” Sullivan says. “As more collaboration takes place, and as we continue to use new technology to augment the learning process in ways never before possible, we need to re-examine how our facilities, and the ways we use those facilities, serve our core missions. New technologies—from building management to information processing and communication—bring new opportunities.”

Rapidly rising energy costs and declining state dollars also motivate the long-range look at how U-M can best use its physical resources, says Timothy Slottow, executive vice president and chief financial officer. Despite the University’s success in energy conservation and negotiation of better utility rates, energy costs for general fund buildings have increased almost $20 million in the last two years—a figure that does not take into account additional new buildings coming on line, Slottow says. These increases come on the heels of state funding reductions to U-M’s Ann Arbor campus of about $40 million over the last five years.

“We must heat, cool, clean, maintain and renovate more than 28 million gross square feet of general fund buildings to support our core mission, and although we have managed to control many of the operating costs of that space, it is time to think harder about how we use the space more efficiently as well,” Slottow says.

“Building and energy costs are two key areas where we can work to recapture resources that can be used to support our core academic mission,” says Philip Hanlon, associate provost for academic and budgetary affairs. “Developing greater efficiencies in the use of our space will maximize the use of our most advanced facilities for research and instruction, and will free up funding that we can invest in academic programs, faculty salaries and student support.”

Finding ways to better utilize facilities also is in keeping with the University’s goal to be a responsible steward of the environment, Hanlon says.

“The University long has been committed to minimizing its impact on the environment, undertaking hundreds of energy conservation measures and other sustainability initiatives. These efforts not only make good business sense, but also strengthen our approach to environmental practice, policies and education. Examining our use of space makes sense as part of this ongoing effort,” Hanlon says.

The process of examining University space will begin with the hiring of a project manager who will lead an information-gathering stage to determine current and future needs for space to support teaching and research excellence, Hanlon says.

“The University’s size and decentralized nature means there are many things we don’t yet know about how space is used across the campus,” he says. “We are looking for innovative solutions and will actively engage the University community in the process of examining and improving our approach to facilities use.”

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