Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Space Utilization Initiative transitions into everyday operations

The Space Utilization Initiative is officially ending, but its legacy lives on as part of day-to-day campus operations.

Launched in 2007, the Space Utilization Initiative was implemented as part of the university’s overall cost-containment efforts. It was designed to lead the university toward better utilization of existing General Fund space and to limit the need for building expansion.

The initiative put in place a foundation of space policies, business processes, resources and tools that are now used across the Ann Arbor campus. With that groundwork in place, the university is ending the formal Space Utilization Initiative and continuing the work as part of normal operations in the Office of the Provost, explained Martha Pollack, vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.

The initiative was led from the beginning by Frances Mueller. Going forward, Mueller will be the primary point of contact within the Office of the Provost for all space-related questions or issues, including capital project planning and strategic space planning, Pollack said.

“Now that we have a much better understanding of what space we have and how it’s used, we can be a better resource to units, helping them think more broadly and creatively about their space and about how their decisions may affect the campus as a whole. We also can assist with space needs by brokering for space with other units,” said Mueller, an assistant vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.

Overall, the Office of the Provost is responsible for allocating and overseeing more than 16 million square feet of General Fund space on the Ann Arbor campus. With Mueller and colleague Fadi Musleh as dedicated staff responsible for all space matters, Pollack anticipates a faster, more helpful process in meeting campus’ evolving demands for space.

Among the accomplishments for the space initiative over the last four years are these:

• Implementing disciplined processes that helped slow the growth of new General Fund space to an average compound annual growth rate of 0.4 percent per year over the past four years, avoiding approximately $462 million in one-time capital costs and some $18 million in estimated recurring operating costs

• Shifting the campus culture to one where space is considered an institutional resource that must be shared and managed effectively for the good of the institution.

• Implementing a structured process for units requesting a new building, additions, or major renovation.

• Enhancing the M-Pathways system and reporting tools to enable units to better understand classroom and research space utilization.

• Putting institutional policies in place that communicate how classrooms, research space, offices, and food service venues should be assigned or used.

• Repurposing underutilized space for higher-priority needs.