6 Ways Space Management Can Enhance Your Campus Sustainability Programs

June 20, 2018


As a sustainability planner, you have an abundance of tools to meet your sustainability goals. From recycling efforts to fluorescent bulb replacement programs to policies that ban the sale of plastic water bottles on school grounds – your work is critical to ensuring a healthy and vibrant community.

Sometimes, however, the siloed nature of these programs makes it difficult to fully achieve your campus-wide goals. Occasionally you may need to take a step back so you can see how to truly make everything work together.

Many times, you’ll discover that the bigger picture is centered on campus-wide space.

Managing spaces is how we connect people with the tools and technology they use every day on campus. By making sure utilization information from academic buildings to athletic facilities is connected and sharing with your other campus systems, you gain a better understanding of how your space is being used. By using a space management platform, campuses can consolidate academic and event scheduling into a single system, enabling you to make the best use of what you have in more environmentally friendly ways. It puts you on the path to achieving a unified, holistic approach to your priorities – while improving the student experience and enhancing your university’s brand.

Here are six ways a comprehensive space and resource management platform can enhance and deepen your campus sustainability initiatives:

#1 More efficient HVAC usage

Scheduling and managing HVAC systems based on building usage isn’t new. But integrating those systems with a space management platform allows you to do so in better and more efficient ways. You likely already program your HVAC system to remain off when no activities are planned in a facility. When those plans are a manual process based on a printed schedule, however, the information can quickly become outdated and incorrect. Systems that are directly tied to your scheduling platform enable automated and real-time programming, eliminating wasted resources.

For proof, look no further than the experience of The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Its Carolina Union houses roughly 2,000 events and 10,000 meetings annually. They integrated their scheduling platform with their Johnson Controls MSEA controls system so that heating and cooling would only occur in occupied rooms, and they saw substantial energy savings, including 33.13% better efficiency in electricity used for cooling:


#2 Lowered real estate footprint

Streamlined energy use for individual rooms and other building spaces is just the start; it’s equally important to ensure that overall, campus space as a whole is being used in the most efficient way possible. Two critical questions to ask yourself are:

  1. Are we using individual spaces as efficiently as possible?
  2. Are we using spaces collectively as efficiently as possible?

Space and resource management platforms enable you to make fact-based decisions so that you can confidently answer “yes” to those questions. Utilization reports tell you exactly how and when your spaces are being used, giving you the information you need to best allocate your available real estate.

For example, you can see when rooms are being underutilized – say, 10 people in a room that holds 50 – and schedule meeting and class spaces accordingly, using smaller spaces to cut down on excess use of lights, HVAC and other resources. Or, instead of scheduling classes in multiple buildings, you can consolidate those classes into a single building to reduce utilities and other resources.

As an added benefit: when it comes time to expand (as many campuses are doing these days), the utilization data will give you the data you need to make informed choices about what new buildings you need or don’t need, and help lessen your overall real estate footprint.

#3 Precise occupancy information

Campuses across the country are installing occupancy sensors, resulting in obvious benefits such as lights that turn off and on automatically, accurately controlled temperature and ventilation, and in general, help create more comfortable rooms with fewer misused utilities. What is perhaps less obvious, however, is how tying these systems to a scheduling platform can result in making more rooms and spaces available, leading to an overall more efficient use of space.

Consider the number of faculty, staff and other meetings your institution holds. Users would rather risk overbooking than not having space available, so they reserve space “just in case,” book rooms for longer than needed, and make these reservations far in advance. But with sensors, you can set up procedures that require individuals to physically check into a space rather than checking in online, and then release rooms after a certain period of inactivity. You can also automatically send reminder notifications to prompt users to release unneeded workspaces.

Thanks to sensors and beacons, the policies you can implement will lead to more available spaces in your buildings – and better space utilization equals fewer wasted resources.

#4 Lessened food waste

Nearly 22 million pounds of uneaten food. That’s the amount of “quality surplus food” that is sent to landfills each year on college campuses in the United States, according to the Food Recovery Network. For the moment, let’s look at just one piece of this campus food picture: catering.

Scheduling and resource management platforms track more than just utility usage; they can also give insight into your catering needs. When you coordinate catering so that it’s automatically connected to your event scheduling, you simplify complex, manual processes. Knowing exactly how much food you need and billing it responsibly can up your sustainability efforts in previously unthought of ways.

#5 Strengthened “zero paper” programs

For many campuses, it’s a point of pride to go completely digital and eliminate paper print-outs. Yale went paperless to save “money, time and trees.” A student-led program at UC Santa Cruz stopped the use of disposable paper towels at Stevenson College. The University of Colorado at Boulder is increasing campus space by reducing physical storage for university documents (think not just of trees saved but of utilities no longer needed in those facilities!) From online campus maps to digital note taking to electronic processes for timesheets, the modern campus is increasingly synonymous with “paperless.”

Digital room signs integrated with a scheduling platform fit right in with this initiative – and can be the final tool needed to reach your goal of a 100% paperless campus. These signs display all the pertinent information your campus users need, like meeting and class times, room availability and more. Along with eliminating paper waste, they create great first impressions, allow for convenient space booking and cut down on misused space by transmitting up-to-the-minute data on how efficiently particular spaces are being used. Digital room signs show your students, faculty, staff and visitors that your campus values welcoming user experiences, along with making the planet more environmentally friendly.

#6 Reduced carbon emissions

Video conferencing and video capture systems facilitate long-distance meeting and learning, but sustainability professionals are also well attuned to their environmental benefits. By cutting down on unnecessary travel, individuals not only send fewer carbon emissions into the air, they also reduce paper waste (no need for printed agendas or class synopses!) and oftentimes food waste (fewer or no catering costs for that online meeting). Furthermore, when VC systems are integrated with scheduling platforms, you eliminate mistakes and frustration through features like one-click accessibility and automation. Classes and meetings run more smoothly, enabling participation and learning from anywhere without traveling to campus.

Even when individuals are driving to your campus, however, the scheduling and resource platform can help by reducing parking congestion and needless idling by those looking for parking spaces. Additionally, the student experience is improved when students can reserve spots; and safety is improved when you have hard data on how many parking spaces should be reserved for an event on campus.

“We've got 10 visitor spaces in our parking garage and they're listed as ‘rooms’ inside a parking building,” says Jon Ingersoll of Yale University. “[The EMS platform] allows requests to be made when there are visitors or speakers coming in, and when that request goes in, the events team… sends out billing instructions so that the people can get into the garage, and it's charged accordingly.”

The sustainable campus = the digital campus

A unified approach to scheduling and resource management is critical in helping you meet your sustainability goals. You deliver real value by centrally administering and tracking all the above via a single platform, taking individual pieces and assembling them into a picture that is more than just the sum of its parts.