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Savvy facility managers are always on the lookout for strategies to handle more work with fewer resources.
Buildings themselves often represent an important opportunity to reduce costs. "Energy management has been an opportunity to spend some money to save a lot of money," Strazdas points out. "The key is to reinvest the dollars saved on things such as utility and building renewal needs, additional energy reduction projects." That approach keeps the savings sustainable and justifies staff positions that can lower operating costs.
Space consolidation has also helped decrease costs for the university. Scheduling summer classes in fewer buildings trims energy costs, Strazdas says. "Multipurpose usage must be part of the vocabulary. After energy management, space is the final frontier for lowering operating budgets. Fewer spaces to clean, maintain, and heat/cool are good ways to keep a high level of service while you lower your budget."
But while facility managers have to keep a sharp eye out for ways to save money in the operation of buildings, they should also pay attention to the broader business context.
"The reality in higher education is there are fewer high school seniors graduating, states are investing fewer public dollars in education as they try to balance their budgets, and parents and students are paying more or the difference in state subsidy reductions," says Strazdas. "So, with 'the customer' paying more for higher education, they rightfully are demanding more for their money and want more accountability."
But as customer expectations grow, Strazdas says that facilities departments should close the "expectation gap" by being clear about what level of service they are able to provide. "If we don't tell them what and when we provide service, the customer will set their own expectation," Strazdas notes. "We should expect criticism when we deliver below the level, and campus departments should expect to pay more if they want a higher level of service."
Ultimately, says Strazdas, "'Metrics' and 'measures' are the words of the day. You can't improve if you don't know where you are at. In this day of numbers, the customer can appreciate the data and employees needed to celebrate improvement. If you don't have a dashboard with your key performance indicators, you better start soon."
Angela Maas is a writer who covers facility management issues. She was formerly managing editor of Building Operating Management.
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