When facilities leaders are facing a backlog of deferred maintenance, how can they decide which buildings to update now—and which ones to wait on?
When prioritizing projects, building condition is typically the most accessible information. However, renewal needs do not always align with institutional strategic priorities, and comparing quantitative condition data against qualitative factors (such as impact on student success) can be challenging. By weighing the impact of individual projects on strategic goals, Facilities leaders can develop final projects lists that balance maintenance needs with broader institutional priorities.
Some campuses accomplish this with ranking systems that incorporate both condition-based and strategic factors into the decision-making process. One tool that clearly articulates inputs and simplifies the prioritization process is Western Illinois University’s (WIU) Strategic Building Renovation Matrix, shown below. WIU’s ranking system, specifically focused on simplifying building renovation decisions across campus, includes ten metrics such as utilization, staff and student needs, and maintenance needs.
Each metric is weighted to reflect its relative strategic importance. Facilities fills out the condition metrics, while deans fill out the other metrics for buildings their departments occupy. Each metric is evaluated on a five-point scale, resulting in a final score up to 110 points. While some campuses take a similar approach to rank renovation projects, most institutions use a less sensitive scale (e.g., projects are ranked on a scale up to 30 points), resulting in less differentiated outcomes. By comparison, WIU’s matrix yields a wide range of final scores, which enables leaders to easily compare and prioritize renovation projects.
10 criteria WIU uses for maintenance decisions
Each criterion category is given an importance value of 1-5, which is then multiplied by the multiplier weight to determine the final category value. Category values are summed to determine strategic renovation factor (out of 110).
Utilization by Students and Faculty: The higher the building utilization by students and faculty, the higher the number. The higher the utilization number, the higher the number is on the matrix, and vice versa. This can be quantified by the Space and Utilization study. (Multiplier 2.0)
Life Safety and ADA Compliance Needs: The greater the need for life safety and ADA upgrades, the higher this number is on the matrix. (Multiplier 3.0)
Fundable (State Funding or Corporate Partnerships): If funding is available for a renovation specifically allocated for a particular building, the greater the number is on the renovation matrix. (Multiplier 1.0)
Master Plan Factor: If the Master Plan recommends renovation, in whole or in part, within a given time frame (within five years, ten years, or fifteen years), the higher the number is on the matrix. A recommended renovation within five years would have a higher value on the matrix than a recommendation within fifteen years. (Multiplier 2.0)
Faculty, Staff and Student Needs: The higher the Faculty, Staff and Student needs in this space, the higher number on the renovation matrix is. (Multiplier 3.0)
Visibility to Campus, Community, and Prospective Students: The more visible the building is, the higher the number on the matrix. (Multiplier 2.0)
Building Exterior Needs (Roof, Brick, Curtain wall, Glazing, etc.): The more exterior work the building needs, the higher the number is on the matrix. (Multiplier 2.0)
Deferred Maintenance Needs (MEP, HVAC): The more heating, ventilating, air conditioning, plumbing, etc. building needs, the higher the number is on the matrix. (Multiplier 3.0)
Facilities Condition Assessment Factor: The Facilities Condition Assessment, updated 2014, outlines the deferred maintenance needs, criticality of work needing to be done, and associated renovations estimates. The greater the need for facilities repair/replacement, the higher the number on the matrix. The matrix factor is inversely proportional to the FCA value, as the FCA’s scale 1 as buildings in the worst condition. (Multiplier 2.0)
Other: Here input other contributing factors which are not otherwise easily categorized. (Multiplier 2.0)