How to make deferred maintenance less abstract

Daily Briefing

How to make deferred maintenance less abstract

Communication gaps get in the way when Facilities leaders try to explain capital renewal needs to senior leaders on campus. Part of the problem is that renewal needs are often hidden behind walls, on roofs, or underground. To address this, Facilities leaders must make the problem real by using visual aids that illustrate renewal needs in a tangible way.

The University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) developed an effective two-pronged communication strategy to illustrate capital renewal needs to senior leaders and the broader campus community. First, the Facilities department developed two reports that showcase the university’s deferred maintenance backlog.

Building a more effective report

Provides context for current capital renewal needs, comparing against peer institutions and past renewal projects

Employs a pictorial style with clear photos, easy-to-understand graphs, and limited text on each page

Includes specific asks and strategies connected to other institutional priorities that senior leaders can implement

The first publication, Invisible Crisis, focuses on issues behind walls and below ground, invisible to the naked eye. The second publication, Restore the Core, emphasizes the need for maintenance work around the historic heart of campus. These text-light reports illustrate the problem by focusing on photos and graphics that truly illustrate capital renewal needs. UMD’s executive director credits these reports for starting broader renewal conversations on campus.

For further guidance on leveraging reports to showcase capital renewal needs, please see the “Guide to Effectively Communicating Facilities Information Through Reports” on page 68 of the full publication (available only to Facilities Forum members). For a full version of UMD’s Restore the Core, please see page 75.

The second prong of the University of Maryland’s strategy is maintenance-focused campus tours, which include three key ingredients. First, the Facilities leader begins the tour with physical objects, offering tangible evidence of aging infrastructure and outdated equipment for individuals to observe firsthand. Second, UMD targets key stakeholders, including board members, legislators, and donors. In addition to aging infrastructure, the Facilities leader also showcases recent accomplishments, such as a new high-efficiency HVAC unit, to demonstrate the positive impact of facilities investments.

UMD incorporated these campus tours into the formal onboarding process for board members and legislators, ensuring that all new senior stakeholders understand the urgency of addressing deferred maintenance.

Impressively, UMD was able to secure $10 million in annual deferred maintenance funding for 12 years and $100 million to replace an old science building. While the reports and campus tours were part of a broader deferred maintenance strategy, leaders at UMD point to these communication efforts as critical to their success.

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