4 Best Practices for Leaders Who Manage Higher Education Facilities

7 Minute Read

Higher education facilities tend to be complex, spanning multiple buildings that cover the gamut of use cases (residential, food service, retail, commercial, labs, and classrooms). Adding to the complexity, campuses are often located in high-traffic urban areas, creating unique physical security concerns.

Facilities managers and campus security leaders within higher education have unique needs and responsibilities that are different from what many of their corporate counterparts encounter.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to facilities management in higher ed, there are certain best practices that are broadly helpful and should be considered for higher education facilities managers and campus physical security leaders.

1. Update Spaces to Reflect New Student Realities

The mechanics of higher education delivery have changed, as have student expectations about what a residential college experience should look like. Savvy higher education facilities managers are spearheading, even championing, space updates that reflect these new student realities.

One example is class size, which is trending smaller overall. Many universities have less of a need for large lecture halls than in past decades, and legacy classroom size and layout may not match current educational realities.

Collaboration is on the rise as well, requiring creative thinking about spaces to accommodate that collaboration. Not every student project can be completed in the library or the café or student center, and some collaborative spaces need specialized tools and equipment.

As facility managers look to update spaces to meet new educational and student realities, they have a perfect opportunity to implement other best practices on this list. Physical space updates are the perfect time to implement better, software-driven security management and implementation in the following ways:

  1. Implement unified access control
  2. Get more visual with decision makers with tools that help with project budget estimation
  3. Use a system design platform to map out existing and future security hardware for better life cycle planning

Let’s look at each of these ideas in greater detail.

2. Make Unifying Access Control Systems a Top Priority

Nearly every higher education campus has been built slowly, expanding over time and containing buildings from various eras. These buildings tend to be updated over time on a rolling basis, relying on whatever systems and technologies were available at the time of the last renovation.

The result is that most campuses have a wide mix of technologies, including in crucial security areas like access control. It’s not uncommon to find a mix of badge access (of one or more varieties or systems) and key locks. Some doors are equipped with burglar alarms, while others aren’t.

One best practice for facilities managers is to make unified access control a top priority. By bringing all doors into one unified system, campus security and facilities leaders will have better control and visibility throughout the campus.

With a unified access control system, facility managers and campus security chiefs can manage all access points from campus security software or integrated building management system software. This certainly beats the status quo at many institutions, where only segments of the campus are accessible in this way.

3. Price Out New Security-Related Projects with Visual Budget Estimation

One of the most challenging aspects of implementing new physical security projects is getting buy-in from decision makers. The reasons are many: security isn’t as flashy as a new gym or student center, for one, and it can be hard for decision makers to visualize what goes into the budget proposal and what value the campus will see from the upgrades. Poor budget estimation also contributes by creating frustration and budget overruns. These, in turn, increase resistance and skepticism among decision makers and threaten to doom the next project.

Better data (including visuals) can go a long way toward convincing those in charge of budget allocation to greenlight a new project. Even better than that is a solution that combines better visualizations with better budget estimation tools.

System Surveyor is a building security system design tool that combines both visualization and budget estimation (and plenty more). The drag-and-drop interface allows users to build out a new security project on a digital blueprint or floorplan. Add in pricing information for the various components and systems included in the project, and you’ll get an automatic budget estimation along with the visual representation of the project.

Giving stakeholders and decision makers more accurate cost data along with an easy-to-understand visual aid can be the difference between a green light and yet another “maybe next year.”

4. Use Software to Map and Track Security Systems through the Life Cycle

Along the same lines, many facilities managers and campus security leaders are turning to technology to map and track various components of their security systems. To do this well, you need more than the status quo in terms of electronic security system design tools.

While System Surveyor’s system design platform is often used to build out and budget new system installs, it is also used to map out what’s already installed on a campus, with as much detail as needed by campus security leaders, such as:

  1. Part numbers
  2. Install date
  3. Installer
  4. Serial numbers
  5. Field and depth of view (for security cameras
  6. Purchase or replacement cost

Gaining a single portal and digital as-built where all security systems and components can be identified and located has many advantages, from quickly pinpointing what device or part has failed – to simply getting a clearer picture of the overall campus security footprint through its life cycle. It is an ever-changing picture, so having a dynamic, digital picture where you can track changes is priceless.

When considering your facilities equipment and physical security technology, the right tools and software to design and manage it can make all the difference.

As an electronic security system design tool, System Surveyor gives you high visibility across your entire suite of security, facility and building management and can help you produce better budget estimates for new projects. Try it for free or reach out today for more information.

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