Reflections by Russell Caird, Asset Planning Specialist at SPM Assets:
The iGeneration, who have never been exposed to the pre-internet world, are driving significant changes in how tertiary education spaces should look, feel and be utilised. No longer interested in set-time lectures, students now seek out smaller spaces where they can interact in groups, and with their devices and lecturers. The Australian university sector is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in redesigning lecture theatres and libraries into these collaborative spaces.
Such rapid, significant and expensive changes create major challenges for Asset Managers’ long-term planning. However, should such changes be embraced – risking the maintenance and works programmes on less high-profile buildings?
Earlier this month I attended the ‘Space Leadership and the Digital Frontier Workshop’ in Brisbane, organised by TEFMA (Tertiary Education Facilities Management Association).
This workshop highlighted that one of the big challenges faced by Asset Managers in Tertiary Education is their long-term asset management planning. Specifically, there’s been a vast shift in how spaces should look, feel, and be utilised.
The insight for me from attending this workshop was the increasing recognition within the tertiary education sector that the traditional method of teaching, with its focus on lectures, is no longer the optimal learning environment. Millennials (Generation Y) have changed the expectation of how, when and where courses should be delivered. This has come from a greater use and reliance on technology such as the internet, handheld devices, and social media that dominates their lives.
This technological shift is even more extreme with the emerging Generation Z (also known as the iGeneration) as they have never experienced the pre-internet world. This is the generation that’s grown up with iPhones, iPads and iPods – hence being named the iGeneration.
Accordingly, the iGeneration is technology and social media focused and increasingly looking to personal devices to access learning materials – with an increasing disinterest in lectures. iGeneration people have the increasing expectation that content can be delivered in more convenient and timely ways than the traditional set time lecture and tutorial. These expectations are driving changes in the facilities required to teach and learn. The increasing use of social media, and semi-formal ad-hoc (student driven) group collaboration is seen as setting the optimal design requirement for teaching and learning spaces.
It was interesting to learn that even for online remotely delivered courses, students still wish to personally attend the University campus and access a relevant space to interact with other students taking the course and collaborate in groups. These collaborative working groups also seek access to the academics, who may have produced the online materials (or assignment requirements) and expect an appropriate space to be available for these interactions.
These developments are driving the need for smaller more collaborative spaces where students can interact with each other using personal devices and access the academics. The traditional large open lecture theatres are increasingly underutilised and require a material redesign to accommodate smaller more social and intimate spaces.
As an example, it seems Libraries are no longer a place for consulting textbook or reference materials, as these are now available online, but rather increasingly used as a meeting place for students to collaborate on set reading, course materials – often via both social media and personal interactions. It’s recognised that the layout and workstations within these spaces must change to a more contemporary layout with collaborative working areas.
As identified by Chris Jenkins in his article Predictive Models for Asset Lives in the September 2016 Broadcast (here), the standard drivers for component lifecycle modelling are age, condition and or run-times. As identified by Chris in his article, as Asset Managers: “We also need to understand the other aspects of each component that leads to deterioration in a different sense. Is it modern? Are there better technologies? Are there better materials? The component may be sound and doing its job well but no longer satisfies current styles and thinking.”
These “other aspects” are driving change in the tertiary education sector and generating a major fiscal impact on the asset management plans given the look, feel and style of traditional spaces has become outdated. There is a move to redesign teaching spaces to meet the new learning model. This redesign process can benefit from a flexible and well-constructed flexible component based “lifecycle” model for asset lives.
A good asset management plan, underpinned by a sound lifecycle model, assists in a better understanding of the “sunk” investment being forgone in such redesigns. Having access to a sound component based lifecycle model enables better decision making on which buildings or spaces should be prioritised in the redevelopment planning process. Understanding the value to be forgone and how to optimise the remaining life of key components within spaces in these decisions is important. Such costs should be an integral part of the planning process to revitalise buildings where the space no longer satisfies the styles and thinking on what makes it a viable and valued operational facility.
I was struck by the size and extent of the investment being made as a result of these redesign initiatives, which are in the multiple hundreds of million dollars across the Australian University sector. So it would seem important, in my view, that the existing investment in the campus buildings be optimised: yes, these buildings can last forever, as many are – however the extent of change in how education is being delivered with new technologies, expectations and the level and type of collaboration, the change is rapid and expensive.
Where this change may be needed in some of our high profile and important buildings, we shouldn’t forget about the other 90% of our buildings that just need to be cared for with an appropriate level of budget.
Should we therefore, make sure we can care for our existing buildings before significant capital is invested in new and reconfigured buildings?