Attainable Goals

Attainable Goals

Tips for effective master planning in schools.

Master planning identifies long-term ways to improve and expand a campus. The end product typically is a beautifully rendered campus site plan showing enhancements to green spaces, improvements to vehicular and pedestrian circulation paths and parking, additions to existing buildings, and new buildings. These plans imagine what a campus could become in the future. But the improvements don't happen overnight, and the costs involved often exceed available funding resources.

Campus planning is worthwhile, but it is important for schools and universities to develop realistic and achievable goals.

The long and short

A short-term master plan provides a picture of what is likely to happen in the next 10 years. It helps streamline decisions and gives the campus community a good idea of what to expect. Break down a long-term campus plan into pieces that can be funded more easily:

  • Focus on short-term goals. Developing a short-term master plan requires agreement on priorities and upcoming decisions. Often, these activities are not done until after the master-planning process is complete and funds have become available for the next project. In that case, different expectations on campus become apparent very quickly, and the process ends up taking much more time.

    A plan with smaller, more attainable steps will help identify which projects are most beneficial and achievable given available or probable funding. It also will provide an objective framework for deciding about future projects so the process doesn't have to be repeated again when additional funding becomes available. This approach requires setting priorities and making decisions throughout the master-planning process. It isn't something that can wait until the end.

  • Develop priorities. As part of the initial data-gathering, students, faculty and staff need to categorize and prioritize each of their requests. This often results in a better understanding of needs and how they can be funded. Requests can be categorized as a quantitative or qualitative space need, location or adjacency issue, equipment need or physical-plant need. Categorizing will help determine if work can be done within existing budgets or if significant fund raising will be required. Identifying quantitative space needs often leads to an analysis of existing space utilization to determine if those needs can be met with existing space or if new space is necessary.

    Requiring that requests by students, faculty and staff be prioritized signals to those groups that resources are limited. This leads to a better understanding of what is most important to each department and results in fewer unrealistic wish-list items. A final master-plan document that clearly categorizes and prioritizes the needs of each department will result in much easier decisionmaking. It also provides a tool that can be updated on a regular basis.

  • Identify what works. Another important part of initial data collection is finding out what works well on campus and shouldn't change. Too often, data-collection meetings become negative, focusing only on things that don't work. The master-planning process also can be an opportunity to confirm what works well on campus and is important to the institution. This exercise also provides valuable information to master-planning consultants that have a limited amount of time to gain an understanding of the institution. Knowing what is successful on campus also helps administrators as they decide the future of a campus.

    During the analysis phase, the master-planning committee also must consider an institution's strategic and academic plans. As the committee develops its system to prioritize projects, it must have a clear understanding of the institution's mission, where it wants to go, the most urgent issues on campus, and where the existing campus and facilities come up short in supporting its mission and goals. This process will help to prioritize all of the work done by each department and focus on the institution as a whole. The result will be a listing of the most critically needed work.

  • Ask the right questions. An approach that helps categorize projects is to develop a list of questions to ask about each request or project. Each question should be based on a goal in the strategic or academic plan. Such a list could include the following questions:

    • How many individuals will be affected?

    • Will student attraction and retention be improved?

    • Will faculty and staff attraction and retention be improved?

    • Will productivity be improved?

    • Will energy be conserved or costs reduced?

    • Will security or privacy be improved?

    • Will safety be improved or health risks diminished?

    • Will the chances of losing property be reduced?

    • What is the source of the funding?

    Having a clear understanding of funding sources or mechanisms is critical. Funds can come from multiple capital budgets, technology budgets, accessibility budgets, various committee budgets, as well as money raised from alumni and other donors through development offices.

    Meeting with individuals who are responsible for those funds or budgets will help the committee understand which funds are available and the criteria for funding decisions. Meetings with the development office also can help the committee understand the role of existing or future capital campaigns. Matching each request to the appropriate funding type and sharing those lists with the various decisionmaking groups will help focus and facilitate the process.

  • Classify projects. The next step is to classify all projects into four categories:

    • Critical or urgent with available funding.

    • Important and necessary with probable funding.

    • Campus quality-of-life improvements with unsure funding.

    • Improvements with no funding available.

    The short-term campus master plan is developed based on projects in the first two categories: critical or urgent with available funding, and important and necessary with probable funding. Knowing which projects are realistic and achievable, the master-planning committee then can focus its efforts on creating an effective plan that meets those needs.

  • Communicate the plan. Through this process, high-priority work that is realistic and achievable can be illustrated in a short-term master plan and communicated to the campus community. The short-term master plan will make clear to the campus community and others what will take place on campus over the next decade. This results in less anxiety on campus about the timing and impact of projects.

Rallying support

All of the decisions made to establish a short-term plan will serve as backup for supporting or justifying the plan in the event that questions are raised. Taking this stepped approach will result in more useful and effective master plans; it enables administrators to address short-term needs more quickly, which will help facilitate the development of visionary long-range master plans.

Klinedinst Jr., AIA, LEED AP, is a principal with Harriman, Auburn, Maine. 

Hide comments

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Publish