The Future-Proof Campus: Taking a Data-Driven Approach to Facilities Investments

3 minutes

In the dynamic landscape of educational institutions, the condition of their facilities is paramount. These structures serve not only as hubs for learning but also significantly influence student enrollment decisions, faculty retention, and overall operational efficiency. However, across the United States, educational facilities face a mounting challenge: deferred maintenance and aging infrastructure.  

In this blog post, we'll delve into the pressing issues confronting educational facilities, underscore the necessity of data-driven approaches in facilities management, outline comprehensive strategies for future-proofing campuses, and explore insights gleaned from the Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA) Thought Leaders Report.   

Current State of Educational Facilities

Educational facilities across the United States are grappling with a deferred maintenance backlog that has reached a critical breaking point. With a 36% shortfall in capital needed to maintain facilities and an estimated $112 billion backlog across all U.S. higher education institutions, the scale of the challenge is daunting. Compounding this issue is the fact that 20% of facilities leaders are over the age of 55, while less than 9% are under the age of 25, indicating a lack of industry experience being replaced.

Moreover, the visual appeal and overall quality of school facilities play a significant role in influencing students' enrollment decisions, with 38% citing it as a crucial factor. However, many institutions struggle with useless data, outdated systems, manual processes, limited staff, and a lack of historical data records, leading to inefficient operations and communication, and ultimately an overall decline in facility conditions. 

Insights from the 2023 APPA Thought Leaders Report emphasize the importance of planning for an uncertain future, attracting and retaining a qualified workforce, aligning strategic plans with budgets, and promoting facilities management within the organization. 

To address these challenges and future-proof campuses, educational institutions must adopt a data-driven approach to facilities management. This involves leveraging strategic asset management software, conducting facilities condition assessments (FCAs), and implementing asset investment planning (AIP) software. 

Step 1: Asset Information and Facilities Condition Assessment

Educational institutions must first gain a comprehensive understanding of their assets. This includes: 

  • Establishing a centralized asset register to track condition, maintenance history, and valuation. 
  • Determining current asset valuations to inform budgeting and investment decisions. 
  • Conducting thorough FCAs to evaluate structural elements, HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems, and more. While valuable, FCAs have limitations such as potential high costs and data depreciation over time.

Step 2: Tactical Asset Management and the APPEM Model

Next, educational institutions must focus on tactical asset management to improve operations and prioritize tasks effectively. The APPEM model offers a structured approach: 

  • Assess: Thoroughly understand all building components, assets, and systems. 
  • Prioritize: Identify urgent tasks and organize updates effectively. 
  • Plan: Develo a comprehensive plan for addressing maintenance and repair needs. 
  • Execute: Implement the plan and ensure stakeholders have the necessary tools and direction. 
  • Maintain: Continuously monitor asset performance trends and conduct periodic FCAs. 

Additionally, the implementation of a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) can streamline maintenance activities, enhance efficiency, and provide transparent communication regarding work orders and budget requirements.

Step 3: Strategic Asset Management

Finally, educational institutions must adopt a strategic approach to asset management to plan and optimize investments. This involves: 

  • Developing long-term capital investment plans and reporting mechanisms. 
  • Considering various scenarios and optimizing predictive models. 
  • Establishing a project management office to oversee asset management initiatives. 
  • Integrating sustainability goals into asset management strategies. 

Asset investment planning is another valuable solution to optimizing resource allocation. AIP software optimizes investments through data-driven prioritization, aids decision-making and transparent budgeting, and extends asset lifespan. By automating data collection, predictive analytics, and centralized asset management, AIP software provides strategic insights even with limited resources.


The future-proof campuses of tomorrow require a proactive approach to facilities management that prioritizes data-driven decision-making and strategic planning. By conducting FCAs, implementing a CMMS or AIP software, and embracing modern technologies, educational institutions can optimize resources, extend asset lifespans, and ensure the long-term success of their facilities.