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Global Alliance on Space

Important Focus Areas and Technologies for Real Estate and Facility Management Professionals in Higher Education within the United States and Europe


Retailers understand the value of “place” better than almost any other industry. For example, Starbucks found that providing a European café-type ambience helped to sell their coffee; effectively creating a place where one could linger, write a homework assignment, or the next great American novel in a safe, secure, comfortable environment. A place where what the retailer sells was more about the experience that draws them into their space versus a competitor, rather than product alone; albeit their product had to, of course, be one of the best on the market.

However, a similar example could be pulled straight from higher education as well, especially as institutions of higher learning respond more aggressively to the war for students. In fact, a recent survey showed that “safety & security” and “dynamic/agile space management” were the top two areas of focus for real estate and facility management professionals within higher education across the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

This survey, which collected responses from facility managers, real estate managers, campus planners, maintenance managers, and services managers from approximately 80 universities within the United States, The United Kingdom, and the Netherlands was a collaborative effort between three parties: Planon, a global real estate and facility management software company; one of its UK clients, Lancaster University; and the United States-based Campus Facility Management Technology Association (CFTA).

The main objectives of the survey were to answer questions, such as:

  • What are the focus areas and technologies that are most relevant to real estate and facility management professionals in higher education today?
  • What are the major similarities and differences between the priorities of these three countries (the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom)?
Figure 1: Key Themes and Technologies Explored in Survey
Figure 1: Key Themes and Technologies Explored in Survey

Surveying across multiple countries was key in highlighting common focus areas and rationalizing differences across participants. It was also important in identifying areas where information sharing and collaboration could be helpful among higher education institutions globally.

Michelle Ellington, the President of CFTA, GIS Coordinator at the University of Kentucky, and supporter of the survey said, “The idea of collaborating with European countries on this survey gives us insight into what is being done outside our borders and widens our knowledge base. This insight fits perfectly into what we like to promote and share within the CFTA community, which is a unique association in the FM higher education world dedicated to bringing higher education professionals together to share information on technology.”

Key Findings: Focus Areas

  • 50% or more of participants in all three countries ranked Dynamic/Agile Space Management as a top priority for their organization. For both the UK and the Netherlands, this was the #1 priority. For the US it was fourth, falling behind #3 capital project management, #2 predictive maintenance, and #1 safety & security.
  • 50% or more of participants in all three countries identified Predictive Maintenance Management as a top 3 priority. The United States ranked this second overall, while the UK and the Netherlands prioritized it third most important.
  • Safety & Security was ranked as the top priority for the United States. More than 50% of respondents in the Netherlands also listed this as a top priority, ranking it #2 overall in NL. In the UK, Healthy Workplaces was ranked higher as the second highest priority, and Safety & Security fell to fourth in rankings.

Safe, Secure, Agile Space

The results from this survey indicate that Dynamic/Agile Space Management emerged as the trend most top of mind for real estate and facilities professionals within higher education across the globe. This is an interesting finding because Agile Space Management is not a new trend at all. It dates back to the work of an architectural firm’s work in the 1990’s and a Gartner and MIT study from 2000 which stated, “Agile workplaces represent the next important step in workplace evolution. They are created by the simultaneous and coordinated development of places and the work that is done in them. These linked activities generate continual improvement through processes of experimentation, integration and disseminated learning. These workplace-making activities are integral to business-process design and execution.” However, it appears that concept is now being used as a higher education workplace strategy to efficiently manage the different types of spaces, including offices, labs, learning spaces, collaboration environments, both inside and outside of campus buildings.

In the United States, Safety & Security emerged as the leading trend that was top of mind for the survey’s respondents. This is not surprising, as higher education institutions throughout the United States must deal with critical issues such as gun and sexual violence. One CNN report from May 2018 stated that there had been one shooting per week at educational institutions. And according to Title IX in the Chronicle of Higher Education, from 2011 to September 12, 2018, 502 cases of sexual violence on campuses had been investigated by the government.

For more analysis on the survey findings around the Themes and Focus Areas, you can download the full report.

Key Findings: Technologies

  • More than 70% of respondents in each country ranked Building Information Management (BIM) as a top technology to focus on.
  • More than 50% of respondents in every country ranked Data Analytics as a top priority.
  • 94% of respondents within the United States ranked Geographical Information Systems (GIS) as a technology that was top of mind. This technology ranked much lower for the UK (43%) and the NL (21%).
  • Mobility was another key technology that more than 50% of respondents from all three countries ranked highly.
  • In the Netherlands, 92% of respondents ranked the Internet of Things (IoT) as a top priority while it fell lower in the UK (69%) and the US (37%).
  • Cloud solution technologies ranked high in the Netherlands with 92% of NL respondents saying it was top of mind, but it ranked lower in the UK (68%) and the US (48%).
  • Overall, respondents in all three countries ranked Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Speech Recognition as middle tier interests, though not top of mind.
  • Robots and Self-Driving Vehicles fell to the bottom in level of interest from respondents in all three countries.

BIM and GIS + Integrations

The survey results indicated that Building Information Management (BIM) was a top of mind technology for all three countries. It ranked number one overall for the UK, second in the United States, and third in the Netherlands. The UK is a world leader in BIM implementations, so it is interesting to see this as top of mind for real estate and facilities professionals within higher education. In 2011, a movement was started when the British government began efforts to mandate BIM within the public sector beginning in 2016, to be followed by all industries by 2020. In 2011 when the initiative started, only about 10% of the country was utilizing BIM. Today almost 70% of building projects within the UK involve the 3D-&D technology, known as BIM Level 2 (L2). Through the use of BIM, the UK has seen proven benefits, including reducing costs of designing, constructing, and operations of built assets. They have also seen a reduction in the duration of building projects.

Safety & Security was ranked as the top priority for the United States.

For the United States, approximately 94% of respondents indicated that Geographical Information Systems (GIS) was a top technology focus area. GIS, which works collaboratively with other technologies, such as IWMS, CAD, and BIM, to add great value within campus planning, portfolio management, site selection, asset management, work order location services, safety and security, emergency management, environmental compliance, and energy management. Esri, the leading geographical information systems company in the world, has greatly contributed to the growing use of GIS. For free or nominal costs, Esri provides a site license to higher education institutions, which includes their GIS software, web courses, technical support, and passes to the Esri user conferences. Campuses all over the US have taken advantage of this offer and have found success involving students on these location-based projects. This is a program that we hope to see spread to Europe and other parts of the world.

For more analysis on the survey results around technology, please download the full report.

Key Takeaway: Increased Collaboration

The survey results showed that the US, UK, and the Netherlands have many commonalities – but analysis showed that there is a great need for universities within these three countries to collaborate. By bringing their strengths together, much could be gained across all campuses. The Esri program could be introduced and spread throughout the UK and the Netherlands. The integration of BIM and GIS with other FM tools, such as IWMS and IoT, could give campuses a more integrated understanding of their campus areas, their real estate portfolios, and how buildings are performing at each of their locations. That is why organizations like CFTA are so critical in bringing together communities of higher education facility managers around the world – to spread information and start conversations and exchange best practices.

Interested in more? You can download the full report to get more information about the results, analysis, and takeaways from this survey.

If you have more ideas on these topics, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Keely Ferrara at

About Planon

With over 30 years of experience, Planon is the leading global provider of innovative software that supports corporate real estate and facility managers in optimizing the performance of their workspace by simplifying business processes and reducing costs. Furthermore, Planon delivers an integrated software platform that helps commercial service providers to increase operating efficiency and customer value through radical process automation and seamless system integration.

Planon’s software has been completely designed in-house and is fully integrated to deliver reliable management information. Gartner – the leading independent technology research organization – has consistently rated Planon as a global leader in their market. Planon has implemented its comprehensive solutions for over 2,000 clients, supported by offices around the world. To learn more about Planon’s software, visit

The editorial staff of The Chronicle had no role in its preparation.

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