Universities and colleges in the U.S. are facing a growing backlog of construction projects and repairs. In addition to the $30 billion of deferred maintenance needs that American institutions of higher learning had as of 2016, a more recent report from the research group Sightlines found that schools still spent a record $5 per gross square foot in new construction in 2017, adding even more to their future maintenance obligations.
The problem is that most don’t have enough revenue to keep up with those backlogs.
The Missouri Department of Higher Education needs $1.4 billion for repairs to more than 2,400 buildings, and in Illinois, the laundry list of repairs is approaching $7 billion. The University of Wisconsin's campuses have $1.5 billion worth of deferred maintenance; Iowa State University is struggling to deal with a $436 million backlog, and the University of California and California State University systems are facing a combined maintenance and repair total of almost $8 billion.
Universities and colleges could just stop building new facilities and take care of what they have, but in the battle for students, the competition is stiff and there’s evidence that modern campuses with all the bells whistles are a big draw. Almost 70% of students consider the physical aspect of a campus when making their decision about which school to attend, according to the Association of University Directors of Estates.
So it makes sense that colleges would jump on any opportunity to save money by increasing the efficiency of their construction and facilities management programs. This is where PlanGrid is making a difference.
Forty colleges and universities, representing almost one million students, currently use PlanGrid to carry out maintenance and new buildings on campus, with 15 institutions adopting the productivity software this year alone.
Some of the schools that are using PlanGrid include Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh); Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, North Carolina); University of California, Davis (Davis, California); University of Michigan-Dearborn (Dearborn, Michigan); Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and University of Texas at Arlington (Arlington, Texas).
And the tasks PlanGrid helps these universities complete range from creating a record of new physical assets in a digital and easily accessible form, so that they can be better managed throughout their lifecycles; allowing maintenance staff to work from the same set of documents from different campus locations; and identifying and tracking safety issues.
PlanGrid has also made inroads with state DOTs, which also use the software to better manage their infrastructure projects. The Tennessee DOT, for instance, now mandates its use on all projects.
“School campuses are living and breathing places, and buildings new and old need to be preserved for future generations,” said Toby Corey, president of global field operations at PlanGrid. “Our growth in the higher education segment is demonstrative of the investment universities and colleges are making to enhance student experiences.”