May 7, 2010
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU earns kudos for attention to building, grounds maintenance
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Efforts by Slippery Rock University's Office of Facilities and Planning to decrease energy consumption costs, balance staffing levels with service-level expectations and decrease deferred maintenance were lauded in an extensive Return on Physical Assets report prepared by Sightlines, a national benchmarking firm.
The Guilford, Conn.-based firm, founded in 2000, is a membership-based organization serving 120 public and 140 private institutions and seven state system of higher education, including Pennsylvania's. The company provides campus leadership with the ability to link facilities operating strategy and financial capacity by providing independent facilities advisory services, thereby fulfilling the need to accurately and decisively measure, monitor and benchmark the physical asset performance of campuses.
"We participated in the survey to both set benchmarks as to where we are in a number of facility and planning areas and so we can make comparisons to other universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and with other higher education institutions across the country," said Scott Albert, director of facilities and planning at SRU.
He said the information is another tool the University can use to make sure its costs and programs are inline with other institutions and ensure progress in areas of opportunity are being made.
The data-gathering process has been under way for about three years at SRU, with the first year supplying five years of information.
Sightlines collects and assembles data on campus to quantify, verify and qualify information. The company also analyzes the data and creates a model to show the relationship between operating and capital issues. Using Web-based technology, it allows members to create custom benchmarks to document performance, strategically plan to take specific actions and support the case for change, the report said.
"The final document allows to look at annual stewardship - how we are making sure our buildings will reach their useful life; asset reinvestment - which looks at the accumulated backlog of repair and modernization needs of our buildings and facilities; our operation success - the effectiveness of the facilities operating budget, staffing, supervision and energy management; and service - a measure of the service process, the maintenance quality and customer's opinions of our service delivery," Albert said.
"By looking at all of these factors, we can find areas where we are succeeding and areas for opportunities to improve," he said.
SRU recorded successes in a number of areas, including energy cost avoidance. "Most of the measurements in the report are based on total building square foot comparisons," Albert said.
The report noted the 2009 energy consumption in BTUs was 125,497 per gross square foot. The state system average was 126,388, and the peer average from similar sized institutions was 122,346. "We have been doing a great job in reducing energy costs," he said.
Albert said that energy conservation equipment, including lighting and heating and air-conditioning controls will continue to benefit the University's bottom line, even as utility costs continue to increase from suppliers.
Over the past seven years, SRU has decreased energy consumption 29 percent, resulting in more than $500,000 in fossil fuel cost avoidance.
Across the seven years, SRU's energy unit costs both in fossil fuel and electricity unit costs were below peer averages.
Albert said improvements in how buildings are cleaned and the overall appearance of the grounds are showing positive rewards. "There has also been some good improvement in our customer survey scores," Albert said.
He said the report also showed that because of construction of the new residence halls by the Slippery Rock University Foundation Inc., SRU's overall "building age" had dropped substantially.
The report notes that less than 20 percent of the campus square footage in buildings are now 51 years old or older, while 30 percent of the buildings are in the 25-50-year-old category, and about 45 percent fall into the 10-year or less category. SRU reports 2.4 million square foot of building space.
"Renovations and new construction have rejuvenated the campus to increase campus youthfulness and value," the report said. "An influx in one-time spending has allowed Slippery Rock University to surpass peers in total capital spending in fiscal year 2009."
A third kudo reported, "The majority of service scores improved since 2007 to surpass peer and database averages."
Albert said the survey is sent across campus to provide data for the service report.
A bar graph in the report shows SRU, and only three other PASSHE universities, exceed the Customer Satisfaction Index average.
The report noted a "huge improvement in general repair inspection scores from 2007 to 2009" and the fact SRU has more green space to maintain than peer institutions was noted.
Albert said most of his operations deal with maintaining and upgrading water and steam lines, heating and cooling equipment, building exteriors, including roofs and windows, thus funding required usually falls in the "major expense" area.
"We always have to balance our immediate needs against our desires in using state dollars. We only have so much money, and the challenge is we never know, year-to-year, how much we are going to receive or where the area of greatest need will be. We always keep the University Master Plan in mind, and we try to keep to our list of priorities. We have an estimated deferred maintenance backlog of $170 million right now - and that is not just buildings, that includes roads, steam lines, waterlines outside the buildings, sidewalks," he said.
Albert said he would continue to use the report as a benchmark to monitor progress in proper building and grounds maintenance, while monitoring costs and effectiveness with the overall goal of continuing to show improvement and cost containment.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.