Space Planning & Management achieves perfection

Cheryl BenningfieldSpace on campus can easily be taken for granted but the careful management of UNT’s 24,000-plus rooms requires strong collaboration and planning skills.
This year, UNT’s Space Planning and Management team saw their skills rewarded when they received a 100% on a state audit – the highest mark possible.
“We received very good marks in our 2015 audit, but we didn’t achieve 100%, so having improved even with an increase in the amount of square footage we now have, it’s a big deal,” said Cheryl Benningfield, Application Support Manager, shown top left.
The audit is the biggest event that a university space management team faces and, typically, somewhere around 30% of institutions may face re-audits or actions related to issues with their audit, Benningfield said. Thirty-five rooms on campus – which includes Discovery Park and the Frisco branch campus – were chosen at random for this most recent audit.
“We are required to report every fall. This could require a significant number of report submissions and it can take a lot of work to submit them error free,” said Benningfield. We at UNT have developed and refined our processes so that we can typically achieve this within a day or two.
Alaina Replogle Space matters to everyone
Space planning means more than keeping track of offices, classrooms, and labs, noted Alaina Replogle, Senior Data Analyst, shown bottom left. The coding of the space determines the funding source for maintenance of the space as well as provides a base inventory that is used to determine the space deficit for UNT in the THECB Space Projection Model. That model is used to determine the amount of HEF funds and Infrastructure Formula Funds and in the evaluation of applications for Tuition Revenue Bonds.
Correct reporting is especially important for research faculty because at UNT faculty research productivity is reviewed annually and the figures used come directly from the FM Interact system and data input of grants and Principal Investigators.
Along with room information, that research data is collected when gathering information for the annual UNT Space Survey. This information can also include room amenities and specialized equipment, which also helps the university find possibilities for sharing labs and resources. Information about the rooms’ uses and specializations are also helpful for Facilities when they need to re-purpose the room, or if demolition or construction is needed, Replogle said.
Everyone on campus feels and sees the impact of Space Planning and Management. “Our campus is 99.9 percent occupied. If someone needs space then it is important to know how our other spaces are being used because we might have to adjust to helps others find a space to fit their needs,” Replogle said.
A team effort at UNT
As UNT continues to grow, space remains one of the university’s most important assets.
“We can’t just go build a new building every year, so we have to be very conscientious about how we use our space on campus,” said Benningfield.
This means that even when the team isn’t compiling information for the annual Space Survey or working on reports for the state, administration, campus partners and other regulatory agencies, they must constantly remain aware of campus needs, initiatives, and priorities – and space availability.
Additionally, collaboration with Pen-hsing Liu, CAD Manager in Facilities, becomes crucial.
Liu updates all Computer Aided Design (CAD) record files with architectural and mechanical/electrical/plumbing changes. These CAD plans are directly tied to the FM Interact Space Management System. He notifies Space Planning and Management when a floor plan is updated and supports new and existing building plans by keeping track of files, updating and archiving. Among the items audited by the state is the area or square footage of rooms, so the accuracy of those plans is a vital component to space management as a whole. On the audit Penn’s accuracy or work was only about 23 square feet of variance on almost 12,000 square feet checked, which equated to a zero percent variance score overall.
On average, Liu adjusts or works on one or two floor plans each week. When a new building comes online, there are even more – and he coordinates with Space Planning and Management on room number assignment and data linkage.
“It’s extremely important to have a high level of communication and coordination with Cheryl and Alaina,” said Liu. “With all the buildings we have around campus, it’s critical to have a partnership that supports each other to ensure we are able to upkeep and provide accurate data. I’m very proud of what we achieved in the audit. It speaks volumes for the great collaboration work environment we have here at UNT.”
Both Benningfield and Replogle agree – because without the help of others they wouldn’t be able to monitor and get accurate information on the thousands of rooms at UNT.
“It’s a partnership effort – Alaina and I do the heavy lifting, but it takes collaboration with Pen and the entire campus community to do our job well,” said Benningfield. “The better our relationship is with them and the more we teach them, the better UNT will do.”
Spreading the knowledge
Teaching the campus is important to the Space Planning and Management team – but so is sharing their knowledge.
Recently, they have been helping UNT Dallas by training them on the FM Interact space management software.
“We have been mentoring them and advising them on what parts of the software may be useful to them, giving them tips and tricks and letting them know what processes are important to have in place,” said Benningfield.
She has also worked with other universities in Texas that have failed their audits to help them develop better processes. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) also brought some observers from other universities during the last audit so that other Texas universities could spend a day on campus and learn more from UNT’s team.
Preparation for the state audit takes most of the year, Benningfield said, so it requires that the team be highly organized.
“We work with more than 300 people across our campus to train them for the Space Survey,” she said.
UNT’s annual space survey typically takes place in March. Then, the team begins their duties of reviewing the information, cleaning up the data, finishing reports and sending information to the state.
Benningfield was previously in K-12 school construction and design and worked at UTA but has been at UNT for 11 years now. Replogle received a master’s in library science while working in property management and notes that the database work of her degree prepared her for the intense work of her current job.
Although they are from different backgrounds, their experiences prepared them for the complexity of managing space at UNT.
“You have to be very detail oriented and be able to read and interpret floor plans. This is not the kind of job you can just learn right away,” Benningfield said.