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Georgia University System tries to improve use of building space

GRU working on plan that will improve efficiency

Sunday, Aug 4, 2013 12:57 PM
Last updated Monday, Aug 5, 2013 1:50 AM
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ATLANTA — The state entity with the largest number of buildings uses them an average of one-quarter of the work week, leaving them empty the rest of the time, a new study shows.

The University System of Georgia studied the issue at all 31 of the state’s public colleges and universities and found it could be more efficient.

“We think we need to do some improvement. We need to work with some institutions, quite frankly,” said University Chancellor Hank Huckaby in an interview with Morris News Service on Friday.

Much of the reason is most classes are offered Monday through Thursday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

As a result, changes in scheduling will be critical in optimizing space.

“I think folks will be taking more Friday classes, and early in the morning and late in the evening,” said Tom Jackson, the vice president for public affairs at the University of Georgia.

The University System is by far the state’s largest holder of building space with 70 million square feet. That’s more than the space used by the nine next-largest state agencies combined, including the prison system, technical colleges and the Georgia Building Authority that leases to most state agencies.

The county with the largest number of state buildings is Clarke, home of the University of Georgia, with 702. Fulton County, home of the state Capitol, only has 400, according to the 2012 annual report of the State Properties Commission.

Statewide, the University System has 352 leases for $300 million in annual rent, 72 percent of all the rent paid by the state. And most of the system’s classroom buildings are owned outright.

While the Properties Commission forced greater efficiencies on the building usage of most of state government starting during Gov. Sonny Perdue’s administration, the largely autonomous Board of Regents that oversees the University System only began its space-use initiative with a study completed in May.

System administrators say it is the most ambitious analysis by any state and that the groundbreaking techniques are already being copied around the country.

The rising cost of high education and declining state appropriations for it squeezes college administrators into finding greater efficiencies. That’s why the space study is being seen by many campus administrators as an added hurdle to requests for new buildings.

“It’s emphasized from the system to the campuses that we have to have a need and have the data to back that up. We’re going to be much more attentive to data,” said UGA’s Jackson.

At Georgia Regents University, its data is the basis for drafting a master building plan after the merger of Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University, according to Christen Carter, GRU director of media relations.

“One of the first steps will be to conduct a comprehensive building audit, which will be compared against projections of future space requirements,” she said. “We will evaluate academically appropriate opportunities for classes on the GRU Summerville campus and continue to look for ways to meet the needs of specialized graduate, health-sciences education on the Health Sciences campus.”

Huckaby said the systemwide study has put the brakes on several proposed building projects and made school presidents more hesitant to submit new proposals.

But it could have the opposite effect on some campuses, according to Edward B. Jolley Jr., the vice president for business and financial affairs at Savannah State University, because it exposes quality differences between classrooms at different schools.

“It helps the system understand the disparity that has built up over time,” he said.

Efforts at greater efficiency are likely to encounter resistance, Jolley notes, because professors like the flexibility of their current schedules and the convenience of having classes near their offices.

“I don’t think it will be 100 percent accepted,” he said. “You will have some people who are not pleased.”

Huckaby acknowledges that legislators, community leaders and college presidents take pride in “shiny new buildings.”

Gregory F. Aloia, the president of College of Coastal Georgia, describes his school’s new buildings as critical in recruiting students and faculty after its recent transition to a four-year college.

“You look at a lot of surveys of students and ‘What attracted you there?’ They say the quality of the physical plant,” he said.

That’s a concept Huckaby is willing to challenge until Harvard tears down its ivy-covered buildings in order to get students.

“We certainly don’t buy into that argument that shiny new buildings are what we need at every institution,” he said.


A recent study by the University System of Georgia revealed usage levels of campus classrooms and offices. For classrooms, the study shows what percentage of the school’s capacity is used in an average, 40-hour workweek. It also shows the average square footage of office space per employee.

School/CampusClassroom useAverage office space per
employee (square feet)
Armstrong Atlantic State University
AASU - Savannah35.2%165.3
AASU - Liberty10.1%261.5
College of Coastal Georgia
CoCG - Main26.0%138.7
CoCG - Camden23.5%1,019.0
Georgia Regents University
GRU - Main27.6%102.0
GRU - Summerville37.2%176.1
Savannah State University
University of Georgia
University of North Georgia

Source: University System of Georgia

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Sweet son
Sweet son 08/04/13 - 02:29 pm
Twin Gables: The President's Residence at GRU!

Here is a good place to start. Put that gigantic old energy inefficient house on the market and give Dr. Cool a housing allowance and let him find his own place!

Arguments will that it is used for events. I wish that Steve Crawford was still the investigative reporter for the AC so he could research how little the property is used for University events and how much the property costs in up keep and utilities.

If a venue of this type is absolutely needed there are plenty of places in Augusta that could be rented.

Also in the article one of the presidents said the faculty would not be happy with adjustments in class days and other issues central to the education process. We don't care about professors, they just need to prepare and teach our children and be happy with their high salaries and possible tenured positions.

palmetto1008 08/04/13 - 09:38 pm
Although I'm not arguing that

Although I'm not arguing that space couldn't be better utilized, if you think all that professors are responsible for doing is preparing and teaching your darling children, we could hire high school teachers to teach 13 through 16th grades.

thauch12 08/04/13 - 10:54 pm
Government wastage?! No way,

Government wastage?! No way, we've never seen that before!

Seriously, who's surprised by any of this? Public education, especially higher education, in the state of Georgia has operated under this "blank check" mentality for far too long. It's high time someone puts an end to this nonsense.

twentieth century man
twentieth century man 08/05/13 - 02:20 pm
Regents budget increases have been outstripping inflation.

The ability to raise tuition to keep up with decreased state funding has led to continually increasing Board of Regents budgets. Tuition increases cannot go on indefinitely. Also, technological advances, such as mass-online courses, in which the University System can participate, may change the future role of faculty. Thus, it is entirely appropriate for the University Chancellor and the Board of Regents to scrutinize expenditures for both faculty and buildings.

badmoon426 08/06/13 - 06:44 pm
At Georgia Regents University...

...I guess there will be not be a Mills annex to GRU for the near future based on the information in this article.

The million dollar (or millions) question is why is the local government so crazy about pushing GRU to annex the King and Sibley Mills?

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