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Webinar Executive Summary

Using Data to Assess Need and Impact Change on Campus


  • CSU used data, visuals and testimonials to highlight renewal problems.
  • CSU developed a four-step plan to increase capital renewal and stabilize operating budgets.
  • Sightlines provides CSU with the data needed to track the progress of their plan.

Colorado State University (CSU), located in Fort Collins, Colorado, has spent much of the last decade investing in and building new facilities to meet the needs of its 33,000 students.

As CSU invested $1.3 billion between 2010 and 2017 on 35 new buildings and 15 renovated buildings, a decrease in funding from the state as well as budget issues caused it to defer maintenance on existing spaces. This has led to a growing deferred maintenance backlog.

With the assistance of Sightlines, a Gordian company, along with members of the campus community that were impacted, CSU was able to diagnose the problems caused by mounting building renewal needs and start setting long-term reinvestment priorities. A comprehensive, four-step plan was then put into place to align renewal priorities with operational improvements to ensure optimal resource allocation.


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Using Data to Assess Need and Impact Change on Campus

In our recent webinar, Sandy Sheahan and Dan Willman discussed the impact of CSU’s renewal needs on their maintenance operations and how Sightlines provided the context needed to help CSU develop a “Long Dance Plan” that focused on strategic reinvestment and stewardship.

CSU used data, visuals, and testimonials to highlight building renewal problems.

CSU used data from Sightlines to show stakeholders how much they had fallen behind with building maintenance. Recognizing that, at least on the surface, the stakeholders might not see the issues that lurked behind walls and underground, CSU shared pictures of the disrepair as well as testimonials from campus students, faculty, and staff, who described how building renewal was impacting their daily lives.

The data put a dollar figure on the visuals and testimonials, showing stakeholders how much the backlog had grown, as 70% of total capital investment was being focused on new space. The deferred maintenance backlog was exacerbated by $5 million in budget cuts during the recession preceding the campus growth that began in 2010.

The data also showed that CSU ranked significantly lower than comparable universities in operations and maintenance spending per square foot, with a difference of approximately $1 per square foot. For a campus the size of CSU, this equates to a $6-$7 million operations deficit compared to peers.


CSU’s Deferred Maintenance Backlog

Total – RI Building & All Utilities

Leveraging Sightline Data to Make the Case

O&M Actuals

“Our campus looks great and feels great. But from a facility standpoint, we could see behind the walls, under the ground, and to the roofs that were falling.”

Sandy Sheahan, Associate Director, Operations, Colorado State University

CSU developed a four-step plan to increase capital renewal and stabilize operating budgets.

Based on the trio of data, visuals, and testimonials, CSU recognized that not only was there an existing issue with deferred maintenance, but the backlog was going to continue to grow as buildings—including newly built and renovated spaces—aged.

To address these issues, CSU developed and put in place a four-step “Long Dance Plan” to reestablish a preventive maintenance (PM) program, improve controlled maintenance (CM), renew buildings, and create a utility auxiliary enterprise fund.

CSU’s Long Dance Plan for Operations – 4 Step Plan

Improved PM

  • No budget reductions in fiscal year 2017 (FY17)
  • Funded $414,000 budget reallocation request
  • $6 million phased budget increases for PM programs over five years

Improved CM

  • Drive down deferred maintenance backlog with increased annual minimum funding needed to keep up with campus building needs
  • Look to alternative funding, such as additional central funds, CSU donor funds, and student facilities fees

Building Renewals

  • Determine next set of candidates for resident instruction (RI)—also known as education and general (E&G)—and auxiliary building renewal
  • 17 buildings have been renewed since 2003 for RI and auxiliary

Utility Auxiliary Enterprise

  • Focus on a full-cost recovery model
  • Create a Utility Controlled Maintenance Board
  • Short-term rate rider for five-year plan
  • Permanent increase for life cycle maintenance
  • Growth pays for utility capacity needs

“At the beginning, we needed to get a handle on where [CSU was].  That has become clear, and we know the goals. Now, Sightlines can help provide data around the plan.”

Dan Willman, Senior Account Manager, Sightlines, a Gordian Company

Sightlines provides CSU the data needed to track progress to their plan.

CSU continues to partner with Sightlines, using the information shared along with the solution to show progress against the four-step plan. This data helps CSU’s operations team adapt as campus priorities and plans change.

For example, one major change for CSU was the addition of a $250 million stadium. Sightlines data shows the impact of this project: from 2013 to 2015, CSU drew closer to hitting its investment targets for existing space, but with the addition of new space in 2016, CSU fell behind on existing space funding.

Using this Sightlines data, CSU can also see that, despite increased deferred maintenance, its risk profile is shifting for the better as more new spaces are added and older spaces are renovated. This changes priorities within the PM shop, focusing CM dollars on aging infrastructure where problems are more likely to occur. It also means that data needs to be continuously kept up to date in Sightlines to ensure that the most recent information is available to analyze.

Increased Controlled Maintenance

Total Capital Investment

Campus Age Will Remain Balanced With Plans

Campus Renovation Age Projection

Final Points from Sightlines at CSU

CSU, with the assistance of Sightlines, now has a plan in place to improve renewal and maintenance investment across campus. The intent is not just to catch up with deferred maintenance, but to avoid again falling into a big deferred maintenance hole.

For other campuses considering similar projects, Dan Willman sees three takeaways from his experience with CSU.

Be prepared.

Have up-to-date, verified data available to support the initiatives. In addition, go beyond data and engage with the campus community to provide statements on how facilities issues are impacting their day-to-day lives.

Address from all angles.

Provide a multi-faceted plan—such as CSU’s Long Dance Plan—that addresses the issues in multiple ways.

Provide consistent messaging.

Share state-of-facilities information constantly and consistently over the course of multiple years. Constant, consistent messaging helps impact change as stakeholders see how the efforts are—or are not—working.

For more information on Using Data to Affect Campus Change:

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