More than a decade ago, UMass Amherst began to address factors driving very high levels of deferred maintenance (DM) and the associated risks to the university mission, faculty, and students. The deterioration of campus facilities was greater than anticipated and the high average age of their buildings was a major concern. Limited capital investment and reliance on diminishing state capital funds led to an asset reinvestment backlog of nearly $2 billion. Despite major problems with building systems, envelope, and infrastructure, capital funding was weighted toward space renewal. Space demands made it difficult to justify demolition of buildings in use beyond their lifecycle.
UMass Amherst contracted Sightlines to develop an integrated facilities plan, which resulted in a detailed list of repair, modernization, and infrastructure needs. The first Business Portfolio Solution (BPS) cataloged all 330 buildings and over 11 million gross square feet of campus. (It is updated annually to illustrate to university and state officials that capital invested is well spent, backlog is being reduced, and additional future investment is justified.) With this information, finance and facilities leaders developed a multi-year capital strategy, set priorities, and advocated for funding resources. This plan was used to convince university leadership that a major infusion of capital was critical.
The comprehensive assessment found $1.6 billion of needs within buildings, another $80 million in utility delivery systems and grounds (infrastructure) needs; and campus plans for $571 million of new space to meet academic and program requirements. Four portfolios were created to segment campus facilities by project needs and mission: Maintaining, Renovating, Transitioning, and Repurposing.
With the defined building portfolios, senior leaders understood the scope of the problem and created a well-documented plan to support additional funding for facilities backlog. When a state Higher Education Bond Bill was approved, UMass was positioned to compete favorably, and received approximately $600 million of the allocated $1 billion. UMass Amherst also received approval to borrow $215.6 million to undertake new construction and renovation projects.
- Over the first three years the backlog of projects was reduced by more than $300 million, representing an 18% decrease in backlog.
- Over five years, space renovation projects were reduced from 41% of total DM backlog to 29%.
- Major investments were made in campus utility plant and building systems, providing economic return for the campus in reduced energy consumption and costs.
- In an effort to avoid the accumulation of future backlogs, annual stewardship of newer building has been increased.
This coordinated strategy of campus renewal and stewardship will preserve physical assets and enable UMass Amherst to continue to provide the high level of education expected.