There are few opportunities quite as coveted on the Colorado State University campus as the prospect of new office and lab space.
While the university’s employment base has grown by hundreds over the last decades, until recent years the square footage available for office, lab and research space had remained mostly static, making finding space for growing departments and units a significant challenge. Creative solutions were often in order.
“It hasn’t been unusual for supply closets to be renovated for office space,” said Kristi Buffington, planning specialist with Facilities Management. “We had to make do with the space we had, and we often had to renovate spaces to make them work.”
Over the years, the task of fitting employees into limited space has became an art form, carried out through the university’s Space Committee. In the last year, the completion of several new buildings has started something akin to a highly orchestrated shuffle. It’s been a flurry of activity involving the moves of at least 230 people from one office space to another, all managed by Buffington, armed with a slew of maps and floorplans.
She often personally visits and assesses each newly available space, and consults with others, such as Facility Management’s remodeling services unit, on issues including utility support, assessing if a vent system can be converted to handle a laboratory, or if the space can be reworked for some other use. She also looks at adherence to recently created office space standards.
“It’s been a luxury to have space to accommodate needs,” said Buffington, who manages space requests and makes recommendations for final placement to the Space Committee. “Before we completed construction on spaces like the new Biology and Chemistry buildings, the options for office and lab space disappointed a lot of people.”
With completed construction, the university has 1.176 million square feet of office space on its three Fort Collins campuses, accommodating about 7,000 employees. The university also leases spaces near campus along Research Boulevard, Howes Street and various other locations.
Old space available for new tenants
Occupants of the new spaces on campus were identified well in advance of the buildings’ completion – often as part of the funding component for the construction. As they have moved into the new buildings, the space they vacated became available.
To organize the unusual influx of available space, a request for proposal process provided the opportunity for campus units to request space and for Buffington, along with the Space Committee, to assess needs and evaluate the best use and fit for each new space. Three proposal cycles to date have provided access to space available in 21 different buildings and generated dozens of proposals from across campus.
“In the past, vacated space was typically retained by the originally assigned department and filled without consideration of the overall needs of the university,” said Lynn Johnson, vice president for Operations and the chair of the space committee. “While we’ve always tried to be thoughtful about how space is used, we now have the ability to take a larger view and align the use of vacated space more closely with the university’s master plan and highest need.”
The university’s master plan consists of a long-term, detailed process the purpose of which is to provide guidelines for the utilization and development of the university’s square mile main campus as well as south and foothills campuses. The master plan guides the total physical environment of campus as space and needs evolve.
“We can organize locations, provide better functional ‘fits’ and uses of a space, and cluster activities that make sense to co-locate together in a way that we’ve not had the opportunity to do in the past,” Johnson said. “We’re strategically addressing the university’s needs and correlating the options for space with what makes the most sense for our campus community.”