On June 9, 2017, I was able to present to the University of Florida Board of Trustees about the issues facing UF/IFAS and our facilities in 10 minutes.
Here is our challenge: “How will IFAS recruit, retain, and support preeminent faculty without enough resources for its facilities?”
PART ONE: OVERVIEW OF IFAS FACILITIES
IFAS is one of the major facility divisions at UF, managing 3.9 million gross square feet of built space across the state and on the main UF campus. The IFAS Facilities, Planning, and Operations group provide support for many of our on campus facilities, all of the off campus research sites, and 4-H camps, and other sites from Homestead, to Vero Beach, to Quincy, to Jay in the Panhandle.
IFAS also occupies 549,000 square feet of space 15 buildings in the core of campus which are managed by the E&G facilities group, and IFAS pays the campus rate for square footage in those buildings.
Just like everyone at UF, our challenges include quality of space, location of space, and some quantity of space. These include classrooms, teaching laboratories, research laboratories, growth chambers, greenhouses, farm lands, and offices, and these issues are state-wide.
Here are three specific examples of concern:
1) IFAS is lacking modern growth chambers and greenhouses for plant breeding. In particular, our growth chambers are really outdated and are a hindrance for our excellent plant-based research departments.
2) Another area of concern are our teaching facilities. We have outdated classrooms without the ability to teach in a 21st century method. Moving chairs around doesn’t really work with the old fashioned desks or fixed seating. Because many of the classrooms are in older buildings, the noise level is quite high. We have limited classrooms on the west side of campus where many of our programs are. Our teaching laboratories are also quite outdated.
3) Our laboratories are also outdated. We have some which have been renovated, but they might be next door to an older one which has not. We have some facilities which don’t have the right kind of laboratory for their new faculty and we are really working to leverage start up packages and other resources to recruit and retain faculty.
PART TWO: RESOURCES FOR FACILITIES
We are able to renovate some places each year, but there are not enough funding resources to catch up to the demand. Our facilities are a real challenge for us to entice a faculty member to join or to stay with us.
One of the major sources of funding for improvements is a share of the UF Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds for deferred maintenance. IFAS has historically received about ¼ of the funding which comes to UF in an internal split. Last year, in a very good year with the state, IFAS received $4.1M of the $24.8M UF share in PECO dollars to spend on maintenance projects, but the average is $2.5M. This year UF will receive $17.1M total for maintenance. Simply put, there are not enough dollars for our maintenance needs, driving us further behind. Also, it is not a predictable amount, as you can see from the chart showing the “Sum of the Digits” formula.
PECO also provides funding for new major buildings through the Florida Board of Governors and the Florida legislature. IFAS hasn’t been in the top 3 of the UF list in recent history and accordingly has not built any major projects through this source. Some of our major projects have lingered on the full PECO list for many years without moving up to the top.
Plant Operations and Maintenance dollars provides recurring funding based on a formula to universities for utilities and maintenance. Older facilities have one set amount to provide these dollars based on square footage, and newer facilities built after 1989 have been receiving dollars based on its facility usage type and size. These funds are used to pay for utilities, and other operational costs. Older facilities don’t receive nearly enough to cover their needs. The past two years the legislature has not funded ANY PO&M funds for new space at all; IFAS requested an allocation to support 77,807 additional new square feet of built space over the past two years, and received zero.
UF has future large buildings coming online, such as the Data Science building, which is asking for about $2M from PO&M. It will be be a significant challenge to operate if PO&M doesn’t come from the state to support it.
PART THREE: IFAS FPO AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY INITIATIVES
On a positive note, we are very proud of our IFAS Facilities, Planning and Operations team who do a lot with minimal resources. IFAS FPO runs a very tight organization with 60 employees supporting IFAS Facilities. They receive about $4.2 of recurring PO&M utilities and maintenance dollars from the state. The remaining $8.5M of state funds in the IFAS budget covers employees, custodial costs, and insurance.
IFAS is proud of our significant efforts to invest in energy efficiency for the past 15 years. We have managed to keep our utilities cost lower than they were a decade ago despite adding a lot of built space—we have added about 800,000 square feet of space since 2004.
Specific efforts that we are proud of include the two IFAS buildings, the microbiology building and the entomology building, that we have done Energy Savings Contracts with (ESCO) and we have talked about our positive results with the Board of Trustees before. These two buildings have continued to show savings of utility costs, which we use to reinvest back into our facilities.
Unfortunately not all of our facilities have had this opportunity, and we still are doing things like using window air conditioning units to keep the laboratory cool enough to operate with lab equipment.
Other energy efficiency efforts we make at IFAS Facilities include tracking utility usage across the state with a dashboard; designing new laboratories to share fume hood rooms with ventilation so that they only come on when someone walks into that small room as opposed to the entire laboratory; maximizing the use of chilled water before it cycles back into the chiller; and continuing to invest every dollar we can back into projects to further reduce utility usage.
Having preeminent facilities to support our faculty is part of Dr. Fuchs’ strategic plan. There are tremendous opportunities across UF and IFAS to be more aggressive with energy efficiency efforts with the support of the Board of Trustees as part of a strategic plan for facilities. It will take some significant effort to make a dent in the needs for UF and IFAS facilities, as the resources are not predictable, reliable, or large enough.