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Facilities Information Management: A Guide for State and Local Education Agencies
  Introductory Material
Chapter 1
  Purpose and Scope
Chapter 2
   Customizing a School Facilities Data System
Chapter 3
   Using Data Elements for Analysis
Chapter 4
   Facility Data Elements
Chapter 5
   Resources and Connections
Calculated Data Elements
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Illustration of a building and a crane
Chapter 3
Using Data Elements for Analysis

The data elements are the building blocks upon which analysis and policy-making around school facilities rely. However, if public officials, facility managers, and planners are to make informed decisions and effectively communicate the needs of school facilities to the public, the hundreds or even thousands of data elements maintained on a district's school facilities must be translated into usable information. By "telling the story" of the inventory, condition, design, utilization, management, and funding of school facilities, measures constructed from these elements enable decision makers to evaluate whether school facilities adequately meet the educational needs of students and whether these facilities are equitably distributed throughout the district.

The measures in this chapter are syntheses of data elements that help communicate complex situations and conditions. Like data elements, the measures that are used to analyze school facilities must be unambiguous and uniformly defined. This chapter provides a more detailed explanation of a few key measures, including how they are calculated and how they are used.

Condition Measures

Statistics that describe the condition of a school facility are used by planners, architects, engineers, school facility managers, and the public to understand and compare the mechanical, structural, and environmental condition of school facilities. The two most commonly cited measures of school condition are building age and a facility condition index, which compares the cost to fix current building deficiencies with the cost to replace a building.

Functional Age

"The average age of our nation's school facilities is 40 years"6 is an oft-repeated truism that suggests that thousands of obsolete or run-down schools are in need of replacement or modernization. However, age alone, as defined by the year built, is a poor indicator of condition. Many of our finest civic and educational buildings are over 50 years old, and it is not uncommon to find 100-year-old schools in excellent condition and 20-year-old schools in poor condition. While the initial design and quality of construction, as well as basic maintenance over the years, contribute to the difference, more often than not, older schools that are in excellent condition have undergone a modernization program.

Functional age is an indicator used to address the imperfect correlation between the actual age of a school building, which reflects the date it was originally designed and built, and the condition of the school, which may have been altered considerably by major improvements. For a school that has never been fully modernized, functional age is measured from the year it was built; for a school that has undergone a full modernization, functional age is measured from the date of the most recent modernization. A full school modernization is when all major building systems and components have been replaced or upgraded to like new and the school has been modified, if appropriate, to support current educational programs and practice.7

The Facility Condition Index is a valuable tool for comparing the condition of schools.
Illustration of Trowel

Facility Condition Index

The Facility Condition Index (FCI) is a standard tool used by architects, engineers, and facility planners to compare the condition of school facilities and determine whether it is more economical to fully modernize an existing school or to replace it. This is a nationally recognized standard that has been adopted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers ( and the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers ( The index is computed as a ratio of the total cost to remedy identified deficiencies to the current replacement value of the building as illustrated in Formula 1.

Formula 1
Facility Condition Index

        Facility Condition Index (FCI) =   

Cost to Correct Deficiencies
Current Facility Replacement Value


For example, if the cost to fully modernize a school is estimated to be $8 million and the cost to replace the school is $12 million, then the Facility Condition Index is .66. If the FCI of a school is greater than 1, it may be more cost-effective to replace it rather than modernize it.

The FCI is a valuable tool for comparing the condition of schools provided the replacement value is calculated in the same way for each building and the deficiency estimates are done using comparable standards. Estimates of costs to correct deficiencies and of replacement value are very susceptible to manipulation by architects, planners, contractors, and facility managers. If there is a desire to replace a school, the replacement value can easily be underestimated and the cost to correct deficiencies can be overestimated.

In order to calculate the FCI, it is first necessary to identify a building's deficiencies. The three major types of building deficiencies are life-cycle, maintenance, and site deficiencies.

Life-Cycle Deficiencies

A life-cycle deficiency exists when a system, component, finish, fixture, or piece of installed equipment is in use beyond the recommended life of the item, as established by the manufacturer or school district standards. A life-cycle deficiency is recognized even though the system or equipment may still be functioning effectively. For example, until recently, some New York City Public Schools were heated by coal-fired boilers that had far exceeded their recommended life.

Maintenance Deficiencies

A maintenance deficiency, usually referred to as "deferred maintenance," exists when a system, component, fixture, or piece of equipment is nonfunctional or operates at less than optimal levels. The equipment may require minor maintenance, more extensive repair, or replacement. The age of the equipment—that is, whether it has exceeded its recommended life cycle—is not a consideration in determining deferred maintenance.

Site Deficiencies

Deficiencies in school sites include both "natural" deficiencies and those resulting from problems with site design or condition. Examples of natural site deficiencies include inadequate size, the presence of wetlands or rocky terrain, radon or other naturally occurring chemical pollutants, and inability to perk. Site design deficiencies might include inadequate parking, no student drop-off area, a poor approach to the front entrance, no city sewer or water hookups, and lack of road access. Examples of site condition deficiencies would be fencing, retaining walls, sidewalks, or blacktop in poor condition.

The standard used to measure facility condition is the price to repair the faulty equipment or site.

Illustration of Trowel

Calculation of Cost to Correct Deficiencies

Although the condition of equipment and facilities is typically measured in terms of "good, fair, and poor," aggregating these measurements would require a complex (and highly subjective) weighting formula. To alleviate this difficulty, the standard used to measure facility condition is the price to repair the faulty equipment or site. Thus the cost to correct deficiencies (the numerator of the Facility Condition Index equation) equals the estimated total costs to repair all life-cycle, maintenance, and design deficiencies.

Calculation of Replacement Value

Replacement value (the denominator in the FCI equation) is the cost to replace an existing structure with a new structure of the same size at the same location. Interior design and construction materials of the existing and proposed buildings may be different. The replacement value is calculated as in Formula 2.

Formula 2
Replacement Value

 Value =  
Gross square footage of existing building
X Estimated cost / square foot to design and build a new school

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Design indicators do not address the facility condition, but rather the size, type, and location of spaces in schools.

Illustration of Trowel

Design Measures

Building design determines the ability of a school building to accommodate the educational, administrative, support, and nonschool or community activities and programs provided by the school. It is described here, but is not amenable to simple calculation formulas. Design indicators do not address the facility condition, but rather the size, type, and location of spaces in schools. To determine whether a building is designed to support a school's educational program requires space standards, which may be set by a state agency or developed at the district level. For example, the Council of Education Facility Planners International (CEFPI) has a set of K-12 facility standards that provide a somewhat standardized framework for types of spaces and space sizes in a school. (Chapter 5 includes web addresses for CEFPI and other resource organizations.)

Before building space standards can be developed, the programmatic and instructional elements of a school need to be defined. Some examples of program factors that affect facility design include the presence of early childhood programs, scheduling decisions at the high school level, the level of integration of English as a second language (ESL) programs, the extent of career and vocational educational programs, and the use of technology in instruction. Once the programmatic and instructional requirements are defined, a comparative analysis can be done of the size and nature of the spaces available and the school facility space or design standards.

A design deficiency exists when a building, regardless of its condition, is unable to meet the space or operational standards of the state or school district without modifying or adding space. Examples of design deficiencies include the following:

  • inappropriate building size—a school may be too big (or too small) for its educational program or enrollment;
  • inability to accommodate persons with physical disabilities;
  • lack of specialized instructional areas for programs such as early childhood education, science, career/vocational education, art, music, or physical education;
  • lack of common spaces to accommodate large groups such as a gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria, or multipurpose room;
  • inability to use or integrate technology into administration or instruction due to a lack of supporting infrastructure; and
  • inability to apply modern security technology.

Utilization Measures

One of the primary responsibilities of a school district is to "house" students. If enrollments are growing, school districts need to plan for construction of new schools or additions to existing schools. If enrollments are shrinking, school districts need to reduce their school inventory, consolidate programs, lease out unused space, or close schools. Before policy makers can determine whether a school district needs to build (or close) schools, they need information on how schools are being utilized.

Finding out how a school is being used requires a room-by-room survey that reports how each room or space is used and the hours it is used. Such a survey may reveal that support spaces have been turned into classrooms, or that classrooms have been turned into support spaces. For example, perhaps an elementary school library is being used by a nonschool agency, occupying space originally intended for students.

School Utilization Rate

A school utilization rate gives facility planners, public officials, and the public a way to understand the extent to which buildings are used by comparing actual student enrollment to enrollment capacity of the school. If a school has a capacity of 450, and 500 students are enrolled, the utilization rate is 111 percent. Formula 3 illustrates the calculation of the School Utilization Rate.

Formula 3
School Utilization Rate

Actual School Utilization Rate =  
Student Enrollment
Enrollment Capacity
  X 100%

Enrollment capacity is also calculated differently in different types of schools.

Illustration of Trowel

Enrollment Capacity

Since school utilization rates are used to determine overcrowding and underutilization, it is important to understand the term enrollment capacity. It describes the maximum number of students that a school building can satisfactorily accommodate at one time for the particular educational program and curriculum offered. Typically, enrollment capacity is guided by state law, teacher contracts, and the classroom assignments of the principal. Factors that determine enrollment capacity are the number of classrooms in a school and the number of students who can be assigned to each classroom. The number of students assignable to a classroom varies by grade level and by the type of instruction being offered. For example, high school classrooms typically are designed to accommodate more students than elementary school classrooms. Also, fewer students would be assigned to a science lab than to a social studies class.

Enrollment capacity is also calculated differently in different types of schools. In a high school, both basic classrooms and specialty instructional spaces (such as art or music rooms) are counted toward capacity because regular classrooms are not left unoccupied while students get art or music instruction. Thus the formula for determining secondary school capacity is the sum of capacity for each type and number of classrooms multiplied by an optional utilization rate, which may range from 75 percent to 90 percent. An optional utilization rate recognizes the impossibility of scheduling classes so as to fully utilize every classroom every period. For example, an advanced science classroom may be able to accommodate 20 students, but there may be only 16 students in the 5th period class. Even if some other classes are over-capacity, the actual school utilization rate is never over 100 percent.

Enrollment capacity for a secondary school is calculated as the sum of the standard class size assigned to each type of classroom in the school times the number of classrooms of this type. Thus the capacity of two identical school buildings could be different if they offer different types of programs or are subject to different capacity limitations set by state law or teacher contracts. The calculation of secondary school capacity is illustrated by Formula 4.

Formula 4
Secondary School Enrollment Capacity
School Capacity =   
Sum of (Number of all classrooms
X Students assignable to each type of classroom)
X Optional utilization rate

In an elementary school, specialty instructional spaces are not counted in the calculation of capacity space since regular classrooms remain empty while classes are receiving instruction in the art room or music room. Enrollment capacity then is based on the standard class size assignable to each type of basic classroom in the school (for example, a prekindergarten room will have fewer students assignable to it than a 6th grade classroom, regardless of the rooms' actual sizes), not counting specialized classrooms. Moreover, a utilization rate is not applied. The calculation of enrollment capacity for an elementary school is illustrated by Formula 5.

Formula 5
Elementary School Enrollment Capacity

       Elementary School      Capacity =   Sum of (Number of basic classrooms
X Students assignable to each type of classroom)

Instructional spaces that generate capacity for enrollment are considered capacity space while all other rooms and spaces within a school building are considered noncapacity, or unassigned, space. Even though noncapacity space—including hallways, stairwells, cafeterias, playgrounds, parking lots, teacher work areas, storage rooms, restrooms, etc.—is not considered in the determination of enrollment capacity, it cannot be ignored when determining the adequacy of a facility. For example, the sizes of the existing cafeteria and hallways need to be considered when adding a wing with new classroom space.

Density Factor

Density factors are another way of comparing schools for overcrowding or underutilization. While utilization rates compare enrollment capacity to actual enrollment, the density factor compares the standard gross square feet of building space per student, as established by an educational specification space standard, to the actual amount of gross square feet of building space per student. There are no universal standards for how much space should be allotted for each student in a school. Rather, space standards vary according to the instructional program, school design, grade levels, and budget. The density factor is calculated as in Formula 6.

Formula 6
Density Factor

      Density Factor =     
Standard Gross Square Feet per Student
Actual Gross Square Feet per Student

If school district or state department of education guidelines indicate that a standard elementary school facility requires 115 gross square feet per student, an elementary school with 78 gross square feet of space per student has a density factor of 1.47. Another elementary school of the same size with fewer students, resulting in 140 gross square feet per student, would have a density factor of .82. A density factor of 1 indicates that a school has the density recommended in the guidelines.

Unassigned space that is not reflected in the calculation of enrollment capacity is counted when calculating the density factor. For example, one school may have 12 classrooms (each of which can accommodate 25 students), a lunchroom, and a main office adding up to a school capacity of 300 students. Another school has 12 classrooms of the same size (with 25 students assigned to each classroom), but also has a music room, art room, library, parent resource center, and main office. Both schools have an enrollment capacity of 300, but the second school would be less crowded and would have a lower density factor.

Calculation of Gross Square Feet per Student

A key measure in determining a school's density factor is the gross square feet per student (GSF/student). This is the total square footage of the school—including all instructional and noninstructional interior spaces—divided by the number of students enrolled at the school. The only spaces not included in this calculation are those used by nonschool programs, such as a community health clinic or offices for central administration staff. The calculation of GSF per student is shown as Formula 7.

Formula 7
Gross Square Feet per Student

         Gross Square Feet per Student =  Gross Square Footage of Building
Student Enrollment

The GSF/student measure is particularly useful when more detailed or reliable capacity information is unavailable. School districts usually know the gross size of a school and always have the current student enrollment. However, a shortcoming with this measure is that schools of the same size vary tremendously in design. A school built with an open-plan design and a school with the double-loaded corridors, small classrooms, and few support spaces that were typical of the 1950s could have the same gross square footage and the same enrollment, but one could feel crowded and the other one not because of how differently their space is used.

Instructional space is all space where there is direct instructional contact between a student and a teacher.

Illustration of Trowel

Net Square Feet per Student

Some of the problems of comparing school density using gross square footage are avoided by using the net square footage (NSF) of instructional space. Instructional space is all space where there is direct instructional contact between a student and a teacher. It includes certain types of noncapacity, or unassigned spaces, such as elementary school art and music rooms, libraries, and student project rooms. The calculation of NSF per student is shown in Formula 8.

Formula 8
Net Square Feet per Student

   Net Square Feet per Student =
Net Square Footage of Instructional Space
Student Enrollment

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Funding Measures

Operating expenditures and capital expenditures per student are often used to measure the sufficiency of a district's resources and the fairness of their distribution. School systems make facility expenditures from both their operating and capital budgets. The operating budget typically pays for cleaning, maintenance of school buildings and grounds, and minor repairs. The capital budget covers major facility improvements, design, and construction expenditures. Capital funds are usually borrowed, whereas operating funds come from taxes and state and federal allocations. It is useful to consider operating and capital budget expenditures separately when evaluating a district's facilities funding. The formulas to measure these expenditure levels are shown in Formulas 8 through 10.

Formula 8a
Maintenance and Repair Expenditure per Student


Maintenance and Repair
Expenditure per Student =
Total Operating Expenditures for Maintenance
and Repairs in Local School(s)
Student Enrollment

Formula 8b
Maintenance and Repair Expenditure per Square Foot

     Maintenance and Repair
Expenditure per Square Foot =
Total Operating Expenditures for Maintenance
and Repairs in Local School(s)
Gross Square Footage of Building(s)

Formula 9a
Utility Expenditure per Student

     Utility Expenditure per Student =   Total Utility Expenditures in Local School(s)
Student Enrollment

Formula 9b
Utility Expenditure per Square Foot

 Utility Expenditure per Square Foot =    Total Utility Expenditures in Local School(s)

Gross Square Footage of Building(s)

Formula 10a
Capital Expenditure per Student

    Capital Expenditure per Student =   Total Capital Expenditures in Local School(s)
Student Enrollment

Formula 10b
Capital Expenditure per Square Foot

  Capital Expenditure per Square  Foot =  Total Capital Expenditures in Local School(s)

Gross Square Footage of Building(s)

Measures of expenditures should always be looked at both on a per-square-foot basis and on a per-student basis. In a relational database, costs can be compiled and analyzed for the state, a school district, a region within the district, by type of school (elementary, middle, secondary), and for individual schools. This has become particularly important in light of ongoing court challenges to perceived inequities in school funding.

The following chapter provides definitions for the data elements used to construct indicators of facility condition, design, utilization, management, and funding.


6 Laurie Lewis, Kyle Snow, Elizabeth Farris, Becky Smerdon, Stephanie Cronen, Jessica Kaplan, Condition of America’s Public School Facilities: 1999 (NCES 2000-032) (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2000).

7 Op. Cit.

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