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Postsecondary Education

NCES 2006-160
May 2006

2.2 Database Applications

Facilities Inventory Data Should Be Capable of Uniform Aggregation. Facilities information is important for interinstitutional comparison, for planning and management of the institution or institutional systems, and perhaps for development of national policy. The information gathered in the inventory should be structured to make valid comparisons and summaries possible. (Please refer to chapter 5 for a full discussion of aggregating and reporting facilities inventory data.)

External Applications. From the basic coding structure described above, most inter-institutional comparisons, system reports, and national surveys can be satisfactorily developed by adding additional fields (see section 5.3, optional data Elements). Institutions should build from this conceptual framework to enhance the inventory’s usefulness for individual campus management. Appendix A provides guidance in using the FICM for data reporting and interinstitutional data exchange.

Use of Standard Functional Categories. In addition to space use categories and organizational unit assignment, facilities inventory systems commonly contain a set of categories or codes to allocate space across functional categories (e.g., instruction, research, public service, academic support). The functional categories are used primarily to link space allocations to financial data for indirect cost accounting and to institutional missions (e.g., the proportion of space used for public service) or to analyze and compare space allocations across institutions according to commonly used functional categories.

The functional categories recommended for this purpose are adapted from standard financial reporting categories. Appendix B provides the definitions for these categories as adapted from standard financial reporting guidelines of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-21. Coding for function requires identification of the prorated functional use of each space.

Internal Applications. The following are illustrative of internal database applications.

  • Institutions may wish to add additional detail to the space use coding structures for internal purposes. For example, a college or university might add subcodes to the space use code 255 of Research/Nonclass Laboratory Service to keep track of cold rooms, hot rooms, dark rooms, laboratory stock rooms, and similar spaces.
  • Some institutions may wish to differentiate between classrooms assigned to individual departments and those centrally controlled by the registrar or dean’s office by sorting classrooms by their organizational assignment.
  • Institutions may wish to identify study rooms or labs with specialized equipment for moderated instruction or study by linking data from a movable or fixed equipment data file to the appropriate spaces in the inventory file.

Some Kinds of Spaces Can Have Many Stations. The concept of “stations” is important for classrooms, laboratories, and other similar space, since it can help determine the number of occupants the space is designed to accommodate. This information is vital for comparing designed capacity to actual use, and in assigning or scheduling the space.

Distinctive Architectural and Other Characteristics Can Be Noted. optional data elements with specific codes may be used to identify unique architectural characteristics, special utility services, replacement cost, age, condition, suitability, or building ownership. This information is used for a variety of purposes, including scheduling and maintenance planning, financial analysis, and campus planning. These characteristics are also important for understanding cost differences in initial construction, renovations, repairs, and operations.

While this coding can sometimes be determined from up-to-date drawings or the general knowledge of the facilities planning or management staff, these characteristics may be difficult to identify from original designs or original as-built drawings and may require actual inspection of some facilities.

Some Data Elements Are Important for Campus Use But Are of Limited Use in Multi-Institutional Summaries. The list of data elements includes some items that are important for campus use but lose their meaning in interinstitutional, state, or national summaries. For instance, identifiers such as names for particular buildings and spaces are essential for campus use but not in a state summary. Similarly, organizational unit identifiers (e.g., departments) are important on a particular campus but become less meaningful when summarized across institutions because of differences in organizational structures.

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