Space Management Policy

Policy number10-03
Responsible officeSpace Advisory Committee
Enforcement officialDirector of Planning, Space Management and Capital Projects
ClassificationBoard of Trustees-delegated Policy
Category10. Facilities and Environmental Management

Statement of policy

Assigned space in WMU facilities is based on program needs and institutional priorities as determined by the president and president’s cabinet. Space is reassigned if those needs and priorities change. This Policy sets forth space management principles and management responsibilities for the assignment and reassignment of space; requests for new space or renovation of existing space; or changing the primary function of a space.

Summary of contents/major changes

This is a new policy.

  1. Purpose of Policy

    WMU recognizes that there are significant costs to operate and maintain the campus physical infrastructure. The management of space is particularly important given reductions in state appropriations and support for capital projects, decreases in enrollment and changes in instruction modality in recent years, together with limits in debt-financing for capital projects.

    However, there are ongoing reasons supporting space management even in the best of times. Space is a treasured resource with significant associated expenses, so it is a strategic asset. The cost of managing and operating space is typically a university’s largest non-personnel expenditure. Space must be strategically managed to support our mission to achieve excellence in learning and discovery.

    Evolving instructional pedagogy and changing needs to support outstanding scholarly and creative activities will change priorities for the use of physical space, whether academic space or more general use. Quality and availability of space impacts external competition for students, faculty and staff, research grants, contracts and significantly impacts reputational image.

    This Policy sets forth space management principles and management responsibilities, for the assignment and reassignment of space; requests for new space or renovation of existing space; or changing the primary function of a space.

  2. Stakeholders Most Impacted by the Policy

    The availability and condition of space impacts all of campus – students, faculty, staff and visitors.

  3. Key Definitions

    1. Individual Request: A departmental, unit, division request regarding space use.

    2. Space Audits: Periodic reviews to evaluate a room’s physical characteristics and academic or administrative attributes.

    3. Space Advisory Committee (SAC): An administrative committee reporting and making recommendations to the President and President’s Cabinet. SAC will review specific requests and proposals for space assignment, renovation, construction or change in use.

    4. Space Inventory: A database for identifying campus buildings, rooms, usage, and occupants.

    5. Space Utilization Studies: Engagements usually performed by external consultants to evaluate the efficacy of space use for intended purpose.

    6. Space Advisory Committee Scorecard: An evaluative tool that is used by the Committee to determine support for endorsing a requested space change.

  4. Full Policy Details

    1. All University land, facilities, and buildings belong to the University as a whole and are subject to assignment and reassignment to meet the overall needs and best interest of the institution. This includes but is not limited to all academic space, auxiliary facilities, and facilities assigned to Intercollegiate Athletics. Long-range planning for optimum use of these valuable, essential University assets is a continuing process.

    2. Western Michigan University must manage and maintain physical facilities in keeping with its mission, policy, and with reasonable use. The mission and values of Western Michigan University are the foundation for making space decisions. Being learner centered and student focused means we consistently evaluate our space in alignment with how to best serve our students. As a research institution with a commitment to our discovery mission, physical facilities must meet the needs of research and creative activities.

    3. Guiding Principles: Space will be managed in accordance with these guiding principles:

      1. Space is a valuable resource.

      2. Space needs will be evaluated using best practices, such as quantitative metrics and functional considerations.  For example, course enrollments, contact hours, staffing levels, research equipment requirements, etc., are some of the factors used in space need assessments.

      3. Space decisions will be made through an equitable lens, meaning that the guiding principles will be consistently followed in managing space decisions.

      4. Space belongs to the university and will be assigned in a manner that best advances WMU’s priorities.  Space is not owned by a department or functional unit and is not a permanent assignment; but rather a commitment based upon current program needs and priorities.  Prioritization will align with the University’s strategic plan, the Master Campus Plan, and goals set by the President and the President’s Cabinet.

      5. Space is a fluid resource.  It will be periodically re-balanced based on evolving/emerging needs of the University versus benefit received by continuing with the current assignment.

      6. In assigning and reassigning space, the University will consider the organizational structure of the space in question (department/division/college) and how space location impacts collaboration and efficient and effective operations.

      7. To align with the university’s strong commitment to sustainability and mitigation of climate change, the university will, within constraints of existing technology and budget, use sustainable best practices for space construction and renovation.

      8. Costs to renovate a space will be the responsibility of the requesting department.  Costs to operate a space will follow the Strategic Resource Management Budget model.

    4. Input Process: 

      1. It is important that space meets the needs of our students, faculty and staff.  The Space Advisory Committee will periodically confer with the University’s shared governance partners – Western Student Association (WSA), Graduate Student Association (GSA), and the Faculty Senate – when evaluating space management. Timing of these input sessions will be dependent upon the volume and timing of projects under consideration.  At a minimum, there will be an annual meeting with each partner.

      2. The University will seek broader campus input for individual projects.  The Campus Planning and Finance Council of the Faculty Senate remains an important source of feedback regarding individual project design and priority.  Similarly, public sessions will be held for either new construction or significant renovations.  

      3. The University recognizes that distinct spaces on campus are critical for advancing and nurturing student experiences and engagement.    Therefore, broad student input will be sought for all significant residence hall, dining, classroom or student community space projects such as a recreation center or student center.  

    5. Policy Administration:  

      1. The SAC is responsible for administering this Policy.  

      2. SAC members are:

        1. Director of Intercollegiate Athletics

        2. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs 

        3. Vice President for Advancement

        4. Vice President for Business and Finance

        5. Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

        6. Vice President for Research and Innovation

        7. Vice President for Student Affairs

        8. Secretary to the Board of Trustees

        9. A dean appointed by the Provost annually to represent university-wide interests

        10. Director of Planning, Space Management and Capital Projects (non-voting staff liaison)

    6. Space Advisory Committee 

      1. Decisions regarding University space will be made to maintain and promote effective and efficient utilization.  The Space Advisory Committee may conduct either conditional analysis studies or space utilization reviews to determine how well the University is managing a particular space type.

      2. The SAC will use following tools assist in space management:  Space Audits; Space Inventory; Space Utilization Studies; and a Space Advisory Committee Scorecard.

      3. Information obtained from Space Audits will be used to update the physical space inventory.  Space audits provide information for the assessment of space assignments, prospective planning to accommodate changing situations and realignment of program priorities.

      4. Committee Responsibilities

        1. SAC will review and adopt space guidelines brought forward and recommended by the Planning, Space Management and Capital Projects department.

        2. SAC will meet as needed to respond to space requests.  

        3. SAC will review, analyze, and prioritize Requests related to space received by Planning, Space Management and Capital Projects department.  All Requests will be acted on by SAC but may be done so in an order other than date of submission.

        4. The SAC will update and recommend space changes under its purview to the President’s Cabinet for action.

        5. SAC will initiate and oversee ad hoc studies to improve space efficiencies and maximize space utilization. Third party consultants may be engaged to perform the study. In such cases, the committee will accept the report and recommend any action(s) to be taken as a result of the study.

        6. For academic learning space, SAC will designate which spaces are managed by the Registrar versus the College, and the rationale for assignment authority.

        7. SAC will provide input to the Campus Master Plan and ensure space decisions align with the Master Plan.

        8. SAC will review and support the State’s mandated Five-Year Capital Outlay Plan and the related Building Project Priority List.

        9. SAC will make general recommendations on matters of space resource management.

      5. Generally, departments and/or divisions will manage space assignments in their own areas.  Departments and/or divisions must engage the SAC when space assignment and re-assignment crosses divisions, requires space renovation that equals or exceeds one-million dollars ($1M), changes the primary function of a room whether within or across departments/divisions, or for new construction requests.

      6. The SAC must review guidelines developed by Planning, Space Management and Capital Projects for distinct space types and functions, such as offices, classroom, space to support research and creative activities or community spaces, prior to any action based on those guidelines.  It is understood that professionals engaged to renovate or construct new space are responsible for compliance with all code and legal regulations.  ADA compliance is but one example of a critical component for space.

    7. Space Operating and Allocation Considerations

      1. Space vacated by a physical move, renovation, or new construction will be returned to the campus inventory as unassigned space.  Likewise, space vacated due to a reduction in program size, reduction in workforce, or program elimination will be returned as unassigned campus inventory.

      2. Before proceeding with new building construction, SAC will consider the following factors:

        1. Alignment with strategic priorities and program need;

        2. Commitment to balance new construction with a commensurate or greater reduction in existing physical square footage on campus, unless strategic priorities and budget justify an increase in physical space;

        3. Utilization studies of existing space/use to substantiate the need for construction before a project is initiated;

        4. Funding availability for both construction and future operations;

        5. Legal requirements or restrictions

      3. The Space Advisory Committee will consider the following when evaluating requests for renovation of existing space:

        1. Programmatic needs

        2. Health and life safety needs

        3. Life cycle condition of the existing space

        4. Available funding for the renovation

        5. Legal requirements or restrictions

      4. The SAC or the Office of Planning, Space Management, and Capital Projects will consult the Office of University Advancement if there is any potential for construction, renovation, or change to named and/or if significant donor support has been, or might be, provided for the project.  Naming rights must meet the criteria in the  Facilities and Spaces Naming Policy

      5. All space data, analysis, and reports are in the public domain and available via request.

      6. Preserving co-location of departments or operating units is a high priority.  A concerted effort will be made to maintain co-location whenever possible.

    8. Assignment and Reassignment of Space

      1. Generally, a department, college or divisional unit may reassign or refresh space within their unit when the use remains unchanged.  If the space is named in accordance with the University’s naming policy, then the Office of University Advancement must be consulted before the initiation of any project. 

      2. Day-to-day responsibility for the assignment of specific spaces to individuals and uses within a department rests with the director or chair of that department.   

      3. The president, provost, vice presidents, director of intercollegiate athletics and deans retain the flexibility to reassign space within their areas of responsibility to maximize use and to facilitate changes in program needs.  

      4. All other assignment and reassignment of space is under the purview of the Space Advisory Committee, including but not limited to, space re-assignment between vice presidential divisions and/or other executives reporting to the President.

      5. Requests for additional space must be supported by the unit vice president/athletics executive director and/or president.

      6. The Board of Trustees reserves the right to approve land and building purchases and leases that have terms that are longer than one year.  Respecting this authority while understanding that purchases and leases expand the university’s physical footprint, real property purchases and leases (regardless of the term) must be brought to the committee for consideration and endorsement prior to seeking Board approval.

    9. New Construction: Generally, new construction projects must also come to the Space Advisory Committee.  It is understood that the process used to prepared the State’s Five-Year Capital Outlay Plan and the related Building Project Priority List validates that the projects has already been endorsed by the Committee and the President and the President’s Cabinet.  If authorized by the State, these projects will proceed without further consideration by the Space Advisory Committee. 

  5. Accountability

    Failure to follow this Policy and any associated procedures may subject WMU employees to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment by the University, consistent with applicable procedures and Collective Bargaining Agreements.

    Additional consequences for non-compliance may include project stoppage and/or other disruption until the policy is followed.

  6. Related Procedures and Guidelines

    Forms and processes may be found at For additional questions you may have regarding this policy, please contact the Director of Planning, Space Management and Capital Projects.

  7. Additional Information

    Faculty Senate Campus Planning and Finance Council 

    Five-Year Capital Outlay Plan

  8. FAQs

    1. Question:  Where do I find the form necessary to initiate a space renovation that costs $1M or more, new construction, enter into a lease, or purchase property? 


    2. Question:  If I am a director, dean or vice president and want to reassign space within my operational area and the space is solely used by my area, do I need to bring this project to the Space Advisory Committee?   

      A:       No, as long as the space retains the same use.  However, if you intend a significant change in use and/or the space is used by multiple units then the request must come to the space committee.

    3. Question:  Will the Space Advisory Committee or the Strategic Resource Management policy create incentives regarding space?    

      A:       There will be dialogue between both groups, but the Strategic Resource Management protocol will be used for decision-making regarding incentives and impact to budget for space related action.

    4. Question:  Will further detail and procedures be developed for unique space types such as for classrooms and research labs?     

      A:       It is expected that individual vice presidents may work with their own advisory group to develop more detailed guidelines for space types that are critical for their operational success.


Effective date of current versionMay 10, 2022
Date first adoptedMay 10, 2022
Revision history
Thursday, May 26, 2022 - 09:20 Revised section 4.8.4 per public comment.
Proposed date of next reviewMay 12, 2025


Certified by

Director of Planning, Space Management  and Capital Projects

At the direction of

Jan Van Der Kley

Vice President, Office of Business & Finance