Maximize Space Efficiencies

Deferring campus growth could avoid about 26,000 tons of CO2-e emissions annually by the year 2040...

Space Planning and Management is a Neutrality goal in the Cornell Climate Action Plan (CAP).

Strengthen strategies to manage the use and allocation of campus space, and plan for maximum space efficiencies in renovation and construction projects.

Goal: Reduce energy (and greenhouse gas emissions) associated with new building construction by reducing the amount of new space required on campus.

Efficient space planning reduces the amount of new building required on campus

Future energy use can be reduced and avoided through efficient and effective use of existing campus space. Cornell’s Space Use Advisory Committee (SUAC), formed in March 2010, has successfully incorporated the principles of space planning and management into the university’s capital project decision-making process. SUAC members are vice provosts/vice presidents or their direct representatives. In the past few years, the SUAC has codified Cornell’s space planning and management protocols as follows:

  • Published Guidelines for Space Needs Studies (2011), which requires units to present projects proposing the addition of space to the SUAC
  • Published Space Management Principles (2012) and Space Management Principles as applied to Cornell Instructional Space (2014)
  • Published Procedure for the Reallocation of Space (2012); proposals for 12 different spaces have been solicited 
  • Developed standard process for pulling and analyzing space data; created standard reports for space data (1996- 2014)
  • Implemented SUAC review of needs for leased space (2013)
  • Published Use of Central Scheduling Tools, requiring all teaching spaces to be schedule through one, university-supported tool

The SUAC endorsed 26 recommendations identified by Advisory Groups to the Ithaca Campus Space Utilization Study (completed in 2013). Four recommendations are complete and significant progress has been made on several others.

The overarching goal of the space management function is to develop strategies to enable units to more fully utilize existing space, through re-purposing to higher priority needs, sharing with other units, reallocating to other units, and/or making strategic capital investments to improve quality and functionality. For more information, visit Cornell's Space Planning website.

Next Steps

  • Implement Ithaca Campus Space Utilization Study recommendations, including publishing updated space guidelines; launching new scheduling software for classroom and event spaces; and integrating that software with HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) control software. Currently, the university uses class schedules to determine HVAC cycles but applies the schedule at a fairly high level. So, for instance, the systems might come on at 6 AM and turn off at 11 PM. If the HVAC systems can be interfaced with the scheduling system, many spaces would likely turn “on” less, and thus the university would save energy.
  • Revise the university’s architectural agreements to include clearer definitions and deliverable expectations for space programs.


This action is dependent on continued funding and senior leadership support for the role of space planning in capital project development.