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Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 12:18pm

Universities Get Creative With Space

The University System of Georgia is challenging its 31 public colleges and universities to use their buildings more efficiently.

A new study finds a lot of idle time in the system's classroom space.

The amount of time classrooms are sitting empty is hard to quantify and varies from school to school.

But it's clear from the new report that only four of 39 main campuses in the system are either nearing capacity or meeting space utilization targets.

Armstrong Atlantic State University President Linda Bleicken says the study suggests USG officials will be taking a closer look at building requests.

"One of the ways that we used these results was really to encourage our faculty to use more of the day and to think about taking our classes into the evening when we can actually touch more non-traditional students who work all day," Bleicken says.

In another example, Bleicken points to AASU's recent need for more space in a library expansion.

Options for new square footage proved too expensive.

The solution was to create a new computer-rich study center in an already-existing building located near the library.

The building, formerly housing information technology services, simply needed to be remodeled.

IT was consolidated and moved across campus.

The space utilization issue has been a signature project of USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby.

Huckaby announced a pilot program looking at space utilization four months after taking office in May 2011.

USG spokesman John Millsaps says campuses are using the study to consider alternatives to new construction.

"It is slowing down proposals from campuses," Millsaps says. "Campuses are taking a really hard look at the data. And what they assumed were needs, they are realizing that there might be a different approach to move forward."

The study comes as enrollment and funding challenges are squeezing campuses to become more efficient.