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Key Objective: 2.2.1 Improve Space Utilization

The iCAP 2020, objective 2.2.1 is: “Improve efficiency of space use by minimizing the square footage per person and updating the Space Policy in the Campus Administrative Manual (CAM) by FY23.” The responsible campus unit for championing this objective is Provost. Progress is tracked in the iCAP Portal project page for Maintain or Reduce Gross Square Footage.

Associated Metric

No metric specified for this objective


Because building space is linked to energy demand, careful stewardship of campus square footage is a vital component of our GHG reduction strategy. Likewise, a clear understanding of the anticipated growth or reduction of building square footage is needed for developing an effective energy plan.

As reported by Sightlines, LLC, the Urbana campus has low space use efficiency compared to other universities in the Big Ten[1]. Figure 7 illustrates our campus density factor (i.e., the square footage of campus divided by the equivalent full-time users) in relation to our Big Ten peers and compared to the average across the higher education institutions Sightlines, LLC evaluates; clearly, there is room for improvement. 


Figure 7: Total Campus Density Factor in Relation to Peers

To improve our space use efficiency, we need to increase space utilization rates, remove outdated and unneeded spaces, and actively restrict the growth of total campus GSF. 

Increasing space utilization rates can include clarifying appropriate allocation policies for various room categories and implementing innovative solutions like hot-desking (wherein workspaces are used by multiple people on a rotating basis). Removing unneeded spaces can include renovations or demolitions; the 2017 Campus Master Plan update identified specific buildings that should be demolished. In light of current COVID-19 concerns and any threats to public health that may arise in the future, we will implement these and other space use efficiency strategies only when they fully align with campus safety protocol. 

Efforts to actively restrict the growth of campus GSF began with the 2010 iCAP commitment to enact a “no net increase in space” policy. The Net Zero Space Growth policy in the CAM (FO-44)[2] was established in June 2015; since its inception, both the 2017 Campus Master Plan update and the Integrated and Value-Centered Budget (IVCB) reform have been implemented. The Campus Master Plan defined campus plans for the next 10 years, with only a 1.5% GSF increase. Concurrently, the IVCB budgeting system redirects transitioned energy and space costs from the Office of the Provost and F&S to academic colleges and administrative units.

A complete halt to campus expansion cannot be sustained indefinitely. Educating our students and researching grand challenges will, at times, require growth beyond the current GSF. Regarding these likely increases, it is important that we keep an eye on our Climate Leadership Commitments and remain thoughtful stewards of our campus space.  

Over the next few years, the Office of the Provost will work to update the CAM space policy, providing insight into how to address the tension between an inherent need to grow as an institution and the need to limit GSF. This will result in a sustainable space stewardship program that holds university administration accountable for maintaining the highest standards of space use efficiency while including a review and approval process to manage growth and reduce emissions.


[1]Sightlines ROPA+ University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, FY18

Associated Project


Project History

  • 2/27/2023

    The Energy iCAP Team Met on 2/27/23 to discuss the progress of submitted recommendations and develop new recommendations.

  • 1/30/2023

    The Energy iCAP Team met on January 30th, 2023 to discuss recommendations on building energy efficiency and revitalizing the energy scholars council at UIUC.