Ninety-three percent of surveyed facility managers within the education vertical say they have experienced at least one emergency incident stemming from infrastructure malfunction during the last 12 months, and 43% report a physical site or cybersecurity breach in that time, according to a report released by Honeywell. Nearly half (45%) say they rank site security (video surveillance and campus access control) or fire and life safety systems as a top priority over the next 12 to 18 months.
This report, “Rethinking Education Facilities as Digital Entities,” the second in Honeywell’s 2021 Building Trends series, presents the assessments, challenges, and priorities of education facility managers in the United States, Germany, and China. It highlights current conditions in school facilities, spanning both geographical regions and education levels—from pre-kindergarten through primary, secondary, trade schools, colleges, and universities. Facility managers voice their concerns about physical infrastructure, such as outdated HVAC systems, as well as plans to invest in digital infrastructure to enhance site security, occupant safety, building health, and emergency response.
“Education facility managers are tasked not only with creating an environment conducive to learning, but also with protecting the safety of their students, staff, and campuses while at the same time managing new challenges to address asynchronous learning,” says Michael Cavanaugh, Vice President and General Manager of Building Management Systems for Honeywell Building Technologies. “Physical safety tops their list of concerns as they also shift emphasis to areas like improving indoor air quality, which has been shown to positively impact student performance.”
According to Honeywell, the survey results from education facility managers across all three countries underscore five key themes:
Security and Safety Are Top Priorities
Half (52%) of respondents rank site security as a top priority, including 34% who say improving site security through video surveillance, access control, and/or asset security systems is their top priority over the next 12 to 18 months. When asked about their facility concerns, a majority of respondents list physical site security and access control (77%); communicating important information to staff, students, and parents (76%); identifying true security and intrusion issues (73%); and air filtration and contaminant reduction (74%).
Healthy Buildings Remain a Focus Area
Compared to their pre-pandemic priorities, 63% of surveyed education facility managers are now more willing to invest in healthy building solutions. A majority (58%) of respondents list a healthy building as a top priority now, and slightly more (60%) say it will remain a top priority beyond COVID-19. As for which elements of a healthy building they consider most important, 49% of respondents say improving indoor air quality and 47% rate real-time access to building health metrics as critical.
Education Facilities Deal with Infrastructure and Budgeting Challenges
Honeywell says surveyed education facility managers experience more challenges—and have more difficulty addressing them—than their counterparts in the healthcare, data center, or commercial real estate sectors. Nearly a fourth (23%) cite at least one emergency stemming from fire, smoke, gas, overheating, or water over the past 12 months, and 56% have had to deal with an incident related to less threatening, but still disruptive, infrastructure malfunctions such as a power or network outage. More than 7 in 10 (71%) say budgeting for upgrades or new technology solutions is often difficult. Supposing they can secure the budget, 72% say implementing the upgrades can be challenging. Other top areas for improvement include creating a healthier, safer environment for occupants (65%); minimizing downtime or disruptions (71%); and achieving or increasing energy efficiency (71%).
Digital Transformation Compounds Educators’ Infrastructure Needs
More than 7 in 10 (71%) of respondents find it difficult to keep pace with technological change in their facility systems. Asked whether they currently have digitally enabled health, safety, or security technology, fewer than 4 in 10 respondents answer affirmatively to any of the following: gunshot detection (15%); an app that provides real-time building health data (27%); integrated lighting that improves occupant productivity (27%); software that provides insight into fire systems (33%); remote building management (35%); or aspirating smoke detection (34%).
A Smart School Is Key to a Healthier, Safer, and More Secure School
Across all three countries, 64% of respondents are more likely to invest in smart building solutions today than they were pre-pandemic, and 56% say the ability to manage all building systems through a single platform that provides unified data and insights is one of the most important aspects of a smart building. As for specific digital solutions, a majority are likely to invest in at least one of the following in the next 12 to 18 months: an app that provides real-time building health information (37%); software to provide better access and insight into fire systems (35%); security products with increased cybersecurity protocols (34%); contactless building entry (31%); or remote building management (27%).