Space Planning at NIU


In fall 2018, a long-term project began to ultimately align one of the university's most valuable resources, space, with its mission and goals. This is a multi-phase process that will involve collaboration with the campus community to take a thoughtful and holistic look at this important shared resource.

Reconfigurations of space can be more difficult to execute because of physical constraints, cost and timing and require more deliberate planning to make the best possible use of these physical assets in support of our students, faculty and staff. A more thoughtful way to assess space on campus is being set in motion with a focus on ensuring space and university operations are more aligned.


A pilot phase recently concluded with the Office of Undergraduate Studies in Academic Affairs. The goal of the space survey is to confirm current space utilization and better understand needs. Departments/offices that will participate in the next phase of the survey are those occupying Adams Hall, Campus Life, Health Services and Williston Hall.


Campus has grown over the past century from a set of buildings to a large thriving university with buildings that have been constructed or renovated to accommodate university requirements for both academic and administrative operations.;

Space realignments were not always a part of operational or organizational changes to meet university priorities.

The university currently maintains a database of about 7.8 million square feet of space. The database is incomplete and does not reflect all changes in space utilization, occupant changes or organizational realignments that have occurred over the years. The first step in the space planning effort is a two-part survey to validate current use and solicit input on space needs to better accommodate current or emerging requirements. The information gathered will help provide a more holistic view to inform and refine university improvement initiatives.

Frequently Asked Questions

The survey effort will focus on two parts:

  • The first part will confirm the current use of building spaces in support of efficient management and utilization of both current and prospective property and facilities. It is important for survey responses to accurately reflect who occupies the space and how it is currently used.
  • The second part is to solicit input on space needs or desired changes in support of strategic planning efforts.

In November 2018, a pilot survey was begun with Undergraduate Academic Affairs to test the data collection process and identify lessons to be learned prior to a larger, campus-wide implementation. The effort to package the survey materials is significant and, therefore, is being done in deliberate stages. The survey will initially target departments anticipated to be affected by near-term space opportunities emerging from actions, such as on-going or near-term renovations.

As each stage of the survey is ready to deploy, the effort will be coordinated with the applicable division and department leadership to ensure effective data collection. Each stage of survey efforts is anticipated to take one to two months and the overall effort will extend into FY20 to reach all areas of the university.

  • Survey documents will include the following and will be coordinated initially via the dean/associate vice president level, serving as unit representatives, and disseminated to chairs/directors to effectively complete the survey: A Word document with overview and detailed instructions for this task.
  • An Excel workbook containing the space information to be verified and/or updated.
  • A second Word document will graphically show the floor plan locations of the rooms listed in the Excel document.

Documents will be managed through SharePoint to simplify the updating of information from multiple areas within the organizational unit. Units will be provided a month to complete the survey. Once the use validation portion of the survey is completed, the documents will be retrieved from the SharePoint location, reviewed and used to update the space database.

The space "needs" part of the survey effort will be coordinated and consolidated by the dean/associate vice president.

Initially, the space use-validation results will be used to update record information. This updated information will serve as a baseline for knowing what the existing situation is for various university operations. It will also help evaluate future space changes by indicating where under-utilized space may exist.

The space needs portion will help inform investment priorities as opportunities emerge to obtain funding and/or leverage underutilized spaces on the campus. These efforts may include office moves to improve operational alignments between synergistic units or space renovations to accommodate current or new mission requirements.

It is important to understand that the space survey efforts will not independently initiate projects for making space changes or improvements. Specific needs to address repair requirements, change space configurations or change space locations should be submitted as a work/project request. Improvements to spaces that go beyond repairs requirements are termed "mission enhancement actions" and are managed through a prioritization process. Learn more about facility work categories and prioritization.

If there are questions specifically about the space surveying effort, please direct them to