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Agile Space Management


A plan do cycle for an agile Estate

One of my requirements for an agile curriculum is an agile estate. This in turn requires a space use model possibly interacting with occupancy sensors. I recently facilitated the SUMS space management meeting at which we discussed occupancy sensors and timetabling data. We concluded that the collection of data is the easy part, but the harder question is: “How do you turn the data into information?” and even harder: “How do you use the information to influence decision making in your university?” I found myself in agreement with a space manager who commented: “If only I had the time and resource to build an information model”. Timetabling data, even without additional realtime data, can be a rich source of information on curriculum design, staffing levels and estate planning, but is this data set exploited enough? There are some universities who have developed good KPI dashboards which is a move in the right direction. Is now the right time to go further, and build information models that would allow you to test different scenarios? How granular should the information model be? I do know that there is an AUDE estates space model which is spreadsheet based and uses contact hours, but the one time I persuaded someone to use it, they were not enamoured. It is about having the right level of detail for your simulation. Simulating a full timetable is too detailed: contact hours by subject is not detailed enough. There needs to be a middle ground. Should the timetabling system vendors be doing more in this space, or is a separate system the answer? This is an area I am keen to explore. If I take my own advice, I need to start thinking requirements much more clearly, before thinking software!

Another clear message that I took from the space management meeting was that social learning spaces are best monitored through real-time data. This data needs to be brought together with the timetabling data to get the bigger picture of teaching and learning spaces. We also need to think about collaborative and studio space and whether they should be bookable or freely available spaces i.e do they fit in the timetabled or the monitored space category.

We did also talk office space but culturally that can be a difficult topic in a university. However, given the emphasis these days on collaboration and teamwork, is it time for academic offices to adapt? Or how about easing gently in by looking at PhD study space usage?

In these changing times, I increasingly facilitate meetings which raise more questions than answers, but I do believe that it is only by having these conversations that we will eventually find answers.

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