Give Me Some Space

24 Oct, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong

Managing campus territories with ARCHIBUS.

In the City University of New York’s (CUNY) administrative circle, Deborah Lott is known as the woman who can answer questions about space in a short time. Lott is not an astrophysicist. She’s the associate director of space management at the school’s Space Planning and Capital Budget Department. As the overseer of the 23 individual campuses that make up CUNY’s 26 million square-foot domain, she monitors how each room is used, who’s using it, how many students it can seat, where it’s located, and more.

In September 2005, soon after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the university’s emergency preparedness team asked her to produce a report listing all the assembly halls within the university system that measure 3,000 square feet or larger and have toilet facilities nearby. She didn’t reach for the rolls of floor plans in the archive. Instead, she ran a few queries in her database and swiftly returned with the report.

“Usually, if someone asks me a question during the kickoff meeting in the morning, I can get back to him or her before the end of the day,” Lott noted.

To access the most up-to-date information about every nook and cranny of the school territory, she relies on ARCHIBUS, an AutoCAD-based software solution for facilities and infrastructure management.

For post-Katrina emergency preparedness, the City University of New York was able to swiftly identify assembly areas larger than 3,000 square feet with nearly toilet facilities using ARCHIBUS.
Click image to view larger.

Spatial Accounting
The 23 campuses of CUNY are all located within the five boroughs of New York. They operate more or less as autonomous facilities even though they are part of a single entity. ARCHIBUS is therefore installed at each campus, in addition to the central office where Lott works.

“In the beginning, ARCHIBUS was used mainly for inventorying the square footages,” Lott explained. “Basically, which campus is a certain room located on and how large is it?”

But over the years, the ARCHIBUS database has grown to include a lot more information. “Now, we actually track every room,” Lott remarked. “We know each room’s name, its square footage [derived from CAD drawings], its capacity, the department that’s using it, and its function" (whether it’s tagged as a classroom, a lab, a library, a faculty office, or something else).

ARCHIBUS’s tight integration with AutoCAD links the two programs, ensuring that changes made to the AutoCAD-drawn facilities records are immediately reflected in the ARCHIBUS databases.

“Let’s say we have one large classroom that seats 60 students,” Lott noted. “If the campus did a utilization study and decided we need two 30-student classrooms instead, we’ll have to split the room into two. Afterwards, we’ll have two rooms: 100A and 100B.”

Before ARCHIBUS, Lott’s predecessors had to update such changes manually in the CUNY’s in-house database, a legacy system written in COBOL. Lott, however, simply has to review the submitted changes and then approve them.

Hidden Corners
Lott maintains separate databases for the campuses because each facility needs its own reports, but she has also created a consolidated master database that encompasses all the locations. This roll-up data allows her to run certain reports to study the usage patterns and trends throughout the academic quarters and identify underutilized spaces for the entire university.

“I run two reports,” she explained. “One compares the rooms’ availability during the day to the rooms’ usage.” By computing the ratio between the two, she was able to pinpoint spaces that weren’t fully deployed.

The other report uses ARCHIBUS to study whether appropriate spaces are allotted for the class size. “I run a report that compares the enrollment of the class to the capacity of the room,” she explained. The disparity between the two gives her a good idea of which classrooms are overcrowded, and which are using more space than necessary.

“I found out there are very few classes scheduled on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons,” she added with a chuckle.

Grants and Schedules
CUNY administrators also use ARCHIBUS in conjunction with Resource 25 (commonly referred to as R25), a class scheduling software program from CollegeNET. Lott has to make sure the new spaces that are becoming available (from a completed expansion project, for example) are duly recorded in R25.

“You can’t schedule a class in a room unless you know it exists,” she pointed out.

Since classrooms and offices used for certain academic purposes can qualify for government grants, CUNY uses ARCHIBUS to track and calculate the allowable use of space for its A-21 grant reporting. (For more on A-21, see the Office of Management and Budget’s circular.)

Next Stop ERP
Shortly, Lott will be busy figuring out a way to integrate her ARCHIBUS database with the new ERP system, Oracle’s PeopleSoft.

“ERP systems like PeopleSoft often know a great deal about costs and personnel, but not how these costs and people are allocated and deployed,” said Steven Segarra, CTO of ARCHIBUS. “As Ms. Lott's space database convincingly shows, ARCHIBUS complements the ERP data by providing living intelligence on physical locations, real-world conditions, and department missions. And sites like CUNY can connect ARCHIBUS to ERP systems using Web Services so that they can reuse rather than reinvent their existing IT infrastructure.”

“I can’t tell you much, because I don’t know how the Archibus location information will be used,” Lott frankly admitted. “But I don’t anticipate too many problems.”

About the Author: Kenneth Wong

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