Archive for September, 2012

The initial College of Engineering facility assessments were successful and offered great insight into current building conditions and use. Teams also identified many opportunities for improvement in various buildings. We presented our findings during studio to receive feedback on the assessments and share opinions based on personal experiences in the facilities. This open dialogue between classmates led to even more discoveries –perhaps most notably that the Scott Laboratory lecture hall chairs are noisy nightmares for students and professors alike.


Students present their findings from the initial building assessments

By the conclusion of the presentations, we had compiled a laundry list of problems and needs, as well as an equally important inventory of positive qualities, to focus on as we move forward in the planning process. The following is a summary of some of the facts and significant findings for each building:

 Scott Lab

  • Modern and functional equipment with the exception of the squeaky chairs in the lecture halls
  • Each of the wings is physically and visually connected, but navigation can still be confusing


  • Complicated connections with adjacent buildings
  • Poor upkeep overall
  • MacQuigg’s basement could be a model for updating other basements in COE


  • Exterior of the building is in good shape
  • Issues with way-finding and interior circulation


  • Slated for demolition – and team agrees
  • No areas for casual gatherings or group work


  • Designed to be students’ “home away from home”
  • Questions of form over function
  • Built to inspire the imagination and create aesthetic appeal

 Caldwell Lab

  • Building located on “prime real estate”
  • Designed primarily for Electrical Engineering students in mind


  • Two identifiable parts – the original building and a newer addition
  • “Themed” academic floors to group programs and function together
  • Main entrance is not suited for the high volume of traffic in the area

Baker Systems

  • In need of furniture and equipment updates
  • Opportunities to improve flow between Baker and Dreese


  • Does not stand out as the College of Engineering “headquarters”
  • Main lobby space is a great asset


  • Main entrance has great potential for improvement
  • Very “average” appearance and layout 


  • Both have major issues with general wear and tear
  • Asbestos
  • Office spaces need to be updated


  • Facilities meet the Biomedical Engineering department’s needs now, but there is little room for growth
  • Building is located on west campus and can seem isolated

The web-based occupancy assessments are a great tool for evaluating how space is used

Since the initial assessments, teams have continued to collect data by conducting facility occupancy assessments. Each team is responsible for completing 24 occupancy assessments in their building over a period of 30 days. Using a unique web survey, team members are taking turns touring every floor of the COE buildings and logging how many people are in each room at that time. Once compiled this data will reveal trends in office, lab, and classroom use to help determine if changes need to be made in certain areas. Although the occupancy assessments can be tedious and time-consuming, the iPads have proved to be a critical and convenient tool in conducting this type of survey and have expedited the whole process. The pre-made web survey ensures that none of the assignable engineering space is left out of the assessments and allows comments to be made about a room when necessary. This has been a comprehensive way to gather both qualitative and quantitative data.

Additional data has been gathered over the past two weeks on circulation in the north academic core. We used the iPads to survey bicyclists outside COE buildings to understand how they enter, leave, and traverse campus and ask their opinions about the amount of bicycle parking and traffic. Each team also collected information on pedestrian flow using the GISPro route-capture feature on our iPads. This feature allowed real-time tracking of pedestrian routes throughout campus to identify areas of heavy traffic, understand where crosswalks are or are not being used, and pinpoint common origin-destination pairings.

This data will all be analyzed in the coming weeks to help our studio formulate goals not only for the College of Engineering facilities but also for the north academic core where these buildings are situated. The importance of the relationship between individual buildings and the surrounding public realm continues to be emphasized in our studio as we work to find the potential of the College of Engineering within the overall University Framework plan.

 Keep checking in with our Mobile Planning blog as we head into the data analysis phase, explore the fiscal realities of the college, and tour some of the recently renovated buildings around campus for applicable ideas.





Our facilities planning studio is focused on evaluating and making recommendations to improve the College of Engineering (COE) portion of the One Ohio State Framework plan. But, in order to improve a system or plan, you first need to know what you’re working with.

Our first week of studio built the foundation for the rest of the semester as we began by examining the current Framework plan and reviewing some traditional campus planning and design literature. We also broke into smaller teams for the semester using the CATME Team-Maker tool. Each student took an online survey to assess individual work styles and personalities, and then CATME placed us into coherent groups accordingly.

Next, teams were assigned one or more buildings in the College of Engineering to evaluate space and current conditions. Specifically, the initial assessments focused on six main factors:

  1. Context: The school building’s setting and surroundings.
  2. Massing: Buildings are organized in some type of form to give both meaning and variety to the building.
  3. Interface: How the internal and external parts of a building relate; flow.
  4. Wayfinding: The ability of students, teachers, staff, and visitors to discern routes, traffic patterns, or passageways in and around the building.
  5. Social Space: How the building environment accommodates diverse human needs.
  6. Comfort: The environmental conditions that affect human comfort, including thermal control, lighting, and noise level.

Using these criteria, teams assessed each of the following COE buildings: Beavis, MacQuigg, Watts, Smith Lab, Koffolt, Fontana, Knowlton, Caldwell, Hitchcock, Bolz, Dreese, Baker Systems, Scott.

Planning Meets Technology

The initial building assessments were our first challenge in using iPads for data collection –a pilot project of the City & Regional Planning department. We evaluated facility conditions using a SurveyMonkey “Walking Tour” survey that allowed teams to grade each facility based on the above six factors. The mobile convenience of using iPads was obvious during this phase because we could explore the buildings while simultaneously filling out the survey and taking notes. The survey helped us gather data in an organized and coherent fashion and ensured that the buildings were considered from various perspectives (i.e. from the street, from within a classroom, or from a visitor versus a student’s point of view).


GISPro links geo-data to each photo

Another important component of the initial facility tours was to take plenty of pictures. It is always easier to summarize the positives and negatives of a structure with visual displays. We got our feet wet using the costly but invaluable GISPro application (app) during this process. The app’s geo-location camera tool let us take pictures that were pegged on a map with every shutter click. When paired with the great quality of the iPad’s own camera, we were able to produce high-resolution images backed with data.

Finally, we uploaded all of our facility pictures to Dropbox, a free file-sharing program (and app) that serves as a public platform for our studio teams to pool facility information and photos.

Completing the Walking Tour survey for Hitchcock and Bolz

My team examined Hitchcock Hall and Bolz Hall, which are in the north academic core and are actually connected. My team members and I spent about two hours exploring the buildings both inside and out. We took pictures of everything, but especially focused on aspects of the facilities that were in very poor condition or that were unique and could be used as an example elsewhere in the college. In Hitchcock, for example, we found the first floor to be a great open space for exhibits and social gatherings but the basement classrooms were dark, damp, and hidden. A glaring problem we noticed in Bolz was that the building lacked a distinct main entrance and common space, so we made a note that this could be a point for potential renovation.

The initial data gathering stage was quick but thorough and technologically enlightening. Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks to see the results of the initial walking tours and COE facility assessments. We’ll hash through the good, the bad, and the ugly as teams present their findings early this week. We will also continue using our iPads in the coming weeks as we conduct occupancy assessments in each COE building to see how the college and various departments are using certain spaces. The results will probably be surprising –and they will certainly guide and inspire our future facility plans.

This fall is an exciting time. I’m teaching, along with Jason Sudy, a fantastic studio (CRP 4910: Realizing the Plan) this fall that is focused on using ipads as a principal data collection tool in a campus master plan.  As many know I’m a technology enthusiast and I’m always thinking about great ways to integrate technology in the classroom.


(photo credit: Melissa Miller)

Ohio State’s Digital First Initiative has been focusing on bringing more technology into every aspect of academia. I’m part of the advisory board and am the lead for the College of Engineering. This spring the College decided to invest in pilot ipad projects. We are supporting an inverted classroom in electrical and computer engineering, for example. The other pilot was to provide $30,000 to support the use of ipads in city and regional planning. This started over the summer with a project, led by Professor Charisma Acey, taking ipads into the field in Ghana. She shared her lessons learned this summer. Given her success I decided to give it a whirl.

I started with a simple proposition. How can I create a public engagement and field data collection process that can be entirely captured via ipad? How can I do this with minimizing the number of apps needed to accomplish this? How can we create and document processes so that the everyday planner could take what we have done in studio and take it out into the their practice?

It’s with those questions in mind that I set to work. This is a work in process and we are experimenting as we go along. So far we have set up the studio with just five apps, three of which are on every ipad (Photos, Safari and Mail). We are using dropbox, a free file sharing software. Dropbox is being used to transfer photos and other field data into a series of folders that are shared by everyone in the studio and our planning task force. The key app we are using, GISPro, is pricy at $300. However, we are gaining the ability to capture geocoded data, connect points to survey data, and lots of other spatial data out in the field. We can then export jpgs, shape files, and spreadsheet files for later analysis.

We then built a series of secure webpages that allow the studio team to connect through wifi and simply enter data as they move through a building. The studio team will be talking to users and asking them for feedback on their experience in the building. Team members will just enter the survey data as they go.As another example, in the image to the left, the students will be determining the occupancy in each facility. They just select the building, the floor, start a new sample and then they simply enter the number of people occupying a room and add any notes. If they observe anything interesting, they can move to the GIS Pro app.

The GIS Pro app identifies the current location and then with a quick tap of the finger the studio team member can lock in on the most accurate location within a building. They can then take a picture, enter descriptive information. And there is a survey tool that can be customized allowing for the capture of conditions information, for example. It’s easy to imagine how this could be easily adapted to other types of data collection. We are working out a protocol to complete origin/destination studies, asking users to describe how they got to campus and how they moved through the campus throughout the day. This can be mapped by simply moving your finger across the map, recording the various destinations along the way. This will allow us to more accurately capture the routes that pedestrians and cyclists take throughout the campus.

This studio will allow us to experiment with taking traditional planning tools, such as surveys, origin/destination studies, photo documentation, etc and take it to a new level through mobile technology. Stay tuned for updates on how these tools and protocols work. One of the students in the studio will be blogging our progress!