Ready, Set, Data: Initial assessments of the College of Engineering facilities

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

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.


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