Forward-Looking Space Metrics

July 16, 2020
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As colleges and universities think through back-to-campus scenarios and their path forward as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important to consider just what metrics inform the space analytics that are foundational to understanding a campus.

We have asked experts from across our firm to share their thoughts on:

  • Learning Environments
  • Student Housing
  • Higher Education Workplace Environments
  • Schools of Nursing

Q: What factors should be considered when developing forward-looking space metrics?

Three major trends have driven instructional space metrics over the past decade as higher education has shifted toward student-centered learning.

Autonomy: Information is now instant and mobile. Now that content can be acquired fast, free, and digitally, the new purpose of the classroom experience is to explore knowledge. This type of learning environment requires an increase of net assignable square foot per student. An instructional space that meets these guidelines will provide greater agility in adjusting to 6-foot social distance requirements, as well. Flexible furniture also allows institutions to rearrange or de-densify rooms.

Experience: The customization of the educational experience has led students to prioritize experience and hands-on learning. This type of learning often occurs in class laboratories, open laboratories, maker spaces, and research labs. Laboratory environments are rich with learning experiences that cannot easily be duplicated via online courses even prior to COVID-19, and we often recommended that institutions increase the amount of laboratory and maker space on campus.

Porosity: If you strip away the curriculum and the credits, a campus exists for serendipitous encounters between students and scholars where creativity happens, ideas are explored, and learning experiences are created. Porous learning environments allow learning to take place inside and outside the classroom and at multiple scales and comfort levels to create an equitable and adaptable learning environment for all learners. Post-COVID, experiential campus experiences may allow universities to differentiate themselves and offer an alternative to online lecture-based learning. Universities should consider dedicated space for student-centered study, group learning, and gathering space to represent approximately 15-20% of the instructional space found on campus.

Q: How is this affecting students?

Physical distancing in the classroom limits an instructor’s ability to “reach and teach” every student. By distancing students in the classroom and limiting instructor/student and peer-to-peer interactions, the learning environment favors students closest to the instructor. In this situation, a virtual synchronous environment may offer a better learning environment. In the virtual environment, the distribution of students on each screen is random, students appear the same size, and multiple modes of interaction are available via microphones, chat features, and interactive whiteboard exercises. Moreover, asynchronous virtual opportunities give students the flexibility to learn on their schedule. Learning does not compete with other priorities, such as jobs or families. Students can watch material multiple times to take notes and absorb information.

Q: Are there any fundamental differences for student housing during the pandemic?

Schools are exploring how to move forward, and it’s easy to imagine certain scenarios: relying more on single units, including converting traditional doubles to singles, for instance. Many schools, however, have planned and built in swing space for special accommodations that develop during the academic year. The pandemic adds another layer to this complexity and highlights the need for a flexible framework from which to work.

Many colleges and universities plan to start the fall semester at full occupancy, while leaving a certain number of beds or residence halls vacant as COVID-bed surge space. Other institutions are relying on the off-campus market to relieve pressure on their housing stock to best align their bed capacity with social distancing goals. Regardless, many are considering significant operational, policy, and infrastructure measures, such as reducing the occupancy capacity of their residence hall common spaces, more restrictive visitation privileges, providing much more frequent cleaning, or putting locks on common bathrooms to limit the number of students sharing each one.

As students return to living on-campus, schools will have a plan in place in case there are resurgences. Institutions with medical schools and requisite facilities may opt to provide their own testing and care, while others are partnering with their local medical community. While hopefully anything of that nature is only momentary, these measures may need to be in place for some time. When it comes to what makes a successful residence hall, though, the recipe remains the same: community leads to better student outcomes, so it remains crucial to provide the proper balance of outside-the-unit space and manage them responsibly in these trying times.



Q: Beyond physical distancing guidelines, how do we create workplace environments for the campus community that promote a sense of safety, inclusion, and collaboration for both in-person and remote participants?

On average 25% of a campus’ non-residential space inventory is devoted to office space and are part of most buildings’ programs. Small changes to office space metrics can have widespread impact, so it is critical that decision-making be grounded in data. An analysis of the anticipated needs of the workforce and the past utilization of existing space is a good starting point. Employee data and room-by-room space inventories can provide great insight and help identify opportunities to build a program that provides appropriate space per person for individual work, storage, circulation, and collaboration.

Also, consider how remote work, social distancing, and staggered or flexible schedules may impact space needs. Campuses should still be sprinkled with spaces that foster collaboration—both informal, spontaneous encounters, and more formally scheduled meetings. They should, however, anticipate increased virtual participation, both from those working remotely and those on-campus not ready for face-to-face interaction. Technology should be ubiquitous, and capacities and furniture layouts should be reviewed to ensure adequate space per person and good camera sightlines.

Q : What could this mean for offices moving forward?

Faculty-student interaction, which is critical for student success, will require a different setting. Looking forward, I anticipate increased demand for spaces that can safely accommodate one-on-one or small group interactions. In-office meetings already have made some uncomfortable and will likely now make many feel unsafe. I recommend identifying underutilized spaces in academic buildings (ideally in highly visible areas frequented by students) and repurposing them as dedicated, reservable faculty-student spaces.

Q: How are the skills lab and simulation spaces for nursing being altered by COVID-19?

Many schools have taken a detailed look at how to effectively prioritize and use specialized spaces safely while keeping the importance of a rigorous education front and center. After March 2020, nursing programs lost their clinical placements, and as a supplement to clinical practicum, nurse educators shifted to virtual and screen-based simulation through a variety of resourceful methods to supply all of their students remaining clinical learning hours. Immersive simulation using VR and projection is one way to transform any space into a simulation environment offering more utility from existing spaces and facilitating endless simulation scenarios.

For in-person lab courses in Fall 2020, nursing programs must calculate the useable area of their labs, less fixed equipment such as hospital beds and exam tables, to determine the reduced space allowance per student. Students can continue to work within their clinical groups that are normally 8-10 people, except they are spread out into different spaces. Flexibility and adaptability have long been key to designing success health science education spaces, and the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting this importance.    

Q: What kind of methods are being implemented?

Some things are now common in the broader world–smaller groups, temperature monitoring, face masks, daily sanitization of space and equipment—but there are some creative new ideas and methods. Skills and health assessment can be supplemented with customized lab packs sent to students to use at home. The expense of the lab kit can be offset with invention—one schools is discussing 3D printing their own objects and anatomical models for students to use at home. Some programs deferred skills training from spring to fall in hopes to have more hands-on opportunities. Virtually, students have been able to demonstrate skills competency through Zoom break out rooms, after viewing instructor demonstrations. Objective structured clinical examinations, key measures of a student’s competency, can be reimagined virtually as telehealth appointments with simulated patients. Telehealth has seen expanded use during the pandemic, so this has an additional benefit to train students in the way in which they may be working. Overall, some of the new teaching methodologies were found to be more successful than originally thought, and will continue in the fall semester.

Q: What about Nursing, Multidisciplinary Research, and Public Health?

Community based research in nursing has evolved since the onset of COVID-19. Here are some examples of how Duke University School of Nursing is providing outreach and creating partnerships with social work and public health organizations during this pandemic.

  • Homelessness: With the same goal to improve community health, partnerships such as the DCHIPP (Duke Community Health Improvement Partnership Program) is connecting the school of nursing and the community. Students transitioned from their traditional clinical setting of screening patients to working with the Durham Homeless Care Transitions (DHCT) organization that offers temporary housing, a case manager, and access to rapid testing for those who are homeless.
  • Spanish Speaking Populations: Multidisciplinary teams lead by the school of nursing have been established to work with the county health department to inform public service announcements by developing culturally and linguistically appropriate educational materials to the Spanish speaking population.
  • Aging Populations: To assist seniors and the geriatric population, the school of nursing research team is facilitating virtual teaching sessions on effective communication with seniors so that volunteers can effectively communicate and provide reassurance during telephone encounters with seniors.
  • Global Healthcare Initiatives: With global clinical placement trips cancelled, nursing students partnered with Cureamericas contacting hundreds of Guatemalan residents and speaking to them informally about COVID. They are developing a database, referring them to local resources and creating an evaluation plan.

All of these efforts showcase really important work and the power of research and multidisciplinary teams.

Sharing and Learning at Tradeline

November 14, 2019
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Recently, Alyson Goff and I presented at the Tradeline Conference in Austin alongside University of Virginia Assistant Campus Planner, Elisa Langille. Themed: “University Facilities for the Sciences and Advanced Technologies,” Tradeline focuses on highly technical facilities for corporate, university, and government campuses. Topics span engineering, health sciences, robotics, artificial intelligence, data sciences, biological and physical sciences, maker spaces, and innovation hubs. These conferences are intimate in scale and feature deep-dive presentations from institutional representatives and sessions from owner-consultant teams.

Conferences of this nature are great opportunities to catch up with clients, share expertise, and stay apprised on the challenges facing institutions. Our presentation, “Translating data and strategic vision into a physical space plan for engineering and applied sciences,” focused on the Integrated Space Plan for UVA Engineering. Together, we demonstrated a process for incremental, strategic renovations that unleash the academic potential of underutilized and outdated buildings; we detailed the shakeup of traditional departmental structures, and illustrated UVA’s road map to align the School’s academic plan and strategic goals with its existing space inventory; and we demonstrated large-scale building opportunities to satisfy goals and provide adequate space to create pedagogical change within UVA Engineering. The concept of “engineering on display” remains a popular driver, but accomplishing it is difficult. We were happy to share the lessons of this great project — a fantastic project team, an excited client, and a powerful story is a great combination.

Beyond our presentation, the Tradeline Conference, as a whole, offered an incredible learning experience from other sessions and through casual conversations. Some of our key takeaways include the importance of developing guiding principles to inform priorities and decision-making. Goals such as flexibility, diversity, adaptability, and connectivity, are particularly important, as learning spaces translate those qualities into the built environment. STEM education remains a priority, but we are now seeing an increasing number of institutions seeking to integrate the arts and sciences into engineering. As interdisciplinary education becomes more widespread, this ensures ethics is part of the STEM curriculum.

Other new concepts include further evolution of active learning environments featuring open, flexible spaces to accommodate a variety of uses such as a math cave or interprofessional education (IPE) simulation and the fusion of physical, digital, and biology technologies.

Good design creates purposeful interaction, and collaboration and engagement makes it possible. Given the importance of data in decision making, visualization and accessibility of data are key pieces to the puzzle in today’s world. We are happy to be on the forefront of this and eager to learn more and help shape the future.

Dana Perzynski and Alyson Goff are associate principals in the Planning and space analytics discipline groups, respectively.

Contact Dana
Contact Alyson

Space Analytics Round-Up

April 23, 2019
The Ayers Saint Gross Space Analytics Team
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The discipline of space analytics is precisely what it sounds like: a study and quantification of existing space and a projection of current and future needs. This analysis serves as the foundation for our iterative process to identify challenges and opportunities, develop strategies, and build consensus and buy-in. Without rigorous analysis, use of capital resources is just guesswork – and guesswork can be costly. The Ayers Saint Gross team uses a range of tools, including space needs assessment, space utilization, facilities audit, programming, and comparative analysis to help institutions gain a better understanding of space allocations and needs, and to effectively communicate their findings to a variety of stakeholders.

It has been an been an eventful time for Ayers Saint Gross’ space analytics group, and there is much more to be excited about moving forward. On April 23 and 24, we are leading a space management workshop at The Catholic University of America, hosted by the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). This deep-dive, hands-on workshop will walk through the steps to create a robust data space management system, looking at the various inputs from other data sources needed for decision-making, space metrics to consider for implementation within internal space planning processes, and space management policies and procedures to consider. Attendees will walk away with tools, confidence, and real-life examples of how to communicate the value of space planning, identify and prioritize needs, and connect space planning into your institution’s integrated plan.

Ayers Saint Gross works with many higher education clients of varying sizes, locations, and missions, and our firm was recently featured in Business Officer magazine, the publication of the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The article, titled “The Politics of Space” explores the nuances of space needs (more isn’t always better) and features three key tips from Lisa Keith, the leader of the space analytics group.

Lisa was also featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education article “How to Use Data, Not Emotion, To Apportion Precious Space on Campus.” In it, she notes that higher education is shifting away from qualitative-only measures of competing wants and needs of multiple campus constituencies. In its place, a data-driven approach to space allocation and capital investment has taken its place. The Chronicle story quotes Mark Reed, the VP for Finance and Administration at Moravian College, noting the resonance of our firm’s proprietary cloud-based software (and end result of the rigorous and multi-faceted analysis our team performs) SAMiTM when it comes to visualizing and understanding complex space needs. To share more about what SAMi™ does, we created a video available here.

We’ve also created a discipline book with institutional case studies and a technology toolbox, which is available online and in print upon request.

We’re excited to see our work highlighted in these industry-leading publications, and look forward to working with more colleges, universities, and institutions to guide decisions about the highest and best use of their physical resources. If you’re interested in these projects and the rest of our services offered, I hope you’ll reach out to learn more.

See, Understand, Interact, and Plan: Space Analytics at Ayers Saint Gross

August 7, 2018
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At Ayers Saint Gross, we like to start every planning project with space analytics. Space analytics is precisely what it sounds like—a study and quantification of existing space showing existing utilization and a projection of current and future space needs.

This analysis serves as the foundation for our iterative process to identify challenges and opportunities, develop strategies, and build consensus and buy-in. In a world of constrained budgets, space analytics helps institutions achieving the highest and greatest use of capital assets. Without that analysis, the use of capital resources is guesswork—and guesswork can be costly. Recent coverage of our work in The Chronicle of Higher Education put it another way: space analytics takes the emotion out of facilities decisions.

Ayers Saint Gross uses proprietary space analytics tools such as SAMi™, a cloud-based data interactive visualization tool, an integrated planning tool, and GIS mapping, which provides a snapshot of an existing campus’ space use and overlays the data on future projections to determine prospective needs. Robust visualization is key to making data accessible to decision makers, helping them to understand the best ways to manage an institution’s physical assets.

We’ve summarized our approach to space analytics and its relation to the planning process in our most recent discipline book, Telling a Story with Data: Space Analytics at Ayers Saint Gross.

Together with our clients, we address challenges and provide a data-driven framework for decision-making. These resources strengthen an institution’s ability to prioritize investments, resulting in more robust physical resources and greater student success.

 

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

December 16, 2016
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It’s been an eventful year for Ayers Saint Gross. As we turn the calendar page, here’s a look at our most popular blog posts of 2016. We’re proud of what we accomplished with our clients, and are excited about what’s to come in 2017.

1. Luanne Greene is Ayers Saint Gross’ New President. Having distinguished herself as head of our Planning studio and as an acknowledged industry leader, Luanne rose to become the President of Ayers Saint Gross. She is the first woman to lead the firm in its 100-year history.

2. Anne Hicks Harney Elevated to AIA College of Fellows. Our Sustainability Director is now one of four FAIAs at Ayers Saint Gross, alongside Glenn Birx, Luanne Greene, and Adam Gross. Anne was also named a LEED Fellow this year.

3. Placemaking for People: How Stormwater Management Can Be a Design Asset. The unglamorous necessity of stormwater management can be a starting point for truly great design in landscape architecture.

4. Place Matters: Cortex Innovation Community Wins SCUP Award. Recognition from the Society of College and University Planning was a huge honor. Innovation Districts like Cortex provide a new paradigm for research, business, and job creation.

5. National Aquarium Waterfront Campus Plan Wins AIA Maryland Award. The National Aquarium is a world-renowned conservation organization, and we are excited to be a part of the revitalization of its campus.

6. 2016 Comparing Campuses Innovation Districts. We did a deep dive on Innovation Districts in our 18th annual Comparing Campuses poster. (We also have an online archive of all the Comparing Campuses posters.)

7. A Brief History of the Ayers Saint Gross ACUHO-I Housing Book. We’ve been creating these tiny but informative books since 2005 for the annual ACUHO-I conference. We’ll see you in Providence in June with the 2017 edition.

8. Telling a Story with Data. Lisa Keith, head of our space analytics studio, wowed the KA Connect Conference with her data visualization expertise.

9. Ayers Saint Gross Reaches $1B in LEED Construction. With the LEED Silver certification of Georgetown University’s Ryan and Isaac Halls, our firm crossed the billion-dollar mark in LEED certified construction. To celebrate, we created an infographic that illustrates exactly what $1,000,000,000 in LEED construction looks like.

10. Going Green, Staying Green: How to Create and Enduring, Sustainable Landscape. Align your sustainability goals with available resources, and consider the life cycle costs of your choices.

Telling a Story with Data: Space Analytics at KA Connect

July 6, 2016
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Earlier this year, I was delighted to present at the KA Connect Conference. This gathering of knowledge management leaders in the AEC industry was a terrific audience, eager to learn about how space analytics help organizations see and understand their resources.

The full presentation is below; major takeaways are as follows:

  • Data visualizations are techniques to communicate information clearly, and to stimulate viewer attention and engagement.
  • Data visualizations ≠ infographics.
  • People learn and absorb information differently. Being able to communicate information in several different manners goes a long way to reaching your intended audience.
  • The shift towards interactive learning in higher education applies to everyone, not just students. Giving key stakeholders tools like SAMi ™ allows them to be involved in what they’re trying to understand about their own facilities and campuses.

After the presentation, I also sat down for a Q&A with KA Connect Founder Chris Parsons. It’s available below.

One of Chris’s best questions was his last one – he asked me about my favorite part of my job. I replied that I loved the design most. Looking at a classroom utilization scatter plot, I think about how 20 years ago, I’d have to print out 10 different reports to get to that point. And now this scatter plot tells me everything I need to know right there, and I can let my years of experience and imagination fill in the blanks. That well-designed scatter plot is just a starting point for understanding and decision-making.

The gauntlet has now been thrown down, how can we incorporate SAMi™ with BIM? I guess the space analytics studio will try to figure that out in the upcoming months. Stay tuned!