The Higher Education Commission’s report ‘From bricks to clicks’ states that: “Having timely up to date and accurate knowledge is essential to shaping the successful university of the future”. However, for many universities this presents a huge challenge.
Across campuses a large amount of data is generated every day from a variety of sources including buildings, social channels, academic activities and daily operations. As a result, many institutions are struggling to understand what data they need, how to capture and use it to create the University of the Future - with its enhanced end user experience, improved academic outcomes and increased operational efficiency.
The first step is to understand what data sources exist and which ones will help universities to achieve their goals. Building performance data can provide real-time energy consumption information that can be analysed to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills; while estates managers can track entry-card information, sales data and footfall to improve facilities for students. New technologies are also giving us different ways to capture relevant data, such as installing sensors to monitor room temperature and air quality, as well as providing information on how and when a space is being used.
The creation of a 3D campus model provides a vehicle to capture and store multiple layers of data. These can be retrofitted to cover an entire campus and give universities a powerful tool that contains real-time data. At the touch of a screen, facilities managers can see which buildings are not delivering as expected, track maintenance call-outs and understand when high traffic spaces such as libraries, shops and cafes are at their peak. The model also enables universities to put an end to data silos and combine information to receive greater insight into their campus, which can be used to influence decision making and optimise performance. For example, the effectiveness of learning environments can be assessed by analysing student feedback, space utilisation data and academic records to ensure the spaces are delivering as expected.
However, it does not end with the 3D model. The rich data contained within it, can be used in many ways to generate benefits for the end user. Applications, which run on smart phones and tablets, can use it to provide timely information to students and faculty staff to allow them to carry out simple tasks such as reserving books, paying fees, finding their lecture theatre, accessing course notes and connecting with their students online. Estate-wide dashboards can also be driven by this data, enabling senior managers, to benchmark performance across their estate, identify failing assets and address challenges as they arise. In addition, as the data is constantly being updated, university estates managers can track performance over time, recognise trends and make certain that policies or changes to the campus are producing the desired results.
As an industry, we are ideally placed to support universities on their journey towards better data capture and usage. We already have extensive experience of using BIM and technology to provide meaningful information and deliver positive outcomes. Nonetheless, we cannot do this alone and we need the support and expertise of third parties to help us capture additional types of data and disseminate information. To facilitate this we need to establish collaborative partnerships, which will drive innovation in this area and ensure that the UK’s universities can maintain their position as world leaders in education and research for years to come.