Oxford University turns to indoor mapping for estate management

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The University of Oxford has upgraded its estates management processes with an indoor mapping system to more efficiently maintain its asset data.

The university has specified geographic information system (GIS) mapping technology from Esri UK, which recently went live, providing simple access to property and interiors data and interactive maps for more than 300 buildings and 35,000 spaces.

The University of Oxford’s estate includes academic buildings, laboratories, student and staff accommodation, commercial buildings for investment and leasing purposes, farms, plus space embedded in a number of hospitals around Oxford. The university charges academic departments and colleges for the space they use and also leases buildings to commercial entities.

Replacing manual processes, static CAD floorplan drawings and Excel spreadsheets, the new solution combines more than 2,000 CAD floorplans into a single interactive map, enabling the university to more easily share data online with building managers and department administrators.

Interactive maps now give an overview of the estate, showing buildings in context of their surroundings down to individual floors, rooms and spaces, while interactive dashboards show floorplans, usage and cost details.

A two-way communication tool has also been introduced, so any modifications to lecture theatres, accommodation or classrooms can be easily fed back to the estates team online, replacing a labour-intensive and paper-based annual audit and improving how the university calculates charges for tenants.

“The challenge was to create an indoor mapping system that would provide 24-hour access to floorplan and budget information for academic departments and other tenants, and keep pace with the dynamic nature of our estate, which has several thousand changes every year, from repurposing an office into a laboratory to minor modifications such as moving internal walls,” explained University of Oxford Estates Services information records manager Lomin Saayman.

“The Esri UK solution gives us a geographical visualisation of our estate and allows tenants to report any changes so our central asset record is always up to date. The old process of confirming what space they occupied used to take around five months and wasted time chasing data, so now the estates team is free to work on other tasks. Overall, the increased visibility and accuracy is helping improve how we inform departments what they will be charged for the year and in how we plan for the future expansion of the estate,” concluded Saayman.

The new system is already contributing to the spatial planning of a large new laboratory facility being built, by revealing how the old 1960s building was previously used. Plans for the future include adding large or significant assets to the indoor mapping solution, such as an MRI scanner, by scanning items with a 3D scanner and making them visible on the map.

“Indoor mapping has made previously difficult to share static floorplan data rapidly accessible and easy to navigate by all stakeholders,” said Rob Nichols, sales lead at Esri UK. “Bringing CAD data into a GIS mapping environment has given the university complete situational awareness of its whole estate, allowing it to improve operational efficiency and make accurate decisions.”

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