Smart, high-performance facility management has always presented challenges that resemble bookends: to minimize costs and maximize revenues; maintain deteriorating infrastructure assets and destroy data silos; build up constituent protection and break down complex data. But, when faced with an unprecedented set of pressures—a pandemic, worker shortages, and supply chain disruption—how can higher education facility managers stay at the head of the class?
Campus building and space management teams, along with property portfolio managers, need to double down on savvy investment—not only to tackle the present environment but also to excel in the years ahead. If there was ever a time to exit the era of PDFs, paper, and spreadsheets, this is it.
In South Bend, Indiana, the University of Notre Dame’s University Facilities Information (UFI) department has taken bold next steps that show what’s possible. The small yet mighty team of three manages an extensive property portfolio, including 187 buildings, 1,250 historic campus acres, and 11.6 million gross square feet.
By employing Cartegraph software built for higher education campuses, this school of 12,800 students, along with 5,700 faculty and staff, now has a firm grip on improving its operations. That includes managing master floorplans, maintaining facilities, optimizing classroom space, and proactively protecting students and staff amid a global pandemic.
Notre Dame went fully live with Cartegraph facility and space management software in December 2019. Before that, remarkably, “We didn’t have any sort of comparable tool,” says Andrew Sama, director of university facilities information. “We just didn’t use GIS or anything web-based on the administrative side of the house.”
The old way of doing things created some sticky situations where, “Everyone just kept their little slice of the data and floor plan that they needed, and they didn’t really share,” Sama recalls. “This worked okay for individual units. But it made strategic decision-making very hard at higher levels. We needed a better way to manage our space data and share it with our partners around campus,” Sama remembers.
So how have things changed since making the most of their building and space data? Sama outlined two areas where the Notre Dame UFI team has made formidable progress:
- First, tracking office occupancy, along with general space data sharing and accuracy, has taken significant leaps forward. “We can now point people towards a floor plan to verify where they sit—important for 911 and utilization purposes—and while our data isn’t perfect yet, I think it’s way better than it could have ever been without Cartegraph,” Sama said.
- Second, capturing lab occupancy data has become frictionless. Where once there were huge swaths of lab space unaccounted for in the university’s master database, “Now, there’s no confusion about which space we’re talking about,” Sama asserted. “If we have to correct a polyline or a room number or something else, it’s fixed in a day or two at most.”
Implementing Cartegraph software at the right time has also proven beneficial because the issues facing Sama—and those in similar positions at universities large and small—do not exist as fixed targets. Since 2017, Notre Dame has added 1.5 million gross square feet of space, the equivalent of more than 30 football fields. “Space is as important a resource as our employees or our finances,” summarizes Sama. “Cartegraph helps us manage that space in the same high-quality way as our other critical assets.”
The university’s physical growth reinforces a heady reality: campuses are essentially small cities. It’s important to know what assets you have, where they’re located, and how much they cost—and how to perform the right work on the right assets at the right time. “We have our own utilities, fire and police departments, and post office,” Sama says. “Managing something that complex requires data-informed decisions.”
“We have our own utilities, fire and police departments, and post office. Managing something that complex requires data-informed decisions.” —Andrew Sama
In the University of Notre Dame’s case, before-and-after statistics help to tell the story. From 2017 to 2019, the UFI team verified slightly more than 33,000 spaces in 270 days. But since 2019 with Cartegraph mobile workflows, close to 19,000 spaces have been verified in just 61 days. The effort also included summer interns, meaning no full-time employees were added to the project. “We are 151% faster with our field verifications for space data now,” Sama notes.
Sometimes, the tasks may appear less obvious, even if they’re critically important. Sama points to an instance that involved glass panel inspections, which demanded a quick response to create an inspection app for use in a particular building.
“Using Cartegraph’s asset manager, our GIS specialist was able to stand up a custom tool that allowed an employee to quickly and completely conduct inspections on hundreds of these panels,” Sama says. That allowed the maintenance workers to identify situations that needed immediate attention.
“This went really well, and all the urgent issues were fixed,” boasts Sama. What’s more, “Now we have a tool that can also help keep our maintenance team on top of this situation going forward.”
For those universities considering Cartegraph, Sama says to expect a high-tech, high-performance sea change. “It is incredibly powerful,” he noted. “I think it has wonderful potential for efficiency to open opportunities.” Of course, that’s not to say that the transition happens without dedicated people to support it. “Put in the legwork to get your space data and CAD files in a good place,” he advises.
But once you do, the difference will have far-reaching effects worthy of graduating with the highest honors. “The platform is so powerful and flexible,” Sama noted. “Cartegraph helps us have better space data, which is helping us on the path of achieving high-performance campus operations. We’re very excited to see where it goes from here.”