Universities are required to capture and report on the actual utilisation of their facilities to a number of internal departments and external agencies such as the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) it is therefore important that the method for capturing the figures is both accurate and reliable.
At The University of Cambridge, room occupancy counting had historically been a manual process that took place during two weeks in October. Students would be hired to count the occupancy of each room at 15-minute intervals across each day of the survey, much of the time having to look though the entrance windows of the lecture theatres. The raw data would then be entered into an Access database in order to calculate the standard measures of frequency, occupancy and utilisation.
The University of Cambridge had one of the lowest space utilisation rates in the country. When reviewing this information and the potential for greater efficiency and therefore cost savings in the use of space the university decided that this was an issue that needed to be addressed.
Before the partnership with DILAX, the Estate Management team undertook a review of alternative footfall counting technologies and initiated some short-term pilots. It was quickly decided that a larger-scale deployment should be undertaken and following a competitive procurement process, DILAX were chosen for the project.
The trial started in 2013 and required DILAX to work with the University in developing bespoke reporting. The installations were carried out in challenging locations and used to solve complex issues. The trial has resulted in DILAX becoming the only company providing systems to capture utilisation data for the University of Cambridge. The DILAX system has now been rolled out across the estate as a way of meeting the government requirements, better understanding space utilisation within university facilities and informing site development plans.
The DILAX system enables universities to gain an understanding of the usage and utilisation of their rooms over an extended period of time. The data is presented via a live feed to the web portal and is reported in 15-minute intervals. By integrating with existing room booking data, DILAX can provide the university with comprehensive levels of insight into the space and a greater understanding of how it is used throughout the day.
Having backgrounds in the retail and public transport sectors, DILAX has developed its technology to capture high volumes of people moving through an environment at any one time. We guarantee a minimum accuracy of 98%, however, our accuracy is usually higher.
Benefits and cost saving
Benefits for the University of Cambridge include a huge improvement to the accuracy of information and data being provided all year round. Management across the university is now able to use the insights gained to reliably inform decision-making and provide accurate reports to meet internal and external requirements.
When integrated, DILAX creates a more effective solution to analysing the booking status of each room and whether the space has actually been used when reserved by a lecturer. With these systems being integrated, universities can see benefits through multiple departments. Timetabling, operational strategies and student satisfaction are just a few potential areas where the integration of an occupancy detection system can provide critical assistance.
By taking all of this into consideration, the effective implementation of a solution such as ours has the potential to dramatically reduce wasted energy consumption across the university. Whether through correctly identifying which faculties to consolidate, the effective structuring of energy usage or by assessing practicality in design, DILAX can provide a bespoke service tailored to meet the exact needs of any university.
After the success of this project, we at DILAX feel that this is just the beginning of exploring possible applications for the university sector, and that this project is a solid foundation on which we can build. Multiple projects are planned and DILAX systems are included in the design specification for new building developments. In addition, further building management and information system integrations are currently being discussed at the university, meaning that there are exciting plans for the future. By including even more dynamic capabilities and bespoke reporting for new key performance indicators, DILAX are looking to provide universities with the most comprehensive solution to utilisation in the marketplace.
Chris Hinton, Senior Technical Specialist at the University of Cambridge commented “I would definitely recommend DILAX to any university looking for a company to monitor and measure room utilisation data. I have been impressed with the way that they manage our account, turnaround projects, integrate existing systems and the fact that they can provide truly bespoke reports that are specific to our individual requirements. We work together in partnership rather than as customer and supplier and I look forward to working with the DILAX team on future initiatives here at the University of Cambridge.”