Somewhere There is a Place for Us: IIS for Institutional Spatial Information

Convergence of spatial technologies has become the norm. In the case of many institutions, geospatial is becoming more broadly spatial, where concerns regarding the “placement” of facility assets are becoming dominant, and position and location are of less importance to institutional information consumers. It seems that position is taken for granted and location is assumed to be good enough. I thought it would be of interest to extend this notion to the use of spatial tools for the administration of major institutions and associated image asset handling. This concept has been with us for several decades but finally costs are manageable and benefits are obtainable for application from planning and design through facility operation. The question for practitioners is …”is this a place for us?*” as geospatial professionals, or do we hand our geospatial modeling constructs and legacies to architects and facility engineers?


Administrators of major institutions are seeking new tools to aid in the management of geographically dispersed facilities. Typically these centrally-controlled institutions are a collection of several semi-autonomous units such as state prisons, hospitals, and universities. Traditional information processing approaches for these institutions have relied upon Information Technology (IT) methodologies. Improved spatial information processing tools provide an opportunity for institutional planners, operators, and maintenance specialists to migrate from a non-graphic IT environment to a spatially-oriented setting. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Computer-aided Drafting Systems (CAD) and in some cases Building Information Modeling (BIM) have significant roles in this transition. A model conceptual design of a spatially-related Institutional Information System (IIS) is presented in this discussion. The design is multi-scaled to accommodate the requirements of an institution as a whole, as well as site and building details, for routine operation and maintenance at each location. The IIS conceptual design is structured to support the life cycle of the institutions, i.e. planning, design, construction, and operation and maintenance; including pre-programming, space planning, master planning, resource allocation, staffing, cost analysis, remodeling, rehabilitation, and inventory control. Quality information is required to efficiently plan, design, construct, operate, and maintain an institution. Inadequate estimates or projections have contributed to less than successful management of institutions. The value of map data for facility siting is well established.

Certainly engineering and architectural drawings and specifications are a prerequisite for design and construction. It is a pity that for most institutions the information gathered during planning, design, and construction has not been effectively integrated into operations and maintenance. Perhaps integration may be too ambitious, but some form of data linkage is appropriate. All too many times a facility manager finds it difficult to answer simple questions such as: what is the condition of our buildings, structures, and infrastructure? ; what is the total square feet of our institution? ; what is the total value of our institution? ; how can our functional use of space be improved? ; where can we build and expand? ; what needs to be repaired, renovated, or decommissioned? ; have these repairs been completed and, if not, when will they be done? and; what are our operation and maintenance costs next year? … next five years?

Institutional Information Systems (IIS) comprehensively provide for the collection, data preparation, storage, management retrieval, analysis, synthesis, and display of data on the institution as a whole; campus sites and surroundings; structures and buildings on campuses; building systems; and equipment within each building and structure. An IIS is an organized collection of data, procedures, personnel, computers, software, and communications. The model conceptual design of the US is organized into information tiers. Each tier is comprised of one or more data element groups which include institution features, building systems, and equipment. This model is intended to be suitable for any of the institutions described earlier. Tiers and data element groups for the ISS are as follows:


* Reference to “Somewhere (a place for us) ”… composed by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, From West Side Story

** Revisited from Auto-Carto IX–Proceedings of the International Symposium on Computer-Assisted Cartography, April 2 – 7, 1989, Baltimore, Maryland, pg. 838– Spatial Tools for the Administration of Major Institutions by Jeffrey M. Young

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