Evolutionizing University Mapping with GIS

September 20, 2018Dunaway Projects, GIS

By Chris Akin, Dunaway GIS Manager

If you’ve ever looked up directions using Google Maps or used your smartphone to locate the nearest gas station while traveling, you’ve used GIS. GIS technology applies to nearly every industry, and nearly every organization can benefit from its use. However, a geographic information system (GIS) – the compilation and analysis of geographical-based data – remains an under-utilized technology.

Dunaway provides clients with a range of GIS services, although our primary focus is working with universities and campus-based organizations. Our campus GIS clients include:

  • Baylor University
  • Tarrant County College
  • Texas Christian University
  • University of North Texas
  • Odessa College
  • Fort Worth Zoo
  • Cook Children’s Medical Center

We’ve helped these clients use GIS to improve their approach to facilities and operations management, but that’s just scratching the surface of its depth. GIS applications can improve campus safety and security, document existing utility infrastructure, enable campus-wide navigation and room finding, and a variety of other key functions.

The GIS team at Dunaway is leading operational and organizational change in a variety of market sectors, including educational campuses, municipalities, and the private sector. By implementing and increasing their use of GIS technology, our clients are making increased data-driven decisions that positively impact current and future operations through cost reductions, accident avoidance, increased safety, and increased information access.

What Exactly is GIS?

GIS looks at information from a spatial perspective to make smart, informed decisions. GIS makes data which is typically disorganized, incomplete, or simply inaccessible, and unifies that data into authoritative, centralized information accessible to those who need it. Real-world examples include:

Each of these examples has a spatial component tied to the underlying information. The data can be mapped and displayed in a variety of ways that allows viewers to make smart and impactful decisions, such as the safest neighborhoods in a city or roadways to potentially avoid.

How GIS Leads to Data-Driven Decisions on Campuses

Universities, K-12 schools, zoos, and medical centers are all campuses covering large areas and require extensive planning and management. These campuses are like their own municipalities with infrastructure, roads, drainage, population, space issues, and a wide range of hard assets. Dunaway works with campus staff to create a central repository for a variety of crucial facilities information by documenting and mapping these various assets.

Our clients then integrate GIS solutions to help support the facilities management lifecycle, including monitoring and replacing assets and making better operational decisions.

“TCC has already seen a return on investment by avoiding the expenses incurred from utility damage and unscheduled shut downs for repair.”

Thomas VanOver, Manager of Facilities Special Projects at Tarrant County College

GIS can be especially important for mapping out and planning around existing underground utilities. Often, facility managers don’t truly know what’s buried underground, especially with older buildings or campuses. Typically, these campuses have one or two employees that have been on-site for decades and know exactly where most of the crucial utility lines are buried. But what happens when those employees retire? And how does that compare to the plans and documents stored in CAD, PDF, or all the paper documents across campus? GIS is able to document and combine all that information into a centralized platform for everyone on campus to access and understand. Workers are now able to use GIS to access complete utility location information on their mobile devices while in the field, thereby reducing the risk of hitting gas lines or water mains while digging. And if they ever did, they’d now know exactly where pertinent shutoff valves are located.

Campus safety and security is another growing arena for GIS integration. Universities can plot out exactly where all their security cameras and emergency call boxes are located. Data about when each camera and call box was installed and last serviced (and where the operations manuals for each are located) can be compiled and easily disseminated. More importantly, campus security staff can validate adequate coverage of security cameras, understand and address blind spots, and gain quicker access to camera feeds when an incident occurs on campus. Campuses are able to poll students to determine locations on campus where they don’t feel safe through mobile GIS applications, and then address and remedy those concerns, perhaps through additional lighting or other security measures.

“Being able to compile all our information into one source has allowed us to visually better understand our infrastructure and resources and respond to emergencies quicker and more effectively.”

-Leigh Ann Moffett, Director of Emergency Management at Baylor University

Interior building spaces are a valuable resource on campus, requiring careful planning and management to ensure appropriate room assignments and to maximize space utilization. GIS supports a wide range of operations management across campuses, such as plotting out the square footage of a building and detailing who occupies each office. Campus space planning staff can use GIS to strategically plan, monitor, and reallocate assignments as needed.

These campus facilities management functions all require access to centralized, accurate, authoritative spatial data. Dunaway helps universities and other campus-based organizations answer key questions about their assets and document that data, so it can be shared and used to make informed decisions.

Jumping on the GIS Train

Many campuses usually have vast amounts of key facility data stored across a wide range of mediums, including CAD, paper documents, and a host of different computer systems. Our GIS team compiles all that data into a central repository to be accessed and shared by key campus employees and personnel. We work with campus staff to identify hot spots with immediate needs and deliver authoritative datasets and customized GIS solutions, often through mobile web mapping applications.

Dunaway provides tools for instant access to data through our partnership with Esri, the largest and most widely used GIS and location analytics platform. Esri offers many customizable software-based and online solutions—and a major benefit for university clients is that some already have a campus-wide Educational Institution License for Esri’s ArcGIS platform. We leverage software they already have access to through their site license to quickly get their GIS environment up and running and showing value.

Dunaway can act as GIS coordinator to get an organization’s GIS program up and running, or help administer one that’s already in place. GIS is about making intelligent, data-driven decisions, and the possibilities for its use are nearly endless.


Look for Us at These Upcoming Conferences

  • September 21-23:
    • Texas College and University Facilities Professionals (TCUF) conference in San Antonio, TX (Booth #P27)
      • Presentation: Initiating Campus GIS Mapping with Chris Akin, GISP (Saturday, 9/22 at 3:45pm)
  • September 28-30:
    • Texas Association of School Administrators/Boards (TASA/TASB) conference in Austin, TX (Booth #906)