When a building on campus undergoes renovation, who decides how and where to relocate the affected classes?

Georgia Tech Capital Planning and Space Management (CPSM) is responsible for working with space users – such as deans and department chairs – to help manage the 3.3 million square feet of 12,000 instructional, research, and office spaces on campus. When a building is temporarily unavailable, CPSM collaborates with the impacted departments and the Registrar to locate “swing space,” which is available space that can be reallocated to accommodate displaced courses.

In the last five years, half of all renovation projects were completed in multiple phases because of swing space concerns. That’s what motivated a Senior Design team from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) to step in. "The Swing Space Champs" – composed of Prerna Balaji, Savannah Chunn, Zach Hess, Chidambaram Kadiresan, Makala Muhammed, Abbey Nannis, Sarah Poff, and Sena Sennaroglu (advised by Steven Hackman, associate professor) – created a tool to help CPSM prioritize and schedule projects, hoping to reduce the number of phases needed for a renovation project and potentially allow multiple buildings to be renovated at the same time. 

“[We] developed a modeling tool that can identify instructional classroom swing space more easily, so that when the decision is made to renovate a building on campus, it's easy to find classrooms for all of the courses that are displaced by that renovation,” Hess explained. Their project won the award for Best ISyE Project at the Capstone Design Expo in December 2020 and was also selected as a finalist for the Fall 2020 ISyE Best of Senior Design Competition.

As part of the Senior Design process, the team interviewed around 20 different companies, ultimately choosing CPSM after talking to Jimmie Hardin, a data scientist at CPSM, who became their client sponsor. “Even from our first meetings, we had amazing communication with him,” said Muhammed. Communication was key throughout the project, as all progress occurred online through video calls, emails, and interviews. 

Part of the project process included learning about what CPSM does and trying to pinpoint an area to target for improvement. The recent renovation of the Howey Physics building, completed in multiple phases, inspired the team to investigate the impact of swing space allocation. They found that $300,000 could have been saved if the renovation had been completed in just one phase. Howey served as a rigorous case study for their project because of its large capacity lecture halls, which create a challenge when trying to relocate classes.

The team wanted to turn a manual search for swing space solutions into an automated, optimized process that would provide the best solution for all departments involved. They developed the Swing Space Analysis Tool, a model with two primary goals: maximizing the number of courses assigned to a physical swing space solution and minimizing the number of courses with reduced enrollment capacity. Many constraints were considered, such as course capacity, room capacity, wheelchair accessibility, the need for lab spaces, and the availability of distance learning equipment for courses moved online. 

Working on the project involved extensive brainstorming of ideas as well as navigating the dynamics of a large team. “We did a really good job of communicating and just really keeping an eye open on the level of work that people could do and their different skill sets,” Muhammed explained. 

The Swing Space Analysis Tool produces a solution that includes a new room for each displaced course, a remote delivery recommendation if an available room cannot be found, and the reduced capacity of a course if deemed necessary. This solution is displayed on a dashboard that allows CPSM to quickly visualize the recommendations. A critical feature of the tool is that it can be used iteratively, meaning that after CPSM discusses the recommendation with affected departments, they can adjust the inputs of the tool and run it again until the best solution is found. 

The team did not expect to win the ISyE award at the Capstone Design Expo, but they recognized the impact their project would have on Georgia Tech. Their tool can save an estimated 3-5% of the project cost for each phase that is eliminated in a renovation, resulting in potentially millions saved across future renovation projects.  

When describing working with the Senior Design team and the success of their project, Hardin said, “I think it’s incredible they were chosen as the ISyE Capstone Design winners, and that [CPSM] was able to utilize the incredible talent we have right here at Tech to create a solution that could have profound effects right at home.”

The Swing Space Analysis Tool is already helping CPSM to analyze space solutions. “Although no new capital building renovations are on the immediate horizon, CPSM has been using the ISyE-developed swing space model extensively for scenario planning,” Hardin said. “With multiple strategic plans being developed to support the President’s new strategic plan and the anticipation of a new campus physical master plan, the student-developed ISyE model will prove invaluable in scenario planning.”

ISyE Communications Assistant Taylor Hunter interviewed the Senior Design team featured in this article; Communications Assistant Grace Oberst wrote the story.


ISyE Senior Design Team "The Swing Space Champs"

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Grace Oberst

Communications Assistant

H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering