Space Management Software
April 23, 2010 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a space planning software solution that they've used previously? AutoCAD alone doesn't seem to be the solution and nor does MS Visio

I work at a large higher education / research institute and we need to start managing our space better; as a starting point we have CAD plans of all our space.

The information about staff names, room numbers etc needs to be accessible to department heads so they can update their own staff lists and associated room numbers etc. I'm thinking an external spreadsheet or database that has a two way link with whatever it is I'm looking for as (a) the department heads will be familiar with excel and (b) I don't need to buy licences for the whole institute. MS Visio doesn't seem to do the two way link, only one way.

The space planning/management software has to be able to cope with a fairly diverse set up, including office space, lecture theatres and wet and dry labs. I want to be able to pin down actual desks, like in MS Visio. I also need to be able to run management reports.

If there's one thing that'll do this, great, but am happy to have several package talking to each other. TBH, I'd much prefer that compartmentalised approach.

If AutoCAD can do all this then I've been told I can get a couple of licences but from what I've seen of it I'm really not sure it is going to provide everything I'm looking for.

Other tech specs: desktops are windows but could easily stick a linux partition on them. Servers are primarily windows but we also have UNIX space too.

Any thoughts, or am I dreaming?
posted by fatfrank to Technology (6 answers total)
I’m fuzzy on what you’re attempting to accomplish, but my guess is that you have spaces with relatively stable office furniture, but that you need staff lists and room assignments to organize who gets what space when. AutoCAD seems like overkill for this. But it has the ability to xref (externally reference excel files) so you could drop a table into a drawing that grabs its contents from some sort of excel file. Also I haven’t worked with Visio but AutoCAD also gives you the opportunity to lock layers.
posted by edbles at 6:17 AM on April 23, 2010

edbles thanks for summarising my rambling nonsense so succinctly, that's pretty much exactly what I'm after.

My feeling too was AutoCAD was overkill, but if it does what I want then maybe I need to go that route after all.
posted by fatfrank at 7:09 AM on April 23, 2010

I don’t know what kind of academic setting you’re at, but it seems like a custom built GUI with editable text fields that uses a static image of the location as a background to display room use data at various times on is more what your after. Is there a CS department at your place that could offer class credit for a CS student to independent study that up?

AutoCAD isn’t really meant to do this. So anything you come up with will be a significant plunge into workarounds in an incredibly complex program whose main functionality you wouldn’t be using.

Also I have no idea if this could be useful, but SketchUp can work with Ruby scripts.
posted by edbles at 7:31 AM on April 23, 2010

How much space are we talking about? IMO, you really can't do this without GIS.

We started using ArcGIS to manage space in our medical school a few years ago and it's been GREAT for handling what was previously a pretty unmanageable mess. People like the system so much that our hospital is going through the hassle of getting another 4 million square feet into the system. The process of converting autocad to arcgis shapes and then tying those in to a big database back-end makes it *relatively* straightforward. The key is keeping all the info up to date...

If you need specific advice, shoot me some mefi mail and I can either help or put you in touch with the real nerds that run our system.
posted by paanta at 7:49 AM on April 23, 2010

The academic setting is a medical one, coincidentally, and we share some space and resources (people) with the hospital next door. In terms of size it's 900~ish people across academics, researchers and admin staff so fairly large. Plus the students.

Thanks edbles for confiming my thoughts about AutoCAD not being the way forward. As soon as you mention space or plans people bandy around AutoCAD like it's a magic piece of software that will cure all known ills...

Will take a look at some GIS stuff over the weekend paanta, thanks for the tip.
posted by fatfrank at 8:44 AM on April 23, 2010

We have FM:Interact at my office, which seems to meet most of your needs.
posted by djb at 11:28 AM on April 23, 2010

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