Prototyping new campus spaces doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s your two-step process.

Expert Insight

Prototyping new campus spaces doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s your two-step process.

As colleges and universities look to create campus spaces that will serve their long-term needs, they often struggle to decide whether to invest in new and exciting design features or more traditional layouts. Fearing that a newer or more creative design might not work out, more institutions are turning to prototyping to pilot new spaces before making significant investments and avoid making costly mistakes.

However, successful prototyping requires putting serious thought into which spaces will benefit, who should participate, and how to gather feedback.

EAB has developed two tools to help teams bring new types of spaces to campus and navigate the prototyping process. First, the Space Prototyping Planning Guide helps institutions recognize when and how to prototype a new design. Second, Prototyping Feedback Guidelines equip Facilities departments to gather targeted, constructive feedback from end users testing a space.

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Using the Space Prototyping Planning Guide

The Space Prototyping Planning Guide helps campuses decide whether to prototype a space, predict how long prototyping will take for different types of space, and understand the basic steps of the prototyping process. This tool helps to determine where, when, if, and how prototyping can benefit them.

The first part of the tool includes an assessment, shown below, that Facilities can use to evaluate whether to prototype a given space. In general, prototyping is most valuable for new types of space that have high costs of construction and will be replicated in more than one location on campus. EAB recommends seriously considering prototyping if a space yields “yes” answers to six or more of the questions below.

The second section helps colleges determine the time and effort necessary for successful prototyping. With offices, because people use the space the same way most days, feedback changes less over time and the curve levels off quickly. Meanwhile, the middle classroom curve grows steadily. Classroom prototypes should be tested over a full semester to see how different activities work in the space. Finally, labs require the longest amount of prototyping time, as the way researchers use the lab will fluctuate dramatically through the different stages of the research process.

The third section of the Space Prototyping Planning Guide outlines the steps involved in the prototyping process and helps institutions develop a timeline for their prototyping process to make sure it stays on track.

Using the Prototyping Feedback Guidelines

The second tool is a feedback guide. Gathering feedback is an important step in the prototyping process, allowing users to flag potential design flaws so that designers can make appropriate modifications before replicating the space.

However, campuses often struggle to identify the right groups to include in the design and feedback process, as well as which questions they should ask to generate valuable information.

The Prototyping Feedback Guidelines provide a step-by-step process to choose a method to solicit feedback, determine the right respondent pool, and select the right questions. The tool outlines the pros and cons of focus groups and surveys, provides tips for increasing participation, and explains which constituent groups to consult during the prototyping process.

Finally, this tool helps target prototyping survey questions appropriately, considering the type of space, audience, and desired feedback. It also provides a sample list of questions to assemble a survey by choosing the ones that best match a university’s needs.

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