As well as developing the space, you also need to develop the service model… we did not just open the doors and hope for the best. (support staff)

Institutions can be surprised at how much project learning takes place after move-in and several of our case studies talked about the need for better project evaluation. Our culture lab case study has been challenged to finding appropriate ways of evaluating its innovative new space, which is based on a more qualitative and experiential notion of teaching and learning than is usually found on lists of space evaluation criteria prioritising space efficiency (sqm / occupant), utilisation (hours and density of use) and cost (£ / sqm). Both estates and academics agree that new developmental spaces, such as the culture lab, need appropriate accountability mechanisms recognising the fact that they are not being used in the same way as more familiar teaching and learning spaces. This concern is echoed by others too – in evaluating the space, we will have to include its suitability for what we are trying to achieve pedagogically – along with a strong view that students could be more involved.

Another case study that has undergone several major projects in recent years, sites clear evidence that the university is learning from previous projects and carrying these lessons forward to new developments. Initiatives include tightening up on procedures as well as ensuring users have a better understanding what construction projects involve. Equally, there is recognition that estates need to gain a better understanding of what’s involved in teaching and learning. One of our case studies has now got two groups of representatives involved in building projects. Its space utilisation monitoring committee consists of representatives from the estates department and a representative from each of the faculties who recommend how the university should invest its capital in the physical environment. Its teaching and learning committee considers both the student and staff experiences of teaching and learning and is more ‘free-thinking’ about the development of space. Between them they consider all aspects of the teaching and learning environment, from the points of view of efficiency, effectiveness and the student experience.

Given these findings, we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised to learn that one of the most effective methods of evaluation has been through informal dialogue – talking to people has been the main way of evaluating the new space. Having talked our future into being, we then engage with it largely through dialogue.

Tool created by Fiona Duggan