Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Vertisee: Applying GIS technology for Facilities Services
Year Submitted 2019
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Larry Waddell Chief Facilities Officer
Name of Institution Simon Fraser University
Office Address 8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
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Telephone: 7787824773
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Larry Waddell
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Chief Facilities Officer
Office Address 8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
Map It
Telephone: 7787824773
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

Simon Fraser University Facilities Services implemented Geographic Information Services (GIS) technology to verify and develop a system to manage information on the 8 underground utilities and infrastructure at its Burnaby campus. The project was initiated in 2012, resulting in a GIS Enterprise system installed in 2018, providing an internal secure service for access to asset information through Vertisee, SFU's online service portal. GIS technology has improved data reliability and quality, enhancing SFU's ability not only to manage utilities but also make renewal plans for infrastructure renewal. GIS resulted in a breakthrough creation of an interactive Campus Room Finder.





Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

Institutional capital renewal plans typically focus on campus buildings. However, in 2012, as SFU began to prioritize projects in preparation for launching a major capital renewal program at its 50-year old campus, close to half of the funding requests by dollar value were for high priority projects for utilities underground infrastructure. These out of sight systems operate for many years without major capital reinvestments, but failure or service disruption has a large impact on the university’s operations. SFU Facilities Services began to investigate technology solutions to establish a system of record for the 8 major campus utilities (district heat, high voltage power, data and communications, natural gas distribution, and municipal services such as water, sanitary, storm). Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology was selected as the information technology platform as it offers seamless bi-directional information transformation between AutoCAD files (primary source files during infrastructure design and construction) and GIS shape files.

A standardized geopositioning system is now adopted for the campus (Candian Spatial Reference System CSRS). The coordinates of each building, infrastructure assets and site features have been spatially referenced. Location of the underground networks have been geolocated through surveys and ground penetrating radar. Working with Operations managers, the team also developed structured databases for each utility system. The systems can now be layered in for site specific project queries. A secure internal GIS web portal (Vertisee) provides interactive views of the utilities composite map.  The ability to visualize the utility systems improved communications in project teams, and added institutional capacity to quantify needs for long term capital planning.

Quality Impact

The expected outcome from implementing GIS technology was a structured relational geodatabase of all utilities similar to a municipal system. Relevant information can be overlaid for site specific queries and analysis. The GIS technology would be provided as a SFU internal cloud service, that will allow maintenance and operations staff to view and access information based on system roles and permissions. Users will be able to edit and update asset data in the field, reducing time and duplication. 

The utilities GIS mapping started in 2012 and has seen ongoing improvements in data quality and reliability. A composite geodatabase map of all utilities has been compiled. Interactive web access to accurate information allow custom maps to be prepared for the specific areas under study. A GIS dynamic spatial drawing search tool was also developed to allow users to quickly zoom into records of interest. The geospatial room data and floor plans integrated into the GIS Room Finder has been the most frequently accessed service on SFU's official phone app. 

The flexibility and adaptability of GIS technology have spawned a host of useful applications custom built for mobile data collection, allowing field crews to access and update live data e.g. space inventory survey, skylight and roof hazard inventory tool, etc.   Data visualization has supported improved collaboration within the department e.g. the interactive "Projects Construction Planning" map is a decision-making tool for project managers to visualize and negotiate site availability for concurrent construction staging and mobile crane setup requirements.

Productivity Impact

Requests from project managers for utilities information that in the past took up to 3 days, now takes a matter of seconds to compile. Through ViewSFU (GIS site) and Vertisee (GIS web portal), custom queries that required filtering and asset ID search would have required up to 3 hours, are now completed in less than 5 minutes.

GIS technology services fulfilled 85 mapping projects between 2015 to 2018, with 31 in the past year. The steady growth in projects reflect the increasing adoption of GIS technology.  As more datasets have been added to the GIS data repository, as many as 2/3rds of the mapping requests are non-specific to utilities but instead, cover broad topics in Planning, Space, and other Special Needs.  As GIS enterprise becomes further integrated into Facilities Services work, time savings from current projects in operations such as mapping snow removal operations and locating loading docks for campus deliveries will be accrued.  


Creating a data repository for utilities information was only the beginning. The spatial referncing of the campus infrastructure opened the door to link other structured databases. Linking the University space database added rich room data frm the University's space managment database in Archibus. Equipment managed by other University administrative departments could also be mapped spatially. Working off the spatially referenced space inventory, Facilities Services developed an interactive SFU Campus Room Finder (https://roomfinder.sfu.ca/apps/sfuroomfinder_desktop/public/) that has led to the Room Finder offered in the SFU official phone app. Custom field collector tools have saved time in data inventory and improved accuracy for field workers. The ability in GIS to create data-driven visualizations has helped to answer far ranging questions for the University.

Facilities Services regularly offers co-op employment to Geography and Spatial Information Systems students, providing paid work experience for students and opportunities to apply GIS for asset management. Generous support from institutional GIS teaching staff and the Library have resulted in collaborations to continue to build a GIS enterprise framework for asset management that is flexible, secure and shared.

Supporting Documents