Aalto Campus-as-a-Service Simulations

Ronan Doorley


How can we get more value from the same buildings? 

Cities contain many different resources and spaces and typically, these resources operate as products with  a single function and a single owner and/or renter. However, the owner's demand for space often varies daily or seasonally, meaning that many buildings tend to be underutilized and are often vacant or partially vacant for large portions of each day. 

Meanwhile, the "sharing economy" has been one of the most significant economic shifts in the last 10 years, with companies like Uber and Airbnb experiencing explosive growth. Along these lines, Aalto University—a member of the MIT Media Lab City Science network—has developed the concept of City-as-a-Service, where building space and other resources are shared among institutions, businesses, and citizens in a community. Aalto has already begun experimenting with School-as-a-Service, as a prototype of City-as-a-Service on their campus in Espoo.

One of the goals of the City Science collaboration with Aalto is to investigate the potential for increasing their resource efficiency and total teaching capacity by transitioning towards a service oriented operating model supported by intelligent scheduling systems. Various scenarios involving increased sharing within the campus, as well as sharing with local high schools and businesses, are being explored through simulation models.

Baseline Conditions

The usage of each room in each building over time was recorded over one  year by the campus space-reservation app. These data were used to analyze the baseline occupancy levels of each building, the weekly requirements of each teaching type for each department, and the suitability of each room for each teaching type. The visualization below shows the occupancy of each building on campus at baseline across an average week. Like many university campuses and other institutions, the buildings have a lot of unused capacity.

Sharing Simulations 

We then ran a simulation where the campus is totally reorganised in a service model, whereby certain buildings act as department hubs and all other buildings are resources which are available to each department as needed. In the visualization below, the connections represent use of resources by hubs. The simulation found that the same buildings  could have capacity for a 50% increase in student population in this scenario.

As shown in this last simulation, the resource sharing could also be extended to more local high schools to get even greater efficiency and a 64% total increase in teaching hours.