Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to number offices?

The floors of the Brown CS department are roughly square. Most offices have a window to the outside. A few windowless offices, classrooms, meeting rooms, etc., are in the inside of the building, which is organized in square or rectangular blocks.

Some of the new PhD students complained about the numbering system for the offices: offices that are contiguous or that face each other do not necessarily have contiguous or near-contiguous numbers.

How can one number offices to avoid this problem?


  1. Evans Hall, at Berkeley, can be similarly described. Odd-numbered rooms are around the edges of the building; even-numbered rooms are on the inside. For the most part this solves the problem, except that 301 and 399 are next to each other.

    However, this creates a new problem. My office (on the outside of the building) is 325; there's a classroom, on the inside of the building, numbered 330. 330 does not face 329 or 331 (which are a couple doors down from me, as you'd expect). So this time of year there's a parade of students in my corner of the building who can't find their classroom, see my door open, and ask me where the room is.

  2. At lunch I suggested pre-fixing the room number by the geographic direction: N,S,E,W. In fact, why should rooms have numbers if a linear order does not correspond to the physical layout? Why not have the description mirror the natural language description?

    "Go to the 4th floor, take the hallway going North, go right, and it's the second door to your right"
    = 4Nr2

  3. Two dimensional lay-out call for more than one dimensional labeling. I like Claire's proposal, but would rather proposed the scheme FLOOR-RING-AISLE-NUMBER, and choosing a distinct labeling for each dimension. The distinct labeling scheme is optional, but relieves from the order constraint of the dimensions.

    As an example, in a building with 7 floors {A,B,C,D,E,F,G}, 4 aisles {N,W,S,E}, 3 rings in each floor {$\alpha,\beta,\gamma$}, and at most 10 rooms [1..10] in each, my current office (303) would be $CS\alpha3$.

    Of course, in less than 10 years time we will either have all digital classes, or every room will have a unique digital identifier, and people will be guided to it using their digital assistant.

  4. I think that a good hint is the way in which large parking garages label their spaces. Usually: 1. Which floor, 2. some color code dividing the floor into compact areas, 3. linear number within that color class.

    Simple and easy to memorize.


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