The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) space formula and inventory classification system was developed in the 1970's and has been revised over the years.
The survey takes place every third winter during an academic year. Data as of November 1 is requested as this coincides with the date for reporting student enrolment to the Ontario government for operating grants purposes.
Institutions are requested to report current inventory in 20 space categories (review the COU categories), and related input measures, such as student enrolment, faculty and staff full-time equivalent positions, laboratory contact hours, and equivalent volumes in the library collection.
These input measures are used in the calculation of space requirements for the first 15 of the categories, for which quantitative space factors have been determined. The resulting calculations of space entitlement are used in various ways. For example, COU uses the survey data to monitor changing space needs and as part of the case made to government about capital funding requirements for the university system as a whole.
Individual institutions may compare their existing inventory with space entitlement under the COU formula in proposals for capital funding for new buildings, and the COU formula (sometimes with modifications) is used in institutional planning, such as estimating the needs of a division for different types of space.
Since 1986-87, the "Ontario Ministry" has allocated funds for repair and renovation known as the Facilities Renewal Program (FRP) according to each institution's entitlement for space in the 15 formula categories.