In , the students read Hunt and Simmonds (1993) for a basic description of MEPLAN. They also read Abraham and Hunt (1999) for a description of the Sacramento MEPLAN application. The lecture was a description of the Sacramento MEPLAN model, which is quite complex. The lectures described the version that was being used in the class, which represents floorspace production and consumption explicitly (SacMeplan2).
In the lab session, the students were given a run-through of the model, showing them the inputs that they could change and the most important outputs to evaluate. All model runs were to be to the year 2020 (a 30-year projection, since this model has a 1990 base year). MEPLAN is written in FORTRAN and is operated using DOS commands. It has a modular architecture that calls and writes to numerous data files as it steps through time. New scenarios or policy tests require new files. This can build up to an enormous amount—over 3,500 files in the version used for this course. Each data file must be manipulated manually, one character at a time. In addition, the user must keep track of control totals and any other requirements, including other files that access that character space. The complexity of the files, file structure, and ease of erring while manually entering data and changing files and folders were obstacles that needed to be overcome prior to the introduction of this model in a classroom setting. The grant from UCTC was used to fund the creation of a graphical user interface (GUI) for the MEPLAN model.
With this $8,000 grant, a programmer was hired to develop a GUI using Access. MEPLAN requires a large set of data files that are operated on by DOS commands set by the user, making it quite easy to get lost in the operations. There is a basic MEPLAN manual, which fails to document the operation of the model; it only details the files and