Friday, August 30, 2019

Campus Seismic Retrofit in California

Hurricane Dorian is bearing down to inflict what could be significant damage to Florida in the next few days.  I have family in the state and, while they live on the safer (in this case) Gulf coast, none of Florida’s residents are free from worry.

To populate a state like Florida, one must accept the potential risk these storms pose.  You can limit the vulnerability of a particular community with flood mitigation measures and geographical solutions (e.g., moving structures from coastal areas), but enforcing building construction techniques that help preserve life and property remains the most effective tool available to public leaders.

At the same time we’re watching the storm, a study in California is drawing the interest of hazard mitigation planners and lawmakers alike. The subject is the safety of earthquakes and university buildings and an article in the LA times carries the ominous title, “Earthquakes could kill people in many UCLA, UC Berkeley buildings, officials say.”
Like the wind and storm damage from a hurricane or typhoon, avoiding the hazard of an earthquake is difficult if the only solution you have is geographical.  With a few exceptions for micro-site decisions (e.g., elevation, soil type, proximity to known faults) you can’t move away from earthquakes. Rather, reducing damage and loss of life from seismic events requires a strong focus on engineered solutions—building safer structures.

Recently, researchers have identified at least 86 buildings at two of California’s major UC campuses (UCLA and Berkeley) that pose significant risks for occupants in the event of a major earthquake. Studies at other state institutions are pending.  The cost of repairs for Berkeley alone exceeds $1 billion.  State leaders are asking voters to approve another $8 billion in bonds for retrofitting university buildings—this in addition to the $2 billion already in the state’s capital plan.  So why haven’t they made repairs? They did.  The article says:

“UCLA and UC Berkeley have been leaders in seismic retrofits for decades. UCLA has spent more than $2.8 billion, and UC Berkeley, more than $1 billion, on retrofits — strengthening buildings that are particularly at risk of extensive damage.  But new research over the past quarter-century has shown that, at least for the Berkeley campus, the severity of potential shaking is much worse than previously believed…”
“In a campus email Wednesday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said the campus was submitting its preliminary findings to the UC Office of the President as officials begin ‘a coordinated, systemwide effort to holistically prioritize and address the work that will need to be done on hundreds of buildings on the 10 UC campuses.  Before remediation can proceed, experts must first determine the best option — retrofit, replace or vacate — for each of the seismically deficient buildings. In the meantime,' she added, 'UC Berkeley will review ‘available, realistic options to limit occupancy and usage of seismically deficient buildings on our campus.’”

The Hayward fault (left) runs through Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and Fremont. It's capable of producing an earthquake greater than magnitude 7. Source: the LA Times article.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Dangers of Data

Sightlines, Inc., an excellent private consulting resource for facilities managers, published a blog post recently that began by stating the obvious: “Facilities needs can be all consuming.”  The author then described how all of the measurement tools used to “track operating systems and physical assets” tend to “produce so much data that measurement can be overwhelming too.”

So the author suggests that, “as stewards of their organizations, facilities and finance leaders must remember to commit to taking the time and the necessary energy and resources to focus on how to utilize this information,” adding:

Leadership must invest in itself and the welfare of its teams. Money spent on systems that collect data but don’t manage it is money lost. Time a team spends to track activity without a strategic direction is time wasted. And wasted money and wasted time mean the community is not being served properly…

The people who steward facilities should take time every week to revisit their efforts in the following areas:
·       Are you able to assess the progress of your organization toward optimal performance for your community?

·       Does your community have a clear understanding of our priorities in serving them?

·       Can you measure whether you are successful in serving your community?

·       What are your KPIs [Key Performance Indicators]?

·       Does your team know what its goals are and why we are doing the work?

·       Does institutional leadership understand the demands being placed on your team and the necessary effort to support those demands?

Building on this list, another popular facilities management blog asks the question: What are Key Performance Indicators for Facilities Managers?  On the university campus, such measures could include: space utilization and occupancy rates, asset replacement and renovation costs, maintenance costs and maintenance hours, annual maintenance spending, energy use, and even carbon emissions.

The author continues by relating the importance of tying these myriad data with the goals and objectives they support.  She says: 

"These metrics are valuable to measure, but they are typically just one part of a broader key performance indicators. They directly relate to SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, agreed upon by all key parties, realistic and time-sensitive. For facilities managers, KPIs might include:

·       Improving space utilization by X percent: This takes into account not only how many work stations are occupied at any given time, but how often meeting rooms and collaborative spaces are being used across all your real estate properties.

·       Reducing energy consumption by X percent: This would involve looking at several factors, including heating and cooling, lighting and total electricity usage.

·       Maintaining our buildings X percent more efficiently: This would involve monitoring room usage and dispatching maintenance crews only as needed, as well as taking a more proactive approach to preventive maintenance.

The author then brings this notion of data full circle, back to the reason we use data at all, stating:

Key performance indicators can help bridge the gap between raw data and business strategy. When you use your facilities management software to develop and track KPIs, you're able to take numbers that may mean little out of context, and put them into a context that is useful for showing how well operations are in alignment with business goals. 

When it comes to fine-tuning business strategy, KPIs offer vital information that could be missed altogether in the absence of KPIs and the software necessary to develop and track them. The results of KPI tracking can include cost savings, improved revenues, or a stronger competitive edge.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A or B ?

Both provide the same amount of programmed space. A costs less than B. A can also be opened more quickly than B.  And both have support from different parts of a local community.  So which do you choose? A or B?

There's a great story behind these photos, including some lessons learned by a community and a campus planner. Check it out here

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Reaching Out

A few years ago, I was asked to contribute to a newsletter distributed by Academic Impressions, Inc. The title of the article was "Reaching Out to the Town During Campus Expansion."  The article makes five very important points related to finding success in gaining the support of stakeholders for campus development. They are as follows with my comments in quotes:

1.  Engage Your Community Early and Often.  "It's not so much what you do to engage your community, but how you do it." 

2.  Active Communication Can Create Excitement. "It's not enough to simply post information online or send out a newsletter. Communication efforts need to be active and two-way." 

3.  Schedule regular public meetings on campus... (and) invest in an attractive (paper and online) newsletter and send it out on a regular basis.  "There can be no shortage of communication. You can't do too much PR in your community to inform people of what is happening and why. Put a human face on the issue.

4.  Address Difficult Issues. "Identify hot spots early on, decide which ones you are willing to address, and which ones you need to fall on your sword for." 

5.  Leverage Community Champions. "People who get to know the campus well enough and you well enough are often those who can help you identify where the hotbed issues will be, ahead of time.... You have to go forward with realistic expectations. Just because everyone is around a table and seems to be getting along, that doesn't mean that members of that group won't question or object to what you're doing."

The article points out that institutions should "avoid reliance on leveraging legal authority when forging ahead with expansion plans. Engaging the community in the planning process not only creates important buy-in and support (and gives you the opportunity to avoid the negative media attention that results from surprising a community late in the process), but also brings new ideas to the table that might have otherwise been overlooked. Creating an inclusive process creates goodwill that can be leveraged in the future for many other important university initiatives."

A Worthwhile Quote

Just Gathering Dust?

One of my first jobs while in college was behind a drawing board in the university’s planning office. I prepared construction drawings and maps and the occasional artistic renderings of new campus buildings.  It was great work, but as the lone student employee among a group of seasoned professionals, I was also picked to be the “gopher” for the office (e.g., “go ‘fer this, and go ‘fer that”). I logged a lot of miles on foot and in university vehicles, but I also got to meet a lot of great people and see a lot of the campus and the city in the process.

I had been on the job only a week or so when the boss asked me to deliver the final photo-ready copies of the campus master plan to the printer across town.  Then, a few weeks later, I was asked to go retrieve a number of boxes of carefully bound volumes that were then distributed to administrators across campus.  Each member of our office staff was given a copy, complete with the staff member’s name embossed neatly on the cover.  I still have mine on my office shelf.  I didn’t have much to do with the contents, but my name was there nonetheless.

I learned a great deal from that first job, from the people I worked with, and the opportunities those contacts brought later in my career. But I always wondered about that book on my shelf. There it sat, for years, gathering dust.  A few years later, a new master plan was developed and published and, though it wasn’t hard bound for posterity, it likewise sat on a shelf.   A dozen years, three jobs and two cross-country moves later, I was back at the same institution—this time in my boss’s chair.  And when an update of the campus master plan was necessitated by the potential for a massive outside investment in campus development, I had the chance to do it all differently.

The new plan took the bulk of the next four years to complete. The plan itself was structured as a land-use document, tied to the needs of the campus and its impact on the environment. For the first time, it was based heavily on the broad input of campus and community stakeholders. Perhaps even more unique was that it was completed and “published” as a series of reference documents in a loose-leaf binder, with the intent that it wouldn’t be a shelf decoration, but would be pulled down and used regularly by architects, planners, and engineers. 

The plan was successful. I left shortly after it was finished and took a new job 2,300 miles away, but many of the elements of the plan came to fruition. Furthermore, when the time came to update it again, I noticed that the institution used a similar approach and format. They’ve also continued—strengthened, in fact—the environmental and community focus.  So I’d like to think I played a part, at least, in helping improve the process and shift the direction of the campus toward its new future.

Getting the right information into the document is only half the battle. I wonder, for instance, if those plans—like that neatly bound volume with my name on it on my office shelf—sit unopened, gathering dust, while development decisions are being made.  I’d like to think that documents like these are consulted regularly. But I’m not sure that’s the case.

So what does it take to make sure a well-prepared plan is used and referenced regularly?  Here are a few of my thoughts on that question:

Seek Broad Participation.  Involve as many people as you can in the plan’s preparation.  Being part of a plan’s preparation means stakeholders are invested and interested in the outcome.  They won’t let you forget the promises you made and will always be interested to see how the ideas they shared to be incorporated in the final.

Include Targeted Goals/Objectives.  Elements of the plan should directly address the needs of the individuals and groups the plan is intended to benefit.  If a plan is organized around these clear goals and objectives, and includes specific ways to measure its success over time, it will become a useful tool and be referenced frequently.

Choose Simplicity.  Organizing a document in a way that it can be easily referenced and updated will help ensure it is used. Clear, precise language and high quality graphic design make the document more readable.  The binder idea was helpful, but many now find electronic documents far easier to use. Regardless of the format, being able to find what you’re looking for at a click or at a glance, helps keep people using the plan.

Use Carrots and Sticks.  Communities require reference of, and adherence to, plans and building codes.  But you can also reward people for using the plan.  Tying goals to budget requests, by insisting that requests demonstrate compliance with the plan, will help guarantee frequent access to the plan itself.

The bottom line is that, after spending all that time and effort putting the very best information in a place where those that need it should be able to find it, you definitely want them to use it.