Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Thoughts on the Campus Plan

Campus Plan.
Long-Range Development Plan.
Facilities Master Plan.
Comprehensive Plan.

It goes by many names; and, while the specific goals of the process may vary, a (we use this term in Maryland, so I’ll use it here) Facilities Master Plan (FMP) establishes a framework for orderly growth and development of capital improvements on campus.  It should be responsive to an institution's current and projected needs and sufficiently flexible to accommodate changes that can be expected to occur.  

An FMP typically describes the optimal, desired development of available land, consistent with the approved mission statement of the institution.  Plans should look inward, as well as outward and address those issues that benefit the campus and its surroundings.  And plans change and evolve.  In the recent decade, for instance, a serious environmental commitment to the concept of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change in development and operations, for instance, has become an ongoing theme.

Sometimes the plan is expressed in terms of future improvement of undeveloped or to-be-redeveloped property, as in the case of many plans for traditional, rural or suburban institutions.  Most often, however, plans are important to helping tie a variety of existing buildings and building sites together into a reasonable, cohesive whole, and then plot a logical course for future development—often with little available land and even more limited resources. 

Regardless of its purpose or scope, the FMP is a working document that will require consistent evaluation and periodic updates. Furthermore, though the goals of the plan should have temporal components to encourage their achievement, the plan is not necessarily tied to a commitment to a specific timetable for the funding or completion of projects.  That occurs as part of the capital budgeting process.

Planning Process and Components

An FMP includes information about the institution's role and mission and how these relate to facilities requirements.  This involves an analysis of space and program needs to implement the approved mission; a description of existing land and facilities, including a description of the possible new or revised use of existing land and facilities; projections of needs over the next 10 to 20 or more years; and assumptions and criteria to meet identified needs. 

An FMP should be consistent with the mission of the institution as has been approved by Regents or Trustees, as well as the State (in the case of a public university). 

Broad participation is critical.  In many ways, the process by which the plan was developed will be as important to its success as the quality of the goals and objectives of the plan itself. Institutions are encouraged to build substantive relationships with their neighboring communities and governmental entities (counties, municipalities, Federal installations, etc.).

The format and components of the FMP vary by institution, due to the unique nature of mission, physical condition, natural environment, community setting, etc.  Our board of regents, for instance, does not require a particular format be followed.  In general, however, all master plans should follow a similar framework in terms of the kinds of topics covered:

  • Statement of the institution’s role and mission
  • Assessment and analysis of existing land, facilities, space utilization, energy use and operations, including an emissions inventory
  • Planning assumptions and guidelines for development based on
-   Comprehensive program of stakeholder participation;
-   Goals and objectives expressed by these stakeholders; and
-   A commitment to address the long-range challenge of climate change

  • Specific plans in major component areas
  • An implementation strategy, including:
-   A summary of individual projects
-   Recommended sequencing of projects without specific time constraints
-   A plan for continued community participation through implementation
-   A method and schedule for updating and improving the plan

The Approval Process

Our state requires an FMP as part of its capital budgeting and facilities program approval processes.  In order for a project to be approved in the state’s capital budget, for instance, it must be part of an approved master plan.  Maryland state government does not approve master plans of the institutions, but instead defers that responsibility to our Board of Regents.  We typically involve state oversight agencies in the plan’s development, however, and seek their input and endorsement of various components.

Implementation and Updating the FMP

The Facilities Master Plan represents a comprehensive, strategic approach for implementing the institution’s future capital program and is used to direct the development of facilities and inform campus operations.  The plan and process may be modified as necessitated by the actual conditions of each project as they are programmed for funding.  Furthermore, approval of the plan by a board or other oversight entity should not imply approval of capital funding nor commit the board to a particular funding stream or timetable.  As noted earlier, these items are reviewed through the capital and operating budget processes.

By policy, our board does require the FMP be evaluated and updated on a periodic basis, including when substantial changes to the institution's mission statement have taken place, or at least every five years.  This requirement has become a useful way to keep plans current and maintain the positive momentum and campus-related discussion started during the original plan development process.

Timely Focus Areas

In Maryland, our board of regents has asked institutions to highlight some selected components within their plans.  For instance, our board asked that institutions include metrics related to demographics—specifically population data and their impact on enrollment demand—in their planning discussion.  Our board has also asked that institutions provide focused attention to building condition (renewal needs) and land acquisition (e.g., land banking for future development).  While most institutions already include these components in their plans, care should be taken in addressing real property acquisition (in particular) so that the ability of the campus to leverage the most competitive price for adjacent parcels is not compromised by a public discussion of interest. 

In addition to the traditional land use focus of the plan, also asked that Facilities Master Plans address a handful of critical areas, including:  (1) community participation in the process; (2) consistency with the statewide development plan; (3) strong consideration of goals related to environmental sustainability, including mitigation/adaptation/resiliency, as well as ties to the campus hazard mitigation plan (where one has been established).

In Maryland, public participation includes a policy related to community notification. Specifically, every institution is required to develop their campus facilities “in a way that best accommodates the needs of students, faculty and staff, while pursuing plans that benefit all stakeholders in the success of the campus—including the local neighborhoods and municipalities on its borders.” The policy continues:

During the planning phase of a new structure or the substantial exterior modification of an existing structure on land owned by a USM Institution, if the new structure or modification of the structure is adjacent to or abutting land that is privately owned, the institution shall make reasonable efforts to provide notice of the proposed new structure or modification of the structure either electronically or by first-class mail to: (a) all adjoining property owners or occupants, including owners or occupants whose properties lie directly across a street, alley, or stream, if the new or modified structure is visible from the adjoining property; and (b) all Local Governments located within one mile of the project site.  (Board policy on Community Notification of Capital Projects, VIII-10.40, Approved by the Board of Regents, June 18, 2010)

Goals of the State Plan

State agencies and institutions are to lead by example in this implementation by utilizing plan objectives as they pursue development opportunities. The following (from multiple public documents) constitute a useful checklist of the preferred qualities of a sustainable development plan, including:

1.     Quality of Life and Sustainability:
A high quality of life is achieved through universal stewardship of the land, water, and air resulting in sustainable communities and protection of the environment.

2.     Public Participation:
Citizens are active partners in the planning and implementation of community initiatives and are Sensitive to their responsibilities in achieving community goals.

3.     Growth Areas:
Growth is concentrated in existing population and business centers, growth areas adjacent to these centers, or strategically selected new centers.

4.     Community Design:
Compact, mixed–use, walk-able design consistent with existing community character and located near available or planned transit options is encouraged to ensure efficient use of land and transportation resources and preservation and enhancement of natural systems, open spaces, recreational areas, and historical, cultural, and archeological resources.

5.     Infrastructure:
Growth areas have the water resources and infrastructure to accommodate population and business expansion in an orderly, efficient, and environmentally sustainable manner;

6.     Transportation:
A well–maintained, multi-modal transportation system facilitates the safe, convenient, affordable, and efficient movement of people, goods, and services within and between population and business centers;

7.     Housing:
A range of housing densities, types, and sizes provides residential options for citizens of all ages and incomes;

8.     Economic Development:
Economic development and natural resource–based businesses that promote employment opportunities for all income levels within the capacity of the State’s natural resources, public services, and public facilities are encouraged;

9.     Environmental Protection:
Land and water resources, including the Chesapeake and coastal bays, are carefully managed to restore and maintain healthy air and water, natural systems, and living resources;

10.  Resource Conservation:
Waterways, forests, agricultural areas, open space, natural systems, and scenic areas are conserved;

11.  Stewardship:
Government, business entities, and residents are responsible for the creation of sustainable communities by collaborating to balance efficient growth with resource protection; and

12.  Implementation:
Strategies, policies, programs, and funding for growth and development, resource conservation, infrastructure, and transportation are integrated across the local, regional, state, and interstate levels.

Environmental Sustainability

In Maryland, the board doesn’t provide a checklist of climate-related components, but what follows are good examples of spatial and operational goals tied to sustainable planning practices.  A commitment to climate change mitigation can be physically accommodated within the plan, even if the specific requirements of the commitment may not yet have been formally implemented or even adopted by the institution.  The institution’s climate action plan can be interwoven into the development ideas and the resulting plan will better accommodate those mitigation goals.  Operational suggestions can even be included within the implementation section of the plan.  Here are some examples:

·       Definition of and commitment to "GHG Reduction" and "Sustainable Building"

Campus Development
·       Zoning of uses to encourage pedestrian activity and minimize vehicle activity
·       Building placement and orientation to maximize LEED point opportunities
·       Effective use of materials and massing to minimize physical footprint of buildings and reduce impervious surfaces, mitigate the urban "heat island" effect, etc.
·       Liberal plantings and forest replacement (emphasize natural materials, native plants)
·       Clustering of similar functions and providing remote areas for solar and wind power generating equipment, biomass energy production, composting, waste management, recycling facilities, etc. (Note community concerns as well.)
·       Providing facilities for alternative transportation (e.g., mass transit stops, rail beds and crossings, bridges over busy highways, etc.
·       Providing facilities for refueling of vehicles operating on alternative or mixed fuels

Buildings and Facilities
·       Specific mention of LEED goals and what that means for new buildings and the retrofit of existing buildings (see USGBC publications for more details)
·       Materials (e.g., certified recycled/recyclable, locally produced, low emitting, etc.) and mechanical/electrical equipment standards (e.g., Energy Star)
·       Roof configuration to accommodate solar panels (present or future)
·       Provide more on-campus housing and amenities for students and (perhaps) faculty and staff to minimize commuting and off-campus trips during the day
·       Provisions for controlling runoff and sediment
·       Landscaping that minimizes use of water and fertilizers

Utilities and Infrastructure
·       Energy conservation standards
·       Clustering of facilities to minimize loss of energy during long runs
·       Accommodations for mixed and alternative energy sources (present or future)
·       Electronic backbone to support distance ed. and teleworking

Adaptation and Resiliency

Related to the sustainability issues noted above, it’s important that institutions consider climate adaptation and steps they’re taking toward improving the resiliency of the institution related to climate and other disruptive events.  The FMP should support these goals as well. 

The organization Second Nature provides some important components and criteria on the topic of resilience, as well as questions and examples to guide thinking and planning. Please note the following from their web page:

Resilience is the ability of a system or community to survive disruption and to anticipate, adapt, and flourish in the face of change. Resilience doesn’t come with a specific roadmap and a universal set of steps to follow. However, the resilience of any campus or community will be based its own unique set of characteristics, future goals, existing capacity and strengths, and current and future vulnerabilities. Part of developing increased resilience is undertaking the social engagement, assessment, and planning process itself.

The most successful campus resilience plans will be those that fully embrace the catalytic nature of resilience assessment and planning, and that incorporate diversity and inclusiveness throughout the process.  Resilience touches on all aspects of a campus and surrounding community. To help campuses think comprehensively about resilience, Second Nature breaks it down into five dimensions:

·       Infrastructure
·       Ecosystem Services
·       Economic
·       Health and Wellness
·       Social Equity and Governance

These dimensions are not mutually exclusive. They are meant to encourage a holistic assessment of resilience and adaptive capacity. Considering each of these dimensions in the context of climate change will help campuses and communities develop a resilience plan that addresses the entire system. Resilience is not just about survival and bouncing back from disruptions; it is about being able to thrive.

Hazard Mitigation Plans

No campus is immune from the effects of natural hazards.  Even if, as in the case of Maryland, earthquakes aren’t quite as common as hurricanes, floods and winter storms, nobody will argue the value in being prepared.  All institutions should have “Emergency Preparedness” plans that describe how the campus would respond in the event of a disaster.  Our board has encouraged preparation of such plans in the past.

Some institutions have also created formal hazard mitigation plans that may have been formally presented and endorsed. They describe what your campus is doing (or could do) to prevent or reduce the impact from an event.  Typically these include campus policies (or guidelines) for building placement, construction standards, barriers and drainage, communications systems, etc.  All institutions are encouraged to consider preparation of such plans.

It is important to include ties to these plans, where appropriate, in your master plan document; and, conversely, to be sure the goals and plan components of the FMP support those of the hazard mitigation plan.  In terms of the master plan document, the following questions are useful (adapted from the “Safe Growth Audit” process proposed by David R. Godschalk, FAICP) :

  • Does the FMP clearly identify natural hazard areas?
  • Do the policies of the FMP discourage development within natural hazard areas?
  • Does the FMP provide adequate space for expected future growth in areas located outside of natural hazard areas?
  • Does the FMP recommend hazard mitigation projects (and related improvements like storm water remediation) as identified by the Hazard Mitigation Plan?

In a previous post (here), I described the ideal format for a campus plan.  There is none.  Often, the process, and lessons learned via that process, are ultimately more important than the document itself. Even so, it pays to create an organized and easily accessible product.  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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Best Practices: Mold Prevention

In a previous post (here), I shared a few resources related to the general issue of mold on the college campus. In looking beyond simply finding and cleaning-up the problem, I was hopeful to discover best practices for looking ahead and finding ways to prevent the problem. 

In another, more recent post, I shared a very useful example from Eastern Michigan University, that listed mold, not only as a distinct "natural hazard," but actually pulled it out for special consideration as a hazard of its own to be mitigated by the university.  The mitigating actions suggested followed the typical steps of:

Eliminating sources of water intrusion and moisture in the building Upgrading/repairing HVAC systems to maintain adequate humidity and temperature controls Using mold-inhibiting materials in construction

A “Mold Prevention, Assessment, and Remediation Plan” prepared by the University of North Carolina, Pembroke (UNCP), addresses three aspects of the problem: 
  • First it details the measures UNCP will take to prevent the formation of mold in its buildings.
  • Second, realizing that mold spores are a naturally occurring substance, present in outdoor air, and that no plan will ever entirely prevent the spores from occasionally finding a suitable spot to grow, this plan details how UNCP will take measures to detect the presence of mold early in its growth stages.
  • Finally, the plan details how UNCP will remediate mold growth when found, and will be revised as needed as scientific knowledge or regulatory requirements dictate.
Of particular interest here are the actions to be taken to prevent the formation of mold.  The plan notes the EPA’s own guidelines that underscore the ubiquitous nature of mold in the environment:

Molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors. The best way to control mold growth is to control moisture…

Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on. You can prevent damage to buildings and building contents, save money and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture and eliminating mold growth.  

Eliminating all mold and mold spores indoors is virtually impossible, but controlling indoor moisture will control the growth of indoor mold.

Controlling humidity is the key.  With that, the UNCP plan tasks the Facilities Operations personnel with the following activities:

·       Preventative Maintenance of all air-handling units. This will include the following:
o   Monthly filter changes
o   Application of biocide tablets in the condensate pans of air handling units
o   Maintenance of chilled water temperatures to the coils of 45 degrees or less
o   Periodic checks of condensate pans to ensure proper drainage
o   Maintenance of air handling unit fans, motors and belts to ensure proper air flow
·       Preventative Maintenance of Roofs. Roof leaks can be a major source of mold formation in ceilings and walls. Leaks must be addressed as soon as they are detected. Periodic inspections of top floors of buildings should reveal stained ceiling tiles, which typically indicate roof leaks.
·       Preventative Maintenance on toilets, water fountains, laundry rooms. Perform a minimum of monthly inspections of toilets, water fountain areas, and laundry rooms to detect leaks. Leaks will be repaired promptly.
·       Preventative Maintenance on exhaust fans. This will include the following:
o   Monthly checks of fan controls, belts, and motors
o   Monthly checks for leaks around fans
·       Preventative building inspections to detect the presence of mold. Indicators will be actual mold growth on surfaces, musty odors, and stained ceiling tiles. These inspections will be performed on each building monthly.