Maintenance & Operations (Managing the Physical Plant)

Infrastructure Planning

I am often asked how the Campus Operations team determines what to work on around the campus. The Campus Operations team typically focuses on the day-to-day work orders that we receive through our work-order system. The team is made up of individuals from the Mechanical and Electrical, Plumbing, Sustainability, Grounds, Custodial, HVAC and Sustainability teams. We have more than 33,000 customers who can submit work orders. This number includes students, faculty and staff. We normally average about 2000+ work orders per month that can range from a request to clean up a mess to something much more long-term. We tend to focus on the life-safety issues and building envelopes as a priority. When we develop our plan our method is quite different and is more of a process.

Getting Started

One of the first items we discuss and then develop is a list of items related to large systems and infrastructure that can affect a large number of buildings on campus. The list starts in Campus Operations, where a number of the items are summarized by multiple work orders that have been submitted throughout the year and, ultimately, items that could develop into major issues at any time. The Campus Operations team discusses the mechanical, plumbing, HVAC and electrical aspects of the list.

Sustainability, Grounds and Custodial leadership teams are included in the discussion of the information regarding infrastructure planning. The infrastructure list is very comprehensive, including building envelope components such as roofs, windows and tuck-pointing, utility tunnels, building mechanical systems, landscaping and signage. We also discuss the need for assessments to better determine the severity of the problem. The assessment also helps us with prioritization and potential cost impact against the budget.

Getting Consensus

Now that the list is well on its way to being developed, we meet with the Capital Planning and Design/Construction teams to add to the list or better organize the projects. Sometimes we can combine the projects and sometimes we just develop clarity and understanding. Our major focus for this meeting is to get input and to prioritize the list. This is where the challenges, debates and compromising start to appear, but ultimately we arrive at a conclusion and a solid list to work from that best represents the needs of the university community.

Prioritization is necessary because of limited money coming from the state and local funding models. We also make sure that our list matches up with the campus master plan. It is important to have a plan that indicates the future plans for the campus. Whether you are growing or shrinking the footprint of the campus, a comprehensive master plan helps with organization and direction as well as forecasting funding needs for the university. This master plan can also be a source for information related to philanthropic endeavors as well.

Review Your Plans

Also be sure to review your Building Assessment Plan for items that may match up with the infrastructure list. This can be a bit of a challenge at times because other needs tend to develop over time that may not have been discovered or recognized when the initial Building Assessment Plan was performed.

There are many ways to develop consensus when it comes to developing an Infrastructure Plan or Capital Plan; this process just happens to work the best for our organization.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Bruce A. Meyer, Ed.D., is assistant vice president of Campus Operations at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, appointed in April 2010. His team currently manages 5,000,000 square feet on a campus with over 20,000 students, faculty and staff.

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