Tuesday, April 26, 2011

General Eisenhower's Thoughts on Master Planning (and Sustainability)

Driven by the best of intentions, a growing number of public and private organizations aspire to “sustainability.” These are operating principles that minimize environmental impacts and waste while reducing operating costs. This pursuit, however, is not without impacts on other elements of facility asset management. Like sustainability, these other elements also require resources and are subject to performance measurement and accountabilities. They include:

Statutory prescriptions that ensure the health and safety of building occupants
CAPACITY & GROWTH: Ensuring that the volume of space utilized is in concert with demand
ADEQUACY: Ensuring that physical space and technologies are functionally relevant to needs
COST EFFECTIVENESS: Monitor and remediate operations in reaction to cost performance

Without a modern facilities “master plan,” these criteria are potentially conflicting. A master plan provides a durable vision for physical building space that coordinates criteria for cost control, risk management, and program effectiveness. For many organizations, master planning is traditionally driven by five- or ten-year facility audits. These audits simply create a “punch list” of asset replacement and compliance needs. Sustainability, cost performance, and program adequacy needs are mostly absent from this approach.

Because of sustainability’s close connection to energy-consuming buildings and mechanical systems, responsibility for its implementation will typically accrue to an engineering or facilities department. These are the very same departments that have been weakened by years of cutbacks and the perceived threat of outsourced jobs. Most organizations have a handful of visionaries who understand and support sustainability. The remaining staff are indifferent, at best. Regardless of staff support, the typical facilities manager struggles to implement sustainability with limited resources.

To quote General Dwight D. Eisenhower, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

A “perfect storm” of forces demands a new approach to facility master planning. Trade-offs among the priorities listed above are inevitable. Facility master planning is a process that (1) develops a vision for physical space management, (2) leads to buy-in from all stakeholders, and (3) provides a durable roadmap for implementation.

A call to action may include the following:
• Research and identify best practices in facility master planning in your industry
• Organize and educate a team of stakeholder representatives
• With expert guidance, develop a limited number of master planning scenarios
• Collectively advocate a specific scenario for implementation

On May 13, 2011, I’ll be conducting a two-hour online seminar entitled “Converting Energy Audits to Business Plans.” This seminar is produced by the Association of Energy Engineers and directly pursues the organizational issues that make sustainability and efficiency pursuits so challenging ...and rewarding. Please join this discussion.



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