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Key Support Staff & Facility Design

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By: Barry Loveland, Chief, Division of Architecture & Conservation at Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission & Richard Paradis, P.E., BSCP, National Institute of Building Sciences

Whether renovating an existing building or constructing an entirely new building, each project has its own set of unique and complex issues. In the planning/programming stage of any such project, it is highly recommended that both owner and client key facilities staff personnel be included. Key personnel, such as the facilities manager (FM), head of maintenance, and head of information technology (IT) and telecommunications systems can often provide information that is useful in the design process and can be crucial to achieving a successful project that meets the needs of the client. It is not uncommon that they are overlooked in the effort to meet with and satisfy the needs of programmatic and management staff.

Facilities Manager is knowledgeable about what works well and what does not and the ease or difficulty of maintaining and operating existing facility systems and finishes. This is valuable information whether in a renovation project, or if a new replacement facility is being designed. He or she will also know who on their staff can provide particular insights into various aspects of operations and maintenance.

IT and Telecommunications Coordinator is familiar with the IT/telecom infrastructure and how it is integrated into the existing facility. IT will often know about upcoming plans for infrastructure upgrades and also know more about how IT is likely to be used in the future by the organization or company. IT will have important information about the type of wiring needed to accommodate their future infrastructure, required locations of data/phone connections, environmental, electrical and space requirements for data/phone rooms or closets, server equipment rooms/data center and other infrastructure equipment that must be considered in the architectural planning/programming.

These individuals should continue their involvement in the project design phase to review project documents at schematic, design development, and construction documents stages of the process. Having a keen understanding of maintenance/access requirements, types of finishes and various kinds of equipment and systems knowledge, these key personnel can provide important feedback to the designers. This interchange of information also helps other members of the owner/client team better understand the constraints or issues than can affect the work of the operations & maintenance (O&M) staff. Designers should make a serious effort to respond positively to this feedback and incorporate O&M staff comments and recommendations into the design.

Particular consideration should be given to O&M staff identifying/developing, and later in the project, the requirements for O&M Manuals, training documentation and courses, building commissioning, and building turn-over requirements to ensure the level of documentation, testing, certification and training will be adequate to support life cycle management for many years to come.

When a project begins construction, key O&M staff should be encouraged to observe the construction and photographically document the construction project for their future needs, such as capturing the location and configuration of important building elements and construction details that will likely be concealed later behind finishes. They can also be an additional set of eyes on the daily process of construction, note any discrepancies from drawings or specifications, and identify any issues to the owner’s representative for resolution, before they possibly escalate into a more difficult problem to address.

The facility manager should be invited to attend project job conferences and inspections to keep informed of project schedule, change orders and other construction issues. When there are technical questions that come up in the review of submittals, Requests for Information (RFI’s) and other construction activities that have potential impact on O&M, it is recommended to consult with the O&M staff prior to making decisions whether any changes in design or in the physical construction should be considered or not.

In the construction close out and building commissioning process, O&M staff should be involved to see how all building systems are designed to function and that they are being balanced and fine-tuned to perform as designed. There should be an orientation and training program for all O&M staff to review the contents of the O&M manuals for major systems and equipment, including, building mechanical, automation controls, plumbing, electrical, fire detection and protection, security, elevators, etc. Any specialized training in building automation software should be performed using the actual project building graphics, controls sequences and data, not just generic training.

All records documentation including as – built drawings, record submittals, warranties, etc., specified in the contract documents should be turned over to the O&M team. They should in turn review the material to gain familiarity with these resources for full life cycle support. Any missing or incomplete data should be brought to the attention of the owner’s representative. Project close out is often done in haste and contractors and even some designers tend to overlook requirements in the rush to turn over the facility to the owner and move on to other projects. Typically the O&M staff suffers the consequences of inadequate documentation and/or training.

This approach to bringing in the O&M staff on the owner’s team from planning/programming through project completion and turnover is applicable to virtually all types of facilities and all sizes and scopes of projects. There may be variation on the degree of involvement based on the scope of the work; but all projects will benefit from having their involvement from the beginning and throughout the process.

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