Why Planning Services Are Crucial for New Builds or Renovations

The best form of protection on construction projects is often preparedness.
By Tracy Richter
June 14, 2023

Strategic planning is an essential component to efficiency models for facilities in nearly every industry. A program-management firm’s planning-services division partners with its clients to conduct facility assessments, used to create strategic options and recommendations for facility needs. There are many factors that influence the planning process, as no two projects are the same.

When beginning the planning process, organizations must first analyze the facilities in their portfolio and understand what is needed to maximize their shelf life. Conducting an asset inventory and tracking preventive and deferred maintenance and anticipated future spending is the foundation of planning services.

Long-Term Factors

In this time of economic uncertainty, risk of future slowdowns on permit processing and construction poses a threat. Whether a company or entity owns office buildings, distribution centers, schools, etc., when the market begins to struggle and difficult choices must be made, facilities often drop to the bottom of the priority list and fall into deferred maintenance. This is where planning services can be of great assistance. Regardless of budget size, having a facilities plan in place enables companies to be proactive rather than reactive.

When thinking long-term, companies should identify the baseline standards for the totality of their design and system infrastructure. Periodic assessments can be conducted, either internally or outsourced, to determine the health of the facility’s major systems, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing and architectural, which are typically the largest expenditures in an organizational budget. Additionally, utilization of a facility and asset inventory management software allows for improved organization of complex data, rather than using a simpler spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. Many of these programs are web-based, user-friendly and don’t require a trained technician to operate.

Timeframes and Personnel

Facilities continue aging regardless of economic booms or recessions. Planning services is the key to enduring these ups and downs by prioritizing system and facility maintenance and renewal and allowing companies to get ahead of the game before costs become unsustainable. With a solid understanding of the state of their owned assets, companies can schedule improvements or renovations during contractors' slow seasons when rates are reasonable.

Due to the complex nature of facilities management and planning, organizations should appoint someone to oversee the health and needs of the facilities in their portfolios. More than just a cost or a liability, buildings are assets for business and should be treated and maintained as such. This appointed facility management officer should ensure that all necessary processes and systems are implemented to allow the organization to properly anticipate facility investments. Even seasoned maintenance employees and craft workers can be well-equipped to keep track of the important data for facility planning.

Planning for the Best and the Worst

If an organization must go through a portfolio reduction, that reduction should always be done strategically. A decision of this magnitude should be based upon more than the condition or utilization of the facility. Rather, companies should think holistically—this could entail consolidation or reallocation of uses at a particular underperforming facility. Demographics should also be heavily factored into the decision-making process, including students, local workforce or clientele. The decision to downsize is dynamic and demands a multitude of data points to ensure the outcome is comprehensive and won’t cause harm down the road.

Shifts in portfolio sizes are being seen in many sectors. As higher education reevaluates delivery models due to the rise in online classes, facilities are becoming underutilized. Even so, many of these are historic or state-of-the-art buildings that shouldn’t just be torn down. In large K-12 school districts, demographic shifts are causing some schools to grow enrollment and others to decrease. The distribution industry is becoming more streamlined and evolving to need fewer facilities for its operations. These challenges require organizations to find balance between consolidation, reallocation and restoration of current infrastructure. Planning services supplies companies in all sectors the tools they need to efficiently manage their facility portfolios into the future, despite impending uncertainties.

Case Study

Planning-services divisions play a critical role in client satisfaction and overall project success. For example, a school district represented by HPM was facing declining enrollment and an abundance of capacity, specifically in its secondary schools. In an effort to keep each existing operational facility in use, options included exploring different grade configurations that would utilize buildings from a capacity perspective, bridge middle- to high-school programs such as fine arts and CTE, and provide a clean feeder pattern from middle- to high-school facilities. A 6th grade–12th grade and 7th grade–12th grade configuration concept was introduced to the community, which received much resistance and pushback due the wide age range of students in one facility (i.e., 6th graders mingling with 12th graders).

HPM listened to the concerns of the community and developed alternative concepts that utilized program alignment, along with geographic boundary realignment, that would balance secondary enrollment and allow each facility to rise to an enrollment that met both operational and educational efficiencies. Once HPM addressed the community’s concerns and presented options to the public, worries subsided, and the school district was able to move forward with adopting long-term solutions for underutilized facilities that responded to both the data and community needs.

by Tracy Richter

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