Retrofit Facilities Management

We also are rewriting landscape standards, which will allow for improved project designs. These standards will also make the turnover and acceptance of a new project from contractor to staff easier. We are evaluating and purchasing more efficient—to achieve less downtime—and sustainable equipment. For example, new lawnmowers that run on propane were purchased and are in use in the medical center area to eliminate odor from gasoline. Other new mowers have been purchased that are dual fuel.

New lawnmowers that run on propane were purchased and are in use in Duke University’s medical center area to eliminate odor from gasoline.

New lawnmowers that run on propane were purchased and are in use in Duke University’s medical center area to eliminate odor from gasoline.

In addition, efficiency has been improved with the purchase and outfitting of new trailers that house all the zone crews’ tools and equipment; the trailers move around campus daily to meet the needs of the crew. We also rewrote job descriptions of funded positions to meet Duke’s needs today and in the future. As a result, our staff now includes a resource manager responsible for tree inventory and management, an additional superintendent to oversee half of the zones, and an assistant superintendent for horticulture responsible for plant section and installation across all the zones. The total head count remained the same but the organization was retrofitted and not merely allowed to adapt to the identified needs. Essentially, we are breaking down the budget and staff to determine how to provide the right level of service for each of the components identified in the quantification phase.

In addition to our grounds area, many of Duke’s buildings are quite sophisticated and, therefore, complicated to maintain. Having millions of building gross square footage that is different than what was designed and delivered in the past in terms of use, systems and technology has changed the makeup of the building portfolio.

We realize the current staff and procedures have to be different to operate these facilities and not merely maintain them. There are skills, resources and protocols that are needed for today’s state-of-the-art lab buildings and data centers. We need more engineers and technicians experienced with building control systems; knowledgeable of entire buildings; and able to develop and implement protocols for repairs, preventative maintenance and projects with these facilities. In addition, we plan to create a virtual team utilizing our engineers, energy managers, control and HVAC technicians, etc., that reside in different functional areas, to be tasked as owners of facilities. This, by nature, will limit the number of staff members who can touch the building. It will also put in place protocol for internal and external staff to work in these buildings.

Ultimately, facilities management is a service organization and, while it has its own vision and mission, it exists to provide services that meet the goals of the higher entity, namely a university, company, sports team, etc. Change within facilities management is constant and many drivers of change are not within the control of the manager. Therefore, to ensure your facilities management team provides the best services to the higher entity, you may have to retrofit your staff, equipment and procedures versus adapting. Understanding the drivers, expectations, vision and planning of the higher entity being served can guide one in the decision to retrofit or adapt. In my experience, looking at each business unit (grounds, utilities, engineering, project management, maintenance, etc.) with an eye toward assessment on a regular basis is prudent to determine if an area needs to be adapted or retrofitted. Being proactive is always better than being reactive and trailing the leading edge.

About the Author

John J. Noonan
As vice president of Facilities Management for Duke University, Durham, N.C., John J. Noonan oversees a staff of nearly 500 who implement the operations and maintenance for campus facilities, grounds and utilities. He also is a retrofit editorial advisor.

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