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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Public facilities are valuable assets that can provide decades of high-quality service if they are utilized effectively. Facilities are planned, designed, constructed, operated, and maintained to this end. Nevertheless, a time comes—perhaps through normal wear, poor workmanship, or overloads—when major action is needed to overhaul, renovate, or sometimes demolish a facility no longer providing satisfactory service. Sometimes the motivation for such action comes primarily from outside sources. Users or owners may change and have requirements different from those the facility was initially intended to fulfill. Many of the technologies of modern facilities, as well as the activities they shelter and support, have changed substantially in recent decades and are continuing to change. These changes lead to rising expectations about the services and amenities a facility should provide. Rising expectations can effectively shorten the lifetime of a facility and are the essential characteristics of obsolescence. Accommodating rising expectations often has been costly, but failing to accommodate change is costly as well, for obsolete facilities—antiquated, old fashioned, and out of date—can impose heavy burdens on their owners and users. These burdens may include lost productivity of people and activities housed and served by the facility, increased operating costs to overcome the mismatch of needs and facility capability, or increased worker absenteeism and health care costs related to on-the-job stress. The impact of obsolescence is sometimes subtle but often represents very real costs for the facility's owner and user. Minimize the costs of obsolescence is one aspect of the complex task facing facility professionals working to assure effective acquisition and utilization of public facilities. The 16 federal government agencies that sponsor the Federal Construction Council (FCC) asked the Building Research Board (BRB) to undertake a study and recommend design and management practices that can minimize the impact of facility obsolescence. This document is a report of that study. Obsolescence is not a matter of design alone but must be considered within the context of a facility's entire life cycle, from initial planning
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence through operations and maintenance. Occurring primarily as a result of external changes, such as the introduction of new technology, neighborhood deterioration, or shifts in public demand for services and amenities, obsolescence reflects changed expectations regarding the shelter, function, comfort, profitability, or other dimension of performance a facility is expected to provide. These changes generally are related to the uses a building or certain spaces within the building are expected to serve (i.e., functional); the cost of continuing to use an existing building, subsystem, or component in comparison with the expense of substituting some alternative (economic); the efficiency and service offered by the existing installed technology compared with new and improved alternatives (technological); or the broad influence of changing social goals, political agendas, or changing lifestyles. Such changes often are embodied in the adoption of new standards or codes, rising expectations of performance, major technological change, major change in functional requirements, major organizational change, shifts in property values, poor maintenance or abuse of systems, or aesthetic shifts. These events and shifts spur obsolescence. While these causes of obsolescence occur primarily as changes external to the operations of the facility in question, that facility's initial capabilities (e.g., durability of materials and flexibility of mechanical equipment) and how the facility is maintained influence the likelihood of obsolescence. Minimizing the impact of obsolescence—that is, minimizing its costs through actions in planning and programming; design; construction; operations, maintenance, and renewal; and retrofit or reuse (i.e., throughout the facility life cycle)—is accomplished by anticipating changes, accommodating changes, or both. Forecasting all change is impossible. However, facilities can be programmed, designed, and operated to be robust, to be able to accommodate change without substantial loss of performance capability. Experience shows that facility designers and owners can improve their ability to forestall or avoid obsolescence by taking the following actions: On a continuing basis, review new developments for trends that may foster obsolescence. Conduct facilities programming to address explicitly the possibilities of future functional change. Assure that design guidelines and criteria are based on the latest available information and provide for future change in technology and practice, giving particular attention to facility types that are more susceptible to obsolescence (especially, e.g., laboratories, hospitals, and others housing technologically advanced functions; schools; and correctional facilities). Make flexibility an explicit design goal and make appropriate use of design details or integrated building systems that enhance flexibility or adaptability. Such details may include unconstrained interior space, accessible
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence service areas, modular components, shell space, interstitial space, and structural and utilities capacity that do not inhibit future expansion. Assure that facilities fit users' needs' and gather information for more effective accommodation to users' needs in future facilities. Such tools as prototypical rooms (i.e., mock-ups) to test functional performance of interiors and utilities systems, commissioning, and postoccupancy evaluation may be helpful. Modify or use alternative procurement methods to reduce the time between initial specification and in-service utilization of facilities or components that may be "obsolete before complete." Assure quality in construction and maintenance to avoid deterioration of performance at rates faster than anticipated in design. When obsolescence does occur, acknowledge it and retrofit or reuse facilities to minimize the costs of obsolescence. Delaying or minimizing the impact of obsolescence of public facilities sometimes presents special challenges because of the procedures and administrative framework within which government agencies must operate. Some of the actions already listed must be tailored to fit within this framework. Actions that serve particular needs of government policy and procedure are needed, such as the following: Assign specific, ongoing responsibility to monitor trends that may hasten obsolescence. Link strategic planning explicitly to facilities requirements and, within a strategic planning framework, manage facilities as an asset portfolio for which the costs, including the costs of obsolescence, are to be controlled. Reduce the length of time required between facility design and effective occupancy through appropriate use of such procurement methods as "government-furnished equipment" (i.e., direct and separate procurement, outside of the construction contract). Budget procedures that permit stockpiling of parts and materials that, if unavailable, could hasten obsolescence. A first step toward more effective management is sensitivity both to the problems of change and the possibilities of accommodating change, which often means focusing on the details of individual facilities. Government decision-makers should recognize that increasingly rapid change in both the technology of facilities and the demands facilities are expected to serve can cause obsolescence that imposes costs on users, agencies, and ultimately the public at large. Delaying or minimizing obsolescence is an essential means of optimizing returns on the public's assets.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence This page in the original is blank.
Representative terms from entire chapter: