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INTRODUCTION

The lifetimes of buildings and other constructed facilities typically are long, but many of the technologies of modern facilities—as well as the activities they shelter and support—have changed substantially in recent decades. In many instances, accommodating these changes has been a costly process of alteration and reconstruction or outright replacement. At the same time, failing to accommodate the change is costly as well, for obsolete facilities—antiquated, old fashioned, and out of date—can impose heavy burdens on their owners and users.

Obsolete structures may be unable to accommodate new communication, building automation, or electrical systems. They may be inefficient in their use of energy. In some cases, obsolete facilities can pose safety hazards when they do not meet current standards of professional practice or building codes. These facilities may continue to be used, but their property value may decline as potential tenants and purchasers look to more modern facilities or demand lower rents. When users cannot move, the burdens of obsolescence eventually result in decreased efficiency, reduced output, and declining morale.

Government agencies and other long-term building owners seek to delay or avoid obsolescence and its costs. They find it increasingly important, especially in times of fiscal constraint, that their facilities contribute to efficient and effective pursuit of the agency's mission. At the same time, budgetary, technical, and administrative constraints often make it difficult to take action to correct problems of facility obsolescence.

The sponsors of the Federal Construction Council (FCC), 16 federal government agencies with major interests in building and facilities research, feel this concern keenly. These agencies—with combined annual facilities-related budgets exceeding $17 billion, and responsible for managing a major share of the public's assets—asked the Building Research Board (BRB) of the National Research Council to undertake this study and recommend design and management practices that can delay or minimize the impact of facility



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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence 1 INTRODUCTION The lifetimes of buildings and other constructed facilities typically are long, but many of the technologies of modern facilities—as well as the activities they shelter and support—have changed substantially in recent decades. In many instances, accommodating these changes has been a costly process of alteration and reconstruction or outright replacement. At the same time, failing to accommodate the change is costly as well, for obsolete facilities—antiquated, old fashioned, and out of date—can impose heavy burdens on their owners and users. Obsolete structures may be unable to accommodate new communication, building automation, or electrical systems. They may be inefficient in their use of energy. In some cases, obsolete facilities can pose safety hazards when they do not meet current standards of professional practice or building codes. These facilities may continue to be used, but their property value may decline as potential tenants and purchasers look to more modern facilities or demand lower rents. When users cannot move, the burdens of obsolescence eventually result in decreased efficiency, reduced output, and declining morale. Government agencies and other long-term building owners seek to delay or avoid obsolescence and its costs. They find it increasingly important, especially in times of fiscal constraint, that their facilities contribute to efficient and effective pursuit of the agency's mission. At the same time, budgetary, technical, and administrative constraints often make it difficult to take action to correct problems of facility obsolescence. The sponsors of the Federal Construction Council (FCC), 16 federal government agencies with major interests in building and facilities research, feel this concern keenly. These agencies—with combined annual facilities-related budgets exceeding $17 billion, and responsible for managing a major share of the public's assets—asked the Building Research Board (BRB) of the National Research Council to undertake this study and recommend design and management practices that can delay or minimize the impact of facility

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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence obsolescence. The state and local government sponsors of the BRB's work, collectively known as the Public Facilities Council, agreed that the problems of facilities obsolescence warrant attention and participated with the FCC in this study. OBSOLESCENCE AND OTHER SERVICE INADEQUACIES Buildings and other facilities are planned and programmed, designed, constructed, operated, and maintained to provide shelter and service to meet the needs of owners and users. Over time the quality of service declines from its initial level as the facility exhibits the results of normal wear, poor workmanship or materials, unlikely events (e.g., severe storms or fire), aging, or some combination of such factors. Such decline generally is anticipated, but there comes a time when service is no longer adequate and substantial action is needed to overhaul, renovate, or demolish and replace the facility. In common parlance a facility in such a condition might be termed "obsolete," regardless of the cause. However, the old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" highlights why it is important to distinguish between true obsolescence and other conditions requiring substantial action. Any facility or piece of equipment may function adequately in basic terms (i.e., ''it ain't broke") but yet be so old, antiquated, or out of date (i.e., obsolete) that its service simply is unacceptable to its owners or users. The opposite case may hold as well: even the newest and most up-to-date item may break or otherwise fail to perform adequately, especially if not properly maintained. These relationships are seen most easily in the rapid evolution of microcomputers, where technological advances are driving many users to replace fully functional machines and software within 2 to 3 years of purchase, simply because newer models offer dramatically enhanced capability at relatively low cost (see box). OBSOLETE ANTIQUES No matter how well classic car buffs maintain their 1920s vintage Model T Fords, those antique cars will never provide the performance that is available in any of the current automobiles being purchased for family transportation. Even though the classic Model T's have been kept fully functional (or equivalently restored to original condition) and are performing at 100% of their best 1920s performance, they do not begin to meet the expectations and demands of today's auto buyers. They are, regrettably, obsolete.

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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence SCOPE OF THE STUDY The study reported here concerns itself with the former condition mentioned above—with obsolescence. The central concerns of this study are how to distinguish what makes a facility or one of its components obsolete and what sorts of actions may be warranted in planning and programming, design, construction, operation, and maintenance to avoid or delay obsolescence. However, these topics are complicated because, as will be discussed especially in Chapter 2, faulty design, poor materials, or inappropriate maintenance practices may accelerate the onset of obsolescence. The BRB formed a committee of professionals having the broad expertise and extensive experience needed to undertake this study.1 The FCC agencies had posed their request initially as a problem of design but early in their deliberations the committee agreed that 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 through operations and maintenance. The committee's work—and this report—encompass the full range of facilities' service lives. The BRB's committee examined the meaning of obsolescence, as applied to buildings and other constructed facilities; causes of obsolescence; factors that may make some facilities more prone to obsolescence; and effective strategies for accommodating change and avoiding or deferring obsolescence. The committee met several times during a period of about 1 year and heard testimony of federal agency representatives and experts in the private sector and academia. The problem of obsolescence is hardly new, and the committee built on work of predecessors (see box). In 1951 the chairman of a BRB conference, Laboratory Design for Handling Radioactive Materials (BRB, 1952), opened the conference with these remarks: We should be concerned that in an age of rapidly changing technology our buildings are apt to be obsolete in terms of nuclear science before they are completed. For example...the blueprints for large new science buildings (being designed for two state universities)...had no provision whatever for the handling of nuclear science. These buildings might have been built 25 years ago; they will be obsolete when they are completed. Despite past efforts, facilities professionals and their clients still face problems of obsolescence. The committee recognized that there are no final 1   Committee members' biographical sketches are presented in Appendix A.

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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence Some 30 years ago, the first "offices without walls" were proposed in Germany as a way of improving the flow of work, thus permitting rapid change for such firms as Buch und Ton (a mail-order firm in Gutersloth) and Krupp (at Essen). Except for stair and utility cores, these schemes were without solid partitions and used traditional office furniture arranged in functional groupings. Plants and low screens served to separate different areas. In the late 1960s Dupont and Kodak were among the first companies to test this type of plan in the United States. (Coupland, 1991; Pile, 1978.) During the same time, a noted furniture company introduced ideas developed by researcher Robert Propst in a new line of office work surface, storage, panel, and seating units that could be combined in an almost endless number of configurations to simultaneously meet the changing needs of the organization and individual employees. Not long after, other manufacturers came out with their own interpretations of the work station and movable partition concept. However, worker response to such systems remains mixed. answers but only new responses as these problems evolve and change. Just as the advent of incandescent electric lighting made obsolete the widespread use of gas for illumination in buildings, so newer energy-efficient technologies may completely supplant Edison's inventions in the buildings of the future. These changes in technology are not only inevitable; in the long term they are desirable because the new systems and services offer enhanced performance to the facilities, users and owners. However, in the short term, obsolescence can be costly. Thoughtful design and management can defer or avoid obsolescence and thereby improve efficiency as well as effectiveness of our facilities, and that is the ultimate aim of this study. ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT The purpose of this report is to present the committee's considerations and recommendations on design and management to avoid obsolescence and its costs. Although the committee focused on government facilities, particularly at the federal level, obsolescence is a problem shared by both private and public sectors, and the committee's deliberations thus considered the full range of facilities. Therefore, this report may be helpful and have bearing on facilities design and management in both private and public sectors. The chapters summarize the committee's discussions of obsolescence and strategies for its avoidance as follows: Chapter 2 defines obsolescence in facilities; the functional, technological, economic, and social factors that may cause it to occur; and how

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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence its onset is influenced by planning and programming, design, construction, operation, and maintenance. Chapter 3 describes cases of obsolescence and several contemporary approaches for delaying its occurrence, ranging from specialized systems and design elements for particular building types (e.g., hospitals and laboratories) to retrofitting and changing a building's use. The committee reviewed such experience, considering particularly the context of federal agency requirements, to derive their recommendations. Chapter 4 presents a series of guidelines for actions that can be taken—during programming, planning, design, and during the service life—to deal with change and avoid obsolescence. These guidelines can be applied to private as well as public facilities. Facilities owners and designers have specific roles in implementing guidelines for avoiding obsolescence. To be most effective, actions to avoid obsolescence must be initiated early in the design and procurement process and continued throughout the service life. Both designers and facilities managers, individually and in partnership, have roles to play. The appendixes present a glossary of terms, bibliography, and discussions of selected topics that supplement and expand on particular aspects of the committee's work. References Building Research Advisory Board. 1952. Laboratory Design for Handling Radioactive Materials. Research Conference Report No. 3 Washington, D.C.: National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences. Coupland, D. 1991. Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. New York: St. Martin's Press. Pile, J. 1978. Open Office Planning: A Handbook for Interior Designers and Architects. New York: Whitney Library of Design.

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