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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence 4 AVOIDING OBSOLESCENCE IN PUBLIC FACILITIES The ultimate owners of federal and other government facilities are the taxpayers. Government agencies seeking to use facilities to serve their various missions have the responsibility of protecting and achieving a high return on the public's assets. However, these agencies also must work to achieve other government policy objectives that give rise to unique procedures for planning, budgeting, procurement, and management of design and construction. These procedures and the administrative framework within which agencies must operate influence how government agencies may act most effectively to avoid obsolescence and its costs in public facilities. Congress and other responsible legislative and executive authorities, as well as the agencies immediately responsible for facilities, influence the development and use of public facilities and their costs. At the federal level and in many states, the public facilities development process differs somewhat from the generic project life cycle as discussed in Chapter 3 (i.e., from initial planning through operations, maintenance and reuse). In public facilities there typically are legislative approvals required, multiple agencies involved, and government objectives served, that are unrelated to facilities (e.g., open competition, and equal opportunity). Actions to avoid
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence obsolescence must be practical within the context of the government development process.20 PUBLIC FACILITIES PLANNING AND FISCAL PROGRAMMING In federal and many other government facilities development processes, the earliest stages have to do with establishing the authority and the budgetary provisions to undertake new construction or substantial reconstruction. Most federal agencies must seek congressional approval for each individual project having an anticipated monetary value exceeding a specified amount, and this amount for some agencies is very low.21 The terms "planning" and "fiscal programming", used here, refer to the analysis and decision making associated with these authorizations and in many (and perhaps most) cases do not involve physical planning and spatial or functional programming that design professionals undertake. Activities at this early stage primarily are the agency's responsibility, and the committee's recommendations for actions are intended primarily to enhance agencies' foresight and ability to prepare for change. Scanning for Change Agencies should assign specific responsibility for "intelligence gathering," that is, monitoring scientific and regulatory trends and changes in practice that may cause obsolescence. Such monitoring may be made a facet of an individual's job description and performance rating, or it may be assigned to a specific organizational unit. The role may be similar to that of "ombudsman" or technological ''gatekeeper." Along with scanning for trends that may lead to obsolescence, the responsible individuals or offices should develop information and training systems to disseminate new information to decision-makers who represent user and procurement interests and to designers engaged to develop government facilities. In-house and interagency seminars, memoranda, and newsletters are 20 Of course, the specific process also differs in detail from agency to agency, just as it might from one owner to another in the private sector. 21 The VA, for example, requests specific authorization only for "major" projects (i.e., those exceeding $3 million in construction cost). The Public Health Service, in contrast, must request specific authorization for every capital project, regardless of project cost.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence among the types of activities that can assure broad dissemination of information to enhance sensitivity to emerging trends. In addition, briefings or training seminars for senior managers should be held to alert them to the issues of obsolescence associated with budgets and procurements (addressed below). Responsible managers—in general, but particularly those appointed to serve for short periods of time (in facilities terms, less than 3 to 5 years) in government agencies—may have relatively limited contact with facilities issues and therefore, limited appreciation of long-term consequences of decisions in programming, design, and construction stages of a facility's life. Strategic Planning Agencies should undertake explicit strategic planning to identify the potential for future expansion or contraction of facilities requirements within the context of likely budget limits, opportunities to secure alternative user groups, or multiagency facilities uses. Organizational planning should be tied more closely to architectural programming and facility portfolio management. In relating strategic and fiscal planning more directly to facilities planning, agencies should develop ways to incorporate lessons learned in current projects—from site observations (e.g., during construction and commissioning) and postoccupancy evaluations—quickly into agency design guidelines. Evolving computer-based information systems (as mentioned in Chapter 3) will facilitate the more frequent updating of guidelines. The feedback of information and updating of guidelines should focus particularly on those building types that are most likely to require greater flexibility to accommodate future increases in space demand or functional changes or that are particularly prone to technological change (e.g., hospitals and labs). Agencies encountering recurring obsolescence in particular types of buildings should consider developing or adopting standard design and management strategies (e.g., the VAHBS for hospitals or the U.S. Postal Service's Kit-of-Parts) that have proved their value in enabling action to delay or avoid obsolescence. When an agency's building portfolio or other factors preclude standardization at strategic levels, the agency should document building case studies, in terms of design details and management practices, that have been successful in providing flexibility and responsiveness to change. Professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), and Urban Land Institute (ULI), could assist the agencies, and the profession as a whole, by disseminating project case studies dealing with obsolescence.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence In strategic planning, transfers of facilities among agencies and among departments of large agencies warrant attention. Optimum utilization of the government's total portfolio is an effective means of reducing the costs of obsolescence. An interagency clearinghouse function should be considered, within the General Services Administration or the Office of Management and Budget, to facilitate this activity. Shortening the Development Process The public facilities development process, from initial planning to occupancy, often is longer in the private sector (3 to 5 years versus 18 to 36 months), and the chances that a facility will be ''obsolete before it is finished" increase as this time lengthens. Agencies should work to control and reduce the time needed for planning, design, and construction. Components particularly prone to obsolescence may be designated early in the process as "government furnished" to allow for their procurement as late as possible and thus reduce the likelihood of early obsolescence. The need to secure executive and legislative approval of projects, combined with a desire to avoid having to request changes and reauthorization, leads public agencies frequently to try to establish all characteristics of a project at too early a stage in the development process. This effort frequently leads, in turn, to a resistance to making desirable changes during final design and to issuing reasonable change orders during construction. These tendencies become a problem when shifts in users' needs or other changes occur during the development process. Agencies need policies that allow for updating of designs to avoid obsolescence, that is, even during construction, and legislative oversight groups should recognize the valid need for such changes. PUBLIC FACILITIES BUDGETING FOR FLEXIBILITY For public facilities, actions by Congress or by other funding authorities may influence an agency's ability to deal with obsolescence. Failing to allow for flexibility, may have serious consequences especially at the stage where budgets are fixed. Agencies should include in their budgeting and preliminary design a thorough consideration and economic assessment of strategies for reducing future obsolescence costs, based on (1) life-cycle costing and (2) flexibility of space utilization. The assessment should highlight the tradeoff between initial investment expenditures and subsequent operation, maintenance, renewal, and retrofit costs. Computer-based spreadsheet and CAD models and coordinated
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence facility databases can support such analysis. Budget authorities then should be encouraged to commit to the preferred strategies as a part of the costs of owning facilities. Operation and maintenance "trusts," renewal sinking funds, and other mechanisms for earmarking funds should be used, if necessary, to make this commitment effective in practice. Research to support flexibility, particularly data collection and analysis on space utilization, systems function, and user satisfaction should be supported and fed into subsequent planning and design. In addition, agencies should seek and be given budget allocations to permit inventory stockpiling of replacement parts and supplies that could forestall obsolescence of larger subsystems. Inability to obtain replacement parts is an avoidable cause of obsolescence. SETTING FACILITY DESIGN GUIDELINES AND OTHER PREDESIGN ACTION Federal agencies are responsible for establishing their own facility design guidelines and criteria. Some agencies draw heavily on the national codes and standards that provide the basis for most local building codes and professional design guides, but other agencies have their own extensive, and sometimes unique, controls. In either case, however, federal agencies seeking to manage facilities in such a way as to avoid obsolescence have a particular responsibility to assure that their criteria and guidelines are up to date and do not refer to obsolete procedures and products. Agencies should prepare for design by assuring that their criteria reflect consideration of trends of changing technology and likely future needs, particularly regarding mechanical, electrical, and communications systems. Specific reference should be made to the costs of obsolescence and the agencies' desire to avoid those costs. Agencies should continue to support development of computer-based automation of government guide specifications, to facilitate search and discovery of criteria most likely to face change, and to help to resolve unnecessary differences among various agencies. Increased use of postoccupancy evaluations can support that effort. In addition, agencies should support predesign analysis of critical projects to foster adaptability, and they should encourage designers to adopt CAD sketch systems, generic facility design charettes, or other techniques for such analysis.
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence FACILITY PROGRAMMING, DESIGN, AND CONSTRUCTION At this time, public and private facilities development processes are largely similar, and the designer is primarily responsible for actions to minimize the costs of obsolescence. However, the owner—agency or otherwise—must work with the designer to assure that the design is sensitive to the owner's potential future interests and needs. The designer should work with the agency to define explicitly what performance ranges for the facility are acceptable, in order to provide a sound basis for considering how expectations may change in the future, and the users of the facility, if different from the owner, should be involved in this effort. The designer also should be sensitive to any owner-specified criteria that may limit flexibility of the final design, such as high required net-to-gross floor space ratios and programs with no provision for service access and retrofitting. The program should have the dimension of time incorporated, making it a life-cycle document. The designer should be sensitive as well to aspects of the project or its major components that may indicate that avoidance of obsolescence will be facilitated by construction phasing to reduce time between procurement of high-technology equipment and facility commissioning (e.g., use of "government-furnished-equipment" (GFE) procurements). In design development, agency personnel, including user agency personnel, should work with the designer to assure that flexibility or adaptability is understood explicitly to be a worthwhile design goal. Including flexibility within the designer's terms of reference will aid in accomplishing this. The designer should highlight design elements that enhance flexibility, in order to improve the user's and owner's understanding of how the facility may be adapted to future change. CAD systems that support exploration of a design's flexibility and facilitate development of an accurate facility operations database are valuable tools in this effort. At the end of construction, agency personnel should assure adequate commissioning of the facility, including systems start-up, occupancy walk-through, documentation and training for operations and management, and punch-list follow-up, so that facility performance reaches optimal design levels. OPERATIONS In this stage of development, management of public facilities to minimize the costs of obsolescence is similar to private, depending on actions of both owner and occupant. Agencies should work to assure good maintenance practices,
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The Fourth Dimension in Building: Strategies for Minimizing Obsolescence postoccupancy evaluation programs, collection of good facilities inventory data, strategic planning, and other practices that help avoid rapid performance deterioration and that optimize facility utilization. ACHIEVING OPTIMUM PUBLIC FACILITIES USE Public facilities are valuable assets that can provide long and high-quality service if they are utilized effectively. Avoiding obsolescence and its costs, although only one aspect of the complex task facing facility professionals seeking to assure effective utilization, has grown increasingly important as change has become more rapid in both the technology of facilities and the demands that facilities are expected to serve. It is impossible to foresee all of the many changes likely to occur in the future, but the committee agreed that there are lessons to be learned, particularly regarding designing for the flexibility to accommodate change. The details of individual facilities provide the crucial focus for efforts to avoid obsolescence. However, a first step toward more effective management is sensitivity to the problems of change and the possibilities for accommodating change. The committee hopes that its work will enhance this sensitivity in government decision-makers and will motivate more effective action to avoid the costs of obsolescence in public facilities.
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