007 Stakeholders- A Resource or a Constraint?

Given and Find

menilScott, Julie, and I looked at our next homework problem, in the grey study room of the Engineering Sciences Building. The problem: “The velocity of a particle undergoing rectilinear motion is v(t)=3t2+10t m/s. Find the acceleration and the displacement at t=10 s, if so= 0 at t=0.” It was 1990, and we were in Engineering 101. As studious freshmen, we focused on the task at hand, as we had been taught, we wrote down Given, left a large empty space and then wrote Find. Under Given, we wrote down our parameters (Newton’s laws of motion) for helping us to solve this problem: acceleration is the derivative of velocity over time, and the integral of velocity with respect to time is displacement. Voila, we solved for the answer and finished our homework so we could go get a drink…of Pepsi, we were under 21.

Working with Constraints

Unlike Newton’s laws of motion, the stakeholders and the guidelines that serve as design parameters (givens) for campus projects are not as straight-forward. And, as you can imagine, since it isn’t just one smart person like Isaac Newton writing the laws, it is multiple people and multiple agencies with multiple agendas, so sometimes the parameters for a project are conflicting and inconsistent. With this challenge, architects and engineers must find a solution that works for all. Sometimes in their pursuit, I have seen the frustration and heard the grumblings, but it always brings to mind, my architecture professor Tom Hartman (click here) , who said some of the best works of architecture embrace the challenging constraints of the project. While in Renzo Piano’s office, he worked on the Menil art museum in Houston, TX and would often talk about the challenge of lighting the spaces with indirect light and then he’d show this image (click here) and point out the poetic solution that resulted.

Granted most campus projects are not nearly as romantic as an art museum and meeting the needs of the stakeholders is quite grueling, but please understand that the guidelines and requirements of the stakeholders are often based on a long line of experience with living with these buildings. I sit in meetings every week where we discuss instances where errors happened: the designer didn’t follow the guidelines, stakeholders didn’t find it during their review, and/or a feature was value engineered out late in the game, so we are living with something that doesn’t work. For example, in some of our older buildings, we have MEP systems that are difficult to access and therefore difficult to maintain, which results in a shorter life for equipment. As a result our current guidelines require proper access to all parts of the MEP system.

Stakeholder registry

Using stakeholders as a resource is an excellent way to ensure the success of your project. One way to organize and identify stakeholders is to use a stakeholder registry. A stakeholder registry usually contains information about each stakeholder on the project including, contact information, position, and influence on the project. Designers should ask for help from their PM when starting a project to list the stakeholders and their influence. Below I’ve listed typical stakeholders on campus projects. Use this to flesh out your registry. Send me an email at projectmanagementdean@gmail.com and I can send you a spreadsheet to get started.

List of Typical Campus Stakeholders

  1. Client : The client is the representative for the users of the building. This group has the most influence on the project. (1-2 representative stakeholders)
  2. Design Review Committee (DRC): The DRC meets once a month and reviews architectural projects. It is similar to a studio critique that architecture students receive in school. They ensure that the project fits in with the campus context and offer helpful design advice. (At least 5 stakeholders).
  3. Construction Management: The construction manager is assigned to the project during the initiation phase. They provide input during the design phase and then “take over” the project during construction. (1 stakeholder).
  4. Energy Services: Energy Services provide a portion of the chilled water, electricity, and steam to the buildings on campus. They may also over see the wastewater and storm water management on a campus. They are involved early on in the project and provide GIS maps of underground utilities. (At least 5 stakeholders).
  5. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS): EHS is committed to providing a safe and healthful environment for the campus. On my recent projects they have been involved in reviewing the following items on CIP projects: asbestos abatement, fall protection, storm water contamination (during construction), laboratory ventilation (air changes per hour), laboratory chemical storage, noise pollution, and liaison with the local fire department. (At least 7 stakeholders from this department).
  6. Transportation and Parking: This group coordinates all traffic, parking and transportation around the campus. They will provide parking for the contractor and review the project site plan as it pertains to traffic flow. (At least 3 stake holders)
  7. Engineering Services: I sure that this group is structured differently on every campus. On our campus the engineers in this group review the CIP construction documents of the following disciplines: electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and structural (I provide the structural review, but I’m in the planning group). This group also coordinates the building controls, mechanical commissioning and enclosure commissioning for CIP projects. They work closely with our maintenance shops to include their preferences in the design and ensure that equipment meets the campus guidelines. (3 stakeholders).
  8. Landscape and Grounds: On our campus we have a landscape architect in our planning group who reviews the CIP construction documents with input from our grounds keeping operations group. They ensure that the landscaping that is specified for CIP projects conforms to our campus guidelines. (1-2 stakeholders).
  9. Historic preservation officer: Most new campuses probably don’t have an historic preservation officer but we have one in our planning department. He acts as a liaison with the state historic preservation office as well as reviews current projects for historic preservation issues. (1 stakeholder).
  10. Accessibility Expert: We have an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) expert in our planning department who reviews all documents for compliance to current code and UNC guidelines. (1 stakeholder)
  11. Campus Administration: Most campuses have a representative from the larger campus who provides general oversight on the project.  They are not involved in typical day-to-day design activities.

Use stakeholders as a resource.  Think about it, campus stakeholders are living with buildings of all types and ages.  They know what works and what doesn’t.  As you know, something may look good on paper, but not really function as well as it should.

Feel free to comment (or rant :-)) in the comment section below about campus stakeholders.

2 thoughts on “007 Stakeholders- A Resource or a Constraint?

  1. Pingback: 021 Schedule & Budget: Bond Project Post #1 | Project Management Dean

  2. Pingback: 024 The Designer Shortlist: Bond Project Post #4 | Project Management Dean

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