020 Interview with NIH Branch Chief

SHThis week I’m pleased to share my interview with Stephanie Hixson, PE, LEED AP with you.  She is a Branch Chief for the Laboratory Branch in the Division of Design and Construction within the Office of Research Facilities at the National Institutes of Health [NIH] in Bethesda, MD. She supervises a group of project officers that focus on the design and construction of laboratories and research facilities.

[Q] What project management tools do you use to keep projects on schedule and on budget?

[A] We have internal systems for tracking project budgets and tracking our schedules primarily with Microsoft Project for the smaller projects and Primavera for the larger projects as well as for master scheduling (all active projects). Continue reading

017 Public-Private Partnerships: A Primer

WordpressIt took about one hundred conversations to negotiate the deal,” said Gordon Merklein, the executive director for real estate at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He compared negotiating this deal and other deals to dating. “If the ‘first date’ goes well then you progress to a ‘second date’ and if that goes well then there are many more, sometimes hundreds,” he said. During the “dates”, they worked through issues like who would pay for the “town square” in the middle of the development because by not building on this part of the site, the developer would lose leasable area, but Gordon’s team felt it was necessary for the quality of the development. Like dates, he explained, some meetings were jovial, some meetings were tense, some dramatic, and I sure quite a few were boring, but in the end they negotiated a deal that benefited both parties.

The deal described above is for the “pseudo” public-private partnership (PPP) Carolina Square development. I say “psuedo” because the “public” part of the partnership is the Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Foundation Inc., which is funded by private funds, but is considered public since they represent the interests of UNC. Continue reading

014 Board of Governors October Project Approval List

IMG_2259The pre-meeting materials for the Board of Governors meeting last Friday are posted. Projects in the UNC system that are up for approval are listed. Look under Committee on Budget and Finance item 9.  Please note that all projects may not have been approved.

You might also be interested in the Item 3 – 2015 – 2016 Capital Improvements Allocations.

See blog post 005 Project Milestones & Marketing Strategies for how you might use this information.

Click here for Board of Governors website

013 Meeting Minutes for Ninjas

meeting-minutes“Okay to summarize, we haven’t made a decision yet and we expect to revisit this same conversation the next time we meet,” said Joan.

“That sounds about right. And the next time we meet, we’ll forget the progress that we made in this meeting and we’ll rehash and start from the beginning again,” Alex replied scribbling on the paper in front of him.

“And no action will be taken,” Tim sighed as he looked to see what Alex was writing.

“That doesn’t sound very efficient,” Alex said as he looked up from his doodle of a pyramid of spheres.

“Well it would help if we wrote down the meeting minutes,” Steph said pointedly. Continue reading

012 Mechanical Engineering Terms for Dummies

012-post-mechanical-termsDo you think we should change out the VAV boxes?” Ray asked Chad.

Well, since the AHU is on its last leg, maybe we should spend the money there instead.”

Don’t forget, we need to keep the ACH the same,” piped in the Environmental Health and Safety guy.

I watched as the subject matter experts (SME) served mechanical engineering acronyms back and forth like a tennis ball at the French Open.  At some point, they all looked at me and I smiled knowingly and nodded but I really had no idea what they were talking about.

Since last fall, when this conversation occured, I’ve learned the mechanical engineering (ME) language just enough to carry on short conversations, but I still can’t speak it fluently. In this blog post, I’ll share my ME terms cheat sheet with you. Please note, after the definition of each term I’ve included a link to Wikipedia for more in-depth reading. Continue reading

011 Three Reasons Why Owners Should Provide a Stakeholder Register at the Project Kickoff Meeting

stakeholderI learned two lessons this week that are unrelated. I learned that there truly are unforeseen conditions. As part of a bigger project, we were moving a HIV research team out of a building that we are renovating. We learned in the 10th hour that the space we were going to move them into was unacceptable because it contained remnant HIV DNA. The remnant DNA is harmless, but it will compromise their research. No one saw that one coming.

The second lesson is related to the topic that I’ll discuss this week, which is the benefit of using a stakeholder register. I learned that it is never too early to issue one to your team. We recently kicked off a  feasibility study for a renovation project. Without including me in the loop, a consultant emailed various campus personnel that aren’t related to our project for information about the project. The people he contacted couldn’t help him, but obviously he didn’t know that. If I had provided a stakeholder register to my team earlier, he would have known whom to contact and we could have saved time and aggravation. This blog post will discuss stakeholder registers and the benefits of using them. Continue reading

010 Board of Governors August Project Approval List

randomCheck out the pre-meeting materials for the Board of Governors meeting last Friday. Projects in the UNC system that are up for approval are listed. Look under Committee on Budget and Finance item 2.

See blog post 005 Project Milestones & Marketing Strategies for how you might use this information.

Click here for Board of Governors website

009 How Many People Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Q: How many people does it take to change a lightbulb? A: More than one when you have to erect scaffolding to do it.

“He may have won the battle, but I won the war,” she said with the click of her ink pen.

I laughed. “What happened?”

As a construction manager, she had just met with a subcontractor to install a small access panel in the soffit of a campus building. She attempted to have it installed while the building was under construction, but the architect had determined that it wasn’t suitable for aesthetic reasons. The architect provided an access panel, but it was too large and unwieldy. Knowing that a maintenance worker would frequently access a piece of equipment behind the panel, she thought it made more sense to provide a smaller access door within the larger panel.

She is aware of what designers often forget, the day-to-day operation and maintenance of campus facilities. Architects and engineers romance our buildings for a little while, but facilities and operations are married to them for life (and have to wine and dine them and keep them looking nice on a limited budget). In this blog post, I will discuss a few operating and maintenance items that designers should consider when designing campus buildings. Continue reading