The Phases of Planning

The Facility Program
The facility program is a translation of vision, curriculum, and pedagogy into facility needs. It includes such documents as an executive summary, a space summary, the building planning criteria, the room design criteria, room diagrams and adjacency diagrams. In defining the program, you will need to articulate, in the abstract, all the spaces that will be needed in the future, for what purposes they will be used, how they will be used, and by whom. Imagination, flexibility, and creativity help to create a plan that is not limited to just the needs of today. During the process of developing the facility program it will be wise to do some trial schedules of classes and activities that will utilize the space. The information drawn from this program indicates whether or not a feasibility study is needed; it might also be used by a cost consultant to provide a relatively accurate projection of construction costs.

Uses and Cautions
The importance of the facility program cannot be overstated because it becomes the basis upon which all subsequent design work is based. Faculty should complete the design criteria sheets as thoroughly as possible, using consistent language to communicate departmental needs to the architect and lab designer. Encountering resistance from faculty and staff is not uncommon during the process of defining the program. The project shepherd is responsible for making sure that people fill out the design criteria sheets even if this means that s/he has to aggressively seek this information out. It is not in the best interest of the whole project if only the ideas of a few people are utilized, as they might not address all of the uses of the building.

The Feasibility Study
Based on the information gathered in defining the program, you may have a difficult decision: to renovate, to build an addition, or to build a new building. If this is the case, a feasibility study is necessary. The intent of the study is to provide information such that a cost consultant can generate a summary of the materials and systems that are planned for the new and renovated spaces. The feasibility study presents the proposed renovations and/or addition(s) as well as the proposed phasing of the construction for the addition(s) and/or renovations. There are many components to the feasibility study and they often include:

  • an executive summary
  • a building analysis
  • a program summary
  • a project description
  • a construction phasing
  • a preliminary schedule
  • a cost estimate
  • a code and zoning analysis
  • appendices

In the feasibility study, you will make both a quantitative and a qualitative analysis of the existing spaces. The following characteristics should be considered: spirit and soul, "highest and the best," life span of the HVAC systems, capacity for expansion, adaptability, presence of vibration, floor-to-floor height, quality of mechanical space, and building style and age. When taking into account these ideas you might determine that there is too much attachment to the old structure to tear it down. Even if this is the case, the community needs to determine if the qualitative environment is such that renovations would not hurt the school. When renovating people need to think about codes, program disruptions and hidden costs which they might not have thought of otherwise. There are many things to be aware of if you are going through with a feasibility study, and it is important to approach this undertaking with an open mind, and to have an explicit schedule and agenda by which to accomplish the task. At each step in the process of additions and renovations, you must reevaluate and be willing to adjust your expectations of the project accordingly.

Design Documents
Developing design documents begins once the facility program and the feasibility study (if needed) is complete. There are three phases to this process: schematic design phase, the design development phase, and the phase in which the construction documents are created.

Schematic Design
Schematics give the preliminary floor plans and locate the various spaces and their approximate sizes in accordance with the adjacencies you have established in defining the facility program. There are many issues that are covered in the schematic design phase, including: laboratories, classrooms, support spaces, offices, animal facilities, common spaces, and the infrastructure. When looking at the schematics think about how the designs fit with the teaching, learning, and research style that represents your program.

During the schematic design phase, and later with detailed drawings, faculty members and all other building users must continue to be involved. The project shepherd and project manager should have a formal mechanism to gain reactions regularly from all members of the community. Through this phase, the architects work with the project shepherd and project manager, the project team, and the executive committee to discuss the design approach and potential alternatives. There must be approval from each of these sources before the project moves into the next design phase. The results of the schematic design phase are a set of design drawings, specifications outline, and a cost-estimate.

Design Development
In the design development phase the architect designs in detail the spaces and structure of the building. The architect and engineers develop in greater detail the project specification and a cost estimate. It is critical during this phase that the project manager and project shepherd get faculty to check the design drawings very carefully. The final products of the design development phase are the detailed design drawings, draft specification, and cost estimates.

Construction Documents
Following the approval of the design development phase by the project team and executive committee, the architect and engineers complete construction documents. These documents include detailed specifications describing all materials, quality of construction, samples, and testing requirements. Although the construction documents become increasingly more difficult for the faculty and staff to read, it is still the responsibility of the project manager and project shepherd to make sure that the plans meet the expectations of those who will be utilizing the space.

Important Questions

Some important questions to ask when creating a facility program include:

How many seminar/common rooms and student study rooms do we need?

Would a centralized commons room and/or centralized study save space?

Can we use open spaces for communication and informal study without necessarily having to build lots of small, specific spaces?

What do we anticipate will be our computer needs for the next 10-15 years, and how are our needs integrated with institution-wide planning?

Where should hardware be located?

How much sharing of space and equipment makes sense?

How can this be done?

Some important questions to ask when visiting your local site while creating a facility program include:

How many students and faculty have used this space in recent years?

Did these students and faculty use the space for its intended purpose, or for some other purpose?

Can this space be used for more than one function?

Have typical class/lab enrollments changed to make this space too small or too large?

Do emerging programs require different kinds of spaces?

What is it that "works" in this space?

What is it that does not work in this space?