The People and Process


Planning a new facility, even a single classroom of laboratory, is a defining moment in the life of the natural science community on a campus. Note because you will solve the problems of too little space for too many faculty and students or the problem of inadequate hoods of leaking roofs, but because the process becomes a communal effort. In coming together to wrestle with the why and the how of new structures and spaces for undergraduate programs in STEM fields, your community will both shape and be shaped by debates and discussions about matters of broad and mutual concern.

Each of your project committees, under the leadership of the project shepherd (an essential role) and the project manager, will face several challenges as you proceed: about the future of the STEM programs on your campus and about how the spaces being planned with serve your institution in the most cost-effective and efficient manner for years to come. The project shepherd, in PKAL experience, is indispensable as leader and spokesperson for the project. Preferably a faculty member, this is the person who keeps the project moving ahead and facilitates communication between and among all involved committees, groups, and individuals. The key charge to the project shepherd is to know precisely what is to happen in each space, with the ultimate responsibility to ensure that the spaces work as intended and that they truly improve learning for the natural science community on your campus. It is critical for campus representatives to work closely with design professionals, who will translate the dreams of the community into options for consideration, then into documents for programming, design and construction.

Because of the high cost of building, equipping, and maintaining science facilities, the specter of finances will always be present. The project budget is an important document from both the construction and the development perspective. It illustrates, to prospective donors and to the campus community, the care with which you have proceeded in planing, and how this project fits into your larger institutional planning and priorities.

In most cases, the time span for planning will be many years. all members of the project committees must recognize this. Communication is the key to a successful project, and the final challenge is to be open to sharing new ideas, willing to debate and negotiate and to learn a common language about program and space.

The planning process is like a research project. You must start with a general sense of direction, but be prepared for possibilities and pitfalls along the way. As the designs evolve, you will veer from your preconceived path (if you had one), pursue some side paths (some of which might be productive and others not), and end up in an exciting place. The planning process is dynamic and invigorating; it will involve many people, requiring them to revisit assumptions and ideas about teaching and about doing science. It is critically important to have stamina, optimism, and a sense of humor–and to celebrate progress at regular intervals along the way.

Related Pages

Other Resources

Volume III: Structures for Science - Chapter IV: The Planners
The development of a science facility involves many different individuals and groups whose contributions must be solicited and used effectively throughout the many years of planning. Project leaders must be mindful that all with a stake in the project have opportunity to shape the vision for the new spaces and structure.