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09/01/2003

On The Move

John Walsh, AIA

Ensuring a Problem-free Move

 

 


From analyzing land value to helping your client find packing box No. 20 out of 200 in the new building, developing a Strategic Facilities Master Plan for expansion and relocation provides comprehensive value to a business.

The Strategic Facilities Master Plan approach seamlessly choreographs many highly technical details that are "mission critical" to a business—from planning through completion. A thoughtfully composed plan will assure that a client's business can continue without interruption.

A Strategic Facilities Master Plan complements and executes an organization's business plan for strategies and growth. Once the business plan is defined fully, a Strategic Facilities Master Plan for expansion and relocation can be composed. The Strategic Facilities Master Plan helps a business owner keep a high-altitude view of various projects while assured the various details are being monitored by his project managers.

Facilities Assessment and Real Estate Valuation

The first step in a Strategic Facilities Master Plan is to assess the organization's existing real estate assets. This includes campus site analysis and individual building facilities assessment—and can cover anything from real estate values and security concerns to building operation costs. If a client owns its facilities, a most fundamental analysis at this point is a "highest and best-use" study, which ultimately determines the current dollar value of the client's land and improvements.

Over the time from which the land was originally purchased and the facilities built, changes in surrounding land usages and overall market values may impact the facilities' highest value in the current market. For example, a business might have originally been situated on the outskirts of an urban development on land that was zoned for light industrial use. Over time, residential development has moved into the area, so the value of the land may have increased dramatically. The highest and best use of that now very valuable land might even change the business plan because the company can gain high profit in selling the land and relocating to a more suitable site. Another organization, however, might decide that even though it is situated on under-utilized land, it will still follow its business plan and expand in the existing location. Either way, a fully informed decision at this point is critical.

Once the highest and best use of the land is determined, the rest of the existing facility assets can be assessed. For example, areas no longer code compliant need to be identified; and possibly measures to bring those areas up to code may need to be developed. Review of building operation costs and mechanical systems may also reveal potential cost savings by adjustments to, or replacement of, key building systems.

Key Business Drivers
In planning for a facility's expansion, or contraction, key drivers from the client's business plan will show the way. Strategic corporate goals, such as new product development and sales expansion, will direct the project from a functional standpoint and show where the adjustment to facilities needs to be. Employee head counts and square footages of particular departments should be determined. Adjacencies for various functions and how they interrelate must be analyzed to plan for placement and optimum efficiency.

Determining the business drivers is an important step in finding out how the facility is currently serving the larger business mission. The difference between the two pictures provides critical data for the Strategic Facilities Master Plan.

Schematic Exercise
Based on the information and assessment gained to this point, a schematic exercise can begin to develop specific solutions for a better-fitting physical plant that runs parallel with and supports the organization's business plan. The schematic process offers the opportunity to consider a wide range of "what if" possibilities.

The process may also incorporate phasing, and how the expansion and relocation will be timed for the least interruption possible of the company's operations. In many cases, mission-critical pieces exist that cannot be shut down during the move.

For example, the relocation of Ventana Medical Systems involved the planning and coordination of moving sensitive functions, with significant downtime costs of $300,000 per day. More than 20 locations were consolidated into a new headquarters in Tucson, AZ. Instrument and reagent manufacturing functions had to continue through the relocation. The data center could have no interruption of any telephone or computer communications. A 10-month planning process produced a phased-move sequence that was implemented over five months.

Master Project Schedule and Budget

Move management may take place over a weekend or over several months in phases. No matter how complicated, every detail related to the business must be overseen while components are being moved from point A to point B. In setting the schedule and budget, both hard and soft costs are included. For the construction itself, alternative-delivery methods may be considered, such as design-build. The goal is to think creatively and provide cost-effective, targeted solutions for the client.

A general contractor already may be working for your client's facilities on an on-call basis. This relationship can offer value in the form of familiarity and information on the facilities from both the general contractor and his various subcontractors. This group may hold critical information on mechanical systems, building operations and maintenance history.

The move-management schedule ultimately will show who moves where and when, in exacting detail. For instance, at HDR, Inc., a relocation manager will interview a client's various business groups to listen to their issues and assess needs during the move. Employees are equipped to move effectively on a specific date by move-packing clinics that show them how to pack up their personal and work materials. Furniture dealers schedule the installation of new products at exact times needed by various groups.

Information-technology groups are especially sensitive to relocation. Servers typically cannot go down during the move, so the new server room must be built-out and ready. Before-and-after e-mail address changes must be made for all data ports.

A superior relocation manager should take all of these details off the client's shoulders. Services of all kinds need to transition smoothly through the move, including catering and coffee service, live-plant care, custodians and security. At the end of the relocation project, a relocation manager should also assist the client by reviewing invoices for products and services purchased during the move.

HDR also sets up a "help desk" in the new facility to answer employee questions about any aspect of the move. As employees are moving into their new spaces, they can check with the help desk about items ranging from a phone not working to a missing move carton—all to free up management to maintain work activities.

Weekly meetings leading up to the move dates help keep all parties informed throughout preceding weeks or months. Following the weekly construction meeting, employee representatives meet with the move management team, project manager and contractor. Software scheduling tools provide an essential ingredient in tracking the relocation project progress.

A highly critical phased move was managed for the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution in its relocation to the Bunting-Blaustein Cancer Research Center. Scientific experiments had to be contained and protected thermally and against contamination during the move, with a finished refrigerated space ready in the new facility. The immense undertaking involved coordinating the relocation of research in progress, about 400 researchers and staff (including a Nobel Prize candidate), and dozens of laboratory groups. The labs contained incubators, liquid-nitrogen freezers, animals, hazardous and radioactive materials, and chemicals.

The relocation team consisted of several vendors specializing in the relocation of lab spaces. HDR coordinated the move, which demanded meticulous scheduling and compliance with safety regulations, as well as the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Weekly progress meetings were supplemented by a relocation project Web site. The move was accomplished in five weeks.

Relocation projects for both biotech and high-technology organizations carry critical performance requirements. Because high-tech firms are driven by speed-to-market competition, expansion and relocation schedules can be fast and furious. With biotech, speed also is critical so that new labs can be up and running to develop and test products striving for FDA approvals.

Developing and implementing a Strategic Facilities Master Plan for expansion and relocation can accomplish these goals. The plan complements and executes an organization's business plan for strategies and growth and, consequently, defines new facilities spaces and the ways to reach them. In the process, clients stay aware of details, with the assurance they are being handled successfully and disruption-free—down to the last packing box.

John Walsh is senior vice president/national director of Workplace & Development Services at HDR, Inc., Mountain View, CA. He can be reached at: (650) 943-2022; e-mail: walsh@hdrinc.com.


 

 
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