Dianne Gravatt, director of facilities management at Cook-Douglass campus, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, has a lot on her plate. From an oyster research program to horses running on treadmills, Cook-Douglass campus in New Brunswick, NJ, is lush, diverse, and always surprising.
Known for its beautiful collection of trees and shrubs, this campus features sophisticated research facilities, barns, boats, and a cow with a window in her side. Douglass College is the nation’s largest women’s college and Cook College is a science college with a focus on environmental science, agriculture, equine studies, and marine science. Additionally, the prestigious Mason Gross School of the Arts has several facilities on this campus.
A former Phys Ed teacher, Gravatt has brought her experience and boundless energy to Rutgers for seven years. With more open space than its sister campuses, the pastoral Cook-Douglass campus is approximately 3.8 million square feet in size, with 300 buildings and 40 acres of parking lots.
Gravatt is responsible for all the maintenance operations, custodial, building operating, and grounds services, excluding housing. Her facilities management staff, totaling 182, also covers outlying areas, serving research farms from North Jersey to the tip of Cape May.
Students have very strong feelings regarding the university’s green practices. With a focus on environmental responsibility, Rutgers is one of the largest recyclers in the nation. “We are proud of that. We try to be environmentally friendly with everything we do,” says Gravatt. The university’s facility development, design, and project management department has made the commitment to construct new facilities to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
Proud of her department’s accomplishments, Gravatt struggles with a decreasing budget and increasing costs due to New Jersey’s budget woes. Adds Gravatt, “It is amazing how resilient the staff is and how they come up with different ways to do things to save money.” For example, Gravatt was very proud that her staff researched and rebuilt a historic Robling walking bridge.
Gravatt coordinates with the nearby Rutgers university campuses, Busch-Livingston and College Ave. The university has adopted building product standards and strives to unify the separate campuses. “We support each other and we try to keep our core services the same, although the campuses are very different,” she says.
Recently, Gravatt was honored by Douglass College for her significant contribution to the women’s college because of the facility upgrades. Rutgers is continuing to grow and the Cook-Douglass campus has witnessed tremendous expansion. Proud of her past success, Gravatt is looking forward to the challenge of new construction. She adds: “My credo is: I dwell on possibility. Whatever problem presents itself is not a problem, it is an opportunity.”
Regina Raiford Babcock (firstname.lastname@example.org) is senior editor at Buildings magazine.