Don Erb: Tackling Large Challenges is a Team Activity

April 1, 2008

Portfolio: 2.3 million square feet of Student Residential Property on two campuses (the approximate size of the Empire State Building). 1,425 beds on one of our two city campuses and the remaining 5,775 beds on or next to our suburban Amherst, New York campus.

Challenge: I manage the University at Buffalo's residential facilities. The housing system consists of 15 traditional residence hall buildings and five apartment complexes. The university projects 35 percent growth in the student population over the next few years, and we're charged with making sure those students wishing to live on campus have a place to call home. There is huge competition for funding for all the buildings and programs inherent in such growth. While we're breaking ground on a new LEED Silver rated modified residence hall, we also need to keep our existing buildings operating. The challenge for my team is to oversee the new project while maintaining our current buildings at the highest level possible.

Another wrinkle in the challenge-we follow a five year capital replacement program, so we have to carefully manage our expenditures to make sure we're not wasting our operating budget on items we plan to replace in the capital program.

Strategy: The most important step is to understand that tackling large challenges is a team activity. We've assembled a talented and experienced team—pulling not just from my department, but also the university at large and an outside design team. Now the strategy is to enable each team member to execute their important portion of the tasks at hand, so that the entire team can reach the desired outcomes. As a leader, my job is to clear the obstructions for my team, provide the resources for them to execute the collective plan, and recognize and reward their efforts when we attain our goals.

For our existing buildings, we've been leveraging our capital replacement program for energy conservation retrofitting... from conscious selection of roof color to window replacements and HVAC replacements. We completed a lot of the lighting retrofits about 10 years ago, and now we're slowly moving to new technologies such as LED lighting as the applications dictate. We run conferences and camps here during the summer, so the building use changes at that time. From May 15 to August 15, my department operates a hotel. We have to selectively use buildings and plan occupancy around deep summer cleaning, maintenance work and the capital improvement schedule.

Conference Perspective: I have never walked away from the BOMA International Conference and The Office Building Show without deriving benefits that impact my personal life and how I conduct business. I've picked up valuable tips and perspective about leading and motivating people, both from the marquee speakers and from my colleagues in the industry. The acquaintances you make here become life-long friends that are a continuous resource for problem solving.

The exhibitors at The Office Building Show are always ready to help you incorporate new technologies or processes into your operation while helping you separate the value-driven trends from the passing fads. Between the conference and the tradeshow, I've found many tools and processes that have saved the University many thousands of dollars and paid for my attendance and involvement ten fold. But attending isn't about finding any one single winning technique or process. It in itself is a strategy I use to stay informed and to produce results.

We are in very competitive economic times. Even at a university we look for as many ways to get an edge as possible. I don't work directly in the office building market, but this conference provides an edge for anyone in commercial real estate. I never fail to come back with something I can use.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Buildings, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Building Security & Technology Series: Webinar 3 - Proptech

Date: May 22, 2024Time: 1:00 PM EDT / 12:00 PM CDT / 10:00 AM PDT / 5:00 PM GMTDuration: 1 Hour eachGold Sponsors: Genetec, ISSSilver Sponsors: EVOLV, OpenEye ...

Building Security & Technology Series: Webinar 4 - Lessons Learned

Date: May 29, 2024Time: 1:00 PM EDT / 12:00 PM CDT / 10:00 AM PDT / 5:00 PM GMTDuration: 1 Hour eachGold Sponsors: Genetec, ISSSilver Sponsors: EVOLV, OpenEye ...

Handwashing Survey Research Drives Industry Solutions

Sharing well researched data on consumer likes and dislikes in public bathrooms, this guide presents handwashing public restroom hygiene trends and survey insights for facility...