Building Quality 101

Sept. 7, 2001
Facilities managers take control of workplaces

As part of our ongoing mission to voice the interior design issues of facilities managers, Buildings and BI (Buildings Interiors) magazines recently hosted a roundtable in Chicago. The informal gathering brought together Chicago-area facilities professionals from different backgrounds to share their unique perspectives. Each participant discussed his organization's structure and function.

Gary Graham, vice president, Energy Advisory Services, Jones Lang LaSalle, Mt. Prospect, IL. A third-party property management firm, Jones Lang LaSalle's role is to provide technical service and support and real estate market knowledge for its clients in physical operations and maintenance. Graham works out of the company's Technical Services Group, focusing on energy procurement. He has 20 years of experience in sales and sales management in performance contracting.

Mark Kruse, assistant vice president, Real Estate Project Management, CNA Insurance, Chicago. The vast majority of CNA Insurance's facility space is leased. Kruse's focus is design, relocation of employees, and construction.

Andrew McGonigle, project manager, Facilities Management Design and Construction, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Recently, Northwestern University underwent a major restructuring in terms of operations. Instead of the traditional architect department and physical plant division, the university created a facilities management department that encompasses design and construction, facility management planning, operations, and administrative support. McGonigle also has training as an architect.

George Middleton, president, George Middleton & Associates, Naperville, IL. Middleton is an architect who runs a consulting firm.

Jack Curley, publisher, Buildings and BI (Buildings Interiors) magazines, New York City.

Linda Monroe, editorial director, Buildings and BI (Buildings Interiors) magazines, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Though the topics veered from setting interior products standards to the future of green design, the common theme was quality. Quality in designing, constructing, and maintaining a variety of facility types: Our participants pooled their collective knowledge on achieving these goals.

Performance First

The discussion moved quickly to the need for developing performance-based standards. "We developed about 10 years ago a set of standards, which we're now refining to better accommodate our needs rather than write technical specifications for architects to follow," says Andrew McGonigle, project manager, Facilities Management Design and Construction, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. To achieve quality facilities and avoid future disappointments, McGonigle stresses the importance of communication between facilities managers and architects. He adds, "In some areas, the difficulty is having a new group of architects come in and understand what you, as a client, want from them."

At Northwestern University, the standards book has options to allow for choice. There is also an intensive internal review process by all university departments involved in the project to examine schematic design, design development, and construction documents to ensure high performance from product choices. "The architect is one way of getting to the owner, but, ultimately, the owner's programs drive a lot of product decisions," says George Middleton, president of Middleton & Associates, Naperville, IL.

The university developed its standards to reduce overall costs and improve organizational efficiency. "It's understanding the operational side of a building that has tremendous impact upon the design solution," says McGonigle. Northwestern's facilities professionals worked with an external consultant to develop its standards.

At CNA Insurance, interior product standards have undergone a transformation. Like many corporations, CNA Insurance has relaxed its hierarchical design with different types of furniture for varying levels of employees. The use of standards allowed the organization to streamline its asset management. "Now, when we're going to relocate or open a new office, our customers are given a certain range of choices that has helped us control some costs, control our project process," says Mark Kruse, assistant vice president, Real Estate Project Management, CNA Insurance, Chicago.

CNA Insurance's standards extend into the home arena. To serve employees who work from home, the organization has developed an optional set of furniture standards. Adds Kruse, "They're welcomed to go to the store and get a chair for less money and then call me and complain that they have back problems."

To best serve its clients, Jones Lang LaSalle has experts in a wide variety of market areas. "There's just a general knowledge base of who the best players are from the service side: who they are, who we're comfortable with, who's got the quality service, who's got the proper pricing," says Gary Graham, vice president, Energy Advisory Services, in the Mt. Prospect, IL office of Jones Lang LaSalle. The organization uses senior chief engineers to mentor and support other engineers in order to maintain a continuity of experience.

A national engineering conference also supports the organization's educational process. "They're sharing knowledge and information on a regular basis and then returning to the local market to the senior staff and the property teams overall," says Graham.

Beyond Actual Products

Service for all the facilities professionals is a major driver. Kruse stresses the importance of vendor support and good business relationships when designing commercial interiors, especially when blending products from different vendors.

Good communication is also key in the facilities manager-architect relationship. In addition to aesthetic aspects, facilities professionals value durability and performance in product selection. "I don't think any catalogue that I have seen across my desk has life-cycle information," says McGonigle. Adds Middleton, "That's the kind of thing that hopefully we can change with manufacturers, saying, 'You've got a big audience out there that wants to know more about these aspects of your product.' "

Having the most up-to-date information on interior products, especially recommended maintenance information, can mean the difference between success and failure. Kruse also emphasizes the importance of follow-up - having manufacturers handle complaints quickly and efficiently - and flexibility - allowing facilities professionals to choose specific regional dealers.

"I rely a lot on the design professionals we hire to say, 'This is the latest thing. What do you think about that?' " adds McGonigle. A good relationship with a design professional is the first step in ensuring quality interiors.

Yet, how important are brands? According to Graham, the biggest drivers are owner preference, facilities management standards, and regional support. "What's [a vendor's] reputation in this area? It becomes very much a regional decision to give the nod to one manufacturer or another," says Graham.

"I still hear from a lot of owners that it boils down to initial cost. Is that changing?" asks Monroe. According to Graham, there are two strong factors in considering costs:

• First, tenants are examining overall costs of occupancy, rent, and operating expenses.
• Second, there is the push to become a good corporate citizen through energy efficiency.

Increasingly, he notes, tenants are becoming more educated about the benefits of energy-efficient lighting and other energy-saving systems, and are factoring in those benefits when choosing a building.

Greener Pastures

"Can you rent based on green design? Is that a plus?" asks Curley. Because of growing awareness, tenants and building owners are recognizing the value of sustainable design. "Some of our institutional owners have said, 'I have a goal of having a certain percentage of my energy for my properties from renewable energy sources,' " explains Graham.

Modernizing older buildings' mechanical systems to take advantage of emerging technology is also on the rise, as more facilities professionals follow the example of green leaders. "Technology has given us some real good opportunities to tighten things down from a heating and ventilation control standpoint [and] from a lighting control system standpoint, taking advantage of natural lighting," says Graham.

According to Kruse, end-users are also more aware of the issue of indoor air quality (IAQ). All of the facilities managers take the issue of IAQ and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) very seriously and investigate maintenance practices, installation problems, and interior products, which could be deleterious to air quality. To respond to these issues, corporations, such as CNA Insurance and Jones Lang LaSalle, have developed in-house teams of internal environment experts that work with landlords to ferret out the source of indoor air quality complaints and to implement solutions.

In the future, the participants believe green design will play a larger role in how buildings are built and maintained. McGonigle defines green design as traditional, good design that relates to local environmental conditions. He adds, "For a period of time, design professionals forgot the importance of good design. Facilities, such as New York City's National Audubon Society headquarters, are brilliant examples of older buildings that have been transformed into green leaders. We've actually gone back to our roots and said good design makes sense."

Better Practices

Like sustainable design, the role of benchmarking as part of improving building quality is increasing. For example, CNA Insurance has participated in studies to track and make comparisons of its costs to build and operate in leased locations. The corporation handles all its design needs in-house, and benchmarking has proven the cost-effectiveness of this practice.

To improve efficiency, Middleton recommends an "owner's manual," an opportunity for manufacturers to provide essential information to facilities management departments on building components. The facilities professionals concur with this assessment, adding that a database of interior products, construction, and maintenance information is vital. Yet, it is not uncommon for there to be information gaps within an organization when it comes to this type of information. Middleton also suggests the possibility of third-party monitoring of warranties and other interior products records.

Keeping track of components is only part of the picture. What about improving productivity with interior products? For one of its new business units, CNA Insurance opted for more flexible furniture components that complemented the new team's high churn rate. The flexible furniture streamlined the moving process, greatly reducing downtime and costs. For the future, the company is considering increasing its use of mobile storage components and furniture.

At Northwestern, the diversity of classrooms, research facilities, and support spaces makes it difficult to monitor productivity issues. Recently, the university completed a classroom study to analyze classroom space efficiency. At the same time, the university is selecting seating that is more ergonomic to preserve the health of its students and staff as it upgrades its classrooms.

Productivity and reliability go hand in hand. "In some cases, we put in building-wide uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) and back-up generators, as well as cafeterias [in our leased spaces]. And we would walk away from that lease in 10 years and wouldn't take [those systems] with us," says Kruse, noting, "Business demands it."

Roundtable participants covered a wide range of issues. One topic they returned to repeatedly is the need for more information. Improved education and communication among facilities managers, design professionals, and the interior product community is the key behind developing and preserving high-performance interiors.

McGonigle, however, nailed the essence of the information exchange: "The thing that I want to know is how it is going to impact me. How am I going to put it into my building? How do I motivate the design professional? If I know the fundamental questions to ask my designers, then I am going to get the right solution."

Regina Raiford ([email protected]) is senior editor at Buildings and BI magazines.

Voice your opinion!

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

Sponsored Recommendations