Start with the Foundation: Successful Design Begins with Strategic Facilities Planning

/// By Debora Hankinson
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was it built without a foundation. Successful building design begins on the ground floor, where operations, growth, capacity and more are considered and weighed to create the detailed facility solution that is appropriately aligned around your key business objectives.  
It is human nature to want to put out fires and chase emergencies, but when it comes to building solutions, facilities shouldn’t be assembled as a reaction to today’s issues. Instead, they need to be thoughtfully designed to be in line with tomorrow’s business goals and growth trajectory.  

There are three very distinct phases of facilities planning – strategic facilities planning, master planning and tactical planning. Oftentimes in practical day-to-day design, we blur these lines and skip right to the master plan, neglecting the ideas/requirements necessary to support it that can only come from a true, thought-out strategic facilities plan.

Sure, it seems like an extra step, but if an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure, just a little more strategy up front is commensurate with long-term savings of both time and money. Benefits of going through a more structured planning process include:

  1. ROI – A multi-year plan will supply a greater return on investment.
  2. Time savings – Businesses that don’t have to re-work facilities will save time.
  3. Solutions that accommodate future growth – Having an existing building that supports the direction of the organization is priceless.
  4. Minimize disruption - Anytime you touch something more than once, you have disruption.
Going back to the basics – and including the following three phases of planning in your next RFP – will increase the likelihood that your project will be built with the right tools from the foundation on up.

Phase One: Strategic Facilities Planning

As architects and engineers, we get excited about designing a building layout. And we know that you, as a client, want to see solutions right away. In order to meet both goals, though, we first need to determine how your buildings – both current and future – support your business plan. That’s where strategic facilities planning (SFP) comes in. In a nutshell, the SFP lays out what building elements you need in order to run your business and meet future organizational goals.

The SFP answers extremely important questions, such as: Can operations increase in existing buildings, or are more facilities needed? Can my company grow in its current location or does it need to relocate to expand its operations? If it needs to relocate, where should we go? Can we outsource some of our operations, or should we keep it all in house? It also addresses how much it will cost to build or update a facility and how much it will cost you to operate it.

SFP should set the direction for how your facilities are going to change, grow and evolve. The buildings have to be in alignment with the business plan, which is dynamic. So the facilities have to be dynamic.

We begin developing an SFP by assessing your current facilities and evaluating how they align with your institutional mission. We conduct an analysis of current capacity and look at how we can maximize already existing spaces, as well as identify possible future gaps in capacity. We then develop a plan for strategic growth under a variety of scenarios and set benchmarks and standards for growth. These metrics culminate in a high-level budget and long-term schedule for building development.

With an SFP in hand, you’ll know which facilities to construct when and where. You’ll have the big picture of your operations, which allows you to move forward deliberately and increase your capacity tactically to meet your business goals.

Phase Two: Master Planning Services

Once there’s an SFP in place, it’s time to begin master planning services (MPS). This is where we look into how an organization’s campus or buildings can accommodate the SFP – and when you can start really envisioning how your new facility will look.

MPS includes campus planning solutions and phasing strategies, project scenario planning, operational improvement planning, space utilization improvements, relocation and migration planning, project costs and life cycle analyses, feasibility studies and test fits.

An MPS will typically provide a couple of different solutions and phasing strategies for development under multiple scenarios. The phasing strategy is of particular importance at this point in the process because it outlines a plan for facilities growth that minimizes any disruptions to the operation of your business. At this point we can also provide a more detailed cost estimate, as we’re getting down to a more granular level in the process.

Phase Three: Tactical Planning Services

With roadmaps for both strategically developing and implementing your facilities improvements in hand, it’s time to start flushing out the finer details of the design solution. Tactical planning services (TPS) provide a blueprint for the placement of objects in your facilities – it’s the business equivalent of moving the living room furniture.

TPS includes everything from space planning and floor plan development to architectural and engineering conceptual design, cost estimates and energy modeling. A TPS will reveal a real floor plan: windows should go over there, offices here, desks in the center. It will also give you a good estimation of energy consumption costs for the space. TPS is the very tangible part of the facilities planning process, and paints a vivid picture of your new space.

Organize Your Planning Efforts for Success

Better organizing your facility planning efforts will ensure it is fit for purpose and ready to meet current and future requirements. Moving through the three phases of planning – strategic facilities planning, master planning and tactical planning - will help you create a facility inventory that is truly in line with what your company really needs, including your growth trajectory, business continuity, reliability, energy efficiency, process efficiencies and more.

About the Author

Debora Hankinson, MArch

Debora Hankinson, MArch

Debora Hankinson, MArch is Director of Strategic Facility Planning at CRB in our Kansas City, Missouri office.
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