Discipline, rigor, experience, training, process driven procedures, and a culture of excellence—that’s what it takes to deliver continuous operations over the life of a critical facility.

The task sounds simple, and in some high-level ways, it is. On the other hand, delivering continuous operations over the life of a facility is not easy. Actually, it is extremely hard to accomplish. It’s kind of like batting 1.000, making 100 percent of your free throws, or winning every hand.

Sound impossible? Some say it is—that’s why we speak of the “nines”; 99.9, 99.99, 99.999 percent, etc.

These similes are acknowledgments that even if we do everything right every time, Murphy’s Law still applies. And yet some organizations/enterprises are operating at 100 percent (knock on wood). So how do they do it, and more importantly, how do you do it?

The answer comes in three parts:

• Do everything

• Do everything right

• Do everything right every time


So what is “everything?” Well obviously everything is more than can be discussed in a small space, but we can start with some groupings and categories:


• Programming, engineering and design, construction and commissioning, and sustainable operations

• Infrastructure, staff, and (the glue that binds the two), management

• Facilities, critical facilities, and IT

• Operations, maintenance, and efficiency


This list becomes overwhelming in a hurry, so where does one start? At the beginning of course, with the programming phase where the end result is defined. As Stephen Covey said about being effective, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Does one need to think of everything, make all the decisions, and document every aspect of the facility before proceeding to design? No, of course not. But the more forethought that goes into programming a facility the better the design that results.

Most people take design to mean the engineering and design of the physical facility—walls, roof, utilities, systems, equipment, etc. But why stop there? The programming phase should also include defining the facilities management (FM) strategies, resources, programs, and deliverables that will be required to properly operate and maintain (O&M) the facility over its life. This is true for three main reasons. First is that these facilities management resources, programs, and services need to be fully functional on “Day 1” and so their associated design, development, and deployment needs to occur concurrent with the design, construction, and commissioning of the physical facility. Second, many decisions and strategies made regarding how a facility will be staffed, operated, and maintained can directly influence how the physical facility is best designed. Third, there are many opportunities for synergies during the design and construction of the physical facility to develop and deliver on the facility management requirements. Some examples:


• Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) data collection and implementation

• Site-specific O&M training program development and (initial) delivery

• Standard operating procedures (SOPs) development and validation

• Key performance indicator (KPI) monitoring tools (dashboards, incident reports, PUE, etc.)

• Service-level agreements


The list goes on and on. Almost everything that FM will require can be more easily developed and delivered when integrated into the design and delivery of the physical facility than when addressed as an afterthought. (Many clients see combining much of this FM effort with the construction project effort to capitalize the associated expenses as an added bonus!)

So how do you optimize the programming process? Gather knowledgeable and experienced experts from all the stakeholders into a room, with no distractions, led by a professional facilitator, and don’t quit until everyone has been heard and a consensus reached. The key here is the professional facilitator. This person (or persons) needs to understand what all the aspects of a critical facility are and must ensure that the programming process covers each facet sufficiently (which also means seeing that the appropriate representatives participate).

One of the best resources addressing the formal programming process is ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005, The Commissioning Process, and especially section 5: “Pre-Design Phase,” Annex I “Owner’s Project Requirements Workshop Guidance,” and Annex J “Owner’s Project Requirements.” This industry guideline suggests the commissioning agent should facilitate an “Owner’s Project Requirements” (OPR) workshop. This makes sense as the commissioning agent’s fundamental role is to ensure the project delivers quality products that meet “defined objectives and criteria.” Also, the commissioning agent’s realm includes not only verifying the facility’s functional performance, but also that the project delivers the required O&M documentation and training to the owner’s FM staff.

Most owners have little expertise or experience in building design and construction. Considering how complex critical facilities are compared to typical commercial office buildings, the need to engage outside consultants and experts early is critical to success. Coupled with the fact that there’s only one chance to get it right, the value and importance of the programming phase can’t be overstated. So as soon as the decision is made to embark on building a new facility a programming team should be created with the goal of producing an OPR document. The team should include comprehensive representation from internal stakeholders and external consultants.

Programming isn’t accomplished in one shot. It should be an iterative process allowing broad questions to result in broad answers that lead to narrower questions and more definitive answers. This process continues until sufficient clarity is achieved to provide the design team with the direction needed to create a conceptual design. Just as the design process starts with a concept, progresses to a schematic design, then design development drawings with draft specifications, then a 95 percent set of drawings and specifications, and finally a 100 percent set, the OPR begins as a broad set of goals and objectives that gets progressively refined.

And not everyone has to participate in everything. IT doesn’t have to help program site lighting, and access and facilities management doesn’t have to help program network requirements. But each iteration results in a new draft OPR document that all team members need to review and understand. As the project progresses from programming to design and the inevitable competition and conflicts arise, everyone needs to understand the overarching requirements so sound decisions and compromises are agreed to that result in the best overall value.

So as this column takes on specific topics such as FM organization and staffing, training programs, O&M processes and programs, and other critical aspects required for sustained operations, it will return to some common themes. Pre-planning and formal programming avoids costly errors and compromises in the design and construction phases. Collaboration and cooperation by all participants working towards common goals is critical. And not only are the complex systems and infrastructure interrelated and interdependent, but the human aspects of planning, operations, and management of the various business units—IT, security, and facilities management— need to be in concert with each other and the physical facility to do everything right, every time. 


Reprints of this articleare available by contacting Jill DeVries at devriesj@bnpmedia.com or at  248-244-1726.