Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wear and tear

I mentioned a while back that I went to do the warranty walk on Wheatlands, my biggest project to date, and longtime WAD reader Faded asked how it looked. The answer is, pretty damn good. We sat in a meeting with the CEO, who likes Design Associates and has worked with us on projects at other facilities, and the facilities manager, a good ol' boy from Wheatlands who was Pissed Off. Here's what I think happened, none of which is an indictment of GOB's character: GOB got left out of a lot of this facility's planning and design, or at least he feels that way. A different member of the administration was the head of the design/construction team at Wheatlands, and this fellow has now left Wheatlands Hospital for a job in Virginia, and I think GOB feels like he's stuck with a building that could have been designed better that he had no input on.

Now, input from a facilities manager on a new building is a double-edged sword. One the one hand, you need their input and experience to make a building easy to maintain and functional from the standpoint of HVAC, electrical work, and emergency operation (e.g., what happens if the power goes out? if there's a bomb or attack of some kind?). You need their input on maintenance, like "my head of housekeeping doesn't think it's clean unless it's shiny; can this flooring be polished or does it go without polish?" or even remarks like "accent walls mean I have one more kind of paint I have to keep in stock for touchups." The other edge of that sword is represented by that last comment about accent paints, which I've actually heard Squidwort at MHRC say. If I haven't mentioned it before, Squidwort is a facilities manager, which means for the past ten months, I've been taking aesthetic commentary from a man who wants everything painted off-white and wants all mechanical and electrical chases to be two feet deep. To hell with your pretty accent walls and decorative glass inserts in the reception counter! SO the other side of taking advice from facilities managers is that how something looks, or even how a department might best function can be thrown out the window because the guy with the pipe wrench thinks it's a waste of time/pain in the ass/etc.

Anyway, the other part of the problem with GOB is the problem with many facilities managers: they love to tinker. Tinkering is a habit with them. They get their training on old buildings with forty-year-old pipes and boilers and so on, and they become accustomed to jiggling handles and wrappnig things with tape and taking off covers and nudging and adjusting things. Not a problem until you get a brand new building. IN a new building, if you have a problem, Step 1 is call the contractor and report it, especially if it happens in the first year or within the time of the product's warranty. FOr example, if you've got a door closer that closes too fast, call the contractor and tell them. Either they will tell you how to adjust it, or they will come out and adjust the closer for you. DO NOT just take the cover off of the closer and start doodling around: you can mess it up worse and possibly void the warranty. And we saw some of that at Wheatlands: GOB had been doodling with boilers, inflow valves, door closers, computerized HVAC control systems, and so on.

So, we're in the meeting, and GOB starts rattling off his list with an edge of fury. A page or two later, he started calming down. After I recorded five full pages of notes, he was calm and looked like he felt better. We responded to his concerns with, well, concern, and we resolved to address each as best we could. We walked around the building for probably two hours, taking notes and pictures of issues. OVerall, the building was in great shape. There were only a couple of cracks in the drywall, half of which were around an expansion joint, which is kind of expected. There were some mechanical/plumbing issues, which happens a lot. I felt a little demoralized about my five pages of "this and that is wrong", but Howie and the contractor were almost delighted.

"Those are all things that can be fixed, things that are manageable," said Howie. "Big things are things like they can't keep huge areas of the building warm or cool, or mold is growing in an operating room. We have none of that."

So, it would appear (knocking on wood, fingers crossed) that my first full, real building that I did from beginning to end is a success.


BaxtersMum said...

I meant to post on your last post about the vibe - it sounds like things may be lining up for Miz Pixieh to get a promotion....

That's just the vibe I'm getting - with Jann's issues, and you having to step up and now Wheatlands working out so well.

But what do I know??? I know VEGAS ROCKS.

heh heh heh

St. Blogwen said...

Marvellous! Congratulations!

faded said...

I ma glad the building looks good.

The Facility Manager sounds like a bunch that I have run into while doing business. They are frustrated because they beleive that no one takes them seriously.

A lot of organization managers do not take them seriously becuase the FM's view is down at the wrench and pipe level not at the more global management level.

You comment that they would make a builidng, all one color with hard surfaces so it is easy to maintain is true.

They tend to be very concrete guys and managers want abstract analysis.

The miscommunication that occurs somes times sounds like something out of Laurel and Hardy.