By Jillian Ruffino
Published in the March 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
What is your position? How many years have you been in the facility management profession?
Iam privileged to serve as project manager for the renovation of thecathedral, engineering, and art buildings at John Brown University(JBU). I completed 18 years as the facilities services director at thisschool on June 30, 2007.
Please give a brief description of the facilities involved in this project.
The“cathedral group” is made up of three buildings. Each structure has itsown story. The art building, for example, underwent extensive interiorrenovation in 2003 to create space for a new digital media program.
Theengineering building began as the campus library; when JBU’s LearningResource Center was built with space to house the library, the formerlibrary building was converted to the engineering building as it istoday. The engineering building houses mechanical and electricalengineering classrooms and offices, and the third floor is occupied byour construction management department.
The cathedralsanctuary is filled each Tuesday and Thursday for chapel services, andacts as a venue for campus events, meetings, and performances. Thecathedral also houses an education wing that supports the music, drama,English, and social studies programs.
The cathedral andengineering buildings’ HVAC systems have been totally replaced alongwith some extensive interior renovation. New windows were installed inthe engineering building, and 24 stained glass windows in the cathedralare being restored.
The art, engineering, and cathedralbuildings are similar in construction with wood and steel structuresand concrete and masonry unit walls. The buildings will receive a newlimestone veneer exterior and new roofing and guttering.
Why was the decision made to pursue this project for the facility?
Thecathedral’s construction began in 1945. It was completed in 1957, thesame year that our founder, John Brown, Sr., passed away. His intentand dream was to lay up stone on the building, but the stone work wasnever completed. The building stood with only concrete block walls for50 years.
The three buildings making up the cathedral groupare the prominent buildings on campus, and very popular in thecommunity and with alumni. The decision to renovate them was an easyone.
Also, the cathedral building education wing has beenoperating with very old gas fired furnaces for many years with onlyerratic control at best. Students and faculty were subject to extremedifferences in temperatures in offices and classrooms.
Please describe the decision making and research process for this project.
President Charles Pollard presented our plans to JBU board of trustees members. They approved the fundraising and concept.
TheCathedral Group Committee was formed to establish details forrenovation. The research process to determine materials and scope ofwork was a two year effort.
What was the vendor selection process like? Did you feel limited?
Thecommittee selected Flintco, Inc. to provide estimates and a budget ofpotential costs for the project. Several months later Sparks Architectsof Tulsa, OK was selected to design the stone cladding project. Theproject documents were sent to three qualified general contractors forproposals.
What led you to choose the specific solution that you did?
Specificdecisions for the project, including the type of stone to use and thepriority of various aspects of this project, were decided throughdiscussions of the project committee. As part of the team, I wasinvolved in many details, but I had the most interest and influence indetails regarding the actual installation and operations.
What benefits have you reaped as a result of this project?
Becausethe project is a considerable renovation of historic and much lovedbuildings, we have been able to see the community and the universityalumni come together to support the work. The improved classroom,office, and community space boosts the morale of our campus, which isnow more attractive to prospective students.
What economic benefits have you reaped as a result of this project?
Preservingthe building that is important to our alumni has inspired more alumnito give to the university. The appearance and functionality of ourbuildings may also be an important factor to students who areconsidering coming to our university. We expect the changes we madewill be an asset to recruitment in the future.
Did you encounter any unexpected highlights or challenges while implementing this project?
Mostof the challenges came after the work had begun. The stone selection,supply, and delivery was very slow. Several stone units required customsizes and thicknesses. Having to wait on custom cut stone and fordelivery from the stone plant—over 100 miles away—challenged ourschedule.
How did this project require you to change your operations and maintenance practices?
Becausenearly half of the work was managed directly by the university, theproject required a full time director. I retired from my previousposition as facilities director to take on the role of project manager.
While our regular facilities staff supports the project invarious ways, they are generally able to continue their normaloperations without too much inconvenience.
What has been the reaction to the project from upper management and elsewhere in your organization?
Theolder concrete block wall construction, which made the buildings grayin color, seemed to be quite acceptable to most people associated withJBU and even those around the community. They didn’t realize what adifference the exterior stone would make.
After the stonewas placed, the buildings appeared larger and more permanent and theyhave taken on a much lighter stone color. This change has been verypositive.
There has also been a renewed appreciation for theheritage of the university with older and younger alumni as well ascurrent students.
What was the most professionally rewarding aspect of this project?
Tobe able to concentrate totally on the cathedral group restoration is adream job. While I have been involved in many construction andrenovation projects at every level, my involvement in this project hasbeen the greatest blessing and the most interesting.
Easley can be reached at [email protected].