Maggie Kinnaman is director of business administration for facilities management at the University of Maryland-Baltimore; she can be reached at email@example.com .edu. Gary Reynolds is director of facilities services at the Colorado College in Colorado Springs; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The authors are Past APPA Presidents and currently serve as co-chairs of APPA’s Center for Facilities Research Advisory Council.
For those of you who missed APPA’s Educational Facilities Leadership Forum in Nashville, Tennessee, we would like to share some exciting news with you. APPA has just launched one of its most exciting initiatives to address all of APPA’s desired outcomes by enhancing member competency, strengthening collaborative relationships, and raising levels of credibility within our respective institutions. Additionally, this initiative is available to all members from your desktop and gives each of you the opportunity to participate and receive recognition for that participation. Finally, this initiative is making an investment in the future of the facilities profession.
So what is this great new initiative? It is none other than the Center for Facilities Research, or CFaR (pronounce it See-Far). Let us tell you more.
What is the Center for Facilities Research?
The Center for Facilities Research will serve a vital need for the integration of the development, collection, and delivery of facilities-related research in the educational environment. CFaR has been established within APPA to organize and consolidate research related to facilities management issues impacting educational outcomes. It is important to know that we are defining research very broadly as the “deliberate search for knowledge.”
Many of us have lots of data that we’ve collected over the years. Some of us have even taken that data and put it into spreadsheets and developed graphs to create information that might help form a decision we need to make. Sometimes this information has been immediately applicable and other times it has not. Its usefulness depends upon the situation, as the application of information to a specific situation puts the information in context resulting in the creation of knowledge. That is, I have this information and I can apply it to solve a specific problem in a knowledgeable way.
That’s what CFaR is about. Involving our membership and our partners in collecting data, creating information, and using it in the context of higher education facilities management. Creating this body of knowledge related to the facilities profession is an essential element in our profession’s ability to grow and be successful in the future. Without research and application of that research, growth cannot occur and stagnation reigns.
In today’s higher education environment all of us know the truth resident in the following statement, “Growth is optional, change is inevitable.” In order to survive in our current environments, each of us must embrace the change in such a way that we move our organizations toward future success. This can only be done if we have acquired the competency and confidence that can come from having access to and utilizing a body of knowledge that shows us the way. This knowledge must be accessible, credible, and strategic.
The creation of the Center for Facilities Research is in alignment with APPA’s strategy to support our membership and our profession. CFaR will be an instigator of research, a repository, a resource center, and a means for distribution of that resource. Additionally, the Center will create opportunities for member participation and recognition.
Research within CFaR will be classified into subject areas related to APPA’s four core competencies; General Administration, Operations and Maintenance, Energy and Utilities, and Planning, Design, and Construction. We currently have four assistant directors providing guidance within these four areas. They are:
• David Cain of Northern Arizona University
• Harvey Chace of the University of New Mexico
• Doug Christensen of Brigham Young University
• Pieter van der Have of the University of Utah
Providing overall guidance and direction for CFaR are your two authors of this article.
In addition to the above, a Peer Review Panel has been
established to work with the assistant directors in providing feedback and guidance to our members who are actually conducting a research project.
The CFaR initiative has been in a development stage for some time. The catalyst for the roll-out of CFaR at this time was a seed money contribution from Applied Management Engineering of Virginia Beach, Virginia. AME has been a sustaining member/business partner of APPA’s since 1982, and became a national leader in facilities research with their authorship of Managing the Facilities Portfolio (NACUBO, 1991). AME will also serve as a member of the CFaR advisory council.
Within our definition of research as the “deliberate search for knowledge,” we acknowledge that the research process can occur at many levels of depth and rigor. Thus we have defined various research strategies from simple inquiries to Ph.D.-level research. We are developing strategies to promote, capture and distribute information at all levels of research. For CFaR purposes we have identified four research types:
• Inquiry (typically captured through use of the APPAinfo
e-mail discussion list)
• Sharing (typically captured through answers to an APPA inquiry, an article in Facilities Manager magazine, information provided during an educational session)
• Synthesis (typically integrates existing relationships or research into a recreated form producing a new body of knowledge or perspective)
• Creation (typically represents hypothesis query resulting in the creation of new knowledge within the facilities profession)
Why is CFaR an Important Initiative?
As we look at the professional group most knowledgeable about managing educational facilities it is readily apparent that APPA plays a significant role. If doing significant research on educational facilities related issues is not done by us, then by whom? APPA’s vision of “Becoming a Global Partner in Learning”—coupled with our desired outcomes of member competency, collaborative relationships, and credibility—provides the most compelling picture for APPA’s development of this initiative.
We are trying to not only foster research activity but to capture that activity at all levels and make it readily accessible to our members and educational stakeholders. It will be the combination of good solid research that is made available to all of our members that will result in members who are more successful in their respective duties by becoming more competent and credible within their campus communities. As we enhance our member’s knowledge, so we upgrade the skills of our profession and the ability of our profession to better serve higher education.
Why Should You Care about CFaR?
You may be asking, “So how will this initiative impact me at my campus?” To answer, let’s take a peek into a typical day in the facilities department of Institution X. It’s a beautiful spring day and as you walk across campus to your office you are approached by an angry researcher who confronts you with his problem. Over the weekend his office sustained yet another file server crash that wiped out years of research. Sadly enough, the need for cooling file server rooms throughout campus has been extensively discussed but unresolved due to a lack of priority and funding. The researcher is furious and threatening to have you fired for incompetency.
In response, you rally your troops and try to assess the situation. You find that there are actually two problems that are causing these server crashes. First is explained by your engineer, who indicates that use of space on campus has shifted from classroom to research and that the power grid is not adequate to support the equipment that is necessary when conducting intensive research. This problem is added to the longstanding issue related to proper cooling of file server rooms.
As you listen to the situation, you start to feel overwhelmed and ready to throw in the towel. How on earth can you solve so many problems that are key to the success of your campus? Even it you could identify strategies for addressing the challenges, you doubt whether you would be able to successfully influence campus decision makers to shift their priorities away from academic issues to the infrastructure.
If only you didn’t feel so isolated and alone in how to develop a strategy that can result in resolution. You wonder what others have done in similar situations. In sheer panic, you seek a way to escape and pick up the newly arrived September/October Facilities Manager magazine. You flip the pages and suddenly come upon an article about some new APPA initiative, the Center for Facilities Research. After reading the article, you decide to give it a whirl. You go to the APPA website and enter the words “changing electrical load” and “cooling for file server rooms” in the search box. What should appear but five historical queries on the APPAinfo list, six
articles from Facilities Manager, a case study documented from a Leadership Forum presentation, and the icing on the cake are the results of a recently conducted research project at the University of California at Fullerton.
Not only do you find information directly related to your search, but your search also results in information that could help you in the development of your strategy. Information related to funding infrastructure upgrades is noted as well as how to market your solutions for success. This article gives you information about how to state the problem in language that academics and business folks will understand and respond to. The information search has resulted in an expanded list of strategies that you can consider, success stories that you can contact and refer to and even a funding model that does not make it necessary to realign academic priorities to the facilities department. Your initial thoughts are that you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Armed with all of the research, you call your team back together and develop your overall strategies. You find that no longer is the problem that you will present to decision makers related to facilities infrastructure but to the ability of your campus to meet it’s research mission. This shift will certainly get the attention of decision makers. You also find that you will go armed to the meeting with the problem and also the solution funded from a newly identified revenue stream, basically savings from future energy conservation efforts. Your team looks over the material and gives their thumbs up
approval. You schedule the meeting with your VP for Administration and Dean for Research for the following week.
The day of the presentation you walk into the meeting confident and ready to tell your story and share your plan of action. You discuss the research mission of the campus, the future vision and the current situation. You compare this situation to the situation of others (obtaining this information and knowledge through research). You discuss options and also indicate which options have been deployed by others within higher education, some with successful outcomes and others not so successful. Your presentation is jam-packed with supporting material.
You entertain questions and then move forward with the greatest attention-getter of all, funding. As you explain that your strategy can be accomplished without any redirected campus funding you see the sheer awe in their eyes. You let them know that you have identified a new revenue stream that will be created from implementing successful energy conservation initiatives. You provide the list of energy conservation projects as well as the ten-year projection of revenue that can be invested into the electrical infrastructure upgrades for research initiatives.
Your AVP and Dean look at each other in disbelief. The only question expressed is, “When can you begin?” Immediately your credibility as a key player on campus is enhanced and you are sought out for future solutions to campus challenges. Your competency, confidence and credibility soar. Your campus reputation shifts from one of problem bearer to one of provider of solutions to challenges of higher education.
You are so impressed with the benefits that you’ve been able to reap by utilizing APPA’s Center for Facilities Research that you decide to give back to the body of knowledge and you document your experience in an article that is shared with other APPA members through the APPA website. Your story becomes so well read that you’re approached by APPA to do a presentation at the next Leadership Forum on your success story. The reputation of both you as an individual as well as your institution goes up within the higher education facilities profession.
We hope that this peek into a future day at Institution X helps answer our opening question about why CFaR should be important to you.
Does This Support Exist Today?
No it does not. Today when you go to www.appa.org/cfar you will not yet be able to do all of the things that Institution X was able to do, but with your participation and commitment, the future is most promising. As with many APPA initiatives we can only put together the concept and framework and the success of the initiative lies with each of you.
Without your participation we have nothing more than a concept with little content. The content comes from you and always has. You have the data. You may have transformed that data into useful information. Or, you may have the expertise to take someone else’s data, create information, and put it in context from your perspective. We can help guide research and the focus of that research, but the researcher will come from APPA’s membership. So when you think you might not have time to participate, remember the famous words of Plato, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
Join us in celebrating this new concept and help us make Institution X’s experience our shared reality.