Brooks H. Baker is the associate vice president for facilities at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the 2003-04 APPA President. He can be reached at

The planning, design & construction issue of Facilities Manager is one of my favorites. The articles by the contributing authors are always packed with information that we can use to sharpen our skills in delivering suitable projects for our customers. These articles also add tremendous insight for the facilities manager who is not directly responsible for planning, design, and construction (PDC), but who is part of the PDC team and the key individual for actually making a new project work when it is finished. Convincing our administration that the plant operations and facilities management organizations need significant input on the front-end of all projects is often a challenge.

If the planning and design organization does not have responsibility for building operations, it is quite
tempting to value-engineer out the features that enhance life cycle operating costs but have a higher first-cost. Utilizing the tools that APPA provides to show the continuing costs of operations of our buildings as compared to the construction value of these buildings can be of help in getting to the front office with arguments for improving the life cycle of our buildings.

Facilities professionals come up with some interesting ideas periodically in an attempt to save money on construction projects. To reduce the costs of construction at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, we embarked on an adventure a few years ago called Wrap-Up Insurance. Wrap-Up Insurance does have the potential for significant cost savings, but what an education this country boy has received through the experience of providing insurance for our construction projects on campus.

Our Wrap-Up Insurance program reminds me of my early days growing up on the farm plowing fields in the spring. There was something magical about hearing and feeling the diesel engine roaring along under full power while pulling a bottom plow through the fresh soil. The sounds and smells of springtime on the farm were at their best during spring plowing. Then, just when you thought life couldn’t get any better, the point of the plow would hit a submerged rock the size of Mount Rushmore (at least it felt like it) and the tractor would stop so suddenly that you had the imprint of the steering wheel on your chest for days. In the near future we will be doing an article for Facilities Manager on Wrap-Up Insurance discussing some of the submerged rocks that left this painful imprint on us as well as some of the good points it provided.

Let’s talk for a minute about APPA. With the continuous turnover in our profession and the budget cuts in higher education that we see in virtually every state, we need to redouble our efforts to recruit new members and to encourage our existing members to retain their membership in APPA. It only takes a few minutes to pick up the phone and call a counterpart at another institution who is not a member and discuss with them the benefits of APPA membership.

Please take time to do a little bit of recruitment for APPA; our goal is to push our membership past the 5,000 mark during the next two years. This is a small repayment to an organization that spends so much time and energy helping us to become better managers of our facilities. At the Forum in Nashville last July, code advocacy was introduced as an area of emphasis for the coming year. The Professional Affairs Committee, under the capable leadership of Vice President for Professional Affairs Alan Bigger, is working to develop a way for APPA members to have a role in the creation, modification, and interpretation of the Model Building Codes, NFPA Codes, and others.

We are pondering the advantages of starting a chapter for higher education in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This would enable APPA to have a voice within that code-setting body as well as placing association members on critical committees within the NFPA. We are talking with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) about cooperative efforts in the realm of code advocacy as well as other arenas where our two associations can complement each other.  Stay tuned—you will hear more about these issues during the upcoming year. Now, who can you call to recruit as a member of APPA?