Whether you’ve just gotten the funding and approval to build a new facility or to modernize an existing building and bring it up to code, facilities construction can sound exciting… until you start wading into the details. From managing the RFP bidding process to community hearings to the never-ending project meetings, overseeing a facilities project can be a quagmire of overwhelming details – especially if you’ve never done it before.
- A process for planning, designing and constructing a new facility.
- The terminology used for construction projects.
- How to read construction documents.
- Possible pitfalls to avoid.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Candace and Tiffany, you’re new presenters for the Justice Clearinghouse. Tell us about yourselves.
Tiffany Anderson: I’ve been in law enforcement for over 28 years. Before becoming a planning and research analyst, I worked in Patrol, Criminal Investigations, and Records. Because the Chandler community has seen incredible growth during my tenure, I’ve enjoyed participation in so many great projects – most recently, the planning, design, and construction of a fantastic training facility. From a personal level, although I never thought I’d say this when I was younger, I am a “forever” student. I have two master’s degrees, two bachelor’s degrees and an associate’s degree, as well as a number of certifications. I find that after I finish up one course of study, it isn’t long before I’m pursuing another! In between work and classes, I love spending time with my husband and three teenagers. I have two older step-children that are about to welcome babies into their families, making me a first-time grandma (x3)!
Candace Hammond: Over 16 years ago, searching for more purpose in my professional life, I decided to leave private sector for public service. I found the Chandler Police Department and instantly knew this was the career for me. I never planned to be a Law Enforcement Planner, but I absolutely love managing the Planning and Research section because there is always something exciting to do as we provide analytic support and research for reaching our departmental goals. Our section is responsible for financial and grant administration, capital improvement, strategic planning, crime analysis, uniform crime reporting, facilities maintenance and building and remodeling police facilities like the Chandler Public Safety Training Facility that will be presented in this case study. I have a Master of Administration and bachelor degree as well as multiple certifications. My husband and I have been married for over 31 years, blessed with a beautiful family of two sons, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.
If you remain rigid to every detail of the original plan,
you will lose focus to the overall picture.
JCH: Building a new facility may be a rare experience for some justice professionals. Often, you don’t realize what you don’t know until it’s too late. In your experience, what are some of the most common areas of misunderstanding or lack of knowledge for a justice professional coordinating such a project?
Candace: This project was unique because it is a joint training center for the Police and Fire departments. Combining facilities allows for joint training capabilities, sharing of training resources, and reduced overall expenses. We were very fortunate to have the incredible team working on this project, but there are so many moving parts, that communication can get lost or misunderstood. If you remain rigid to every detail of the original plan, you will lose focus to the overall picture. As you work collaboratively through the issues, everyone gains a broader perspective and often the solutions involve enhancements to the end result. The public safety teams worked very closely to ensure that both police and fire needs were included. It is important to realize that even the best-planned construction documents have unanticipated issues that need resolution and possibly revisions from the original plan. Communication and flexibility are the keys to success. We used a smaller administrative team for decision-making, ensuring that decisions came directly from the project manager and co-project owners (police and fire). Our core team was quite large and included subject matter experts at all levels. We relied heavily on their input and maintained an environment of trust and collaboration so issues could be resolved openly and quickly.
Tiffany: As Candace indicated, communication is the key! We were wise to this from the onset, so we established the core team to delve into nitty-gritty details, and the administrative team for decision making. The flow of information was robust, so it was vital that an official note-taker be identified. In our case, we used the services of the architect. Regardless, we constantly struggled with ensuring that vital information was shared. We experienced a bit of duplication of efforts and had to reverse (or live with) a number of decisions that weren’t made at appropriate levels. That said, I feel like we fared very well because of our “team” approach.
Even the best-planned construction documents
have unanticipated issues
that need resolution and possibly revisions from the original plan.
JCH: What were some of your biggest “lessons learned” during your own Chandler Public Safety Training Center build out that others could benefit from?
Tiffany: “The devil is in the details.” Who knew how important it would be to note which doors had locks or where light switches would be located? While we nailed-it with regards to room sizes and locations, interior and exterior design, and overall functionality, we were wrong to think that sub-contractors would inherently know what our needs were. A lesson learned is that no detail is too small for the project owner (or his/her representative) to be aware of.
Candace: A big lesson learned was that there are multiple vendor sub-contractor agreements that can overlap in the project. It is critical to know the responsibility of each to ensure that things are progressing as planned and decisions are compatible between these product deliveries. This is especially true for technology issues, including door hardware for security access. A very common question at our weekly meetings was “who is responsible for …” and yet, as the project neared completion, there were still areas needing adjustments. This gets back to the details and communication. With that said, things like this are normal for a project of this scope. The entire team remains positive and enthusiastic as we are finishing up the final items for Phase I.
No detail is too small for the project owner to be aware of.
JCH: Knowing that hindsight is 20/20, what do you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your project?
Candace: Looking back I wish that I would have paid more attention to the design details. I fully anticipated technology issues, but the complexity of door hardware caught me by surprise. Separate meetings were held with stakeholders regarding the door hardware, but troubleshooting and revisions were necessary near completion to include the proper electricity for access control, and internal hardware to lock some doors as expected. We even found that one family restroom did not have a locking mechanism from the inside. I learned to really pay attention to the details from an end-user perspective, not only at the official walk through, but at every site visit as well to help identify issues early on.
Tiffany: When projects involve any sort of technology installation or upgrades, it is very important to have someone on your team with a thorough understanding of end-user needs and the proposed solutions. We were fortunate to have technology representatives from both our City IT as well as Police Technology and they were brought in early in the process to give insight. Our mistake is that we didn’t have an IT person involved as consistently as we should have at the beginning of the project. This meant costly alterations later on. Related to this, it is important to not get too upset about these changes: with the rate of change in technology, large-scale projects will invariably experience costs related to technological modifications that must be made.