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The Five W’s of journalism – Who, What, When, Where, and Why – are useful reminders of what is necessary for successful facility planning.  Whether you are renovating, expanding an existing facility, or starting fresh from the ground up, keeping these points in mind can help make your project a success. This article will touch upon these issues in general terms.  Subsequent issues will examine each of them in greater depth.
The Project Lifecycle

Regardless of its extent or complexity, each project has set stages of development.  They include:

The more extensive the project, the longer the phases may take to complete.  To complete the phases successfully, owners need to be mindful of:
Who they can count on to help guide their projects from concept to occupancy;
What they are trying to accomplish by clarifying their needs and goals;
When they can expect to enjoy the benefits of their financial and time investments;
Where their new or improved facilities are best located; and
Why they have embarked on this adventure.
Who, What, and Why: Project Team, Needs, and Motives
A project begins with the owner recognizing the need for change, whether it is to provide a new or improved level of service, to expand the business, or a combination of these.  Once the extent of the change  - the Why - is understood, the owner can start assembling a team to help assess needs and develop a program of requirements, which is essentially a list of the practical outcomes the project should bring about.  
The project team may initially include:

  • Key members of the owner’s staff;
  • An architect;
  • A construction advisor;
  • An attorney;
  • A financial lender/advisor;
  • A realtor. 
Ideally, each team member can contribute special knowledge to address the owner’s needs and special challenges, and provide unique perspective on how to meet those needs and solve those problems.
A project team evolves and changes as a project evolves and phases are completed.  Some team members remain constant, such as the architect and the financial lender, while others complete their tasks and make way for new members to come on board, such as the realtor.
Selection of team members should be based on a special combination of education, experience, and innate talent – the same qualities an animal owner seeks in a veterinarian.  Initial interviews with potential team members should reveal past experiences with similar projects, and, possibly, relationships with other potential team members that may prove beneficial to the entire project.
Well-functioning project teams are built gradually so that the owner retains control of goals, communications, and the overall project as it moves forward.
When: Thoughts on Scheduling
A key aspect of a program is a realistic schedule.  In fact, a financial lender may not even consider a construction loan unless the owner has a feasible time line for the project.  A large project can take years to bring to reality and may involve a real estate purchase and special zoning approval, which takes investment of significant time and financial resources.  An experienced architect can help the owner develop a realistic project schedule and reap the greatest benefit from those invested resources.  Without a realistic understanding of time, a project cannot move forward.
Where: Site Selection
Except for minor renovations, available space will govern the factors of cost, time, and even team selection for a project.  For example, an addition to an existing facility will be affected by the limitations of the existing site, which will be governed by zoning requirements and other limiting influences.  When a site is too constrained for even the most creative planners, a new location is likely the answer, which may involve building new from the ground up or adapting an available building to the owner’s program.  Project teams can help sort out these issues after assessing the owner’s needs and developing a project budget.
Susan Allen, AIA, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Vice President and Partner at TC Architects in Akron, Ohio, regularly presents her perspectives on the Five W’s at veterinary conferences across the United States. She has successfully guided dozens of veterinary practitioners through the stages of their projects. We will continue to present Susan’s views on these and other topics in future issues of TC Architects’ Veterinary Newsletter.
  Successful Facility Planning - An Owner's Guide