Organizations both private and public are facing daunting challenges in these tough economic times. High unemployment, negligible backlogs, razor-thin profit margins and the fiercest of competition are combining to create a perfect storm—a storm that leads many of us to simply want to batten down the hatches and avoid any thoughts whatsoever of growth or expansion. Furthermore, prognostications about both the near- and long-term economic future are diverse and wide-ranging, as well as being very suspect as to their veracity. Government officials, academic economists, financial industry titans and others each have their own theories to offer about the coming recovery.
Given the current state of the economy and the uncertainty about its recovery, businesses and government alike are pulling back. Investments in infrastructure, including both new construction and the updating of existing facilities, is slowing, being postponed or stopping altogether.
Updating Your Workforce + Updating Your Facilities
Elsewhere in this issue, the critical importance of workforce training is being emphasized. Such training keeps an organization’s workforce at the top of its game, continuously implementing the latest and best practices in its industry or profession. Such training never stops, even during difficult economic times.
Keeping your facilities and infrastructure at the top of their game, in good times and in bad, is as important as keeping your workforce well-trained. Bricks and mortar are still where much of society conducts its business, invents its new products and creates its next big ideas. In the 21st century, those bricks and mortar have become increasingly sophisticated, with materials and technologies that make buildings smarter, more energy-efficient and more comfortable (and thus more productive) for their employees. Green and sustainability have been added to the mix as well. Businesses and government agencies that fail to take full advantage of these cutting-edge materials and technologies for their buildings and infrastructure will be left behind when the economy turns bullish again.
An Infrastructure Roadmap for the Future
In today’s tight economic climate, the design and construction of new (or renovated) facilities and infrastructure has fallen to the bottom of the priority list for many facility owners. Perhaps paradoxically, that same tight economy gives those facility owners the time that is required to carefully and thoughtfully analyze their existing building stock and strategically plan for its long-term renovation and expansion. Such infrastructure analysis can take many forms, including:
- Facility Master Plans, which look at the layout and functioning of all rooms and spaces (as well as entire properties), and then offer a detailed graphical roadmap of how they might optimally grow and expand.
- Program of Future Space Needs, which examines how space needs and infrastructure support requirements have evolved (together with the business or agency), and then provides a vehicle for input by all staff regarding projected space needs.
- Building Technical Assessment, which analyzes deficiencies in your bricks and mortar, as well as the high-technology systems that enhance those bricks and mortar and then provides a rational schedule of improvements for future implementation.
- Detailed Energy Audit, which compares your energy expenses with the systems that generate those expenses; and recommends how your infrastructure might be made more efficient (and greener).
- Whole-Building Retro-Commissioning or Re-Commissioning, which holistically examines your entire infrastructure and how its many pieces might be made to better function as a coordinated ensemble.
Such investments in comprehensive facility assessments do require a more optimistic and forward-thinking perspective by business owners and government agency leaders. They also require the thoughtful expertise (and expense) of design and engineering professionals. However, the long-term benefits from these investments are clear and powerful, making it all very worthwhile. Those benefits include:
- Elimination of inefficiencies in facility infrastructure that begins saving money from day one, usually with a very reasonable payback period
- Optimal prioritization of facility improvements, made in a holistic fashion, which carefully balances capital costs, long-term values and potential future changes
- Much higher performing buildings that better serve the needs of a business or government agency, now and well into the future.
Poised for Future Success
Leading your organization, whether private or public, into an expansive future is always a challenge. In the midst of an economic bump in the road, it can seem particularly daunting. For those with a clear focus on that long-term future, the bump in the road can provide a terrific opportunity to closely analyze all existing facilities and infrastructure and make the necessary improvements to be perfectly positioned for success when the economy soars once again. iBi