As a public institution, the University must follow the laws and the established procedures of the Commonwealth when undertaking any capital project. While there is no clear definition of a capital project, we consider the following factors in determining what is or is not a capital project.
- Construction of any new building is a capital project.
- Any work that materially affects a building's structure is a capital project.
- Any project that has a major impact on a building's mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems is a capital project.
- Any project that has a major impact on a building's envelope or appearance is a capital project.
- Any repair or renovation within or outside of a building estimated to cost over $1 million is considered a capital project.
- It is important to identify capital projects because all such projects require Board of Trustee approval. Each year the campus submits a report on projects to be funded over five years to the Board of Trustees for approval.
Capital Planning at UMass Dartmouth encompasses a combination of factors:
- Master Planning - Master Planning is done by outside consultants, most often an architectural firm. The resulting plan is a product of extensive investigation and consultation. It is not a blueprint. Rather the Master Plan is a translation of the campus' strategic goals and directives as it relates to its physical resources.
- Strategic Planning - While Master Planning translates the campus' strategic goals and directives, campus strategic planning is an ongoing planning process. Goals and priorities are reviewed and adjusted as needed each year.
- Facilities Planning - Facilities staff, through investigation, day to day operations, and campus community feedback are most aware of any physical plant issues affecting campus functions, space utilization, and programmatic success. Facilities staff proposes solutions to these issues as part of the Facilities Planning process.
- Emerging Program Issues- Vice Chancellor's, Deans, and Program Directors are responsible for keeping abreast of the changing physical requirements of their divisions and program areas. While many of these changes are addressed with campus funds through an internal alteration/renovation process, some issues are of a scope and magnitude that require a capital planning solution.
- Time and Money - Almost all capital projects require a sequential, scheduled process of attaining funds, study, design, bidding, and construction.
- Emergencies - Irrespective of planned replacement, preventative maintenance, and routine maintenance, emergencies happen. Transformers blow, concrete fails, system faults are exposed. While planning cannot foresee what will happen, it must take into account that something may happen. Good planning will assess trend data and make efforts to accommodate funding and backup plans for emergencies. Having completed its most recent campus-wide strategic plan, in 2003 the Dartmouth campus began a Facilities Master Planning process. Completed in 2005, the Plan included the following components:
- An assessment of deferred maintenance items and the development of plans for physical improvements to existing buildings
- An analysis of occupancy patterns and space utilization with suggested improvements to reduce inefficiencies and strategies for space redistribution and managing growth
- The identification of patterns for campus expansion that will not only protect and preserve the architectural integrity of the original building plan but improve upon the less successful aspects of the campus with new physical environments
- The development of strategies for continued improvements to the campus landscape to temper the sometimes imposing characteristics of the campus architecture
- The identification of areas of growth and physical expansion to support and advance the University's academic mission, reputation, and competitive standing
- Architectural and planning design guidelines so the spirit and integrity of the original Rudolph plan will be respected and reinforced in the design and construction of future buildings
Using the Facilities Master Plan as well as previous year's capital plan updates as a base, and augmenting with information from Facilities Planning and Emerging Programmatic needs, we create our Campus Capital Plan. As an example, our Facilities Master Plan indicated that our classroom utilization rates were less than optimal in part because of a number of our classrooms were in disrepair. Our strategic plan identified student enrollment growth as a major directive. Thus, Facilities staff, in collaboration with our technical staff as well as a group of faculty, undertook an assessment of our classrooms. This resulted in a capital request for a renovation of classrooms and other learning spaces to address the problem first raised in the Facilities Master Plan. An example of Emerging Programmatic needs is reflected in our request for laboratory improvements. The realization of our goal to increase our research profile not only resulted in our decision to complete the new research extension but also revealed the inadequacy of many of our laboratories. While we continue to make updates and improvements through both university and state funds, we also continue to refine our request through a recent lab audit conducted by Facilities staff, which will be followed by an external assessment of laboratory utilization.
Once projects are identified, they are then prioritized in a comprehensive manner taking into consideration several factors:
- Life Safety: Life safety issues can be found in projects that are categorized as Compliance, Building Rehabilitation, Renovation, Deferred Maintenance, and Planned Replacement. An example of this would be the Cedar Dell Dorms and Campus MEP and Fire Systems.
- Compliance: Compliance issues may or may not result in safety issues. An example would be Elevator Upgrades. We can maintain the safety of these elevators, although we are aware that we will have to update them to meet today's code within the next five years. On the other hand, some of our ADA improvements e.g. handrail heights do address safety issues.
- Recruiting and Retaining Students, Faculty and Staff: The quality of our classrooms, our research facilities, our student activities spaces, and our office spaces impact our ability to recruit and retain students, faculty and staff. Moreover, improvements in our physical and technological infrastructure lead to better utilization of our physical space, alleviating the need for new construction. Thus improvements to our Library, Classrooms and Research spaces remain a high priority for us.
- Deferred Maintenance: Some of our deferred maintenance projects have an immediate and substantial impact on our ability to carry out our mission, e.g. the dormitory projects. Other projects, while important and necessary, do not pose an immediate and/or significant problem, e.g. some of the roadway repairs.
- Maximizing External Funds: Where we see an immediate opportunity to maximize external funds to benefit the campus, we have prioritized those projects accordingly.
At UMass Dartmouth, we generally receive funding for capital projects through the following sources:
- State General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds: Projects funded through state g.o. bonds are overseen by the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMMM). The first step in securing these funds is a legislative appropriation. Once there is an appropriation, then DCAMM borrows the funds on behalf of the Commonwealth. DCAMM then allocates the borrowed funds, up to an amount determined as the ceiling for any fiscal year, and distributes them for approved projects. For some projects, primarily non-structural, DCAMM will forward money directly to the campus for management by the campus. For other projects, DCAMM retains the funds and manages the project through its offices. DCAMM will only begin a project if funding has been identified for the entire project.
- University of Massachusetts Building Authority (UMBA): The campus may borrow funds through the UMBA. Most often, this is the mechanism through which residence halls are funded. Unlike G.O. bonds, UMBA borrowing must be repaid by the campus. Thus, UMBA projects are only undertaken when a revenue stream can be identified to pay the debt service.
- State Supplemental Funds: On occasion, the state will make operating funds available on a one-time basis for capital projects. These funds are distributed either through DCAMM or UMBA.
- Private Fundraising: The campus does raise funds through the office of Institutional Advancement for new buildings and building improvements. Most often, these funds are placed in a capital endowment. The new buildings or improvements are then funded through UMBA and the debt service is paid through the capital endowment.
- Campus Operating Funds: For the most part, campus operating funds are used for alterations/renovations that do not rise to the level of a capital project. On occasion, however, a capital project or parts of a capital project may be funded through campus operating funds. For example, the campus might pay for the study and design of a project where the construction will be funded through other funding sources.
Regardless of the source of funds, as a public institution, UMass Dartmouth must adhere to specific laws and regulations governing public construction as well as specific processes that ensure due diligence in any capital project. For the most part, either UMBA or DCAMM will have oversight of each of the following steps:
- Study: The study phase consists of the development of an architectural or engineering "program" and the cost estimating required to fulfill the "program." The "program" defines all necessary spaces and functions required by the project initiators.
- Design: During the design phase, an architectural or engineering team is hired in accordance with all relevant statutory requirements. The design team works with FPDC staff and campus stakeholders to develop the project study document into specifications and precise plans.
- Bidding: During the bidding phase, the project plans and specifications are advertised publicly and distributed to interested contractors in accordance with the Commonwealth's regulatory constraints. Contractors submit their cost proposals and FPDC, in conjunction with DCAMM and UMBA as appropriate, evaluates the proposals and arranges for the award of the contract to the contractor making the most favorable one (usual, though not always, the lowest cost bidder).
- Construction: During the construction phase, the contractor implements the project plans and specifications. FPDC personnel are the campus liaisons for the project and are responsible for managing the contractor work (in conjunction with DCAMM or UMBA where applicable) to ensure timely completion, minimization of disruption to campus activities, high-quality work, and financial accountability.