REPORT OF THE
PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
An Examination into the Physical Development Decision-Making Process: The Northwest Corner Case Study
At any university, there are few issues invested with more meaning than that of space allocation. How should space be allocated among competing departments and schools, who each have different space requirements and potential for growth and who each contribute in different ways to the intellectual environment – and revenue – of the university? How should a need for transparency in decision-making be balanced against the need to chart a clear vision for the institution?
These issues are brought into high relief when the decision is made to build a new building. As part of their cultural history that reaches back to their medieval origins, university buildings carry a special presence in the public consciousness and invite a higher level of scrutiny as a physical manifestation of cultural priorities – particularly since such construction usually represents the investment of considerable financial capital and the foregoing of other possibilities.
University’s bold response to its real estate needs has been to undertake the
proposed Manhattanville expansion. But
this once-a-century development, which will shape
The University Senate By-laws establish the primary mandate of the Physical Development Committee to be the monitoring of the process by which physical development decisions are made and intersection of that process with the academic planning of the University and the effects of physical development initiatives on the larger non-Columbia community which lives and works around us. Reflecting that mandate, the overlap of academic planning and physical development has been a frequent topic of Committee meetings in recent years. In discussions with various members of the Administration, the Committee sought to understand exactly how space decisions were made – how priorities were determined and allocations made, and by whom. The most common response was that “a consensus developed” and was executed through an iterative process of discussion, planning and action among the faculty, the senior administration (the President, the Provost and the Senior Executive Vice President) and the Trustees. This general description, however, begged more questions than it answered: To say a consensus developed describes what happened, but not how it happened.
At the outset of the 2005-2006 academic year, the Committee decided to take a different and more systematic approach to its work. Rather than talk generally about the intersection of physical development and academic planning we would examine the history of a single building, and understand as thoroughly as possible all the various elements of that history – how the need was first identified and articulated, how a particular set of needs emerged as those that would guide the vision of the building, how that vision would intersect with the availability of space, how that vision would begin to take physical shape, and the role of finances in decision-making. In addition to understanding the process itself, we would examine the roles of the Faculty, the Administration and the Trustees and their interactions with each other in this physical development process. While every building project is different, our hope was that by understanding the specifics of one project, we would be in a position to begin to outline the physical development process in general. If our results were imperfect or incomplete, they would at least serve as a foundation that could be built upon.
There were several important reasons for undertaking this work. It is the Committee’s hope that such a study would:
· Give all members of the University community a clear sense of how academic space priorities are set and associated resource allocations are made.
· Provide the President, Provost, and Administration with a template for communicating with University constituencies regarding physical development issues.
· Support vigorous and fair competition for scarce resources among all sectors of the University community by making “the rules” more transparent.
· Provide a benchmark for comparison with peer institutions and general best practices, and for suggestions and improvements.
· Provide a framework examining the optimal role of the Senate in the physical development process.
The Northwest Corner building project was a natural choice as the focus for the committee’s study. The project is far enough along so that it can be examined, current enough so that memories are fresh and decision-makers accessible, and complex enough to touch upon a wide range of issues. In our six meetings over the course of the 2005-2006 academic year we met with the following people, who have played key roles in different parts of the planning cycle for the Northwest Corner. We scheduled the meetings so that they would roughly follow the narrative path of the building itself. Meetings were held with:
· Prof. John Morgan, member of two of the committees that first identified the need for a new science building in 1999-2000
· David Hirsh, Executive Vice President for Research, who led the effort to crystallize the programmatic vision for the building
· Prof. Ann McDermott, Associate Vice President for Science Initiatives, who has been responsible for communicating with faculty about the project and for determining the building features needed to support the programmatic vision.
· Joseph Ienuso, Executive Vice President for Facilities Management, who is responsible for the physical process of design, budgeting, construction and maintenance of the building. (In a second visit, Mr. Ienuso detailed the reorganization of his office.)
· Albert Horvath, Executive Vice President for Finance, who is responsible for developing and executing the financing of the building’s construction.
All of these individuals was exceptionally forthcoming in their comments to the committee, and provided a wealth of information regarding the academic planning and physical development process from their perspective.
III. The Northwest Corner: A Narrative
Taken together, the discussions with these five faculty and administrators form a narrative of the decision-making process. A synopsis of these discussions follows.
A. The need is identified
mid-1990s, Arts and Sciences Vice President David Cohen instituted a regular
review process, on staggered five-year cycles, of all departments under the purview
of Arts and Sciences. The reviewers were
The idea of
building a new science building on the Morningside campus had been contemplated
since the 1970s, but the Phong Report gave formal shape to the concept. Based on assumed growth in key areas, the
report quantified the projected space needs of the sciences in the short and
intermediate term, projecting a shortage of 56,571 square feet in 2002 and
202,200 square feet in 2007. It then
outlined a plan that combined renovation of existing space to allow for more
efficient use, a consolidation of physical sciences libraries, and a
construction of a new building as a strategy for meeting this need. It was proposed that a new 160,000-gross
science building be built at Broadway and
Phong Committee was undertaking its work, Dr. Cohen formed a second committee
of eminent scientists from other leading institutions to examine the state of
the sciences at
Dr. Cohen also
convened another committee during this period, an internal Academic Review
Committee composed of Prof. Charles Tilly of Sociology (Chair), Prof. Morgan, and
Prof. Robert Somerville of Religion.
This committee met with the Science Planning Review Committee, and
reviewed the Phong report, as well as a report on the natural sciences a
Tilly’s Academic Review Committee made several findings in its report of March 2002, including that “the future of Columbia’s natural science will require a large financial investment, especially for new and renovated space, but also for recruitment of first-rate scientists,” – which would itself call for more and better facilities.
That a committee composed of faculty from outside the physical sciences made a strong call for a serious investment in those sciences undoubtedly contributed to the widespread support which Prof. Morgan said the report received from the larger Arts and Sciences faculty.
B. The vision takes shape
collective work of these various committees, the general sense that the natural
sciences needed more space had been formalized into an analysis of exactly what
the space need was, and the implications for Columbia’s academic stature in
lost faculty, grants and programs should that need not be met. The identification of this need was coupled
with the call for a new science building to be built on the Northwest corner. The involvement of non-Columbia reviewers as
well as key participants from outside the natural sciences at
following year, 2003, Provost Alan Brinkley convened a special committee to
examine, from a programmatic perspective, what a new science building might
look like. If
The Brinkley Committee also sketched out a rough allocation of the 100,000 usable square feet a new building was projected to add, with 65,000 square feet going to new initiatives, 20,000 square feet going to a consolidated science library and 15,000 held as “swing space” – unallocated space that could be used as new needs emerged.
From a political perspective, the formation of the Brinkley Committee was significant. It marked the formal embrace by the senior administration of the idea of a science building on the Northwest Corner, and a commitment to investigate the possibility in a serious and systematic way.
The RFP elicited about 20 proposals, primarily from Morningside-based researchers. The committee met three or four times to discuss the proposals, ranking them on a scale of 1-5. Importantly, the committee did not evaluate the proposals based on their space requests, but on their “intellectual richness,” with special consideration given to proposals of an interdisciplinary nature – echoing a recommendation of the Phong report. General practicality also served as a filter, eliminating from consideration, for example, worthy proposals that required equipment of a sort that even the new building could not accommodate. Each person on the committee identified those proposals which they rated with a 1 or 2, and after a discussion, consensus was reached. (It is important to note that as of the fall of 2005, there had been no subsequent communication with the faculty regarding the outcome of the RFP process.
In May 2004, the Brinkley Committee created a new 12-member committee consisting mostly of junior faculty in the sciences, some of whom were authors of successful proposals. This Group of 12 met three or four times during the summer and fall of 2004 to discuss (but not vote on) the successful proposals and further flesh out the vision for the building. Three specific research themes emerged: imaging, nanotechnology and chemical biology. Dr. Hirsh, in his comments to the Physical Development Committee, noted that this selection process merely gave shape to the sort of science the building would be planned for. The selection of one’s idea did not necessarily mean that one’s own lab would be moving into the building; that would be left for a subsequent decision making process that would conclude 12-18 months before the building was set to open.
Then, a group of more senior faculty considered the proposals further. This group included Dr. Hirsh and Profs. Stormer and Morgan from the Brinkley Committee, plus Julio Fernandez of Biological Sciences, Ann McDermott of Chemistry, who has also been special advisor for the science initiative, and Eric Weinberg, chair of the Physics Department. This senior group wrestled with some of the practical implications of the needs of the building that emerged from the work of the Group of 12. Mr. Hirsh then summarized these findings in a “building vision statement.” This document was sent to Kevin Fox, the Director of Facilities Planning and Space Management, for his input regarding physical considerations. The senior group met more than a dozen times during the summer and fall of 2004, during which time several design priorities began to emerge. One design option was to pursue an open lab plan, inspired by Bell Labs, designed to encourage interactions among scientists in different disciplines. Another was to maximize wet lab space, since it is cheaper to build wet space from the start, and to use the space freed up from libraries for computational space. Another principle was to use modular/flexible space that could be reconfigured as needed, recognizing different needs of experimental and computational researchers. Each of these priorities echoed to some degree the various committee findings from the initial 2000-2002 period.
The senior group also considered various issues relating to governance and organizational structure, and decided, at least for the time being, to use the traditional departmental structure, as opposed to a freestanding institute or center.
C. The vision is refined
The Brinkley Committee and the two faculty committees took the need formalized by the various academic committees and provided a more concrete vision regarding the type of science that would take place in the building and other general guidelines for its development. The next step would be a formal study of programmatic issues, zoning and schematic design. To begin this work, , Columbia University Facilities in October 2003 to submitted the Trustees a first project document with a budget of $2.5 million.
Once this request was approved, Mr. Fox, then engaged Development Consulting Services to conduct a preliminary engineering study and GPR Partners Collaborative, the lab design firm responsible for labs at Sloan Kettering, Harvard, and elsewhere, to help develop more concrete physical space requirements. This was another significant step in the project’s evolution. Just as the convening of the Brinkley Committee signified essential support by the Administration toward the project, the engagement of construction consultants and space planners by University Facilities Management signaled a commitment by the university to investigate the feasibility of making the idea a reality. In this respect, Facilities Management acts as a service department to the rest of the University, providing expertise and project management for projects involving physical space.
Working with GPR and the issue of space planning became the responsibility of a new lab planning subcommittee, headed by Ann McDermott, Professor of Chemistry and Associate Vice President for Academic Planning and Science Initiatives. (Other subcommittees were formed on libraries and teaching space, animal facilities, and infrastructure.) McDermott met with department chairs, institute heads, and attended a biology department retreat. Additional input was gathered from researchers who matched the profile of likely “anchor tenants” (although not necessarily people who will be offered new space). GPR, meanwhile, was given the white paper and asked to look at ten recently built comparable buildings that were highly regarded (which included buildings in whose planning GPR had not been involved). Fox and McDermott, along with a half-dozen faculty they invited, met regularly with GPR to discuss the physical requirements of the building.
In 2004, Joe Ienuso and Al Horvath met to compose the first draft of the 2005-2009 Five Year Plan, which sets forth at a strategic level the various building projects the University plans to undertake during that time. Mr. Ienuso, through discussions with various constituencies within the University, conducted a review of the various projects which such a plan might include; Mr. Horvath provided the financial analysis for the various proposed buildings. In his conversation to the committee, Mr. Horvath noted four major factors that contributed to a project’s inclusion in a Five Year Plan:
· The President and Provost identify the initiative as a priority
· There is a time-sensitive opportunity, such as a donor stipulating that a major gift will be made, but only if the project is undertaken within a certain timeframe.
· A school (usually a professional school) has a project they want to do which has met three criteria:
o Academic argument
o Presidential and Provostial support
o Financing in place
o Not executing the project will put the school at a demonstrable competitive disadvantage.
· A general sense that it represents a major need and has support by deans and other key constituents.
The draft of the plan was provided to
President Bollinger, Provost Brinkley and Mr. Kasdin; the President then
presented a final version to the Trustees for their approval, in June 2004. The 2005-2009 plan, which had a total
projected budget of $1.2 billion, included the Northwest Corner, the Morningside
Space Plan (renovations of Knox Hall and 80
While the programmatic and engineering
studies were being conducted, and with the project’s inclusion in the Five Year
Plan, Columbia University Facilities organized a selection process to identify
an architect for the building. A list of potential architects with experience
in the design and construction of academic research buildings was prepared and
an RFP was issued. A number of firms were sent the RFP, and finalists were
invited to campus to present their proposals. The presentations were made to a
team comprised of Lee Bollinger, Alan Brinkley, David Hirsch, Robert Kasdin,
Joe Ienuso, Mark Wigley, Irwin Lefkowitz, and Marcelo Velez, during the week of
In early 2005, the President selected Rafael Moneo as the architect for the Northwest Corner building. Mr. Moneo was given the GPR Feasibility Analysis, and began developing conceptual designs – sketches and general dimensions of the structure. Facilities Management also developed a conceptual budget for the project of $120 million, with an assumption of a 150,000 gross square foot building. Mr. Moneo has been meeting periodically with a group including President Bollinger, Provost Brinkley Robert Kasdin, Joe Ienuso, the Executive Vice President for Facilities Management, Ann McDermott and Kevin Fox. Significantly, McDermott commented to the Physical Development Committee that Moneo asked that there be more faculty involvement, and that the building be closely tied to academic planning.
In September 2005, GPR presented its feasibility analysis document, “Program of Requirements.” Feasibility analyses often include an analysis of various location options, as well as possibilities involving reconfiguration of existing space. In this case, however, that was not necessary – the previous studies conducted by the various academic groups had established that only a new building could provide the amount of space needed, and there was only one place remaining on the Morningside campus where such a building could be built. Instead, the feasibility analysis considered various scenarios, depending on whether or not the Plaza between Chandler and Pupin was built onto and whether or not a zoning variance was received, resulting in a building ranging from 157,000 to 211,000 gross square feet and housing between 22 and 28 research groups. (The space lost to mechanical and structural requirements reduced the usable square footage to between 87,000 and 116,000.) The document also reiterated many of the broad requirements recommended in earlier studies, such as the promoting of interdisciplinary exchange and the maximization of laboratory space. It also enumerated several facilities requirements needed for wet-lab research (ultra-low vibration, a “clean room,” etc.) as well as a few architectural guidelines, such as the completion of the campus architectural façade along Broadway.
After the completion of the feasibility analysis, Mr. Fox and his colleagues in the Capital Project Management Group then prepared a second Project Document to present to the Trustees for approval. The Project Document lists the programmatic rationale for the new building as well as an engineering analysis, zoning, structural analysis and other issues and challenges inherent with the particular site.
The second Project Document was presented to the Trustees’ Buildings and Grounds Committee in December 2005, which reviewed and approved the document, forwarding it to the entire board, which approved it in December as well.
D. The vision moves toward reality
Rafael Moneo’s firm completed the
conceptual designs at the beginning of 2006, and the public approval process
commenced with a presentation to Community Board 9 in February 2006. Design development also began, which sets
forth the infrastructure, mechanicals and construction materials of the
The next step was to produce construction documents, and to move from conceptual estimates to an actual budget, which resulted in a total projected cost of $228 million. The budget is then presented to the Trustees in two parts (in addition to the initial funding of the feasibility analysis and project document). The first part, known as “Construction I” accounted for $59,600,000 and allocated for the ordering of steel and other long-lead time materials, was approved by the Trustees on December 2006. The second part, “Construction II” will cover the remainder of the budget and will be used to order various “trade packages” (mechanical systems, HVAC systems, etc.). This is expected to be presented to the Trustees in the last quarter of 2006.
Actual construction on the building is projected to begin in the summer of 2007, with the completion in 2009 or 2010.
IV. A schematic of the process
Every construction project is
different, and there is a danger in over-generalizing from one example. Further, project, particularly at a
space-constrained institution like
A. An academic review process at the departmental or school level identifies a facilities/space need, and is able to forcefully argue the consequence of ignoring that need.
B. A further examination – with support from a senior administrator, at the level of Vice President for Arts and Sciences or Dean – quantifies the facilities need in terms of gross parameters and sets forth broad programmatic recommendations.
C. Further study – with the involvement of the Provost and the counsel of senior faculty – provides more fine-tuned programmatic guidelines and affirms the identified need.
D. The proposed project receives at least implied Presidential support and is included in the draft of the Five Year Plan developed by the Executive Vice Presidents for Facilities and for Finance
E. The potential project is included in the final Five Year Plan that is submitted and approved by the Board of Trustees.
F. Facilities Management assumes coordination of the project and engages engineering and planning consultants, who also work with a senior administrator responsible for gathering faculty input and transmitting background information and documentation to the consultants.
G. The Feasibility Analysis and Project Documents, outlining the general specifications and requirements for the building, are prepared and submitted to the Trustees for approval.
H. An architect is selected consistent with University procurement procedures, who begins schematic/conceptual sketches.
I. When the conceptual design is finished, Facilities Management and the Executive Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs begin the public approval process. A construction manager is hired and administrative architects are selected.
J. The appropriate revenue and financing model for the building is designed by the Executive Vice President for Finance.
K. A proposal is submitted to the Trustees covering long-lead time materials.
L. Construction begins
M. A proposal is submitted to the Trustees covering trade packages
N. Construction is completed
In many ways,
the process leading up to the construction of the
At the same
time, however, the Committee finds two areas of overlapping concern. First, there is a significant lack of
communication between the Administration and the internal University community. While
the vision for the building was the result of an admirable RFP process that
solicited ideas from a broad range of faculty, there has been little subsequent
communication with the faculty regarding the outcome of that process – two
years after the RFP submission deadline.
More generally, there has been little in the way of regular updates to
is a lack of transparency in decision-making and structure. While there may be a capital project
development process at
The Committee contrasts the lack of communication and transparency experienced by the internal Columbia community with the extensive processes in place to take into account the needs and concerns of the external Columbia community, including both a legally mandated and well-defined public approval process and the extensive communication and outreach efforts undertaken by the University at its own initiative. As one example we note the University’s community affairs Web site (http://neighbors.columbia.edu/pages/construction/index.html), which provides a summary and schedules of upcoming projects as well as profiles of those leading the project. Surely the internal Columbia community would benefit from an analogous communications process, outlining, for example, the building’s programmatic planning process, the RFP process, the composition of the various committees that would be evaluating the RFPs, and an approximate timetable for decision making, and the results of the process as it moves though each step.
The Committee recognizes the need of the President, Provost and other senior administrators to be able to develop and execute a vision for the University unencumbered by excessive bureaucracy. At the same time, however, it is not equitable for the University to have stronger communication and accountability to the external community than it does to the internal community. The Committee notes that just as the interests of the external community are protected though Community Boards, various city agencies and the City Council, so too was the University Senate established with certain powers in order to protect the interests and concerns of the internal community and in order to provide a forum for necessary deliberation, and that it exercises those powers in other critical functions of the University, including the establishment and review of academic programs and of disciplinary procedures.
The Committee finds that it is consistent with the mission of the Senate for it to play a more active role with respect to capital development projects. Considerable discussion took place within the Committee as to whether or not that more active role should require Senate approval of capital projects prior to their submission to the Trustees. The Committee has decided that its current powers, if more fully exercised, may well be sufficient to accomplish its goals of establishing a more transparent and comprehensible process regarding capital projects. It will revisit the adequacy of the following recommendations periodically and make additional recommendations and submit resolutions as necessary.
The Physical Development Committee recommends the following:
A. That all information, proposals and plans, including Five Year Plans, submitted by the Administration to the Board of Trustees Physical Assets Committee be submitted simultaneously to the Physical Development Committee for its review and for its comment through its two non-voting representatives to the Trustees’ Physical Assets Committee.
B. That the Committee work with the Provost, the Senior Executive Vice President, and the Executive Vice President for Facilities to develop the necessary communication platforms and protocols for their use so that the internal University community is appropriately informed regarding programmatic planning and other similar processes.
C. That the Committee exercise its powers more fully by proactively communicating with internal University constituencies regarding their needs and acting in an ombudsman role in voicing concerns and priorities regarding physical development and related issues to the President, Provost and Trustees.
Sen. Bradley W. Bloch (Alumni), Chair
Sen. Richard Bulliet (Ten., A&S/SS)
Sen. Jeffrey Fagan (Ten., PH and Law)
Mr. Kevin Fox (Admin.)
Sen. Karen Green (Lib. Stf.)
Sen. Sharyn O’Halloran (Ten. SIPA)
Sen. Ron Prywes (Ten., A&S/NS)
Sen. Antonios Saravanos (Stu., TC)
Sen. Daniel Simon (Stu., SCE)
Sen. Henry Spotnitz (Ten., HS)
Mr. Dominic Stellini (Ad. Stf.)
Sen. Richard Wald (Non-ten., Journalism)
Mr. Geoffrey Wiener (Admin)
Sen. Paige West (Non-ten., Barnard)
 Building sizes are given in both gross square feet (the total square footage of the building) and net (or usable) square feet, which is the gross square footage number less the space taken up by stairwells, elevator shafts, heating and air conditioning equipment, etc. The net square footage number – the amount that can actually be used for the purpose of the building – is often only 55 or 60 percent of total figure.