B. Sustainable Design Costs vs. Traditional Design Costs – Some sustainable decisions undoubtedly cost more money initially, but pay the client back over time. Others do not but are seen as important for other reasons. Recycled materials can, at times, fall into this category; however, the client may be motivated to pay the extra cost to align with an internal commitment to sustainability, educate the populations they serve, further employee comfort and productivity, or advance the use of specific materials in the belief that greater industry usage will result in more competitive costs that can be claimed in future projects. The industry has seen significant cost reductions to materials such as recycled carpet tiles, low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and recycled steel. The Division 13 project is taking advantage of all these materials, as well as calling for higher fly-ash contents in the substantial amount of concrete the project demands. Any cost increases were successfully offset in other areas to avoid budget overages without sacrificing the program.
C. Product History and Reliability – An idea or product may be good for one application, but not appropriate for another. Or, it may be theoretically sound, but not practically reliable. For example, pervious concrete works for vehicles up to a certain weight and size; however, a transit agency must be careful to review and understand the working history of this product before installing it in bus yards with high circulation patterns. On the Division 13 project, the team wanted to avoid potential dark zones caused by bus shadows on the upper bus parking deck. This was a concern because the project is visible from taller surrounding buildings. Designers investigated and proposed the use of recessed ground lighting fixtures rather than standard poles to light the upper parking deck. Although the team believed the lights would work, the historical data to support the argument was just not strong enough to provide a suitable comfort level for the client. In the end, the product was not used.
Making use of all of the above techniques together is critical in making the right life-cycle-based design choices for a project. The solution that provides the best long-term value to the client is most often the right solution.
4. Operational Tendencies and Staff Strengths
Every agency operates in a manner particular to itself and its organization. It is no surprise that an urban agency with high annual ridership, fairly consistent revenue generation and a large fleet has to operate differently than a rural or small suburban service provider in a number of critical ways. Good decision-making in either case is dependent on the director’s or general manager’s understanding of both the personnel on hand and the agency’s strategy for the future. An experienced design team can help bring clarity to industry trends and share lessons learned; however, staff and agency projections are unique to each project and need to be clearly understood early on in order to make the best long-term decisions.
Through experience, designers can develop recommendations for floor plan layouts, key space adjacencies, equipment selection and a host of other items. While most of these work well in just about every case, others are more dependent on the people operating the equipment or supervising the work. A case in point is lower level work areas as opposed to individual work pits in bus PM inspection bays. Independent of the pros-and-cons list that a design professional can develop, some mechanics say they will never work in that environment, and some say they will never work in a facility without it. These beliefs tend to come from specific experiences, but regardless, if the staff operates well in a certain way, it must be a part of the larger design conversation.
How the organization has come to operate agency-wide over time is just as important to a successful project outcome. These considerations may include procedures that work well with greater city or county resources, financial structures and maintenance patterns. Installing a high-efficiency HVAC system, with special filters and maintenance schedules will only work if filter replacements can be funded and crews understand new maintenance schedules required to preserve optimum operating efficiency. In a LEED Gold maintenance facility project in Tempe, Ariz., the design team suggested installing a stabilized decomposed granite (DG) surface in the employee parking lot rather than asphalt, in order to both help stormwater retention and reduce the heat island effect of the site, a critical environmental concern in the high, dry desert climate of Tempe. The project has been operating for four years with great success, but before the decision to use DG in this application was made, a series of discussions took place with city maintenance personnel, local stabilization surface material subs and other key city staff to make sure the full cost of ownership of this material was completely understood. In the end, this decision, although the first in a Tempe city project, will save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as creating a healthier, more enjoyable work environment.