Strategic Planning of Sustainable Operations

Dirk von Below, Flad Architects

Owners of large historic facilities are faced with serious challenges from aging building systems, obsolete building layouts, and un-attractive workplaces. Efficient research operations are not sustainable when costs of maintaining and operating these facilities are spiraling and preventing needed upgrades.

This was the challenge on a large research campus of a chemical and manufacturing research and development site where most buildings are between 40 and 60 years old. With 4,000,000 sf of laboratories, Flad used a set of planning tools that in a short period of time assessed the current conditions and provided a financial planning frame work to develop a pathway through the next 25 years. This process allowed the team to:

  • Navigate the decisions to renovate or replace aged buildings.
  • Determine the amount of space needed today and in the future.
  • Reduce space and improve utilization.
  • Update operating procedures and planning standards.
  • Improve overall performance and cohesion by meeting business goals.
  • Provide for a changing work place.
  • Meet regulatory constraints.

Environmental sustainability goals such as reducing energy costs or wasted space align very well with economical goals. However, decisions become difficult when very old facilities reach the end of their life spa. Replacing existing buildings with new ones is less expensive overall and also provides more degrees of freedom to make choices that meet business needs and enhance flexibility and productivity.

This case study will clarify how to make the right choices and spend money wisely. But it will also illustrate an approach to creating compelling action plans that address concerns of all stakeholders. The foundation of the decisions is solid data that includes analysis of all the criteria that are the basis for facility decision:

  1. The quality of research environments.
  2. Degrees of flexibility and adaptability.
  3. Integrating future developments regarding business needs, technologies and equipment.
  4. Including social planning parameters such as collaboration, connectivity and amenities.
  5. Environmental sustainability as well as operational spending.
  6. Financial models that illustrate capital spending needs, comparative analysis of renovation versus new construction and measuring operational costs.

As an outcome our strategic plan provided a better overview of the age and expected life span for research and development facilities with a useful dashboard overview that can be periodically updated. The analysis and facility recommendations lay the ground work for a new look at aligning business planning with the assets that are available or need to be created over the upcoming years.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the data needed to assess campus research facility assets
  • Develop new master plans that take into account financial, R&D, work place, and environmental goals
  • Estimate life cycle of laboratory buildings
  • Develop compelling plans that become part of successful campus planning


Mr. von Below has 25 years of comprehensive architectural experience delivering science buildings to private and institutional clients. He has managed large projects that balance state-of-the-art design, efficiency, and environmental design within a tight financial framework. Mr. von Below's experience includes cost estimates, planning, and quality assurance. He has worked for international clients on projects that were managed in German and English.


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