Jim Stewart began serving as the interim Assistant Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities at Indiana University in December 2016, and was named to the permanent position this past summer. He was previously the Director of Space Planning and Utilization for the IU School of Medicine after a career as an officer in the United States Navy, including serving locally as commanding officer at Naval Support Activity Crane.
At IU, Stewart will provide system wide leadership and oversight of facilities development, architectural and engineering project management, construction management, and supervision of personnel, as well as budgeting and contract negotiations. He also will represent IU on various internal and external matters, including serving as facilities liaison to the IU School of Medicine and IU Health, along with state, regional and local government agencies.
"We're very excited to name Jim to this permanent role at Indiana University," said Thomas A. Morrison, IU Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities. "Jim's experiences with the IU School of Medicine and the United States Navy have brought a unique perspective to our organization. He has demonstrated great leadership and strategic vision while serving in the interim role, and we look forward to his direction of our continued efforts to achieve the goals of the Bicentennial Strategic Plan and beyond."
A Forward-Looking Strategy
The IU Board of Trustees approved the Bicentennial Strategic Plan in December 2014. It provides a framework to assure IU's leadership in student success, research and scholarly excellence and to service their communities and as a driver of economic development for Indiana. It is intended to lead up to the celebration of IU's bicentennial in 2020.
The plan insists that new, expanded and renovated facilities "are critical to recruiting and retaining the best faculty and researchers." It also maintains that IU "had fallen behind its Big Ten and other peers in the quality of its student accommodation and facilities and in the amount and functionality of its research and academic space."
IU also faces a major deferred maintenance problem for its physical facilities that have a replacement value of over $8 billion. At the end of FY17, IU's deferred maintenance inventory stood at approximately $469 million, reduced from $1 billion in 2010. Comprising of small projects totaling approximately $97 million, and large projects totaling approximately $372 million, it is expected that all of these projects will be complete by the Bicentennial.
However, IU has also become a leader in high-quality environmentally conscious design, and leads the Big Ten in LEED-certified green buildings with 12 certified to date, including four at the gold level. This strategy pays dividends for the life of each building in terms of occupant health and productivity, resource efficiency, life cycle cost savings and retention of human capital.
All of which means an active schedule for Stewart who comes to the job with a resume that provides a near-perfect background for the challenges of his new position.
Seeing the Larger Picture
In addition to his service at Crane, Stewart served as the Chief Staff Officer for the USN in Okinawa, Japan and Navy Pentagon Strategist in Washington, D.C. He says that these experiences and other have principally provided him with the "ability to manage people and projects, to see the larger strategic picture and to understand that while you need to focus on the details, you also need to keep everything moving simultaneously."
Stewart also picked up valuable understanding and skills when he served for two years as the Director of Space Planning and Utilization at the IU School of Medicine. There, the position was essentially facilities planning where he advocated for long-range priorities and built long range plans for what projects needed to happen and in what sequence.
"It was a great introduction to the IU system as my first job out of the Navy and it allowed me to build those close personal relationship with the faculty and staff, the "˜customers', for whom we are building the facilities."
Stewart has great respect and appreciation for the physical campus at the Bloomington location and the statewide system as well.
"I enjoy what I am doing, who wouldn't? I think for all of us here our primary motivator is the love of the campus, including the buildings and the landscaping. It is what truly makes our campuses special. We have an ability to influence the IU brand on a statewide scale that absolutely motivates the staff and I. It is an incredible responsibility and leads us toward always looking for ways to improve what is already a fantastic physical environment."
Attracting Various Types of Contractors
Construction is currently booming, resulting in the ability for many contractors to picky with the jobs they choose. With IU planning such a vigorous construction schedule during this time, you might expect Stewart to be a bit concerned.
"I think anyone in the building industry knows that the industry goes through cycles and you just have to be patient and know what strategies to employ during the different phases. I'm excited that there are more people coming into the industry now and hopefully they are going to stay in construction and provide our future years' manpower and keep our industry strong.
"I'm not sure that we see any negatives of the construction boom because we are one of the largest builders in Indiana and our projects are almost always competitively bid. We really don't have to work too hard to get people to be interested in them. There's a genuine desire on the part of builders and architects to be associated with working on an IU campus. They realize that in so doing they are building for the state's premier university that their family and kids will be going to in the future."
With many of IU's projects being built in the "traditional" design-bid-build fashion, there are limited ways Stewart and his team can positively affect women, minority and veteran business growth, another of Stewart's passions. But, he says, they are constantly looking for strategies that can be employed to increase their participation.
"We try to insure that they understand our bid tab so that they can see the projects that are coming up. Many of these companies are still relatively small and as a result are more competitive on smaller projects. We also try to steer them toward partnering with larger contractors on the bigger projects."
Design-Bid-Build vs. CMc
The need in most cases to select the "lowest and best bid" as IU is required to do as a public entity operating under public bid laws can be a constraining factor in terms of selecting contractors, but Stewart believes IU retains a significant ability - and responsibility - to make smart selections.
"Price is always going to be one of the predominant factors and it is always the easiest," he says, " but we need to start tracking the performance of the projects in a fair way so that we can truly differentiate that the lowest bid is really the best bid."
Stewart also believes that Indiana has a good building industry that also makes success on his projects both possible and expected.
"I think the Indiana building industry has tremendous capability. One of the biggest strengths of both the construction and the consultant side is a relative fairness in the industry here. It does not feel adversarial; it feels collaborative. It is not as ugly as I have seen in other regions of the country."
For those in the industry wondering whether there will be immediate changes to IU's preferred delivery methods, they can largely relax as Stewart sees their current strategies working and will likely continue them.
"There's a good chance that the predominant method will continue to be design-bid-build because we see that we get good prices and good quality product when it is employed.
"We are excited about Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc) but we are taking that very cautiously and steadily. We are very selective in terms of the projects that employ that method and we have only done a half dozen of them so far."
Typically, he says, CMc is used on projects where "we are already time-challenged and we need to get the contractor on board while the designer is still working, providing the ability to shave time," he said.
Another advantage he sees to CMc is the increased ability to attract minority, women and veteran-owned contractors. "What we can do, and this is exciting to us, is we can have the construction manager set our targets that they are expected to meet to attract these companies to the project. We cannot do that when employing the design-bid-build method.
"I don't thing you are going to see a drastic change in the number of our projects that are built using the CMc method, normally we will have one or two a year and these will be those that are high-visibility and time-challenged."
Stewart was also reassuring to those contractors and consultants who have been working with IU steadily through the years. He said that the best way to insure continued future success is by "insuring that the prices that they give to us for projects are what they expect to actually deliver; and, if you have any questions get all of them answered up-front. The most frustrating aspect of any project is keeping them on budget and on time. The less drama that we have on time and budget, the more likely we are going to be to be satisfied with their performance."
As for organizations that have not worked for IU but would like to, Stewart's advice is to bid often. "Figure out what projects are going to be competitive for you and then bid frequently, don't bid on any project that you cannot handle, bid on those where you are comfortable that you can succeed instead of a project where you feel like you will be challenged to succeed."
As for consultants seeking to work at IU, Stewart looks for their commitment to a project and their ability to provide good estimating. "It is so hard for us to plan without enjoying sound estimating. And, we need consultants that are committed to the project from design to completion. They need to be good designers but they also need to be able to help us manage the project once the construction firms get on-site."
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