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CHICAGO — As many of you know, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to manage the construction and modernization of more than 76 laundry facilities. Some of these operations were shipboard military efforts, some were military laundry and drycleaning operations that provided both individual and troop support, and there are also healthcare and hospitality operations. The majority were healthcare operations.
When I add up the cost expenditures of what was accomplished, it amounts to about $210 million — combined equipment and construction — from 1975 to 2000.
I learned the process through making mistakes, listening to end-users who were vocal enough to get my attention, and always challenging those who were responsible for administering the contracts that made all of it possible. What a chore that was.
One major accomplishment during my Veterans Affairs (VA) days was proving to the VA design and construction engineers, who had designed new hospitals for many years, that the laundry should be the core of all planned construction, regardless of whether it was a new bed tower being built or a new medical facility.
The prime example was a new VA facility constructed in Texas, where the laundry was the last thing on the drawing board instead of being further up the food chain. The second was a new facility constructed in Minnesota, and the laundry wasn’t even a consideration until the last minutes of design. It just wasn’t clear that budgets permitted such an opportunity, and then they had to make the most out of a bad situation.
These situations became so challenging that we were close to aborting the process. Instead, we built new, semi-effective facilities.
After reading some recent stabs at design-build processes with laundries, I must reiterate that this process affects more than the building called the laundry. As someone who has utilized this process for many years, I can say that design-build affects not only the building, but the systems within the laundry that drive production as well as the production equipment itself, i.e. the generation of clean textiles for customers.
While design-build can be a complicated process, it really only requires the development of a storyline from start to finish and the development of requirements, all combined with established design criteria. This allows a facility to examine all alternatives for not only building design, but also compatible equipment/systems.
Think of what you would like to see as a manager, and, while you need to entertain all suggestions, you must incorporate proven, state-of-the-art processes for construction, equipment design and environmental compliance. Think from rooftop to sub-floor design. Think dock-to-dock, including the docks themselves. Think entry. Think exit. Incorporate an interior designer as part of the process — natural light, finishes, parking, floor covering, acceptable grids, etc. Never forget safety and comfort for employees, as well as energy conservation, heating, ventilation, and, finally, budget, lifecycle costing, depreciation and payback.
Think acceptability, compliance, quality assurance and design-build contractual compliance, covering all aspects of your program efforts.
Now that the basics have been covered, it may be time to design-build yourself and your management process.
Look in the mirror. How do you see yourself, and how do your peers see you? What are you doing to better yourself and your employees? What contributions are you making to the industry? Do you speak out or say little?
When you look in the mirror at how squared away you are, keep in mind that you must not only look at yourself now, but also at yourself as you leave that mirror. If you don’t like what you see, change the process and improve where you are going, as there’s little you can do about where you’ve been.
Designing and building not only is the preferred way to build a new laundry facility, it’s also a way to improve one’s view of the future, develop self-esteem, and become a better person for yourself, your family and your institution.