While construction plans around the country have slowed due to the economic downturn, Towson University has continued to expand and improve its facilities to meet a growing student population. Since 1997, the campus has completed more than $250 million of construction projects, with another $300 million planned during the next five years. Director of Facilities Planning Kris Phillips is involved in these projects first hand, from their inception to completion.
“It’s great to see all of the components of a project come together and be a part of the transformation of campus,” Kris said.
After graduating from Penn State with a major in structural design engineering, Kris worked in the private sector managing various educational construction projects in the Baltimore and Washington DC area. Kris was later drawn to Towson University when he learned of the potential for a period of tremendous construction on campus. He arrived at the university in 1997–the same year that construction growth began.
“Professionally [TU] is such a great place to be,” Kris said. “It’s fast paced, challenging, and tremendously rewarding.”
As Director of Planning, Kris is directly involved in all aspects of the conceptual planning, programming, and budgeting of campus construction projects. He insures that all projects are consistent with the campus master plan, a framework of the university’s vision for the future development of campus. The campus master plan is updated every five years, and most recently in 2009. Kris played a significant role in the design and development of the master plan, which he says is the first critical piece to the completion of a successful construction project.
“Everything ties back to the master plan. It gives us a point of reference and a future framework for all campus development,” Kris said.
The first step of making a building a reality is program planning. In the state of Maryland, programming consists of two major components. The first component is the justification of the project, which is a detailed analysis describing the existing campus conditions that necessitate a project. This document is based on quantitative and qualitative factors relating to the existing facility space conditions and future projected growth of a program, department or college.
The second component of program planning details a project’s specific requirements and specifications. This document covers all aspects of the potential construction project, from the detailed site plan to the integration of supporting infrastructure, and even a detailed page (called a space sheet) for each room planned in the building. Together, these two planning documents will become the basis for the contractual agreement between the university and the project design team.
Once construction is underway, Kris helps to insure the project’s programming details are met and works on any necessary program modification requests. Towards the end of the project, Kris and his team manage the design, procurement and installation of most all of the building’s furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE).
“In the life of a project, we get to take a leading role in the beginning of a project’s life, a supporting role during the design and construction, and then become more involved again at the end,” Kris said.
The continuous and ongoing cycle of construction projects–the process of transforming, planning, studying and conceptualizing of projects from their birth to their completion–is what Kris enjoys the most about his job. It is something he has had the opportunity to experience frequently at his time at Towson.
“We are going through a tremendous period of growth, with 10 new facilities and 7 major building renovations on campus over the past 14 years,” Kris said. “It’s very rewarding to contribute to and be a part of the team that is overseeing the largest construction build out in the university’s history.”