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The Who, When and Why
of a Real Estate and Facilities
Master Plan

Maybe you’re at the helm of a rapidly growing startup and need to find enough space to put all of your new hires over the next couple years, or you’re the global real estate director for an established company looking to expand your campus size to support decades of growth. Buried in the business plan, or annual budget is a section addressing real estate and facility needs. As the founder you’ve taken the risk and need to make exceptional decisions in order to preserve capital–you can’t afford a mistake. As the global real estate director, you need to create a bulletproof plan that quickly provides the business sectors the tangible asset they need to produce revenue–and you answer to the Board of Directors. No matter which seat you sit in, you have no time to waste and need the plan to succeed, so you set off establishing a Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan that meets your goals. Where do you start?

Get aligned early and take initiative!

Meet with your internal key decision-makers to completely understand the company objectives and confirm you have the authority to make decisions, unless you’re the founder, then of course you have the authority! With clear objectives and the necessary authority, you’ll be equipped to ensure the Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan is aligned with the company’s (or institution’s) goals, help to determine real needs versus wants, understand how pressing those needs are, when to implement change, and what is needed to implement the proposed changes.

Determine your project team.

Keep the initial team small. Once you’ve established what you need to achieve your company goals, determine which key players you need to execute on those plans. We highly recommend to get help from those who specialize in program management, who can help to drive unbiased decisions and ensure value. The early strategy stages are programming at a high-level, where you’ll establish budgets and schedules that will act as the road map for all future project team members to follow.

Case in point, during the initial phases of a life sciences firm project we are working on–and before we distributed a single Request for Proposal (RFP) to architects, engineers, contractors, and specialty consultants–our program management team led focused meetings with the entire executive team. From the meetings we were able to establish an approved Master Plan complete with budgets and schedules that are still in effect today. The Master Plan and the company’s progress remains synchronized.

As time passes, the executive leadership team can begin to focus back to overseeing their company’s day-to-day activities, while checking in on the progress of their real estate project. The few months of upfront work ensures an efficient process and establishes accurate cash flow projections. As we finish each phase, we regularly meet with the executive team to review the Master Plan, and reconsider budgets and extenuating economic factors that may impact future decisions.

Maintain a competitive edge to ensure value and efficiency.

There are a number of ways companies typically approach creating and implementing a Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan. One way business owners and institutions have started to limit financial exposure and ensure value is to hire a program management firm without in-house design, engineering or construction services to supplement their internal team.

Once the next phase of a project is approved, we solicit proposals under a competitive bidding environment. Recently we started working with a growing firm, and similar to the previous exercises with the life sciences’ team, we created the road map before we distributed RFP documents. The preparatory work ensured the bidding consultants had a clear description of the proposed project, and the fees we received were within 5% of each other and within 5% of the figures included in the approved budget. How’s that for accuracy?

The contracts are structured on a project-by-project basis for a number of reasons. There’s definitely an opportune time to hire additional consultants, but hiring too early could prove problematic and impact cash flow commitments. For example, industry economic conditions are constantly changing, and this structure protects the owner from project team complacency.

Establish clear and organized communication practices.

The key to implementing a successful Real Estate and Facility Master Plan is communication. If you do nothing else I mentioned in this article, you absolutely need to sanctify communication! Communication from and to key decision-makers, coupled with the authority to implement the plans, are invaluable attributes throughout the entire Master Plan. With effective communication and the authority to act, creating projects will be driven by process. The process will be roughly the same for each project and you’ll be in a winning position to guarantee the successful implementation of your firm’s Real Estate and Facility Master Plan.

If you need to create a Master Plan, or need to kick-off the next phase but are unsure how to go about it, contact our program, project and construction management team for insight. Our team has decades of collective experience managing the planning, design, permitting and construction of all types of projects. We know how to manage diverse teams of architects, consultants, contractors, engineers and vendors under tight time constraints and strict budgets. We’ll be happy to deliver clarity for your project!

Hughes Marino’s industry leading Construction Management team has unmatched expertise in every type of commercial building project from tenant improvements to ground-up build-to-suits. With decades of experience in California and beyond, our project managers, engineers and LEED APs offer practical insights for the construction management professional.

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