Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Five Essential Steps in Successful Turf Care Center Planning

By Michael Vogt, CGCS, CGIA

When is it obvious that existing facilities are deficient?

Several symptoms of an inadequate Turf Care Center:
• Front-line equipment parked outdoors
• Maintenance items beginning to overflow from storage areas
• Staff areas can no longer or never could accommodate training sessions or mid-day meal breaks
• Administration areas can no longer accommodate files, computers or daily routine tasks
• Expensive preventative equipment maintenance parts and accessories have no dedicated storage areas
• Chemical and fertilizer storage areas are becoming environmental concerns
• Each day your staff moves equipment out of the way to get to equipment needed for the daily job tasks

The above are just several examples of aging and inefficient Turf Care Centers. The issue of change begins with a solid Turf Care Center Master Plan.

When Should You Begin the Planning Process?
You should get the planning process moving forward as soon as one year to as much as five years before construction. Allow as much preplanning time as possible. With more planning time, more of the questions can be asked and problems solved before actual planning begins. The planning process with the planner and client can often take four to six months.

Step One: Green Committee or Owner Input
Plan a tour of the Turf Care Center with select Green Committee members or the golf course owner. Openly discuss the strengths and weakness of their current facility with an eye focused on safety, equipment storage problems and size of staff areas. These three topics will in part be the basis of an initial needs assessment. I am sure every superintendent would like to increase staff efficiencies at the Turf Care Center, with more time spent on the golf course. Equipment storage and employee safety, along with proper circulation and traffic flow, can dramatically increase production time for the maintenance staff.

At this stage of the process you do not need to have all of the answers, just a conceptual idea of what would be needed to help solve the major problems at your Turf Care Center. After the tour of the Turf Care Center an open discussion of needs and an initial visit by the Planning Consultant should be the primary first step. With an unbiased view of the

Turf Care Center, the Planning Consultant can assess particular needs based on the Golf Course Superintendent’s unique management challenges. The ultimate goals for the Turf Care Center can be expressed to the consultant.

The Turf Care Center Planning Consultant should be a team member of experienced and trained design professionals that can assess your ultimate goals and supply an architectural solution for the Turf Care Center.
Step Two: Assessment of Empirical Data
After the initial visit with the Planning Consultant, the task of gathering data on the unique golf maintenance issues the superintendent faces is compiled into a report on the Existing Conditions. This report normally uncovers many obstacles that are apparent as well as some items that are not. While the superintendent is the key management facilitator on golf course issues, building and facility issues may be specific and apparent to design professionals that specialize in Turf Care Centers. The issues that may seem insignificant at first can have dramatic ramifications later in the design stage. With the initial visit, the Turf Care Center Planning Consultant will take photographs and study traffic and work patterns of the golf maintenance team. With the investigative information gathered, the assembly of site data can be recorded for planning use.

Step Three: Development of the Turf Care Center Master Plan
With the Turf Care Center on-site visit complete, preliminary site plan and floor plans are developed for the Master Plan. The following issues are considered:
• Safety
• Security
• Labor savings
• Proper equipment storage
• Co-worker comfort
• Environmental impact
• New technology
• Appropriate square footage requirements

After the above topics are considered, the Turf Care Center Planning Consultant prepares the Master Plan with an Opinion of Probable Cost. A meeting with all parties is held to explain the plan.

After the Master Plan concepts are approved, a final conceptual site plan and floor plans are completed. These documents will be the basis of the final presentation to the club’s Board of Directors, or to the Owner if that’s the case.

Master Plan drawings are not construction drawings; they are conceptual but adhere to an accurate scale. The Master Plan is a tool to communicate and to give a focus and direction, so the Turf Care Center Master Plan can be given to the local architect or design-build contractor.

The goals of the Master Planning process are to:
• Understand the space relationship of buildings to site
• Communicate long range vision to owners and committees
• Structure a strategic, logical progression of improvements
• Communicate building needs to other design and building professionals
• Create reasonable budget figures for finance proposes
• Get project designed and built on time, and on budget

Step Four: Selecting the Final Design / Construction Team
With the Turf Care Center Master Plan approved it’s time to select the final design and construction team. The Master Plan will guide the local architect or design-build contractor through the final construction plans to prepare pricing. The Turf Care Center Planning Consultant will be of assistance in selecting qualified professionals to design and build the project.

The Turf Care Center and the building components associated with it are very unique. The use of the Turf Care Center Planning Consultant provides the necessary expertise to plan correctly. The superintendent’s participation is paramount during the planning and design stages of the process. The club’s architect or design - build contractor should be responsible for monitoring workers, reviewing progress and issuing payment requests based on progress of the project. Although the golf course superintendent may be familiar with construction, the many components involved in construction management are a full time position. The superintendent should act as the owners / members representative, but should not be the project manager.

Step Five: Construction and Occupancy
With the heavy lifting of construction, document preparation and contractor bidding completed, the construction process can be started. Zoning and local planning officials should have checked off on the project, and environmental issues should have been resolved. A construction team should have its critical path on construction, inclusive of the time schedule. Once a building permit has been secured the project can start. Whether using the design - build option or a more traditional architect and construction contractor, items of monitoring are:
• Insurance certificates
• Weekly construction site meetings
• Change orders
• Accident reports
• Meeting minutes
• Costs and payment requests
• Departures from budget
• Local building inspections
• Disruption of golf course maintenance

Five areas of advice that should be considered a successful project are:
• Try to avoid using members for the project itself.
• Have a club member who has relevant construction experience oversee (or be on the committee of) the project.
• Always hire professional planners, architects and construction firms with relevant experience.
• Budget adequate funds to complete the project with adequate contingency.
• Do not allow the golf course superintendent to manage the Turf Care Center building project. The superintendent has a golf course to maintain and doubling up his / her responsibilities will cause problems.

When the construction is complete, occupancy of the building can take place. With well thought and executed Turf Care Center Master Planning, the guesswork and many of the inherent problems with construction and renovation can be averted. The decisions made in the early stages of planning are critical to the ultimate success of the project. A team specializing in Turf Care Center Planning brings in a wealth of knowledge from many prior experiences and solid design concepts.

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