Blue Skies Prevail

by Kathleen McIntyre

Despite the inclement weather the nation has been experiencing of late, blue skies prevail at the University of Maine’s Facilities Management department.  The importance of the department’s goals and functions have been heightened and highlighted as part of President Paul Ferguson’s Blue Sky Plan and its various achievements have been recognized recently in the university’s 2013 Annual Report.

Developed in 2011 and finalized in May 2012, the Blue Sky Plan is comprised of five “Pathways,” with the focus on facilities management aspirations being Pathway 5.  Titled Restoring the Dream: Renewing Pride and Stewardship of Place, the fifth pathway of the Plan promised to “restore the dream of the land-grant mission by revitalizing the brick-and-mortar and technology infrastructure critical to our flagship campus.”

In part, Blue Sky Pathway 5 called for implementing the President’s Paint, Plant and Polish Initiative.  With funding initially derived from energy cost-savings, and sustained annually by a new endowment, this initiative provided for beautifying the face of the campus, improving accessibility, and upgrading classrooms.  Additionally, the Plan called for developing plans to restore and effectively use the campus’ historic buildings located in the National Register Historic District and continuing the implementation of sustainability initiatives to meet the University of Maine’s established goals in the American College & University President’s Climate Commitment.

Thanks to the many contributors, much has been done in accomplishing the Restoring the Dream goals of the Blue Sky Plan.

Exterior painting has been completed on several significant campus buildings, including  Raymond H. Fogler Library, the state of Maine’s research library, and Alumni Hall, which is situated in the National Register Historic District and houses the President’s, Provost’s, Senior Vice President’s, and Vice President for Research’s offices.  The campus’ iconic black bear monument, which was shrouded by overgrown shrubbery, received a much-needed facelift with its new plantings and stone pathways.

Many extensive renovations have taken place across campus, greatly improving the appearance, functionality, accessibility, and/or energy efficiency of academic and athletic buildings.  Examples of these construction projects include lab and classroom upgrades/builds; elevator and ADA-compliant restroom installations; the major exterior renovation of Nutting Hall; the major interior renovation of the New Balance Field House; and the expansion of the Memorial Gym.

Design Guidelines for the buildings and landscapes which comprise the original core of the University of Maine at Orono National Register Historic District have recently undergone a revision to better reflect the campus’ changing programmatic needs and completed capital projects.  The design guidelines describe in detail each building’s original and existing architecture and site, and offers suggestions for each building’s preservation and use.  When the guidelines are applied, as time and funding allow, appropriate maintenance, development, and use of the stately buildings are ensured, thus preserving the institution’s tradition of bricks-and-mortar and complying with the Blue Sky Plan’s commitment to sustainability, while supporting the dynamic evolving campus’ needs.

Ongoing sustainability efforts on campus have been bolstered with the emphasis given by the Blue Sky Plan.  Individual room temperature controls and occupancy sensors are being increasingly used.  Campus trash generation is continually reduced, while campus recycling and composting efforts are increased.  As the institution strives to reach campus carbon neutrality by the year 2040, the use of less-carbon-intensive fuels – the use of #6 fuel oil was discontinued as natural gas took its place as fuel-of-choice – is successfully reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  These efforts were acknowledged, for the fourth consecutive year, with the honor bestowed to the institution by Princeton Review in its Guide to 322 Green Colleges as being one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada.

The University of Maine’s facilities management department, which is responsible for 443 acres on the main campus alone, in addition to its 4.5 million square feet of buildings, is working strategically with Sightlines, the campus’ facilities asset advisors based in Connecticut, to benchmark, assess, and prioritize its annual stewardship and asset reinvestment goals and strategies.  Also underway is the implementation of a new Integrated Workplace Management System.

Despite inclement weather, blue skies prevail.

 Kathleen McIntyre is special assistant to the senior vice president for administration and finance at the University of Maine  in Orono.
She  also is an instructor for INT289: Practical Leadership Ethics, and co-advisor to the UMaine Chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society.