Before setting out on creating a master plan for a facility, Jae Ebert, principal, project engineer, CMTA Consulting Engineers, says one must consider two objectives.

The first, he says, is to recognize the importance of the master plan—including what it can do and what it cannot do, and, second, determine how to implement a strategy to keep communication open during the process.

Ebert shared his insight during the session “Strategic Leadership in Healthcare Facility Planning” on Monday, July 16, at the ASHE Annual Conference in San Antonio.

While changes within facilities are often driven by physicians, department managers, and chief nursing officers, Ebert covered the role facility managers can play in pushing for an overarching master plan that eliminates conflicting requests and instead brings cohesiveness to the table.

In terms of those first two points, Ebert says a master plan can save money, "herd cats," make facility managers (FMs) the go-to experts for the facility, and make the FM a player in the allocation of funds. However, what it cannot do is work if it isn’t updated annually and by project, nor can it be effective if smaller plans are not used on a daily basis.

Deciding to create a master plan isn’t to be done within a silo, either, and must have the buy-in of key players, including executives, management staff, board of directors, facility staff, and city planners, Ebert says.

And for those unsure if a master plan is needed, Ebert advises to take a look at signs of previous bad planning within your facility. One example, he says, can be found in poor wayfinding that causes patients and visitors to zigzag through a building.

“If you have a master plan in place, it will start to straighten some of those things out,” he says.

Other signs of poor planning, especially when additions are built to an existing facility, include multiple heating and cooling systems, and an infrastructure that is difficult to maintain and not expandable.

When adopting a master plan, Ebert advises that it take into account short-range and long-range goals, including campus expansion and building plans. And for facility managers specifically focused on buildings themselves, some of the components to plan for include:

  • HVAC;
  • Chilled water;
  • Heating hot water;
  • Medical gas;
  • Electrical;
  • Shell space;
  • Front state/back stage; and
  • Circulation and corridors.

Energy master plans are also beginning to take off in healthcare, and Ebert stresses facilities should not only know their Energy Use Index (EUI) but put a plan in place to reduce it, with the average being 250 kBtu/sf/yr.

“I’ve seen some facilities that are in the 600 range. I’ve seen others that are doing really well,” he says.

In order to achieve cohesiveness going forward, especially as it concerns building systems specifically, Ebert advises to use master specs for lighting, plumbing, fire alarms, tube systems, medical gas, clinical equipment, FF&E, and so on, so there is no guess work.

“You need to have all the systems laid out for these different systems,” he says. “It’s really important that you standardize what you need.”

And, finally, Ebert says a master plan only gets so far without a good amount of marketing to sell it to everyone who works in a facility so all are on board. “If you’re not marketing your master plan, you’re missing the boat,” he says.

The plan should be promoted to the CEO, physicians, and the board of trustees, and buy-in for the process must be gained from the chief financial officer, chief nursing officer, and facility directors.