Originally posted Wednesday, 04 September 2013

Written by Randle Pollock

The Director of Design and Construction in the Office of Physical Plant of Pennsylvania State University since 2007, Lisa A. Berkey is responsible for oversight of the university’s capital design and construction program. As a registered professional engineer with more than 30 years of experience in facilities engineering and management, Lisa has been instrumental in Penn State’s efforts to improve design and construction acquisition and reporting strategies, and she is committed to continuous quality improvement.

Prior to her current position, Lisa served as a Penn State Project Manager, overseeing design and construction of new building and renovation projects on campus. During that time, she administered the new $110 million Chemistry and Life Sciences Buildings, which extended the science sub-campus within the core area of the University Park Campus and transformed Shortlidge Road into a pedestrian mall. In addition, she led initial development and design of the new $215 Millennium Science Complex.

Lisa is a member of the COAA Board of Directors and is also actively involved in the COAA Pennsylvania Chapter. A regular attendee of COAA’s Spring and Fall Owners Leadership Conferences, Lisa has been a popular speaker and panelist on a range of topics, most recently co-presenting “They Shoot, They Score! Advanced Visualization for Penn State Ice Arena,” one of the most highly ranked sessions at the 2013 Spring Conference in Atlanta. She also recently joined COAA’s national Communications/Editorial Committee.

Lisa holds a Bachelor of Architectural Engineering degree from Penn State and is an adjunct instructor of Architectural Engineering there. Before joining Penn State, she practiced engineering in the private sector.

For a number of different reasons, the academic market that Lisa and Penn State represent—and in many ways her leadership is defining, shaping and advancing—is changing. The future is hardly clear, but it is perhaps coming into better, sharper focus. Lisa recently shared her thoughts and insights about the latest trends in the industry, what she and her team are doing at Penn State, and what she sees on the horizon.


Randy Pollock (RP): How long have you been a member of COAA, and what prompted you to get involved?

Lisa Berkey (LB): I’ve been a member of COAA since 2007 and was part of the team that organized the COAA Pennsylvania Chapter. COAA represents an organization where owners and associates work together to advance the design and construction process. I am involved in COAA because the organization provides a wonderful opportunity for owner education and collaboration.

RP: How has your involvement with COAA impacted you professionally and personally?

LB: I have developed an extensive professional network as a result of my involvement in COAA. The network creates many opportunities to learn about innovative project processes, to share project successes, and to solve project issues.

RP: How has COAA affected your staff and colleagues at Penn State?

LB: This organization most closely represents the Owner’s role in the design and construction process. My staff benefits from the professional networking and from the training programs provided for Owners’ project managers.

RP: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement with COAA?

LB: The most rewarding aspect of my involvement with COAA is the professional networking. As I mentioned, I am involved in the COAA Pennsylvania Chapter. Through such chapter involvement, I have developed a professional network with regional peers.

On trends in facility design for the education industry

RP: Architecturally, what are the most significant changes in the layout or types of spaces you’re providing for Penn State?

LB: The new buildings, building renovations, civic spaces, and infrastructure improvements are transforming our campuses in dramatic ways. Multidisciplinary facilities continue to facilitate a collaborative environment while advancing knowledge.

RP: Sustainability initiatives and planning concepts such as “hoteling” are becoming increasingly mainstreamed. How has the push for sustainability affected your work at Penn State?

LB: We are committed to sustainable design practice and strategy. The environmental and sustainable elements are the framework for developing responsible facilities, in accordance with the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

With respect to “hoteling,” we continue to design and build shared flexible spaces into our new building and renovation projects.

On trends in the construction of educational facilities

RP: In terms of project delivery/construction-contracting methods, what are the most significant changes in the execution/implementation of your projects at Penn State?

LB: We continue to develop and promote integrated design, delivery, and operation processes. Additionally, new technology creates opportunity to rethink our business and to facilitate collaboration. Working with the Architectural Engineering Department, the Charles Pankow Foundation, and the Construction Industry Institute, we continue to develop the processes to allow building information and facilities data to be included in the BIM model and to be subsequently used as a facilities management tool.

We collaborate extensively with the academic side of the University on the subject of BIM. In this area, we are fully integrated with the Architectural Engineering Department partnering on development of BIM execution strategies.

On project delivery methods

RP: Which delivery methods have you employed? Which do you most prefer?

LB: We use multiple strategies to deliver projects depending on specific project criteria. The decision to use one method or another is based on a number of factors, including the individual characteristics of the project, the project size and complexity, the construction schedule, the current state of the construction market, site conditions, technology, and funding sources.

The common delivery methods used by Penn State include design-bid-build (single prime and multi prime), job order contracting, construction manager agency, construction manager at risk, design-build, developer, and integrated project delivery principles. Our most successful project outcomes are achieved through teamwork and collaboration.

RP: Do you employ Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)?

LB: The benefits of IPD are obvious, placing emphasis on and valuing the experience and input of all team members in order to yield increased value and efficiency. We institute numerous processes and contract options to allow for more creative contracting strategies that utilize delivery methods more consistent with current industry standards.

We are currently building IPD principles into our design-build and CM at risk projects, absent the tri-party agreement.

RP: Would you suggest IPD for the one-time, first time, or infrequent Owner?

LB: I would suggest using IPD principles on every project. Teamwork and collaboration are vital to successful project outcomes.

On what you are doing now

RP: How has the slow economy and funding uncertainty affected your work at Penn State?

LB: The economic constraints and funding uncertainty have resulted in process improvements to project delivery. One notable outcome is the development of the Penn State Project Delivery System, which focuses on planning and front-end loading. This enhanced delivery system has the greatest potential to positively impact project outcomes, reduce project costs, and yield operational efficiency.

RP: How have you been dealing with funding challenges caused by the down economy?

LB: Renovation instead of building new is less costly, and the reduction in energy usage results in long-term expenditure reduction. Additionally, we are very focused on a multi-year, budget planning process, with sufficient business justification to limit project surprises. Taking a long-term view is one way we are dealing with funding challenges.

RP: Do you feel any need to emphasize “buying local/ regional”?

LB: Working with local and regional services providers cultivates partnerships within the region and enhances teamwork. Our mission is to deliver the best value and highest-quality projects by encouraging competition. Supplier diversity is an important component of the design and construction program. We are committed to fostering relationships with minority and women business enterprises.

On trends that are impacting the future of your organization

RP: What current trends (demographic, economic, cultural, etc.) are most impacting the future of your work at Penn State?

LB: We support the mission of Penn State University by developing efficient, state-of-the-art facilities that will attract the best students, faculty and staff. Student and faculty satisfaction, local and regional market capacity, aging workforce, increasing energy costs, social media, and technology all significantly influence project execution.

About the Interviewer

A member of COAA’s national Communications/Editorial Committee since 2010 and active in the COAA Texas chapter, Randle Pollock is regional director for HDR Architecture (www.hdrinc.com). Based in HDR’s Houston, TX office, Randy can be reached at 713-335-1949 and randle.pollock@hdrinc.com.