By Randle Pollock

Stuart Adler grew up in Atlanta and attended college at Georgia Tech, where he obtained both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in architecture. Following this, he worked as a young architect for a number of local firms before joining Emory University as a senior project manager in 2000.

Sixteen years later, he is now serving as Emory’s director of Program Management in the Planning, Design & Construction Department of Campus Services. Here, he manages the coordination of a $100 million design and construction annual program and oversees the implementation of the campus Design & Construction Standards, construction contracts, and the construction cost audit program.

Adler has a particular interest in utilizing new technologies in the construction development and operations and maintenance phases. He also pursues opportunities to incorporate sustainable design principles into the development of the campus, noting proudly that, “Emory has been at the vanguard of sustainability for the last two decades.”

A registered architect and LEED accredited professional, Adler works to build strong relationships with all customers and stakeholders including Facilities Management personnel, successfully leads teams, and keeps in mind big picture objectives while resolving complex details. For example, since 2013 he has served as a director on the national board of COAA, and is also an instructor for its Owner Training Institute.

Randle Pollock with Owner’s Perspective recently talked with Stuart recently about COAA and what it has meant to him and his career. He shared insights about what’s going on, what he is doing at Emory, and what he sees as the most impactful trends.


What are the biggest benefits to you of belonging to COAA?

COAA’s focus areas are very complementary to my job responsibilities and areas of interest. The conference session topics help me learn and grow as a professional, and networking with peers and associate members helps me identify the latest industry trends and opportunities to improve my department’s operation. And as an added bonus, I have made many friends through COAA.

What do you see as being the biggest challenges for COAA and the industry in general?

As institutions such as universities become more focused on efficiency and bottom-line value, it becomes more difficult for departments to provide the time and resources to invest in their staff’s professional growth. Attendees of COAA programs learn best practices within the industry and bring this knowledge back their institutions. The challenge is to provide compelling data that demonstrates that participation at COAA programs has a good return on investment.


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

For large capital projects, we typically use CM-at-Risk with a GMP. For small projects, we typically bid the work and contract with a lump-sum agreement. Each project is unique and we try to match the delivery method to each project so that we can realize maximum value for the university.

Do you employ Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)?

We do not use IPD. We have used IPD-like partnering techniques with an emphasis on teamwork among all parties, but we have never procured a project using IPD contracts or compensation practices. We want to maintain a high level of accountability from all parties and IPD does not lend itself to the accountability controls that we require.


What current trends are most impacting the future of your work at Emory University?

We have been constructing a steady stream of new buildings on campus for more than 20 years. The bookstore was even selling t-shirts jokingly claiming that the school mascot was the tower crane. Of course, during that time, we completed many more building renovations than new buildings, but they were not as high-profile as the new buildings.

Now, our focus is changing. Moving forward, we will be improving the efficiency and use of our current facilities, rather than building many new buildings. Changes in technology and practice of instruction and research are rapid. Adapting our existing facilities to meet those changes provides a better value and a more sustainable model. We will still construct new buildings, but our focus has shifted to adapting our current facility inventory to better meet the evolving needs of faculty, students, researchers, and other mission-critical members of our university.

With the proliferation of so many various technologies involved in every phase of the construction process, how essential is it that an Owner has a strong understanding of all those technologies and their applications?

The Owner’s project manager (PM) is like the conductor of the symphony. The conductor must be familiar with the instruments played by each musician, but the conductor does not need to be an expert at playing any of the instruments.

The same applies to the owner’s project manager; the PM must be familiar with all of the technologies used by the design and construction teams, but they do not need to be experts at using those technologies.


Sustainability initiatives are becoming increasingly mainstream. How has the push for sustainability affected your work at Emory?

Emory University has been at the vanguard of sustainability for the last two decades. We were early advocates and participants in USGBC and the LEED program, and we recently completed our Water Hub project which converts black water to reclaimed water. The facility converts up to 400,000 gallons every day and can reduce our domestic water usage by up to 40 percent.

Also, we are currently designing a new Campus Life Center with the aggressive energy usage goal of 29 EUI. The building is being designed so that it will be “net-zero ready.” We are aggressively implementing strategies to reduce the volume of material we send to landfills. These are just a few examples of how integral sustainability is to our culture.


In terms of project delivery or construction-contracting methods, what are the most significant changes in the implementation of your projects at Emory?

Most recently, we have been utilizing a variety of hybrids. For one project, we contracted with a CM for preconstruction services only. Then we used 90 percent construction documents to solicit GMP proposals from multiple construction managers.

Different delivery methods are beneficial for different projects. Since each project is unique, we try to select a method which will best meet the objectives for that project.

About the Interviewer

A member of COAA’s national Editorial Committee since 2010 and Program Chair of COAA Texas, Randy Pollock is Science + Technology Director for HDR ( Based in HDR’s Houston, TX office, Randy can be reached at 713-335-1949 and