Facility Planning: The First Step to Building Consensus

September 21, 2018

Clarity for Decision-Makers

Comprehensive facility planning studies provide decision-makers with essential data to guide policy decisions and budgetary allocations. Needs assessment and feasibility studies evaluate current findings, identify future space requirements, and analyze potential actions and solutions. Findings may justify the need for a large capital expenditure or illustrate that minor efficiency updates to an existing facility are sufficient.

First Things First

Whether your agency is considering constructing a new building from the ground up, expanding an existing facility or renovating inefficient space, it’s important to take a step back and gather the essential information to frame sound decisions.

While it’s exciting to envision DIY maker-spaces, vast green sports fields, and offices with state-of-the-art technology, it’s important to take the time for intentional, information-based planning to ensure facilities match user needs and budgetary realities—at grand opening and well into the future.

The informational framework typically begins with an assessment of current service levels and facility conditions. How does this data compare to generally-accepted industry standards? Are there overlapping efforts in the community with other agencies or organizations providing the same services?

Facilities may have become functionally obsolete or physically deficient, raising liability concerns. Changes in code requirements and service deliveries are also considered. Aging facilities often have difficulty meeting the need for gender neutral restrooms and ADA access clearances. With technological advances, less space is needed for document storage. Additionally, some in-house operations may now be outsourced, reducing the need for staff offices as well as large vehicle and equipment storage.

Responsible planning also incorporates future population and demographic projections. This ensures future operational efficiencies and provides an assurance the space will be utilized long after the doors open.

The Importance of Friends and Other Stakeholders

Local friends of libraries and parks and other nonprofit community groups are often first to identify the need for new or updated facilities and services. Key input from end-users through proactive community-wide outreach and engagement assures new or renovated facilities will provide functional space and deliver valued services. Griffin gathers data using wide-reaching anonymous online surveys as well as hardcopy surveys at strategic locations. Face-to-face community interactions include larger public forums, as well as interest- and user-based focus groups.

It’s equally important to proactively seek out and engage hidden voices in communities–seniors, limited-English proficient residents, and others who often cannot or are not comfortable participating in large community forums. Meetings at locations that are convenient, comfortable and familiar—such as schools, neighborhood community facilities, senior and multi-family residential housing developments, and places of worship—ensure all voices are heard.

Outreach efforts also provide opportunities to inform and educate users. Sharing findings and key data helps to avoid and correct misinformation, while relaying budgetary realities sets community expectations and encourages sharing of prioritized, realistic needs and desires.

For facilities occupied by agency staff, engaging an agency’s internal users is also key. Public safety facilities, corporate yards and administrative offices are most efficient when planned with input from end-users. In developing future plans for public service counters, other users surveyed might include local developers and contractors.


Westminster Corporate Yard

This new facility was carefully planned to repurpose and consolidate buildings, while reconfiguring the site to create a logical, safe work flow solution. The project was delivered through a phased, design-build approach that ensured no interruption of services during construction.

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Identifying and Evaluating the Possibilities

Much like SWOT analyses, studies utilize assessment findings to evaluate agency options, arming decision-makers with the comprehensive information necessary to develop long-term plans to deliver services while optimizing organizational efficiencies.

Analyses not only provide cost estimates based on scope, sizes, features and amenities, they also identify clear options and tradeoffs which might include consolidating facilities for greater efficiencies or sale of agency-owned land that once made sense to house public facilities but now may offer greater value as a different use and could provide the capital necessary for facility improvements.

When established needs and budgets don’t match, feasibility studies also evaluate potential solutions. These might include:

  • Financing options such as public-private partnerships
  • Shared-use or leasing of facilities
  • Alternative delivery methods
  • Project phasing plans
  • Cost comparisons of retrofitting existing facilities versus constructing new facilities

Assessment and feasibility exercises arm decision-makers with the data and practical analyses to frame and prioritize their actions.


Bloomington Library: A Unique Solution

The needs assessment process for library services in the San Bernardino County unincorporated community of Bloomington identified a viable opportunity to locate a much-needed branch library facility in an upcoming affordable housing development.
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Other Well-Planned Facilities

Buena Park Fire Station No. 61 Learn More

Fullerton Community Center Learn More


For more information about needs assessment or other strategic services, contact Dustin Alamo
( or 949.497.9000, ext. 263)