New policy to streamline, codify campus construction, maintenance standards


With a public comment period now concluded, the Campus Utilization, Planning and Safety Committee is reviewing a draft new comprehensive policy dedicated to the management of Pitt’s facilities and grounds.

The committee discussed the draft policy at its Oct. 26, meeting. Comprised of two parts — Operations and Maintenance, and Design and Construction Projects — the policy intends to:

  • Establish the authority and responsibilities for the management of the University facilities and grounds.

  • Establish and codify a “standard of care” for operations and maintenance of facilities.

  • Consolidate into a single policy from various prior “directives” regarding design and construction project management.

Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor of Pitt’s Office of Facilities Management, noted that the University has not had an “overarching” policy covering management of facilities and grounds. “Over the last several years, there continue to be questions over what the standard is and who decides what the standard is,” he said. “We have multiple people doing operations and maintenance. We have multiple entities doing construction projects.”

Through a series of prior policy directives, the committee has narrowed down who does construction projects “but still it’s more a matter of making sure that everybody has a general one-stop place to go to see who has authority for what and responsibility and accountability for what actions, including funding and staff,” Bernotas said.

Regarding guidelines for the Operations and Maintenance area, Bernotas said the main purpose is “just to make sure that there’s a focus on life/safety systems, and that that remains a priority, first and foremost,” he said, referring to items such as fire and emergency notification, access and security, and exit and emergency lighting. “So when we’re deciding what preservation projects to do, our focus is going to be on life/safety systems.”

The emphasis will be on preventive maintenance rather than waiting until something significant breaks.

“That requires understanding the age and the performance of the systems and being able to try to predict which ones need the most attention soonest,” he said, adding that costs will be divided based on the type of work required. “We want a … forward-looking, long-range maintenance plan (that’s) focused on condition assessments that are conducted every five years.”

Facilities Management recently took over maintenance and operations for Auxiliary Services, Dining and Housing, Bernotas noted. The two separate entities had different processes and maintenance, “so we’re looking to streamline that, and make everything consistent.”

The proposed new policy says those responsible for maintenance of facilities shall ensure that:

  • All building life/safety systems shall be maintained in good working order as the foremost priority.

  • Facilities costs for each building are tracked individually by building and broken down by type of work.

  • A three-to-five-year long-range maintenance plan shall be updated each year.

  • A facilities condition assessment is conducted every five years for each facility.

  • Each building is maintained to a good or better standard as defined by APPA (Association of Physical Plant Administrators).

  • Minimum service level standards for performance are defined.

Committee discussion during the comment period led to guidelines on Facilities Management responsibility including infrastructure and building “envelopes” such as windows, walls, roofs, doors and building-related systems such as HVAC plumbing, the loading dock and interior finishes.

Some activities for which Faciltiies will bill other departments include:

  • Replacement locks, keys/re-keying of a room per a department’s request

  • Installation, repair, maintenance and replacement to department-owned equipment, systems, specialized research equipment or specialty lighting systems

  • Repair, removal or relocation of furniture and workstations

  • Painting and carpeting of departmental assigned spaces

In Pitt’s design and construction area, a vice chancellor and University architect are being sought for the newly established Office of Planning, Design and Construction.

“It’s anticipated that this will go into effect sometime after February, early March (2023), when we anticipate having this person in place,” Bernotas said of the first position. “The intent is to centralize the programming, development and implementation of the campus and institutional master plans as well as space-management planning for the University.”

The University architect will lead the site-selection process for and approve installation of public art and sculpture on campus, as well as:

  • Oversee site and feasibility studies for new buildings, building additions or renovations, parking, public spaces, etc.

  • Develop, manage, maintain and implement of the University’s long-range capital plan.

  • Oversee design reviews and the aesthetics of all shared-space, public-facing campus (building architecture, landscaping, campus signage).

University construction projects will be required to meet Pitt’s design and engineering standards and meet an approval process for all projects between $2 million and $5 million, adherence to OSHA construction safety standards and subject to inspections by Facilities Management.

The requirements and information that make it to the new policy will be subject to approval by the senior vice chancellor of business and operations and Pitt’s chief financial officer, Bernotas said. “All projects over $5 million are subject to multiple approvals, which include the Board of Trustees as the ultimate approver.”

The proposed policy’s responsibilities for a construction project include the following:

  • The Office of Planning, Design and Construction will work with affected stakeholders to define and document project scopes.

  • Facilities Management is charged with contract administration for capital projects and awarding, via the senior vice chancellor of business and operations, design and construction projects.

  • Facilities Management shall ensure contracts comply with University and state requirements for safety, competition, diversity, equity, fair wage and other requirements.

  • Purchase orders shall not be used to contract for any construction work.

Setting up tents and temporary structures for events will require documentation to Facilities Management at least two weeks prior to the event and Facilities approval that the location meets COVID-19 and other health and safety standards

“Temporary structures other than (short-term use) really aren’t desirable,” Bernotas noted. “There are folks that want to put Conex (cargo container) boxes in and use them as structures. There are a number of reasons, architecturally and otherwise, that we want to make sure that we see all of these, and that decision is made at a campus level as to what we’re going to put outside on our campus.”

Responding to a question about whether a new building is planned to house the School of Nursing, currently located in the four-story Victoria Hall, Bernotas said, “there’s discussions and consideration. And that has not yet been decided. But I know it’s something that we’re looking at” based on size, location, appearance and the school’s needs. “So there’s research going on right now to try to figure out … what needs to be in that building.”

Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at


Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.

Follow the University Times on Twitter and Facebook.