Q & A with John Gresock, Director of Space Management

Posted: January 29, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This weekly question-and-answer column with George Mason administrators appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette.

By Robin Herron

Can you give me an overview of the responsibilities of the Office of Space Management?

The Office of Space Management is a fairly new office, established about three and a half years ago. It was created as a result of the presidential task force on space management that Larry Czarda [vice president, Prince William Campus] headed. There were several major recommendations out of that task force. One was to develop a university-wide Space Administration Committee that was to be co-chaired by the provost [Peter Stearns] and the senior vice president [Maurice Scherrens]. The primary role of that committee was to prioritize space requests and make space allocation decisions to coincide with the university’s academic and administrative master plans. The other major recommendation was to create the Office of Space Management, which was to act as the research arm and support staff for the Space Administration Committee, and assume all the other comprehensive responsibilities for tasks relating to space management. Those include working with all the various academic and administrative units in managing their space, obtaining additional space, reconfiguring their space, and doing things that the university has been required to do for a long time in terms of reporting space information to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia [SCHEV].

john gresock
John Gresock

We work very closely with the other offices under Reid Herlihy, the vice president for Facilities. Reid has four major areas under his supervision, the largest one being the Physical Plant, then the Facilities Planning Office, and the Facilities Construction Office. We’re the smallest of the offices. We all work very closely together on all the space and facilities issues facing the university on all three campuses. There’s a wide range of activity. On any one day, the office might be involved in something like the Master Plan or the Six Year Capital Budget. Or it might be working with Jim Miller in Facilities on developing a program for a new building, or really nuts-and-bolts stuff like coordinating an office relocation or overseeing a contractor on a minor renovation.

How large a staff do you have?

Right now there are two of us. We have a vacant position we’re trying to fill, and we’ve been approved to hire a fourth person who will be more oriented toward strategic planning in the facilities area. Lori Delio is the assistant director and her focus has been on the relocations. She’s been very active with Larry Czarda and Karen Pirhalla at Prince William, planning for the move into the new building that’s under construction now, Bull Run Hall [formerly Prince William III]. She was very instrumental in coordinating the move with the Information Technology Unit [ITU] when they moved into Innovation Hall. The person we’re hiring now is our space inventory manager, and that person deals with updating our computerized database, our inventory of our space, and our floor plans.

How long have you been at George Mason?

Most recently, three and a half years. I was here from 1985 to 1993, when I was the associate director of Facilities Planning–I had very similar duties to what I have now. In between those two periods I worked at Old Dominion University doing similar work. To me, this is the place I wanted to be. It’s the best job I think I could have, and it’s one of the best locations. It’s an exciting place to work, and if you look at our Master Plan and our Capital Plan, you see all kinds of activity in the future.

We’ve had a new building come online and new buildings will be opening soon. Each time a new building comes online, how does that affect space management?

There is a domino effect. For the past year, our office has been working with Larry and Karen at Prince William to plan how we will move in and occupy the Bull Run Building. What really gets interesting is then how you re-use space in the other buildings. Quite a few people will be moving out of the Occoquan Building [formerly Prince William I] into Bull Run Hall, and we’ve really got to know what we want to do with that space. On the Fairfax Campus, before we moved into Innovation Hall, the Space Administration Committee and our office worked on the question of reallocating the space ITU would be moving out of. What were the critical needs at the Fairfax Campus that could have been met by the space that became available? We went through a process of contacting the various academic units–there’s usually someone at the associate dean’s level designated to be the space coordinator or liaison for each school–identifying their needs, and then hopefully responding to those needs by allocating some of the space that had been vacated.

What is the space situation on the Fairfax Campus?

Space has been tight since I’ve been here. That is probably our major challenge. Not only are we behind the curve in terms of where we ought to be under SCHEV’s guidelines, but we continue to grow. So we have a university that’s growing in a very constricted space resource. While it helps to have the new buildings come online, buildings come in big chunks, maybe every two or three years, but the growth in enrollment and personnel is a constant slope, so you’re almost always behind where you want to be. With such limited space resources, with new space only opening up only periodically, it’s a really important activity for the Space Administration Committee to assess the space needs and to fairly as possible allocate this limited resource.

In regard to the three campuses, is there a guideline as to what kinds of needs can best be met in Arlington, in Fairfax, and Prince William?

What we do at those campuses is derived from the direction of the president and the provost primarily. But we do have documents like the Distributed University Plan, and the Plan for 2007, which does lay out some guidance for that. Then our job is to kind of step down from that. The administration has this broad vision of where the university should go, and from that you have a series of plans that implement that. Underneath that level of strategic planning you have the Master Plan. That is like a guide for the physical development at each campus. Then another step down from that is more detailed and more focused Six Year Capital Plan, which identifies all the physical projects we want at all three campuses that will allow us to do the things we want to do in our Strategic Plan. Maybe it even goes narrower to annual operating plans. That’s kind of ideal–it doesn’t quite work that way in the real world. But that’s the goal.

In addition to the challenge of finding space for things that come up, what other challenges does your office face?

Certainly by the middle of 2005 we’ll be moving into the Research I building. There will be another exercise there of preparing for that relocation and then planning the reallocation of space. This is one that primarily involves the School of Computational Sciences moving out of their space in Science and Tech I and King Hall–and they are also off campus–and then looking at how that space is best re-used. We’ve already started talking about that. We’ll continue to work on the Arlington II Building, we’ve been involved on the programming of that, then getting started and proceeding on the Thompson and West renovation, then Academic V will be the major things coming up.

Other than the Space Administration Committee, what other groups are you involved with on campus?

I co-chair the Classroom Advisory Committee with Susan Jones, the registrar. We meet about four times a year with representatives from each of the academic units. We get involved with classroom issues, maybe the programming of classrooms in the new building, issues that have come up with the scheduling of classes, and so forth. I’m also on the Johnson Center Policy Board, chaired by Karen Rosenblum [vice president for University Life], that deals specifically with space issues in the Johnson Center. The Policy Board and the space committee work together on space issues involving the Johnson Center.

Looking into the future, do you see any changes in your office’s role or responsibilities?

I’d like to get more involved in the strategic planning for the university. This other position that we’re going to fill will be more oriented towards that. It will be more of a planner, someone who can work with our Institutional Research and Reporting office and the Provost’s Office on things like enrollment projections in developing the physical planning strategies to meet the needs that would presented by enrollment growth or growth in staff levels. I would like to work more closely with the Office of Sponsored Programs in meeting needs for research space.

The other thing I’d like to do is improve the use of technology in our office: improve our web page, where you can look at an inventory of every room in the university at all three campuses and all our leased space; and establish a computer-aided facilities management system (CAFM). It would link all our information together so we could provide better service.

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