PhilaU Facilities Operation Highlighted in New Book; Tom Becker Receives APPA President’s Award

Tom Becker received the 2011 APPA President's Award for exceptional achievement in facilities management.

While a University’s facilities portfolio is often its largest fiscal asset, it is never its primary mission, says Tom Becker PE, EFP, associate vice president for operations at Philadelphia University.  And the maintenance of those facilities can often be overlooked or taken for granted.

In 2009 PhilaU’s Physical Plant earned the University national recognition as a leader in the field of educational facilities management  through  winning APPA’s highest institutional award; the award for Excellence in Facilities Management.

The following year APPA approached Becker to chair and contribute to their scheduled 2011 publication “Operational Guidelines for Educational Facilities Maintenance, second edition” as part of a trilogy that also includes custodial and landscape guidelines. The entire trilogy has been overseen by editor-in-chief and former APPA President Alan Bigger.

At the recent APPA 2011 Annual Conference, Becker co-presented the new trilogy with Alan Bigger, later receiving APPA’s prestigious President’s Award, which is given to individual APPA members who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in facilities management and who have made outstanding contributions to the association.
In his introduction to the book, Becker writes about the movie Good Will Hunting, which pictures a young, troubled, albeit brilliant maintenance worker at MIT.

“A scene from the film implies that little skill, integrity, or effort is needed for a university’s facility to function,” Becker wrote. “Just as there was more to the character in that movie than met the eye, there is quite a bit more to proper facilities management at an institution in these challenging times.”

Becker writes that Philadelphia University’s priorities in that regard were recognized at the National Association of College and University Business Officers conference. “[PhilaU’s] priority is to start every day safe and legal,” Becker wrote. “That is the minimum. It is tough to argue with that even if your institution can afford only a reactionary level of maintenance.” PhilaU maintenance workers typically provide a more comprehensive stewardship level of care that extends far beyond merely safe and legal, but those two underlying goals are the bedrock priorities for the department’s ongoing mission of customer satisfaction and facilities stewardship.

The book also includes chapters written by Robert Fleming, Ph.D., associate professor of architecture, and Kim Piechuta, assistant director of physical plant.

Fleming co-founded PhilaU’s M.S. in Sustainable Design, and wrote about the role sustainability plays in building maintenance. He argued that understanding sustainability can lead to improved efficiency and compliance with changing government regulations. The interaction education of utilizing real live facilities management tools within a sustainable education program, like Philadelphia University’s Honeywell building automation system, is demonstrated in his chapter.

Piechuta addressed the issues of customer satisfaction and quality assurance. Drawing on her experience, Piechuta wrote about several ways facilities maintenance workers can improve communication between physical plant and the university as a whole.

“This publication is the guideline that will be used for maintenance of educational facilities world-wide for the next decade.  I was honored to have been asked by APPA to oversee this important publication,” said Becker. “It was a privilege to work with great authors that are experts in their fields from all over the nation, and also very gratifying to be able to showcase the expertise of talented professionals from right here at Philadelphia University.”

APPA is a professional organization for leaders in education facilities management, and in 2009, Philadelphia University’s Physical Plant was presented with the APPA “Award of Excellence in Facilities Management. In a press release about the four 2011 President’s Award winners, APPA President Darrel Meyer said, “These volunteer members have taken their leadership responsibilities seriously and have each made a difference on behalf of this association. They truly exemplify leadership at its best, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”

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