The consultant team DLM assembled was fairly large, and we worked closely with Art and George throughout the process. They established a very effective communication level early on, followed up regularly, and were very responsive as we moved through the process.
I didn't find, as I do many times, that the principals lost interest–George and Arthur stayed involved through the whole thing, and managed the team quite effectively. They did a great job. A lot of that has to do with communication and listening. They did a very good job of that.
-Gerald Vander Mey
DLM has been assisting BGSU since 2009 when, as a part of a campus planning team, they helped to develop the program for the Master Plan. Since that time, they have assisted the University in a variety of studies from student housing to classroom utilization.
The classroom utilization study has had a significant impact on that space resource, helping us to understand the facility implications of various factors and policies. By changing some of those policies, BGSU has been able to reduce the size of our classroom inventory from 191 in 2012 to 150 classrooms today. We hope to reduce that inventory further in the future.
DLM's planning expertise extends well beyond the global view of a University. Their work comes from a real knowledge and understanding of Higher Education. Their detailed understanding of academic programs and trends in space utilization and design enabled the planning team to develop plans that are progressive, well organized, justifiable, and achievable.
I highly recommend DLM for the projects they are pursuing at your institution.
-Steven P. Krakoff
When I was at Ohio State, DLM helped prepare a comprehensive redesign of our space allocation guidelines for every department at the University. The academic departments were nervous about developing space allocation guidelines–the nervousness dissipated when in every case the departments realized that Arthur and George understood their discipline and their use of space and would be making recommendations that took into account what they did and how they did it.
As Director of Planning for the University, I found that just the interviews we had with department chairs got everybody thinking about the space in a different way and helped them understand that it is not just about "my space", but how do we allocate space across all the departments in the whole university, in alignment with the University’s mission? This was a significant achievement in an environment where people typically approach space needs as, ‘how do I hang on to what I have and get more of it?’ The amazing thing is that Arthur can sit down and talk to maintenance people about what space they need and what features they need to be able to maintain the campus and then turn around and talk to the faculty about what is happening, and talk to administrators and vice presidents. He doesn't talk down to anyone, knows what he is talking about, and what is crucial when talking to the faculty who think the administration don't know what their needs are. My experience with DLM is that their work comes from a real knowledge and understanding of Higher Education and these institutions, so they don’t resort to pre-programmed, pat phrases. They listen well and are sensitive to the campus culture.
First of all, they have a deep grasp of how campuses can work better, so they bring lots of experience to the table. Second, they have a database of comparable institutions so you are always able to do a “reality check” on your assumptions and expectations. Third, everyone I have worked with from the firm has asked excellent questions and they are good listeners. They know how to truly engage people on the campus.
At the same time, they are able to put seriously considered findings and recommendations out there and listen carefully for the responses. They also have a sense of what stretch feasibility looks like–they help their institutions understand that getting from point A to point B might be a 10 or 15 year proposition.
They have real integrity–they do what they say they are going to do. They are accessible. Even though we pay for specific projects and specifically agreed upon products, in between projects they work as if they are on retainer in terms of checking things and responding to questions, helping us through architect selections and challenges we may have.
One of the benefits of having a very long-term relationship with them is that they know the campus–so you get not just the comparative part, they are able to respond helpfully on short notice, and they pay attention to what is going on. It has almost always been the case that the specific solution we have ended up with has never been exactly what we talked about but has been conceptually the same.
It takes a while to get the difference between an architectural firm and DLM. They think systemically, which I think is critical, and look at the whole picture. We are on the third pass of prioritizing our planning process, how should it go, what to do next. Since they don’t prepare architectural documents they can act as a counselor in the architectural selection process. They are independent from the final solution–they have no interest in getting the design business.
On the front end, it can feel like you are spending more by paying to go through the planning process first, but it saves real money in the end. There is no way to document the savings, but perhaps they have saved us five percent on construction costs by helping us find efficiencies and solutions before the architectural team comes on board.
And, aside from doing a sensational job, they were very quickly able to garner the respect of the people on campus as well as the Board of Trustees–and that was critical for us. There was a point where the board and faculty were disagreeing about a particular issue and Art Lidsky, who was our main contact, could speak from his years of experience on hundreds of campuses and knowledge of our existing data and help them understand what current best practice was for our campus strategic master planning. This took the weight off my shoulders.
Arthur is low key, but he is persuasive and comes with an arsenal of data from across the world–you can’t really argue with him. We hired him once for a ‘spot’ job, where we had three or four things that we had to move from one place to another to accommodate the development of an overall campus welcome center. It meant shifting a complex set of offices and functions. He spent a concentrated day with us, and it took us two to three years but we pulled off that entire domino effect of things and the campus was so much better for it.
Consequently, when I came down here to Stephens, I was confronted by some enormous maintenance problems. We had buildings that hadn’t been used for years, questions of whether they should be taken down, questions of whether we should keep all our land. Knowing how brilliant he is, I asked Art to advise us on these issues. He was kind enough to come down for one intensive day with us and helped us think through the possibilities. As a brand new president that was invaluable in helping to clarify these issues and get my senior staff on the same page.
Art engenders an incredible amount of confidence wherever he goes and with whomever he speaks. That is why, when I got to Stephens and I needed a quick assessment, there was not a moment’s hesitation about picking up the phone and calling him.
enrollments in some of our classes. The willingness of DLM to work with the
faculty to come up with a vision for the space and listen to our comments was extremely important.
-Neil Fitzgerald, Ph.D.
The other big "impact factor" of the project is, of course, the profusion of windows that were a key element of the design feature. These windows serve two purposes. First, those lining the hallways bring science -chemistry, specifically–out from behind walls and closed doors to the public–a.k.a., non-science users of Donnelly Hall, others in the campus community, and most significantly, visitors to campus. All campus tours led by our admissions staff now pass down the hall so that prospective students and their families can see the beautiful chemistry space (as well as the importance that Marist places on the sciences). These windows, in particular, have been truly transformative in terms of getting the rest of campus to acknowledge the fine work that is occurring not only in the Dept. of Chemistry, Biochemistry, & Physics, but also in the School of Science, in general. The second purpose served by windows is that those which are positioned between the faculty office suite and the research lab and instrument room allow faculty members to interact with students in the office suite while literally keeping an eye on advanced students conducting research or completing class projects in the labs. Thus, more students can be impacted in less faculty time because of this feature.
I believe that working with DLM to conceptualize and program this project has definitely transformed the Department, the School, and the entire campus. Working with DLM and your staff was a pleasure, and I am confident that the faculty members who were an integral part of the team would echo my sentiments. You listened very closely to our concerns, paid close attention to the details about our programs and needs, and truly helped us flesh out our hopes and dreams for a modern facility. I believe that the faculty had a great opportunity for their voice to be heard, and that they also learned more about how a College operates by consulting not only with you but with our Physical Plant Director, who demonstrated his commitment to transforming the old, 1950s era space into a true 21st Century facility, given the constraints of space, funding, and existing utilities. I believe that, in the end, those hopes and dreams were attained to a much greater extent than any of us could have predicted. Your focused work and "personal touch" really helped the project move forward.
-Michael G. Tannenbaum, Ph.D.
We were never out of touch with DLM throughout the 12 month process. The DLM team provided support for the tremendous energy that was generated on our campus through the master planning work.
When we engaged their services in the late 1990s, the university was embarking on a very expensive campus expansion program. A number of buildings were slated to be built and others were to be renovated. The chancellor said that we must make sure that our needs were what we said they were–so that when speaking with trustees we could assure them that the assessment of needs had been confirmed by the nation’s leading campus planning consulting firm. That was a very important political and practical step for us to take.
By engaging DLM what we were really doing was counting on their expertise and the authority of their conclusions and recommendations to be the guarantors to the trustees that we were on the right track. When we brought them in, our primary expectation of them was that they would analyze our campus space, do some headcounts and population studies, run those through their mill, informed by what they knew about square footage and campus space use to see where we stood.
The result of that was really extraordinarily important because their analysis confirmed not only that we were right, but that, in fact, we were only half-right. We were actually worse off than we thought. Using a peer group of twelve institutions that we had been routinely comparing ourselves to for a variety of purposes, they collected data from that group, and analyzed the numbers regarding students, faculty and square footage.
The results of that analysis confirmed and gave a reasonable estimate of what we needed to add to the campus just to bring us up to the average of the group that we were concerned with. It illustrated the relatively dire straits we were in, and how badly we needed space. Even our strongest programs were under-housed in comparison with counterparts elsewhere.
Another aspect of their work was an analysis of classroom utilization. We knew we were short of classroom space. Their analysis of our classroom space told us in graphic and powerful terms what we already knew so that we could convince others to make decisions and take action.
The really neat thing about the process was that our faculty was very much impressed with Art who was the lead person from DLM here. His manner was appropriately academic. He spoke the language of the faculty and spoke it with confidence. He has the breadth of knowledge and experience to back up his observations. At the same time with me or our group, Art would be very candid about what he thought regarding the effectiveness of certain ideas and plans. He was an advisor whose judgment carried great weight at a time when we were trying to do lots of things such as trying to convince the chancellor to spend a great deal of money on new and renovated facilities and, identifying the departments whose space would have to be reduced.
Having him here with his deep knowledge of campuses and having his data and analysis, illustrated with charts and graphs made the rational discussion of difficult issues relatively easy. He knew what he was talking about having spent his whole career planning campuses.
He inspired confidence with the faculty and with the chancellor, who came to think the world of him. They all felt he was first rate.
-Robert D. Flanigan, Jr.
Dober Lidsky Mathey was able to support the University in a complex decision-making process to establish clear goals for both projects consistent with the Academic Master Plan, and to develop a strategy and architectural programs for new construction and backfill renovations. DLM then developed an overall master plan that integrated the new buildings and their domino effects as part of a cohesive academic core. As a result, the University was able to complete high quality designs for both projects, in budget and on schedule, with the confidence they will serve the University's academic mission for many years to come.
Many firms talk the talk about "consensus-building" during the planning process, but few can achieve it as well as DLM. The firm quickly gained respect from faculty and all levels of staff, and followed through with a planning process that was truly collaborative. The result is a master plan that is regularly referenced in detail by all University divisions for the University's campus development. DLM’s planning expertise extends well beyond the global view of a University. Their detailed understanding of academic programs and trends in space utilization and design enabled the planning team to develop a plan that is progressive, well organized, justifiable, and achievable.
DLM regularly emphasized the importance of the academic mission and academic master plan as the starting point for the development of the physical master plan. Large scale planning can involve a great deal of tangential thinking, and their clear understanding of the structure of an effective master plan provided the proper perspective for all decisions.
DLM is comfortable with presentations at every stage of planning and at all levels–from informal presentations to University staff, to state governing boards. Their presentations and communications were clear, informative, and honest, and they were tailored as appropriate for the varied constituencies reviewing the plan. The development of a master plan will naturally reveal an institution's greatest challenges, and DLM’s professionalism in all of their communications and presentations was an essential part of their leadership in the planning process.