Five questions for Gary Reynolds

By Staff

Gary Reynolds

Engineer, manager, project juggler extraordinaire and ambassador of understanding between facilities management employees and college professors: Gary L. Reynolds plays these and other roles as executive director of facilities services at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. After nearly 30 years of conceiving, developing and delivering his vision for capital construction and facilities management on three university campuses, it is the title "teacher" that resonates most in his life. At his alma mater, Iowa State University, he taught thermodynamics and other classes, and now seeks those "aha" moments among the Colorado students who are learning from his experience, whether it be on campus, on the ski slopes, or in the cockpit of an airplane or glider soaring above the Rockies.

You've been executive director of facilities services at UCCS for more than 18 months, overseeing the construction, maintenance and architectural development of the CU system's fastest-growing campus. How do you keep so many balls in the air?

Overseeing the various aspects of the operation and construction of a campus is definitely a team effort. The success of the facilities department is dependent upon a team of staff who work well together toward the common goal of the university. I see my role as ensuring our department understands our role in fulfilling the mission of the university, and that we have the right staff in the right place that will work together toward that end. Through trust and delegation, the role of the director can be leveraged to accomplish the many tasks that help keep a university running. To paraphrase, a director needs to know when to delegate, when not to delegate and the wisdom to know the difference.

You have a bachelor's degree in engineering science and a master's in mechanical engineering, both from Iowa State University, and taught thermodynamics and other courses while overseeing capital projects at your alma mater. How has classroom teaching informed the way you approach facilities management and development?

At Iowa State University I had the wonderful opportunity to teach senior-level heating and cooling design courses and entry-level thermodynamics courses for the mechanical engineering department. I quickly learned what was important and not important in helping students learn and the impact facilities had on my efforts. It became clear to me that there is a certain level of service that is necessary, but not sufficient to provide a high-quality learning environment, and that to truly excel in delivering facilities services we needed to move beyond just providing the basics. The challenge then became implementing those things I found to be important and beyond the basics and translating them into specific plans and actions for the facilities staff.

Today when a faculty member comes to me with a concern I hearken back to my days of teaching and I can immediately understand the basis for their concern. For example, I often find that faculty bring their problems to us in the form of their solution. Sometimes that solution will not work, is not according to code requirements, or is not appropriate for some other reason. Because I have had the opportunity to teach, rather than just saying "no," I am often able to relate to what they are truly trying to accomplish and suggest a means of meeting their needs with a different solution.

As another example, white boards are always a challenge and sometimes frustrating for custodial staff to keep clean, keep markers and erasures in supply and in generally good repair. It is a thankless task that takes a lot of time and effort. But having spent many hours in front of white boards I understand the significance of a good white board. I explained to facilities employees that the white board is my main communication tool, and while I can speak to students, the white board is my tool for creating a visual image to help with the learning process. Just like a clean mop or a sharp saw are important tools for us in facilities, the white board is an important tool for the faculty to teach our students, and we need to keep that "saw sharp" for the faculty. That comparison put white boards in a whole different light.

You spent 16 years at Iowa State University and 10 at Colorado College before coming to UCCS, and developed a well-regarded expertise in campus facilities management, planning, design, environmental health and safety and transportation. After so many years in this business, what remains the single most challenging aspect of your job?

The greatest challenge can be summed up in one word, "resources." And fundamental to having enough resources is funding. There is a fundamental triangle of facilities management: quality, speed and resources. If you want quality and speed then you need to have the resources. If you are willing to give some on quality or speed, then the demand for resources is less. So a facilities manager is always trying to balance the expectations of his or her many stakeholders for quality and speed with the resources that are available. It is this balancing act that I find most challenging, and rewarding, as a facilities administrator.

CU campuses in Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver together boast more than a half-dozen buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's prestigious rating program Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED. The UCCS recreation center was the first building in southern Colorado to obtain a LEED gold certification, and the recently inaugurated Science and Engineering Building is likely to obtain one of the program's highest ratings as well. These sleek, modern buildings seem to debunk the notion that campus structures have to be weathered, ivy-covered halls. What is your philosophy when it comes to eco-friendly construction and building management on a college campus?

As facilities management has evolved over the past few decades, greater and greater demands are being place on the people involved with designing, constructing and maintaining facilities to meet a diverse array of expectations. And we are learning. We are learning how pedagogical changes, spatial relationships, color, outdoor spaces and other elements impact a building's design to enhance the learning experience. In addition, not only is the building expected to meet its fundamental role of providing a quality learning environment for students and researchers but it is expected to be flexible for future unknown needs, energy efficient, socially responsible, accessible, meet code requirements, be aesthetically beautiful and safe to name just a few.

Once again, the facilities manager's role is to find the balance between all these expectations and the resources available for the project or facility. From this perspective, building a LEED-certified building becomes one of those balancing components with a certain level of priority at certain decision points. For example, at key decision point energy efficiency may have the highest priority while at other times fire safety may play a more important role in the allocation of resources. As more and more diverse goals and expectations become part of the expectations for the building, the facilities manager's role becomes more and more important in managing to the "right balance."

Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

I really enjoy teaching. I am a certified flight instructor for airplanes and gliders and I am a certified ski instructor at a local ski resort. I am also a certified Franklin-Covey 7 Habits facilitator. I love creating that "aha" moment for students when they suddenly get it. It is a great reward to be a part of the excitement that learning creates. And I think that is why I love my job so much as it gives me an opportunity to leave a legacy through those who receive their education here at UCCS.