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FM taking advantage of unique opportunities

Dear FM,

Over the past couple months I have been learning about what other higher education institutions, companies and industries are facing, and how they are finding unique opportunities and modified ways of accomplishing work. Today’s message focuses on just that - the unique opportunities and circumstances that this time has provided for our FM groups. Also a thank you to our staff who have risen to the challenge during reduced operations. But first let’s recognize Nirmal Jain...

Congratulations to Nirmal Jain
This past week, Nirmal Jain, Principal Mechanical Engineer in Energy Management, was awarded the 2020 President’s Award for Outstanding Service for his remarkable work and contributions as an employee, expert, instructor and professional liaison for the U of M. As President Gabel commented in the notification letter, Nirmal has become a member of an elite group of faculty and staff of the University community. Congratulations to Nirmal!

WB Custodial staff focus on deep cleaning restrooms, detailing elevators
The West Bank (WB) custodial staff are focusing on deep cleaning the restrooms. They are pressure washing all areas and wiping down all the walls and fixtures and vacuuming vents. While they are in these areas they are reporting any maintenance items that need to be followed up on by carpenters, plumbers and other maintenance staff. The WB staff are also detail cleaning elevators as shown below in the Carlson School of Management. 

Photos above: deep cleaning restrooms; detail cleaning inside and outside elevators. Pictured: Jawad Abdishikur, Adamu Fida, Almaz Gessesew and Michael Moss.

Energy Conservation projects
Since the buildings are operating at reduced occupancy, there is less demand for chilled water and HVAC. The Energy Conservation crew is taking advantage of these opportunities to complete work that would otherwise need a scheduled shut-down.

Photo above: The cooling tower for Andersen Library needed the filter media replaced. Since the chiller can be shut down due to low chilled-water demand, the crew was able to complete this work without interrupting normal building operations.

Identified during a recommissioning study, the 3rd floor labs and offices in the Vet Diagnostic Laboratory were designed with supply air diffusers that could not be adjusted to achieve required ventilation rates. New adjustable supply air diffusers were installed to properly adjust supply air to the labs and offices which will now meet code requirements, and achieve approximately $23,000 in energy savings per year.

Photo above: Large 24 inch supply air diffusers were removed from the hard ceilings. New adjustable diffusers and housings were fabricated and installed by the U of M Sheet Metal shop. 

Making lemonade from lemons or in this case finding homes for Spring annuals
Landcare had an order of Spring flowers that became a surplus they could not plant due to reduced operations. So, Todd Tanner, Zero Waste Program Manager, offered a flower sale to the public conducted over social media. Response was incredible! Close to 500 orders arrived in about 60 minutes - essentially sold-out in 15 minutes. Flower pick-up times were scheduled to 15 minute increments that would follow social distancing standards. This was a teamwork win made possible by people working from home, the ReUse Warehouse, the Landcare Offices and in the nursery. In the end over 250 flower orders were filled with over 1,000 flats of pansies and bulb pots totalling almost $11,000. Landcare turned a potential total loss scenario into a breakeven event - and just in time for Earth Day!

Photo above: Flower orders ready for pick-up.

Water meter installations
The City of Minneapolis has a preventative maintenance schedule to replace large commercial water meters biennially. They work with our Energy Management (EM) Water Utilities crew to get this done, but with our 24-7 campus that can be tricky. It usually happens on 2nd or 3rd shift which requires a lot of coordination. With reduced operations, Water Utilities worked with the city and replaced all of the West Bank meters (except Middlebrook) in a couple of days during normal business hours. And this week, fourteen East Bank meters will be replaced. Big thanks goes out to the District teams who are supporting this work as well.

Photos above: City of Minneapolis employees and Troy Troje from EM Water Utilities working together to replace a water meter.

Enhanced work from Energy Management engineering
The District Engineering team in Energy Management has utilized this unique time period to train Energy Management staff on a Metasys User Interface (MUI). This software is a major upgrade from Johnson Controls, which covers a significant portion of our campus Building Automation System. The user interface is organized into dashboards and the widgets. MUI can be used by logging in through VPN at home, cell phones, tablets, or the UMN network. The Facility Engineers and Associate Control Engineers are using this teleworking time to become familiar with the new interface and update the building graphics to improve the experience for Facilities Management staff.  End users will be able to visualize complex HVAC systems with standardized graphics; examples show below.




Changes to spaces in Health Sciences due COVID-19 
COVID-19 and social distancing has created a new twist to the customer service facing departments on campus. Health Sciences (HS) staff have partnered with the School of Dentistry on a couple of projects: building plexiglass partitions to help protect their administrative staff in each of their reception areas, and adding cubicle extensions for each of their dental chairs.

Photos above: HS carpenter Chuck Wuollet shows off a plexiglass partition and cubicle extensions.

A clever graphic to remind us to physically distance
John Steyer, U Construction Services Manager, worked with Alan Mortenson in the Sign Shop to develop floor stickers (shown below) as visual reminders to employees to maintain 6’ distancing for areas around time clocks, key boxes, etc. With the help of Scott Saunders, Sign Shop Manager, these stickers are now being produced and are available to departments across campus. They adhere to multiple types of floor surfaces without damaging them. Our team at U Construction reacted quickly and efficiently to fulfill a need that supports our campus-wide operations in a meaningful way.


Here are a few more items of interest happening during reduced operations:

  • U Construction is completing concrete repairs outside of Mondale Hall which is normally very hard to schedule due to the heavy foot traffic in this area

  • Landcare is testing some different maintenance practices and fertilizers which may ultimately be more sustainable for our planet earth 

  • The volume of recycling and waste materials is down, providing time for us to make much needed efficiency modifications to the Como recycling buildings

  • Custodial is testing some new materials, tools and practices to help improve ergonomics and cleaning efficiencies 

Last Friday, I had the privilege of being a panel member for an APPA Town Hall “The Impact of COVID-19 on Finance & Higher Education.” Discussions like these take place on a daily basis on what COVID-19 means for higher education, our businesses, our nation and our world. We have a challenging road ahead of us, but we’ll get through it one step at a time. As you know from President Gabel’s last message, the University of Minnesota has begun planning for what a return to work may be like. In FM we are also reviewing how we can support those portions of campus that will be reopening, and as a result we will start to see more FM staff coming to campus. There will be more information to come as open dates are decided and plans unfold. As always, stay tuned to the messages from the Governor and President Gabel.

I am grateful for all your efforts to find creative ways to take advantage of our unique opportunities, and especially those of you on the frontline who are continuing to work on campus. Even in today’s unfamiliar and unsettling environment I am proud to say we are still making the U safe, reliable and welcoming.

Have a great week!



Performance reviews
Employee self assessments are due this Thursday, April 30 in U Review.

Earn 100 Wellbeing Program points by joining Seize the Day! Click here to learn more about it. Or login by clicking here and sign up by May 1. Look for our team logo and name (below), and add your name to join the FM team! Or create your own team.

Check out the Wellbeing Program website for updates to the current offerings to get Wellbeing points.

EAM update
The June 23, and September 28, Go-Live dates are on track. The EAM team is starting manual data entry activities from now through Go-Live. If you want to learn more about data migration, you can revisit the Data Migration Lunch 'n' Learn that was held and recorded on April 23. The May virtual Lunch ‘n’ Learn will cover training for TRIRIGA, click here to sign up. Thank you to everyone who has been involved with the EAM project. To learn more visit

U of M COVID-19 resources

Cleaning Kronos time clocks
Reminder: please do not clean the Kronos clocks with disinfecting wipes. Click here for a ‘how to’ guide on cleaning Kronos clocks.

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