UC San Diego Construction Commodity Manager
To find out more about sustainable practices in campus construction, I conversed with Gary Oshima, the Construction Commodity Manager.
What is the role of a construction commodity manager?
In its simplest sense, my role is to develop
strategies to maximize our campus spend for construction related expenses. My position is within the Procurement (IPPS)
department of Business Finance but my role deals closely with Capital Planning
Management (CPM) which is responsible for new and large construction projects,
Housing, Dining and Hospitality (HDH) which is responsible for construction of
all student housing and dining projects, Facilities Management (FM) which is
responsible for maintenance, repairs and minor remodels of the buildings on
campus as well as limited work with the Medical Center and the UC Office of the
President regarding system wide construction measures. I look for synergies in
each of these departments that may not be realized individually. “Maximizing our spend” of course means
reducing costs but it also could mean adding value where it didn’t previously
exist. For example, I am working to
establish a campus standard interactive information kiosk which will provide
immediate, on-line information for any user on campus.
What Procurement Sustainability Goals is UC San Diego trying to achieve? How are we doing?
You are certainly aware of the Sustainability
goals that the University has both system-wide and campus-wide. CPM and HDH have similar construction goals –
minimum LEED Silver, Energy and Utility efficiency, Sustainable materials,
etc. For Procurements, our goals are not
as well defined because part of what we are trying to develop is a mindset that
includes environmental responsibility in the all the decisions that we
make. Yes, we do procure energy
efficient or environmentally friendly products but we are also looking at how
we can improve our services or how we can influence our suppliers to be more
An excellent example of improving our services
is our Material Support Services team.
The MSS is responsible for delivering packages and supplies to all the
campus users. They have set daily routes
and have knowledge and access to all buildings on campus. With the rise of Amazon, Federal Express and
other direct shipping services, there was a considerable increase of delivery
trucks on our already crowded campus.
MSS has reached an agreement with these private companies to provide the
“last mile delivery”. Essentially, all
packages are now delivered to our central receiving and MSS has assumed the
responsibility of delivering those packages to their final destination. The benefit to the shippers is that they no
longer have to negotiate delivery to a campus which has no building addresses
and the benefit to the University is that we get more reliable delivery,
considerably less traffic and a reduced carbon footprint.
An example of how we influence suppliers is
that we encourage companies who have implemented good sustainable
practices. Each RFQ that is issued has a
“Sustainability” component in the evaluation which rewards those suppliers who
are awarded the contracts.
What challenges do you experience when trying to incorporate sustainability into a construction project?
IPPS procures nearly everything that the
University buys: equipment, furniture, office supplies, clothing, food, cars,
and more. The one exception is that,
typically, we do not buy construction materials. The reason that we don’t is because we hire
General Contractors to build our buildings and it is the Contractor’s
responsibility to procure all of the materials that they need. As such, we don’t directly control what
materials and products are purchased for our capital improvements. Certainly we have some impact in the
materials by what we require in our specifications but we cannot dictate which
suppliers or sub-contractors that the General Contractor selects. In general, the Contractors that work on new
capital projects on campus have sustainability goals and values that align with
the University but construction is a very budget oriented business. There is a saying, “In the end, nobody cares
about being noble – show me the money” that is apropos. Everyone agrees that
Green building practices are beneficial but each initiative still must prove to
be fiscally prudent. One of the
challenges that we face as a University is to look at the cost of a building
holistically on a life cycle cost basis rather than on a construction cost
basis. In short, there are decisions
that we can make during the construction phase which may cost more initially
but will prove to save money during the lifetime of the building. We need to adopt this long range vision of
our buildings in order to justify some more significant changes our new
The recycled plastic asphalt road was such a huge success. What other cutting edge solutions are being considered?
The Recycled Plastic Asphalt road has been a
success for reasons that are yet to be fully realized. The amount of waste plastic that we used for
our road is insignificant and, even if we paved every street on campus, the
impact wouldn’t move the needle on our global waste plastic problem. The real success of our road is that we got
the ball rolling. Our road was the first
of its kind in the United States and the increased interest that we have seen
in cities and counties and national paving associations is increasing every
month. The cities of San Diego, Los
Angeles and Oakland are considering pilot programs with this product. California State Senator Ben Hueso’s office
has contacted us regarding our street.
Two California based manufacturers have signed licensing agreements which
will allow them to source the waste plastic locally – a huge plus for the
domestic viability. Studies with
CalTrans have begun as well as the DOT – approval from these agencies would be
instrumental in pushing the technology. It has been 18 months since we laid our street
but I feel like the technology is finally taking traction with the public and I
expect the interest to grow exponentially over the near future. What direct impact does that success have to
UC San Diego? None. How much money is saved or generated by the
University? None. However, the fact that we were instrumental
in introducing this technology to the US and the potential global impact that
that technology might have is immeasurable.
Why are sustainably minded projects important to you?
UC San Diego is one of the leading research
Universities in the country. In fields
ranging from nanotechnology to climate science to social mobility to marine
biology to geopolitical policy to animal behavior to Alzheimer’s research, UC
San Diego is a hub for cutting edge technology and the testing of unproven
theory. Innovation and Invention and
Discovery are the hallmark of what makes this University thrive. It is core to our campus and is integral in
everything we do. Perhaps the most
important result of this mission is that it teaches our students to open their
minds to new ideas and new possibilities; reach beyond the status quo and
search for new answers. And that
attitude isn’t something that should just come from the classrooms and labs;
that is an attitude that should be fostered everywhere on campus. No one knows what small idea may trigger
another idea that leads to something bigger.
The mindset to always be looking for new opportunities should permeate
the campus in every facet of college life.
The reason why it is important to build a recycled plastic asphalt road
is not so that our students will go out and build a better street; the reason
it’s important is because it helps show people that maybe there’s a better way
to do things. Innovation is everywhere
and it is the responsibility of all of us in the University community to
remember to promote that ideal. We don’t
offer any classes in it and we don’t offer any degrees but the ability to wonder
and experiment and invent are among the greatest lessons to be learned.
Each fall, we get 10,000 new students coming
to campus. They’re young, they’re bright
and they’re eager to learn. We have four
years to influence how they look at the world and how they are going to make
their mark. After that, they all go off
in 10,000 different directions to shape the world in their own way. Who knows what small idea or thought leads
them to greater things. We will never
know exactly how their four years with us have impacted their careers or their
lives – or if it’s even impacted them at all.
But it’s important to remember that it is all of our responsibility to
be sure that those four years are a positive and responsible experience. That’s all we can do. The road starts here – and our road is paved
in recycled plastic asphalt.
“We are the
University of California, and there is no reason that UC can’t lead the world
in this quest, as it has in so many others.”
President Janet Napolitano, University of California. Statement issued during the announcement of
the Carbon Neutrality Initiative of the University of California.