Head Architect James Brown and Vice President of Operations Eric Conrad said they are working to fulfill President John Tanner’s direction for BYU-Hawaii’s buildings and facilities to “exude light” through new construction projects for new facilities.
Tanner said in an Aug. 4, 2015 devotional, “May we learn in the light, may we come to love light, and may the light of God radiate always from our lives...”
The facilities include the new courtyard by the hales, and in the planning and approval processs, a new science and math building, which would replace the General Classroom Building, and a new cafeteria.
“We’ve got a ton of different construction going on on-campus,” said Conrad. “The other thing I’m supposed to help with is facilities management because the church is investing a ton of money into construction. They want to make sure we maintain it well.”
Brown said, “We are trying to create a better educational environment for students, not just build a bunch of places to warehouse people.”
For the last couple years, the university’s construction efforts have been focused on updating the school’s infrastructure so it’s capable of supporting the new facilities and expanded campus, according to Brown.
“Now we’re doing new stuff. It’s going to be very modern and different.”
One of Conrad’s goals is for the campus facilities to be on the same level as the other church schools.
“It shouldn’t matter where you go: BYU, BYUI or here. The bathrooms should be just as clean and maintained the same way. The air conditioning the same way. I’m just here to ensure that happens,” said Conrad.
He said it’s much more challenging to maintain the facilities here on the North Shore because of the salty air from the ocean. “The conditions here in Hawaii are really corrosive, which isn’t good on any building. Metal and infrastructure pieces in buildings deteriorate a lot faster here than in the mainland.”
Conrad said when he first started working here, they went to look at a piece of exterior equipment on the roof of the Heber J. Grant Building. The piece, which he said on the mainland would last 40 years, had completely rusted through in less than four years.
Brown explained in Hawaii they have to treat the interiors the same as exteriors because none of the hales and faculty housing use air conditioning, which means more expensive projects.
Brown said the students should recognize that spending money on facilities is an investment for them.
“All the [using of] resources, tithing funds, are done so the students can have an awesome experience no different than you could have at one of the other institutions.” Brown said the goal is to have the “same level of facilities [and] same level of education, but be in a much more awesome place.”
Brown oversees the designing of all the buildings and wanted students to know theyput hundreds of hours into deciding the designs and functionality of buildings.
Both Conrad and Brown said students should be prepared to see a lot of changes..
“It may take us 10-to-15 years to get to where the university needs to be,” said Brown. “It’s been 40 years since they’ve done [this] much construction.”
The new hale courtyard and cafeteria are being built as gathering areas to improve student’s campus life experience, said Brown. “The intent is to change the dynamic,” said Brown. “It’s so the students have a place they can really thrive in.”
Brown explained the school’s goal to eventually expand to 3,200 students with 95 percent living on campus.
Brown said he and his team are focusing on creating buildings that are both functional and modern but also welcoming to students, especially those from Oceania and the Pacific-Rim.
“There’s a quote by Winston Churchill, ‘We shape our buildings. Thereafter, they shape us.’ And so the reality is we design them and then we have to live in them. The decisions we make in the design mandates that we respond to them in the way that they’re built.”
According to Brown, the new cafeteria will contain themes of Oceania and Polynesia including a long house design, heavy timber beam trusses, and full of natural light.
“The hope is that we can create a system there where not only will it be a good place to eat, but also it will be a place where people want to be, and it will become really the new sort of main living space for the campus,” said Brown. “There’s an opportunity for it to really become kind of the living room and dining room of campus. People will be there more frequently since more people will be living on campus.”
Cafeteria student manager, Jealila Amataga, a junior from Samoa majoring in exercise science, said, “Usually we can only host [a little more than] 300 people. The school has more than 300 students so it’s a hassle if everyone comes in at the same time. Plus it’s open to the community too, so it would definitely help Food Services to have a new building.”
The cafeteria will be two-stories with access to an outdoor eating court. The design also includes a lot of glass. “It will be a place to do people watching, to integrate stuff,” explained Brown. “That space has the greatest ability to modify the way life is on campus.”
Another project to modify student life on campus is the new hale courtyard. Brown envisions it as a central gathering point for students.
There will be a “40-foot-high tensile structure that will be illuminated from beneath. It will be like a gigantic lantern at night with a big grass field in front of it for people to come back from PCC or to be done with work at the end of the day and gather in the center of campus; something that’s never existed before.”
Paula Putong, a junior from the Philippines majoring in accounting, agreed. “There’s really not a central place on campus where everyone goes,” she said.
Brown emphasized his team is trying to incorporate themes of Polynesia without turning the campus into a “Polynesian Disneyland.” Brown wants the new buildings to fit in with current buildings but said, “We aren’t trying to build buildings in the 1950s anymore.” He continued, “We aren’t trying to mimic the old architecture, but we aren’t going to turn our back on it.”
One example of the slight changes is the incorporation of more stone into the building aesthetics. Another is the use of double pitched roofs, common in Oceania and Asia, according to Brown.
Brown said his team is constantly coming up with new ideas to integrate the culture and the mission of the school into their buildings. “Some of our ideas don’t work,” said Brown. “Others work fabulously well. We’re on a continuous quest to integrate things the best we can. There are certain modern building elements we have to try and accommodate, and we work around those.”
Conrad added, “We want to increase capacity, and so it was a good time to look at the buildings and add square footage where we can.”
Brown said with expansion comes some growing pains, and he asked students to not only be patient, but also be grateful for the construction of new facilities. “We have a lot of things that are going on right now around campus and I wish that people will be a little patient with us as that happens because there is a vision in it. It’s been approved by the President’s Council, and it’s going to change the way the campus works and looks and operates but it takes time to get there.”
Conrad said, “If you’re constructing, that hopefully means there is some kind of progress and you’re bettering the buildings. If you like the current building great, but I really think you’re going to like the brand new [ones] a lot better.”
Amataga said, “I feel like new buildings can be a big improvement. It can provide a good environment to learn. I’m not saying that we don’t have a good environment right now, but I’m pretty sure it can enhance the learning capability of the students.”
Both Conrad and Brown said they were hired to fill newly created positions to oversee the expanding and upgrading of the BYUH campus.
Conrad said he was hired to oversee that the new facilities were managed properly and to create consistent standards of building management. “I was asked to come here to give some leadership in the construction and facilities management areas and ensure some consistent practices in how we manage projects. How we manage custodial and grounds, so it’s consistent with the other universities and other church properties.”
According to Conrad, he has been overseeing the simplification of current facilities management practices. “It’s simplicity and consistency,” said Conrad.
He recounted being brought a three-page instructional guide outlining a single custodial process. “I said, ‘This is too complicated. I can’t figure it out. I’m not smart enough. Let’s make it simple. We have to figure out the process and get it on one page,’ and I think everyone appreciates that.”
Brown added, “Right now we don’t have standard color schemes. We don’t have standard furnishing that we buy. We don’t have standard plumbing. We don’t have standard specifications. We don’t have a lot of things that would normally be involved with an institutional client that we’ve never had before, so we’re trying to create those things.”
Conrad said his goal is for the school to have perfect maintenance. “The gospel and church is a gospel of order,” said Conrad. “You can build a building that looks really, really nice, and it can be dysfunctional.”
Conrad, who has had more than 20 years of experience in the facilities management field, said he has learned “not to sweat the small stuff. There is stuff to get stressed about, but your family and your relationships at work are most important.”
Conrad hopes his employees can have a healthy work-life balance, recounting the passing away of his first wife and not spending as much time with her as he felt he should have.
“The week before my wife passed, I was coaching soccer and working extra hours. When she passed, I was so upset because I thought, ‘All she wanted to do was watch a movie last week, and I was just too busy and you can’t do anything about it now.’ And so those memories and times are really important.”
“So it’s helping me and my employees to have that work life balance,” continued Conrad. “If you go to work happy, you’re going to go home happy. If you come to work sad, then you’re going to be sad at work or upset, and then other people at work are upset and it’s just a vicious cycle.”
If everyone can have a purpose at work, then Conrad believes it will be a better experience for the Facilities Management employees and for their families.
To improve the work environment and his department’s efficiency, Conrad said he began holding consistent staff meetings every month and weekly one-on-ones with his managers. “They have an opportunity to tell me about their organization and their needs, and I can hear them and help them.”
NOTE: This article's online publication was delayed because it was featured in the Feb. 2018 print issue.