Facilities tour

Facility and property management is one of several growing career fields. According to the Department of Labor, “The property, real estate and community association management career field is projected to grow eight percent by 2018.”

As the university grows, studentsmay not realize what it takes to make a facility the size of UTSA run smoothly from an operational perspective. One of the new minors in the college of business, Facility and Property Management offers students a firsthand look at what happens behind the scenes.

Recently, the students enrolled in the new minor had a chance to see this first hand in Professor Mike Noll’s Facility Management Practices when he hosted a facilities tour of UTSA.

The tour began in a classroom on the third floor of the Business Building. The crowd of more than 30 students was much larger than previous years, according to Noll. James Jinks, UTSA’s utilities operations superintendent, acted as tour guide.

The first leg of the tour began by taking the stairs to the roof of the Business building. The view was a rare treat because not many students get to see the university from this aerial perspective.

Noll explained that the lightning rod-covered tar-and-gravel roof was outdated because now cheaper and more efficient roofing systems are available.

The opposite side of the building houses a tunnel complex that serves as a base for the Business building’s internal systems such as plumbing, fire prevention system and the environmental system that heats and cools the building.

In some areas of the basement are large portions of exposed bedrock that gives an impression that it is deeper than it actually is, which adds to the mystery of being in the off-limits area.

The air handling system is an enormous and complex machine controlled by a hi-tech computer system remotely monitored by UTSA’s facility management team. It contains several rooms with doors allowing easy access to the internal workings of the system.

“It’s interesting to see how all of the systems work in the background because it all just happens,” senior real estate finance and development major David Potts said about the tour. “You take it for granted.”

The next destination on the tour was the elevator room of the McKinney Humanities Building. The elevator room has several large moving parts but is so small that it can only fit about 10 students at a time.

The last stop was the South Thermal Plant located in the rear of the south garage. There are two thermal plants at the 1604 campus. The thermal plant regulates the temperature of the water used to cool the air in UTSA’s buildings.

The water absorbs heat from the air and then sends it back to the thermal plant to be cooled and recycled. The plant re-cools the water and it is recycled back into the system. Earplugs are required while inside the noisy area.

The tour continued with a viewing of the computerized control systems, guided by the WinSam plant operators in charge of operating and maintaining the plant systems.

“Our job is to supply the campus’ heating and cooling needs,” plant operator Brett Hoff said.

“The long-term expectation is that facilities management will become a separate major. There is not a specific time-line at this point, but we will probably explore this option before the 2014 Undergraduate Catalog,” said Director of Real Estate Finance and Development program Dr. Thomas Thomson.

“Other universities who have programs in facility and property management have typically had very good employment prospects for their graduates and we expect to see the same for our UTSA graduates.”

Eleven UTSA students in this minor gained employment in this field after graduating.

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