About Us

Capital Planning's mission is to provide the best possible physical environment to cultivate the success of the Medical College's goals and objectives, now and in the future.

We report to Executive Vice Provost.

Our newsletter,On The Move has news of our current and recent projects.
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  • Office Location:
  • 445 East 69st Street
  • Suite 300
  • New York, NY 10021
  • Phone:  212-746-4700
  • Fax:  212-746-8650
  • Email:  William Cunningham whcunnin@med.cornell.edu

Go to the departmental directory for individual contacts within Capital Planning. You may also use the Weill Cornell Medical College on-line directory to search for faculty and staff.


Capital Planning Organizational Chart


Capital Planning Departmental Directory

  • TBD
  • Director of Project Implementation
  • TBD
  • Assistant Project Manager

Forms and User Resources

User Resource Numbers

  • NYP/WCMC TelecomTelephone Repair 212-746-4357
  • Loading DockDeliveries to 510 E.70th St. 212-746-1647
  • DuplicatingXEROX 212-746-0935
  • LocksmithWeill Cornell 212-962-2966
  • LocksmithNew York-Presbyterian 212-746-1838
  • ITS Help DeskComputer Problems 212-746-4878
  • Engineering & MaintenanceWeill Cornell 212-746-2288

What is a Capital Planning Project?

A capital asset is one which has a useful life beyond that of a disposable product and a cost of greater than $5,000. A capital project is one which affects the capital assets of the Medical College and meets that test.

Capital projects can be as small as changing doors to an office (if greater than $5,000) or whole new building projects. Equipment and furniture purchases are also capital expenses and insofar as they are required for a capital project, should be part of that project. Moving expenses, providing swing space for projects, infrastructure changes related to the project, can be included. Labor costs for professionals contributing to the project can be included. What cannot be included are additional staffing costs resulting from the project, and additional supply and operating expenses because of additional space, more lights, more space to cool, etc.


About Space Management

The Office of Space Management (OSM) is responsible for keeping track of the space occupancy and utilization of facility resources at Weill Cornell Medical College and Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. This involves a perpetual process of acquiring and refining information on the use of the facilities. In a dynamic institution such as ours, the accuracy of the information has a short life span. Therefore, the OSM updates its database and floor plans on a continuing basis and publishes the space information electronically and in hard copy in bi-annual reports.

The increased use of electronic media by our consulting architects and building professionals has increased the accuracy of the information collected and shortened the time until the changes are reflected in the space databases and floor plans.


How Are Capital Planning Projects Done?

Capital projects only succeed if they are done in a logical, linear, stepwise fashion. Every next step depends on decisions made at the step before as the project proceeds from the general to the specific. This simple approach is complicated in an academic environment because our goals and objectives are diametrically opposed: we iterate over and over in education and science in order to get to the correct diagnosis or discovery.

It is important for us to realize that health care and education design and construction represents less than 15% of the annual US construction spending. Accordingly despite how important we think we are, the industry is not going to adjust for us. Rather, we need to adjust our thinking when embarking on a Capital Project so it moves forward the way the industry expects. If we do not, the projects become very difficult, costly, and late because every time we decide something out of sequence, the process for that item and many items surrounding it, starts over. Costs rapidly escalate and other work is significantly affected by any change in decision which is out of sequence.

After identification of a project need, the sequence of a capital project includes a number of significant steps:

  • Programming: This is the most significant step for us and for users. Carol Cordes, and another A representative of Capital Planning and, often, a design professional (architect or interior designer) will meet with users to question them about how the desired program, how it will function, how many individuals work there, what they do, how supplies come and go, whether outside visitors such as patients are expected, and the like. The purpose of this exercise is to tease out the space needs including those needs which are not immediately evident to the user, such as support spaces and support services like ITS. As a result ideas for where it can be located, whether it will fit in the location intended, or whether that location works well based on the function, can be determined. This exercise also reveals whether other ancillary services are affected, like radiology would be if a new MD practice is established. The result of this step is a written space program, often accompanied by a narrative describing the project's use, which the user will be expected to approve in writing, before proceeding to the next step.

  • Schematic Design: In this step, the design professional takes the agreed upon space program and develops one or more ways the spaces can be arrayed in the area intended. If a building is involved this is the time the building is "designed". Schematic plans flow from what is often called a "parti"- a concept of how the spaces should flow, and look- which is based on the written program. Basic demands of the spaces on the mechanical systems can be determined at this point and often a cost estimate produced to a moderate level of accuracy. Users will be expected to review and approve a schematic design before the next step is commenced and stick with the decisions made at that time.

  • Design Development: Once the schematic design is approved, the design professional takes it apart room by room and system by system to develop the detailed requirements. For example in an exam room, the placement of the table, the lighting, the outlets, and the services are determined. In a laboratory, the exact design of the casework, locations of freezers, equipment, and furnishings are determined. Since all these things are connected identification of the specifics and the array of spaces determined in schematic design, allow reasonably accurate determination of the cost of the things which go in the spaces and the services, such as pipes and wires, which connect them. For a whole building, this phase includes development of the exact design of building elements and building and mechanical systems. Fixtures and finishes are selected and approved, and special equipment which requires special outlets or plumbing or ventilation, selected. Once these are selected, a change of a choice can have wide ranging implications to the cost and scheduling of the project, as noted above. Accordingly, user involvement and approval of all decisions made in this phase is critical.

  • Construction Documents: During this phase there is little to no user involvement as all the important decisions about the project are made. The design professional and its affiliated engineers and specialty consultants, retreat to their offices to turn the decisions made in schematic design and design development, into contract documents. These include plans, a written specification of the materials, and a contract and become legal documents between the owner and whoever is selected to build the project. The only way these documents can be altered once issued is by the often misused term "change order"; a change order is a directive issued by the design professional to the builder, to modify the terms of the contract and it should be used sparingly if at all due to the extreme cost and time penalties resulting. Users are usually NOT expected to approve construction documents as they are written and drawn in a language which is not easy for lay people to understand and are devices for the design professional to communicate with the builder, not the user.

  • Bidding and Negotiations: During this step the contract documents are "let" to one or more builders to execute. This can occur in a number of ways; the two most popular methods for educational and health care work are lump-sum competitive bidding and construction management. In the former method, the contract documents in their entirety are given to a selected list of builders who are qualified for the type of work anticipated and they compete to see who can execute the project at the lowest cost. In the latter, a general construction firm is engaged by a competitive qualifications method, who becomes the College's ally in the process. Based on estimates from subcontractors (there are often 50 or more specialty contractors on a Capital Project) they establish a budget for the project which is accepted by us, and then competitively bid each trade as they go along. There are plusses and minuses to each method which this office evaluates and the decision is not one for the user to make. Once concluded, the result is a voluminous contract between Cornell University and the selected builder based on the contract documents, which in turn are based on the program, schematic, and design development decisions made along the way by the design professional and user.

  • Construction Administration: It is during this step that the project is actually built. Contractors, construction managers, and subcontractors' efforts are coordinated largely by the general contractor or construction manger, to execute the work in a logical fashion, once again from the general to the specific. Many users are familiar with this phase or have experienced the disruption of adjacent areas it frequently causes, especially when there are substantial changes to an existing facility which is served by utilities (electricity, air, hot and cold water, steam, etc.) from building systems which also service other areas and need to be shut down to allow changes to occur in the project area. What most users do not appreciate is the enormous amount of upfront work which occurs before materials are put in place. Unlike furniture, lab, or medical equipment, building products are relatively "raw" materials: steel, brick, pipes, ducts, etc. which need to be custom fabricated to exactly what is needed for the project. What occurs between letting of the contracts and users seeing materials on the job is the production of "shop drawings", which are detailed manufacturing drawings explaining how each piece is made or assembled in excruciating detail. Also not visible are "coordination drawings" which are made by the general contractor, which show exactly where each pipe, wire, switch, and structural element is to go so they don't interfere with each other. This is particularly important in ceilings and "tight" spaces where there are lots of different things which want to be in the same place at the same time. Each of the subcontractors and our own Engineering & Maintenance Department contribute to this effort and generally speaking, things are installed as shown in a certain order which places the least flexible items first and the most flexible items, like computer wiring, last.

    During this step the design professionals remain involved in very important ways. Before construction they apply to government agencies for building permits and participate in the selection of contractors. During construction they first monitor the progress of the work and approve drawings prepared by contractors like the shop drawings. Second, they answer questions from the contractors when there are things which are unclear or which the contractor thinks will not work. Third, they make new designs for things which cannot be built due to unforeseen field conditions which are often not revealed until a site is excavated or an existing area, demolished, like ground conditions that are different than expected or rusted steel or existing pipes not where they are supposed to be. Most importantly every month they evaluate the progress of each of the "trades" to approve the contractor's "requisition" or request for payment. Toward the end of the phase they produce "punch lists" which reflect things not built in accordance with the drawings, and they certify to various government agencies that the project is complete.

    It is extremely important to note that punch lists are the province of the architect and contractors. They are not to be used by users who have forgotten things or see things they don't like or which don't meet their expectations; these are, if anything, "wish lists" and should never be referred to as punch lists. Our project managers will make this patently clear at the beginning of every project from now on. Moreover punch lists ONLY reflect things which are not built or installed the way they are called for on the construction documents; they are not a vehicle to make changes. The only vehicle for that purpose is a change order to the contract.

  • Getting Projects Approved: All capital projects are subject to a review by the Executive Vice Provost's Planning and Strategy Committee which meets most Wednesdays at 2 pm. The purpose of that committee is to ensure that projects requested by departments are in keeping with the overall Strategic Planning effort in place for the Medical College, current strategies, and are covered by some legitimate funding source. The Medical College embarks on regular Strategic Planning efforts roughly every 5 to 10 years, which address the program needs, goals and objectives the Overseers, Dean and Department Chairs wish to achieve. At this time (2011) Strategic Plan III is the operative one, and it is a plan which will primarily enhance the College's research agenda through the creation of interdisciplinary research efforts centering on disease areas, rather than by Department. There are clinical, academic, and college life initiatives as part of the plan also.

    Every Capital Project must be approved by our governing body, the Board of Overseers, and in some cases, the University Board of Trustees. Projects up to $1million in total cost can be approved by the Associate Provost; projects above that must be approved by the Overseers and its Real Estate, Renovation and Facility Planning Committee, and projects above $10 million must be approved by the Board of Trustees and its Buildings and Properties Committee. Presentations to those groups are orchestrated by Capital Planning. Users are occasionally asked to participate in such presentations to defend their requests. Following approval the project is defined in a written document called the Project Approval Request which is then approved by the appropriate Senior Management individuals and becomes the "bible" of the way the project's success is judged.


How Do Capital Planning Projects Originate?

There are several ways a capital project comes into being:

  • Strategic Plans: As noted above, periodically the Medical College prepares Strategic Plans outlining its goals and objectives. Usually, these plans bring with them new programs which have space needs. Frequently, the major component of the cost of a Strategic Plan is a capital project to house these programs. The larger and more complex of our projects, such as new buildings or major initiatives, flow from Strategic Plans so they are small in number but large in dollar value. Projects called for in recruitments which stem from Strategic Plans are also commenced through this route.

  • Departmental Requests: From time to time, research, clinical, academic and administrative departments of the Medical College, make changes to their staffing, operations, or functions which require changes to their physical space. Chairs, directors, or departmental administrators call us to implement these changes. Our process is to have the Campus Architect, with or without professional assistance depending on the complexity of the request, make an initial analysis of the request. Then, on a regular basis, we review their requests with the Associate Provost, the Senior Director, Financial Planning, and the Associate Dean for Planning to ensure that their requests are not covered by nor conflict with something called for in a strategic plan; that the department is adequately funded to pay for the project, and that it makes sense in terms of space and resource use on a Medical College-wide basis. It these three tests are passed, we then assign a project number upon receipt of a cost center to which to charge the work, and proceed with the process described above, to develop the project and seek its approval from the Overseers and Trustees, as dictated by what we think the project will cost. We receive many requests over the course of a year and they vary widely in dollar value, from moving a door to renovating a whole wing or floor. Increasingly, we will be seeing clinical projects conducted jointly with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. For these, no consistent pattern has been established, but examples to date include establishing a joint planning committee to follower by approval by both institutions.

  • Code requirements: Infrequently, but importantly, fire, building, or use codes change which mandate that we alter some portion of a facility. These projects emanate from other administrative departments, most frequently Employee Health and Safety or Engineering and Maintenance.

  • Infrastructure: All of the College's Strategic Plans, as well as annual capital budgets, contain provisions for upgrading the oldest and least functional portions of the heating, ventilating, air conditioning, plumbing, medical gas, fire safety, and information service systems. These projects are normally handled by Engineering and Maintenance but if they involve a number of construction trades, or dramatically impact an occupant, we execute them through Capital Planning. Departmental projects noted above often contain major infrastructure components, because frequently departments wish to introduce new equipment or procedures for which the building they are using is inadequate. These projects are frequently also the most disruptive to our users as they require shutdowns of various services, and very costly which is why in general, we attempt to locate complicated process or equipment in newest buildings rather than the oldest.


How Do I Start A Project?

Place a call to the campus architect or the senior director and we will take it from there.



Capital Planning Projects

Sleep Center
  • Library Bookstore
  • 575 Lexington Avenue - 5th/6th/9th/10th & 11 Floors
  • Belfer Research Building
  • Weill Greenberg Center
  • 156 William Street PO Clinical Offices
  • 40 Worth Street PO Clinical Offices
  • Psychiatry 215 East 68th Street
  • East Side Physicians Offices Expansion
  • Compressive Weight Control Center
  • 2315 Broadway West Side Practice
  • Lasdon House Hypertension