New building. New disaster.

At work planning is under way to design a new building to house the department and it’s brewing up to be a disaster of managerial proportions. Here’s the history so far, names changed to protect the guilty:

Just over a year ago it was announced that the department wasn’t going to have the current buildings refurbished but instead that we would be moving into a new building during the summer of 2008. This building would be on the site of an existing 1960s concrete, glass and steel monstrosity on South Parks Road.

The University’s Estates Directorate (previously known as the University Surveyors but obviously this wasn’t a grand enough title), the Head of Disaster and a committee of academics (one of which expressed their surprise at being chosen because they knew nothing about buildings) chose the architect after a brief competition. From the start of the whole process I’d talked to the Head of Disaster and told him that it was imperative that I talked to the architects at the very beginning of the project as architects generally think about 2 generations of computing behind the current one and that there have already been a number of complete disasters with computing rooms in the University in the last couple of years because of this. I was assured that I’d be asked as soon as any firm plans were being drawn up.

I’ve been making this view clear now every few weeks or so and asking in meetings for updates on the state of play.

On Monday, Prof. Brian Roadblock, the chairman of the IT Committee, asked me to find the floor area we currently have in our machine room “because the architects haven’t given us enough floor area in the initial design.” This sent the “Red Alert” lights and klaxons screaming in my head. As well as the current floor area I gave him the ball park figures for floor loading, heat output and minimum air through-put per rack for any cluster system which may happen within the near future and stated that it would be important that the architects know this for structural reasons.

In the IT Committee meeting yesterday Prof. Brian Roadblock, who is the only conduit for information exchange between myself and the architects it turns out, dismissed all this as “things the architects don’t need to know” and “I don’t want to get bogged down in detail at the moment” he also stated that “the architects will tell us what they need to know.”

Basically, the whole project is already stuffed. The technical people are either out of the loop or their recommendations will be corrupted by chinese whispers. It’s already about 6 months too late to avert a complete white elephant.