UT System Capital Project Delivery Guide

The Definition Phase

Definition Phase Timeline


Introduction (Back to Top)

The Definition Phase requirements for major new construction and renovation projects address historic trends that minimized early project planning, encouraged excessive contingencies, and resulted in expensive late changes in project scope and budget.  Based on recommendations from the Task Force on Facility Planning for the 21st Century, the new requirements incorporate private sector best practices to promote forward-thinking design innovation, pursuit of construction cost economies, and incorporation of maintenance and operational efficiencies. Accordingly, process changes and new requirements were established to:

  • Formalize an early planning process involving key stakeholders
  • Foster engagement and ownership of the decision making process by the Institutions
  • Encourage early investment in project definition and requirements
  • Emphasizes communication between planning groups and other stakeholders
  • Achieve cost and schedule savings by minimizing changes in projects underway

Approval by the appropriate Executive Vice Chancellor and the Chancellor will allow a Major Project to proceed to the Definition Phase.  The Definition Phase provides authority for the U. T. System Administration and the institutional administration to expend institutional funds up to 5% of the anticipated total project cost to select the project architect and other consultants, confirm the basis of design, develop the formal Facility Program document, and develop schematic project plans.  These funds will be provided by the institution initially but will be reimbursed to the institution from applicable project funds upon design development approval or upon submission of a project application to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (if applicable), whichever is later.

Led by the Project Advocate, the Definition Phase is expected to include the completion of the Owner’s Project Requirements workshop, confirmation of the Basis of Design, resolution of the Facilities Program, and completion of Schematic Design.  It is further expected that the institutional leadership will establish a comprehensive and rigorous set of design and change management processes to more accurately resolve project scope and cost prior to requesting full funding and addition to the Capital Improvement Program (CIP).


1. Receive Approval to Start the Definition Phase of the Project  (Back to Top)

Before becoming eligible for reimbursement of up to 5% of the preliminary Total Project Cost for Definition Phase services, the President of the Institution must receive formal Approval to Proceed with the Definition Phase of the Project from the appropriate Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic or Health Affairs and the Chancellor.

Tasks and Deliverables

1. Prepare a Statement of Need  (Back to Top)

During the initial stages of the Definition Phase, the institution must document the project’s justification by preparing a Statement of Need (SoN) which will be used as a basis for ongoing efforts and required submissions.  The SoN outlines the project’s basic objectives, confirms the project’s alignment with the institution’s needs and strategic planning goals, and confirms its adherence to the currently approved Master Plan.  Key performance indicators and criteria for success are developed to support the SoN, to guide the project definition and execution, and to measure project success throughout the project life cycle.  The SoN and keys to success will be included in the subsequent Owner’s Project Requirements, Basis of Design, and Facility Programming efforts, the Business Plan, and the Project Planning Form (PPF) submission.

The Statement of Need typically addresses the following:

  • Relationship to the department’s strategic plan, including current facility deficiencies/inadequacies
  • Relationship to the Institution’s strategic academic/health plan
  • College/Department’s historical background
  • College/Department’s current asset management condition index, including prioritization of future projects
  • Available funding
  • Expected outcomes and investment metrics from the capital project
  • Instructional, research, public service, and continuing education functions
  • Master plan directives
  • Program analysis of personnel (e.g., faculty and staff, percentage of appointment), enrollment, credit hours and weekly contact hours for academic courses, and research activities
  • Statutory requirements and/or other mandates, if any

2. Procure Professional Services  (Back to Top)

Professional services procurement, selection of providers, and contract administration needed to fulfill the Project Definition Phase must follow the governing laws, regulations, or statutes outlined in the U.T. System Risk Mitigation and Monitoring Plan for Major Capital Projects as well as the procurement and contracting processes established by the UT System institution managing the contract.

Requests for Qualifications

Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) issued to solicit responses from interested architects, engineers, and design-build contractors must include a requirement that the architect, engineer, and design-build contractor evidence agreement to adhere to the approved Campus Master Plan and a set of criteria applicable to the facility program and the needs of the institution.


Contracts with architects, engineers and construction service providers executed and delivered on behalf of the Board of Regents for Major Projects shall comply with guidelines issued by the U. T. System Administration Office of General Counsel and shall be written on a standard form approved by the Office of General Counsel.  Payment and performance bonds, when required by law for contracts, shall be on a standard form approved by the Office of General Counsel.


3. Document the Owner’s Project Requirements  (Back to Top)

The Owner's Project Requirements (OPR) is a written document that defines the goals, functional requirements, and stakeholder expectations surrounding a project’s use, operations, and maintenance.  It provides guidance and metrics for success for all subsequent design, construction, acceptance and operational decisions to ensure consistency and alignment with established goals.  The OPR supplements and informs traditional Facility Programming efforts in order to better address evolving requirements for energy efficiency, sustainability, environmental quality, safety, security, maintenance, and long term cost of ownership.  It is specifically designed to address commissioning requirements early in the design process and, ultimately, to facilitate confirmation that the completed project fulfills its established requirements.

The OPR builds upon the Statement of Need, using collaborative workshops and surveys to gather input from key stakeholders, gain consensus, and establish measurable criteria for success.  The Owner’s Project Requirements documents normally addresses the following topics:

  • Statement of Need
  • Project description
  • Historical significance
  • Funding sources, amounts, expenditures
  • Investment metrics
  • A project management plan
  • Permits, codes, and other impact statements
  • Procurement strategy
  • Total Project Budget/Cost
  • Total duration schedule and required BOR milestone dates
  • Requirements from the Institution
  • Requirements from operations and maintenance
  • Requirements from the Users
  • Requirements from the community
  • List of Project Stakeholders
  • Draft Project Charter

The OPR may be modified and updated as objectives and criteria are further refined in the subsequent Basis of Design and Programming efforts.  More on the process for creating the OPR, its requirements, and its format can be found in The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Guideline 0 – 2019 The Commissioning Process.


4. Complete the Basis of Design Documents  (Back to Top)

The Basis of Design (BoD) is a document that records the thought processes, assumptions, and key performance criteria required to meet the Owner’s Project Requirements.  It is generally focused on design features critical to overall building performance, and captures important information linking the Statement of Need and the OPR to the Construction Documents.  Ultimately, it becomes a key tool in facilitating the commissioning team’s evaluation of the project’s success in fulfilling the Owner’s Project Requirements.

The level of detail in the BoD evolves as the Facility Program and design progress, documenting the underlying reasons for selecting specific components, assemblies, systems and their integration at each phase.  While the content of the document will vary from project to project, it should normally address the following topics:

  • Fundamental BoD Criteria
  • Lifespan of Building Elements Lifespan
  • Economic Parameter for Life Cycle Cost Analysis
  • Architectural and Engineering Criteria (Pre-Programming Phase)
  • Architectural and Engineering Criteria (Post-Programming Phase)

As a direct link between the Owner’s requirements and designer’s drawings and specifications, additions and changes to the BoD must be fully documented by the capital delivery management team and approved by the Project Advocate.

Resources for Completing the Basis of Design
Resources for UT System Institutions Only (get access HERE)


5. Complete the Facilities Program  (Back to Top)

Facility programming is an integrated research and decision-making process that identifies the project scope, including all functional and operational requirements of the work to be designed.  This process expands upon the Owner’s Project Requirements and the Basis of Design by collecting, analyzing, synthesizing, and documenting significant requirements for the project.  The Facilities Program should incorporate the following major elements:

  • Signatures of the institution President, the Project Advocate, and key stakeholders
  • Executive Summary
  • The project goals, needs, and objectives
  • Strategic and master planning requirements for the project
  • Space and adjacency requirements
  • Supporting requirements, including a detailed security assessment for each project
  • Site selection with studies and surveys or existing facility studies
  • Design Parameters
  • Preliminary Project Budget and Schedule
  • Project Implementation Strategies
  • Required expertise for the project team
  • Project issues to be resolved later in the Design Phase
  • Special requirements specific to the Institution
  • Selection of a project delivery method

Per Rules and Regulations of the Board of Regents Series 80402 and 80404, the program document(s) are expected to be approved by the institution President prior to proceeding into the Design Phase.

Resources for Completing the Facilities Program
General Resources
Chapter 12.1, "Programming" by Edith Cherry, FAIA, ASLA, in The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice by American Institute of Architects. Washington D.C., 2008.
Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer, 5th Edition by William M. Peña and Steven A. Parshall. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012.
Resources for UT System Institutions Only (get access HERE)


6. Authorize the Start of the Schematic Design Phase  (Back to Top)

Per BOR Rules and Regulations 80402 and 80404, the authority to release the project architect, engineer, or design-build contractor to prepare Schematic Plans (begin the Schematic Design Phase) resides in the following offices or their delegated agents:

  • OCP Managed Projects – The Assistant Vice Chancellor for Capital Projects
  • Institutionally Managed Projects – The President of the Institution

7. Complete the Schematic Design and Cost Estimate  (Back to Top)

Schematic Design is the initial phase of architectural and engineering design services that produces a diagrammatic representation of the project based on the Facilities Program and further collaboration with the Institution and user representatives.  Conceptual studies and alternative schemes are generated and refined to produce floor plans, sketches of the building exterior and interior spaces, outline-level specifications of materials and finishes, and a narrative description of the proposed building systems.

Schematic Design documents normally include:

  • An updated Basis of Design
  • A preliminary Site Plan
  • A preliminary building code analysis
  • Plans of existing buildings for renovation projects
  • Drawings on a small scale and schematic in nature
  • Brief narrative specification descriptions of the proposed component systems, materials, and equipment, presented in the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) MasterFormat
  • A preliminary construction schedule
  • A construction cost estimate based on (at a minimum) square footage costs for building systems (e.g. foundation, structure, exterior closure, roof, interior construction, specialties, conveying, MEP systems, etc.) typical for the building type and location.

Per the UT System Capital Expenditure Policy, the accompanying cost estimate is expected to be within 30% of the final cost prior to consideration by the Board of Regents.  The estimate should contain sufficient detail to support completion of the FPCC Agenda Item Cost Detail Template, which will be included in the Facilities Planning and Construction Committee Agenda Items and serve as a basis of benchmark comparisons with other similar projects.  The cost categories an definitions used in the template are a subset of those normally required for submission to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and are outlined in the FPCC Agenda Item Cost Detail Template Instructions.  Office of Capital Projects will generate comparative project cost benchmarks, which serve to inform executive decision-making while highlighting the project team’s ongoing cost reduction and management efforts.

Resources for Completing the Schematic Design and Cost Estimate
General Resources
Resources for UT System Institutions Only (get access HERE)


8. Complete the Executive Summary  (Back to Top)

An Executive Summary is required for all FPCC/BOR Agenda Item requests for adding Major Projects to the CIP.  This document is a preliminary and abbreviated version of the Project Business Plan, which must be further developed in the subsequent Design Development phase.  The Executive Summary should include the following sections as outlined in the Executive Summary for Addition to the CIP Template:

  • Brief Project Description
  • Alignment with Campus Master Plan
  • Funding
  • Strategic Implications
  • Project Advocate and Change Management Process
  • Operational Costs/Ability of Institution to Absorb Operational Costs
  • Key Milestones
  • Proposed Site Map
  • Pro Forma (if Revenue System Financing Bond Proceeds are requested)

The schematic design cost estimate, operating costs, and funding plan should inform and support the Executive Summary and serve as the basis for the proposed project when added to the CIP.  The document should include a Pro Forma if funded by RFS debt, identifying what revenue sources will be used to repay the debt.  It must be signed by the Institution’s President, Provost, VP for Business Affairs, Director of Facilities, the Project Advocate, and other key stakeholders at the institution. 

Resources for Completing the Executive Summary for Addition to the CIP
Resources for UT System Institutions Only (get access HERE)


9. Complete the Online Project Planning Form  (Back to Top)

All institutions requesting the addition of a project to the CIP are required to submit an online Project Planning Form (PPF), which collects detailed information about the project, including its key characteristics, its justification (the Statement of Need), the proposed funding sources, the anticipated timelines for expenditure, and key investment metrics.  The PPF is reviewed by the Office of Capital Projects (OCP), and the Office of Finance to affirm appropriate costs, justifications, and the appropriate use of Debt and/or Gift funding for presentation to the BOR.  Because it contains the information necessary for BOR approval, a current PPF is always required in order for the Project to be presented to the BOR.  The PPF can be accessed by visiting the Office of Finance’s Capital Project Approval Process Web Page.


10. Request Addition of the Project to the CIP  (Back to Top)

Following the Definition Phase, addition of a project to the CIP authorizes U. T. System Administration and the institutional administration to expend institutional funds up to 10% of the anticipated total project cost to proceed to Design Development Approval. These funds will be provided by the institution initially but will be reimbursed to the institution from applicable project funds upon Design Development Approval or upon submission of a project application to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (if applicable), whichever is later.

Addition of a project to the CIP includes authorization of institutional management of Major Projects so designated in the CIP.  Requests for institutional management shall be reviewed and approved by the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Capital Projects. Projects approved for institutional management will be included in the CIP. Projects designated for institutional management shall follow the process, authority, and approvals as outlined in Rule 80404 of the Regents’ Rules and Regulations for the full amount stipulated in the CIP.

Prior to requesting the addition of a project to the CIP, it is expected that the institution has completed the Definition Phase requirements with support of the appropriate Executive Vice Chancellor and the Chancellor.  A review and presentation process will then be conducted with U. T. System executive officers and staff, culminating in a presentation to the Facilities Planning and Construction Committee by the institution’s president.

The documents required for Adding a Major Project to the CIP include:

  1. President’s Agenda Item Request Memo, including confirmation of completed Definition Phase
  2. Online Project Planning Form
  3. FPCC Agenda Item Cost Detail per the FPCC Agenda Item Cost Detail Template Instructions
  4. Fully executed Executive Summary
  5. President’s PowerPoint Presentation

The timeline leading up to the president’s presentation to the Facilities Planning and Construction Committee is as follows:

  1. Approximately 7 to 8 weeks prior to the BOR meeting (as per deadlines specified for each meeting), the institution will submit to Office of Capital Projects (cipsupport@utsystem.edu):
    1. A president’s letter to the appropriate Executive Vice Chancellor (Academic or Health), requesting an Agenda Item for the purpose of adding the project to the CIP
    2. A complete, accurate and final online Project Planning Form
    3. A complete, accurate and final CIP Project Cost Detail
    4. An electronic copy of the final fully executed Executive Summary (for distribution to the Regents, EVC, Business Affairs, Real Estate, Finance, and OCP)
    5. An electronic copy of the president’s final PowerPoint Presentation
  2. Based on collaboration with the project team and the information provided in the above listed documents, the OCP will generate cost benchmarks for similar projects and will incorporate them into the Agenda Item and PowerPoint Presentation.
  3. OCP will submit the Executive Summary to the Board Office for inclusion in BOR agenda material sent to the Regents.
  4. The president’s PowerPoint presentation will be included in the overall FPCC presentation and will be set up and ready for presentation at the FPCC meeting.

For additional information on this process, please contact Capital Program Support at:  cipsupport@utsystem.edu.