Planning with a Strategic Focus and Critical Work Scope

Every generation seems to have ownership of at least one great conflict, either in response to war or in self-imposed crusades emerging from a visceral reaction to the conditions of life and the pursuit of personal destiny. After the Vietnam conflict was done in the 1970’s, a later president declared ‘the moral equivalent of war’ on dependence of foreign oil. And by the early 1980’s a budding renewable energy industry was beginning to make changes in the fundamental values for the next generation of builders and developers.

By the mid-80’s our national security strategy shifted away from renewable energy and development of national energy resources towards an off-shore cheap oil grab that continues to this day, albeit not at the bargain basement prices that lead to the implosion of the Soviet Union’s oil & gas based economy and defeat in the Cold War. We took our own casualties here also, with 500,000 domestic energy jobs disappeared during the late 80’s and the US Solar Energy Industry decimated from over 440 manufacturers to 40 remnant operations.

The legacy of the ‘Solar Era’ of 1976-1985 in America however was the development of a new understanding of building materials deployed in residential and commercial construction. Certainly, insulation was considered seriously in new buildings like never before and glazing products evolved into insulative shields rather than gaping energy dumps. The whole building envelope had tightened up overall in the mainstream homebuilding during that brief period of energy awareness. And certain practices became ‘common sense’ in the lexicon. Sure, the lovely (or brutally ugly) contraptions known as solar panels (that I invested ten years of my career) all but disappeared from the architectural landscape, as quaint vestiges of the ‘War’. But a new building materials sensibility emerged as a ‘Must do’ for a growing number of projects around the country. Photovoltaic and Domestic Hot Water Solar Panels were nice, but would ‘Wait’ perhaps till sometime in the unknown future of unaffordable oil & gas prices.

So, back to the future, and in the present day the importance of sustainable-built environments in a carbon-neutral society begins to occupy more and more media space and mind-share.

But, the landscape of sensible choice for the developer is disorienting at times, so I am proposing a deceptively simple planning matrix that can be designed to serve as a template-guide for any developer from the largest land company to the individual who has just inherited 40 acres from that rich aunt.

MoSCoW is a project planning tool now being promoted by Environment One Corporation in the electric-utility industry and presents easy adaptation to our industry. It is important when planning a project to list all the other work scope issues that need to be conducted and prioritize them according to: it Must be done, it Should be done, it Could be done, it will Wait. An example is shown by utilizing a business model for Strategic Focus and Critical Work Scope.

MOSCOW planning tool

Even with thorough planning, adaptive flexibility and prioritizing, builder/developer management may still be reluctant to invest the necessary capital to insure a fully sustainable project. In other words, the overall goal is to accomplish all of the Musts, Shoulds and Coulds, within a defined time and at or below budget. The matrix should include, but is not limited to energy requirements, infrastructure impacts, and vernacular aesthetic considerations that will create maximum value for the project. With this new tool we can accomplish great things as we steadily move towards a sustainable society and an even more abundant America.