A Word from Our Owners – Damien Center

Alan Witchey is president and CEO of the Damien Center, Indiana’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization. Alan began working with the Damien Center as a volunteer in the 1990s and later became a full-time employee. He has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management, previously serving as executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP).



Some Owners come to us as they are still developing the vision for their space. They need an outside perspective on what is working currently and what isn’t—should they make renovations, add on, find a new space, or build from scratch?

Damien Center, Indiana’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization, serves more than 4,000 individuals affected by HIV/AIDS every year. They’ve seen an increased demand for their wraparound services, as well as shifting demographics. They knew their existing space wasn’t working perfectly anymore, but they needed guidance. Schmidt Associates conducted a building and space needs assessment to help them determine their next steps.

Why are the services the Damien Center provides so critical?

People with HIV are more likely to have other sexually transmitted diseases, higher rates of homelessness, and mental health and addiction issues. It’s very common for our clients to come in and have a host of other issues that need to be addressed, including food insecurity, legal issues, or counseling needs. We can address all of those issues collectively under one roof. We’re a one-stop-shop.

The sooner they get into care, the more likely they are to be adherent to their medication regimen and eventually become virally suppressed. That means they are living a healthy, normal life, and they cannot pass on the virus to others.

Have you seen trends in the demand for your services that affect your facility needs?

When we are considering future spaces, we really have to look at who is accessing services here. One of the key things we continue to see is a growth in young people that need support and services. Many of the new infections are among young people ages 18 to 29. That means services and outreach efforts and education all have to be tailored to meet their needs and appeal to them. We also see a lot of patients who are racial or ethnic minorities—that’s the majority of our clientele. So how do we make sure that everything we’re doing is culturally competent? We also serve the LGBTQ+ population, who are often marginalized and not accepted in many areas of their lives.

Many of our clients don’t feel comfortable going to a large medical institution. Parking in a giant parking garage, getting inside the building, getting around when things aren’t labeled well. The institutionalized feel of those buildings doesn’t make people feel comfortable and safe.

As we serve those key populations, they need to feel this is a second home for them. We want them to feel welcomed, accepted, and seen as valuable. We often hear that patients don’t feel welcome in their own home, but they feel welcome here.

Why did you do a building/space needs assessment?

One key issue we struggle with is space. It’s hard when you’re not in [the architecture business] to know how to translate the need into actual square footage. I know we need more space for certain departments, but I don’t know what that means. We wanted to assess our current space — How are we using it? Are there other ways we can use it more effectively? Can we build on to gain enough space, or do we need to find another location, or would we need to build from the ground up?

What did you learn?

The surprise was that we need more space than we thought. We found we were using the space as well as we could and using all available spaces—we were cramming into closets and hallways, which makes it complicated to provide services.

We’re also in an old building, so we are not always ADA compliant. We are grandfathered in right now with this building, but in a new space, we have to learn and follow these regulations. That’s hard to figure out on your own.

What challenges do you face in pursuing a new space?

We have a strong vision of what we’re trying to create, but we have to understand the space we need. We have to think about not just where we are today, but how we make sure a new space is not immediately outdated and will accommodate us five or 10 years in the future. In our industry in particular, there are a lot of changes and evolutions in care. Where we will be in five years will be radically different than where we are today.

We know how to save people, improve people’s lives. But we don’t know how to build buildings. It is really important for us to have someone like Schmidt Associates to give us the knowledge and expertise so we can make educated decisions.

What opportunities do you see for your program in the future?

There’s been a growth in health disparities in our community and our country, and I think Damien Center is really committed to being at the forefront to address those issues. Our key goal is to improve the health of our community as a whole, and in order to do that, we need to improve the health of our clients and patients.

It would be amazing if we could have a brand new building on a new piece of property that is very celebratory of the past, as well as recognizing our future—something that culturally makes a lot of sense and helps us meet our patients where they are.

Planning for the Future: Facility Assessments and Master Plans

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra

Most organizations see great value in planning for the future. Time is often spent on developing both long-term strategic plans as well as yearly actionable business plans. If you are an organization that owns your own facility, one piece that is often missing from the planning process is taking the time to understand how the facility supports your current needs or how it will address your changing needs as you look toward the future.

Two of my favorite tools we use to support our Owners are Facility Assessments and Master Planning Processes. Taking the time to review and understand the current state of your facility can save you from making costly mistakes for the future.

What is a Facility Assessment?

A facility assessment looks at the existing conditions of your building: site, building envelope, interiors, mechanical systems, etc. It identifies any code or accessibility issues as well as areas needing updating or repairs. It then assigns a cost to fix the deficiency and allows you to update the assessment as improvements are made.

The benefits of a Facility Assessment:

  • Comprehensive understanding of current building, site, and system conditions
  • Detailed maintenance plan with anticipated costs and estimated life expectancy i.e. replacing an aging roof or mechanical system
  • Awareness of any code violations that could affect the health, safety, and welfare of the people using your facility

What is a Master Plan?

A Master Plan will look at how your facility supports your organization’s mission and goals. It identifies how the space currently addresses your needs and how to accommodate new growth initiatives. If necessary, it will outline what renovations or additions should be made, along with the associated costs and schedule.

The benefits of a Master Plan:

  • Compares your current program offerings and space allocation to future plans identifying what growth is needed to support new initiatives
  • Outline a plan for future needs and growth
  • Includes an opinion of probable construction cost to allow your organization to outline your funding needs

Some building improvement items can be costly. Getting these in your budget early helps with planning and funding so you do not get caught by surprise with high ticket items. Not to mention the additional cost of redoing work if it has already been built. For example, placing new mechanical equipment right where the new addition wants to go.

When organizations use these tools it not only helps plan for the future, but allows others to clearly understand where you are going. Utilizing a Facility Assessment and Master Plan outlines the plans and financial impact that you can share with donors, grantors, and the community. Giving you the tools to bring others along as you move to align your facility with your goals and strategic plan.

Reach out to us and see how we can help you plan for your future.

A Word from our Owners – The Salvation Army Indiana Division

Majors Bob and Collette WebsterMajor Bob Webster – Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army Indiana Division

Major Robert Webster is a graduate of Asbury College with a degree in physical education and recreation. He also holds a Masters of Ministry degree from Olivet Nazarene University. Prior to becoming a Salvation Army officer, he worked as a physical education teacher for the Tampa, FL public school system and as a Community Center and Recreation Director in Atlanta and Indianapolis.


Schmidt Associates regularly has Owners ask us about Facility Assessments and Master Plans, and how they can help guide their decisions. This month we took a minute to talk with The Salvation Army Indiana Division about how we helped them with both a comprehensive Facility Assessment and a Master Plan.


What made you realize The Salvation Army in Indiana needed a Facility Assessment and Master Plan?

We recognized we have a lot of facilities with no plan for operations and maintenance, and we had no way to determine what state they were all in. We wanted to know the health of the facilities, and try to evaluate how much would be necessary to spend to bring them back to an acceptable standard of health.

The entire process took longer than we thought it would get it done, but we had to take things to our advisory board and property committees. While the Facility Assessment and Master Plan were being developed, we also had a feasibility study done for a possible capital campaign. This all compounded what we thought would take a couple of months, and took longer since there is always a next step of approval.

The assessment of the facilities itself however went quickly. The Schmidt Associates team went to the facilities, gathered information, and wrote a thorough report.

How has the Master Planned guided your actions?

It helped us tremendously in the fact that combined with the assessment tool, it helped us to focus our priorities to better facilitate our clients, the people we work with every day. The Master Plan helped us recognize what steps were needed, and in what order, to get our vision done. We couldn’t do that without having a secure foundation. It allowed us to focus on what needed to be done and how to spend our resources.

At our camp, we were trying to figure out what the best way to spend the money would be. We wanted to expand, but also had liabilities with the existing facilities needing to be brought up to an acceptable manner. This was done alongside the Schmidt Associates team and provided recommendations of what needed to be done first.

Overall, we’re pleased with the process. It was enlightening how much we really needed to get done because the study was so thorough. It made us aware of all the intricacies needed to stay functional.

Did it change what you thought you needed to do from a facilities perspective? If so, how?

We knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done at our Headquarters, so we needed to figure out if we should invest in our existing building or relocate. When the neighbors decided to buy our building, it made the decision easier to put the money from the sale towards the new property instead of spending money to remodel. Had we invested in a remodel, we would not have been able to get additional square footage and additional parking. By relocating, we were able to invest in a larger space to better suit our needs.

In our other facilities, it helped us set a priority of what needed to be done first. We knew the HVAC at Harbor Light was a priority. However, this wouldn’t have been the first thing we did if it wasn’t for the study. Ironically, as the study finished, the chiller at Harbor Light died, which made us realize the report was providing us an accurate priority.

We found out things we didn’t want to spend money on, but recognized we needed to so we could move forward. It allowed our board to understand the necessity and reason since it was a third-party recommendation.

Describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates?

It was certainly pleasant. They are very knowledgeable in what they do. They did a great job of explaining it to non-technical individuals allowing us to understand each priority and need. The customer service was wonderful and the organization is run with excellent leadership. We recommend them to organizations all the time.


If we can help you assess or master plan your facilities, reach out!

Assessment-Based Insights

Building Quality Depends On Decision Quality.

And Quality Decisions Need Rock Solid Foundations.

In times of budget pressure, every capital project in every school has to make the best possible sense for all stakeholders. Our assessment-based approach provides a trustworthy and transparent foundation for key decisions.

Every Decision Rationale Needs To Be Rational

It goes without saying that every administrator, every educator, and every parent wants the very best for every aspect of their students’ learning journey. Yet it rarely needs to be pointed out that there is huge pressure on financial resources too. Reconciling the ideal with the feasible is both an art and a science. With Schmidt Associates’ process, the science is present and proven. We don’t deal in approximations. We do apply a method of analyzing a situation that, while recognizing fully the emotional investment involved, also addresses the bottom line.

Our Conditional Facility Assessment takes an expert and structured look at all the school structures and other physical issues involved in a potential project. Our in-house specialists assess the key categories of site conditions, building shell, building interior, and equipment and environmental conditions. We carefully and objectively score conditions and performance against a five-point scale and allocate a suitability rating to the individual components of the school’s built estate. We then calculate a dollar projection for the costs associated with bringing each component up to optimum standards.

When Everything Is A Priority, It’s Crucial To Understand Real Urgency

Schmidt Associates’ assessment-based insights replace speculation with the accurate information that administrators and educators need to take rational, high-quality decisions. This information can help optimize decisions around whether to renovate or to rebuild, which projects to prioritize and which can safely remain on the back burner for a while.

A solidly rational rationale for decisions proves time and again to be a significant advantage when presenting final proposals to key stakeholders and the community. This advantage is carried out by the number of our assessment-informed projects that have been successful at referendum.



Does Your School Really Need New Construction?

Schools serve as a fixture within their communities, stirring up nostalgic moments for past students. Like for the college student driving past their old elementary school on their way through town during their first break away from school, remembering those days on the playground during recess. Or for the parents of high school students, strolling through the familiar hallways during parent-teacher night. Or for the spectators who pack in the basketball gym, year after year to support the town’s team. These schools serve as a significant piece of the community’s history far beyond the lessons taught within the classrooms.

When these schools inevitably start to age, the student population starts to grow, or when the schools simply can’t keep up with new programming demands, there needs to be a discussion about what to do moving forward with the facility. Do you really need to tear down the school that has been standing on Main Street for generations and build a completely new building? Can you just update the systems on the inside? Is there enough land on the lot to add a new wing?

Determining whether your school needs new construction begins with developing a space needs facility assessment, looking at both the physical conditions of the building and its capacity to serve educational programming needs. When used correctly, this tool accurately reflects the programs offered and how a facility should look under ideal student loading conditions. We described this tool in a previous blog here as a mechanism to establish criteria to determine equity between and among facilities.

In conjunction with spaces to accommodate the educational program, it is critical to identify and quantify the support areas, such as cafeteria, media area(s), small- and large-group spaces, administrative and mentoring spaces, and the core requirements of restrooms, mechanical, and technology support spaces. Incorporating adjacency studies helps assess whether an existing facility can be adapted, expanded and repurposed, or if it would be more educationally appropriate and cost-effective to build something new.

Adjacencies and facility layouts play a significant role in selecting a new site. Site size is important, but access to the site for vehicles and utilities is equally important to the ultimate success of a new educational facility.

Three key factors contribute to school site selection:

  1. Site size and configuration, including grading, natural vegetation and surrounding contextual elements
  2. Site location and access, as well as the feeder mechanism or facility transformation of elementary, middle, and high school space needs
  3. Natural and legislated external factors, such as drainage ways, utility access, and zoning.

As always, we recommend talking with an architect about your facility before determining if you need new construction.

Roof 101: Steep-slope Roof Material Options

There are 4 main material options for steep-slope roofs: shingles, slate, clay tile, and metal.

The most commonly used material is shingles, which has an average useful life of 20 years. Shingles can come in traditional asphalt form, as well as in rubber or steel.

Slate and clay tile, while beautiful, are the most expensive of the options and may also require expensive maintenance. Because slate and clay tile are natural products, they do not come with a warranty. This lack of warranty can cause extensive repair costs, especially when considering that problems caused by improper installation can start soon after the installation. Further, slate and clay tile roofs can only be attached to a roof by mechanically attaching them, which risks cracking the slate or tile, or clipping them, which may allow for water to seep underneath, freeze, and cause the slate or clay tiles to become detached from the clips.

The third option is a metal roof. While it is expensive, it is relatively maintenance free and gives a modern look that many desire. Metal roofs are installed with clips and proper installation is important to ensure that water seepage does not occur. Schmidt Associates typically specifies two roofs to avoid this problem; a rubber membrane under the metal roof. Hail can also create problems for metal roofs. Damage from a hail storm can be significant since the metal can show dents just like a car. That damage, however, is usually just aesthetic and the metal roof can continue to perform leak free. Without hail and with proper installation, metal roofs can last up to 20 or more years.


Here is another post about roof material options for low-slope roofs, as well as which option we prefer and why.

Pavement Inventory & Maintenance Studies

What is it?

A few school corporations and townships have recently been asking Schmidt Associates to put together a plan book regarding the conditions of their pavements. In short, these pavement inventory and maintenance studies are analyses of the existing pavement conditions, asphalt or concrete, at a particular site.

Here’s how it works…

The pavement is evaluated and rated with a scale that helps determine which sites or areas are most in need of help. Pictures, notes, and maps used to mark the specific problem areas are used alongside a rating chart to best outline the problems and areas needing the most attention and improvement. After the assessment is completed, Schmidt Associates will determine the estimated repair costs for each area needing repair. Finally, we prioritize what areas need to be repaired first so that over a period of time your ratings will get better and your cost for repairs will slowly decrease as problems are strategically tackled. In sum, this process will prioritize the most important repairs for someone’s site and help set a strategic budget plan to complete repairs over time.

The finished plan book includes:

  • Executive summary of the site conditions
  • Pavement and concrete assessment forms (rating charts)
  • Estimated repair costs per site
  • Site plans and maps with marks showing what needs fixed where
  • Photographic documentation
  • 5 year plan outlining the year to year timeline for improvements


What we look for, and the benefits of repairs

The major reason why owners should assess and repair their pavements is for safety and cosmetic purposes. If you want to keep your site from looking run-down or becoming unsafe, sealing and repairing your sidewalks and parking lots can go a long way. In short, it may not be glamorous work, but it needs to be done.

When doing our assessments, here is where we look, and what we look for…

Where We Look:

  • Asphalt running tracks
  • Asphalt tennis courts
  • Hard surface play areas
  • Parking lots
  • Entrance and exit drives
  • Concrete walkways/sidewalks
  • Concrete aprons and steps
  • Concrete curbs
  • Parking bumpers
  • ADA ramps and accessibility issues


What We Look For:

  • Overall condition of pavement
  • Cracking (Area covered and size of cracks)
  • Deterioration (Does it need a mill and overlay or full depth replacement?)
  • Parking lot striping/paint
  • Poor drainage conditions


pavement pavement 2


Revisioning Building Space for Growth

We oftentimes get phone calls as institutions outgrow their existing facilities. Our response is always the same; sometimes organizations need new space—but not all growth requires a new facility.

For instance, as Ivy Tech Community College’s enrollment in Batesville, Indiana grew, their current leased space no longer had the capacity to accommodate the student population.  Looking for new space, the College saw opportunity in an open office building.  They were able to see past the cubicles to a vision of a new educational facility.

Removing the office finishes, cubicles, and décor, the empty structure of the building offered a cost-effective canvas to create a new image.  Since the building infrastructure was in good condition, the renovation created new educational spaces inside the existing shell at a much lower cost than building a new facility.

What made this project successful was not the creation of the new space—but rather the creation of the image of higher education.  A new exterior entrance and lobby adorned with wood columns and accents developed the representation of higher education and modern learning.  This improved the image of the College in Batesville from a leased storefront to their own facility.

It is an important lesson to remember—not all growth requires a new facility.  Creative use of existing buildings can provide opportunities to create new space within an existing structure, typically the most expensive building component.  By having the vision to see beyond the cubicles, Ivy Tech Community College was able to create a new, adequately sized, and modern facility for higher education.

Educational Facility Assessments

As a school corporation determines the future of its buildings, it must look at both the physical conditions of the existing buildings and systems, as well as their capacity to serve the needs of the educational programs. Step one is a Facility Assessment to develop priorities for upgrading, repairing, or even replacing each building. The Facility Assessment has two components—a Conditional Assessment and an assessment of Educational Suitability.

The Conditional Assessment provides concrete and reliable data to enable achievement of educational goals and objectives. As conditions change, it is critical to apply the most current information to ongoing decision making. The Educational Suitability assesses the spaces needed to meet the requirements of educational programs, such as classrooms, cafeterias, media centers, gymnasiums, etc.

Both the Conditional Assessment and Educational Suitability component require a team experienced in processing, evaluating, and developing environments to support education. The assessments must look at more than space considerations. A comprehensive Facility Assessment also will analyze access to technology to support creative exploration, as well as mechanical and electrical support systems that create efficient, effective, and comfortable learning environments.

Facility Assessment