Meeting ADA Needs with Niche Training for Minority, Women and Local Construction Firms

Meeting ADA Needs with Niche Training for Minority, Women and Local Construction Firms

Columbia Offers Specialized Instruction in Americans with Disabilities Act Renovations to Firms Participating in MWL Construction Mentorship Program

Construction to create accessibility in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a specialty, requiring an intricate understanding of the diverse specifications impacting compliance. Often, and especially in century-old buildings, it is a game of inches that can make or break a project’s compliance with accessibility standards.

Columbia combined its vision of an accessible campus with another goal—to bolster the skills of minority-, women-, and locally owned (MWL) construction business enterprises.

A cross-functional team within Facilities and Operations developed the ADA/MWL Capacity Building Program, and participants represented graduates of the Facilities and Operations mentorship program. Training focused on the intricacies of ADA restroom requirements along with general business capacity knowledge such as project financing, project scheduling, bidding, and RFP review. After the eight-week training, firms had the opportunity to enter a competitive bidding process for ADA-accessible restroom projects at Columbia and could also market this specialized knowledge well beyond the campus gates.

Eighteen MWL firms participated in the training sessions; 15 MWL firms bid on the ADA restroom RFP; 11 MWL firms were awarded projects; and 10 MWL firms successfully completed projects. Twenty-five restrooms were renovated to ADA standards in the first phase of the capacity building program. A second phase of the program was subsequently undertaken, completing 8 restrooms in 6 academic buildings.

“Through this program, we imparted a set of skills to MWL firms in the mentorship program that they could use to bid on real needs that Columbia has while differentiating themselves with a specialization in ADA construction to give them an advantage when they compete for work in their normal business,” said La-Verna Fountain, vice president, Construction Business Services and Communications. “The University was able to expand opportunities for MWL firms while making the campus more accessible for our students, faculty, staff, and guests.”

“The capacity building program brought together an ideal match between MWL firms that are eager and energized to expand their knowledge base and grow their business, and the intricacies of ADA construction, which require firms to have strong focus and attention to detail in order to succeed,” said Raphael Lynch, project manager for campus operations. “The program succeeded in raising awareness about ADA accessibility and providing program participants with specialized training in ADA requirements to apply at Columbia and in the wider community.”

From the 2014 Columbia University Facilities and Operations Annual Report