The Office of the Provost plays a primary role in capital planning for General Fund buildings on the Ann Arbor campus.

Decisions on renovating, replacing and adding buildings are complex and on-going and involve balancing both unit and university priorities with available resources. To promote strategic building use and growth on the Ann Arbor campus, the Office of the Provost ensures that:

  • Existing General Fund facilities are used efficiently.
  • The need for new or expanded facilities aligns with the university’s academic and research mission and overall institutional priorities.

Process for Requesting Major Capital Projects

Capital projects estimated at $5M or over are considered major projects for provost-reporting units and need to follow the instructions below to formally submit requests for the provost’s consideration and prioritization via the annual fall submission process. This updated format provides units with clearer guidance for describing a major capital project request; it enables units and the provost to better articulate our needs, vision, and mission alignment to university leadership; and it also simplifies the review and prioritization process by the provost’s capital project review committee.

  • Instructions for Major Capital Project Requests New as of June 2023
    Provost-reporting units should follow these instructions for submitting a major capital project request to the provost. These instructions replace the “Statement of Need” described in the Capital Project Guidelines.
  • Capital Project Guidelines
    A full update of these guidelines will follow later in 2024. Please refer to these guidelines for general information on the provost’s prioritization process and capital project approval process.
  • Annual Deadline: September 15
  • Submit to: space.planning@umich.edu

Guidance on Provost Approvals, Capital Projects Thresholds, & Exploratory Studies

  • Capital projects or studies for projects estimated at under $5M (total project cost): Units may follow an abbreviated approval process and do not have to follow the fall submission process for major capital projects.
    Reminder: All projects at $3M or more require regental approval and therefore also require Provost’s Office approval. Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) will coordinate this.
  • Exploratory studies for capital projects estimated at $5M or over (total project cost): Units may be able to follow an abbreviated approval process and do not necessarily need to follow the instructions above for major capital projects.
    Note: Work
    on exploratory studies is not considered a formal capital project approval or prioritization by the provost. Units must still submit potential projects that result from such studies to the provost via the instructions above.
  • Major capital projects estimated at $5M or over: Follow the instructions above for major capital projects.

The abbreviated process noted above is still being finalized. Please contact space.planning@umich.edu for guidance in the meantime.

Detailed Guidance & Exception Cases

For schools, colleges, & research units (activities-based units)
  • Capital projects at $3M or less (total project cost): Units may work directly with AEC to initiate. Dean/director office level approval is needed.
  • Capital projects estimated between $3M to $5M (total project cost): Units may work directly with AEC to initiate. Dean/director level approval needed. Provost’s Office approval is also needed, as projects $3M or over need also regental approval. AEC will coordinate this.
  • Capital projects estimated at $5M or over (total project cost): Units must first submit a major capital project request to the Office of the Provost following the annual process for provost review and prioritization. This includes projects that take shape as a result of an exploratory study.
    Note: In some cases, projects up to $10M (total project cost) that will be 100% self-funded with unit reserves or signed gift agreements can also follow an abbreviated process (and not follow the annual fall submission and review process). Read FAQs below and contact space.planning@umich.edu for additional guidance.
  • Exploratory studies at any estimated potential cost: The process to request studies for all scopes of work is being updated. In the meantime, activities based units may work directly with AEC to initiate. Dean/director office level approval needed, and AEC will inform the Provost’s Office for awareness and input.
    Note: Units wishing to pursue a capital project that may result from such a study will still need to follow the instructions for major capital projects.
For other provost reporting units (non-activities based units)
  • Capital projects at $3M or less (total project cost): Units may work directly with AEC to initiate. Unit director level approval is needed. AEC will inform the Provost’s Office for awareness.
  • Capital projects estimated between $3M to $5M (total project cost): Units may work directly with AEC to initiate. Unit director level approval needed. Provost’s Office approval is also needed, as projects $3M or over also need regental approval. AEC will coordinate this.
  • Capital projects estimated at over $5M (total project cost): Units must first submit a major capital project request to the Office of the Provost following the annual process for provost review and prioritization. This includes projects that take shape as a result of an exploratory study.
    Note: In some cases, projects up to $10M (total project cost) that will be 100% self-funded with unit reserves or signed gift agreements can also follow an abbreviated process (and not follow the annual fall submission and review process). Read FAQs below and contact space.planning@umich.edu for additional guidance.
  • Exploratory studies at any estimated cost: The process to request studies for all scopes of work is being updated. Contact space.planning@umich.edu for additional information in the meantime. Generally for such studies, dean/director office level and Provost’s Office approvals are needed.
    Note: Units wishing to pursue a capital project that may result from such a study will still need to follow the instructions for major capital projects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why do we have to follow this process?

The University makes a long-term financial commitment every time it invests in a new building, building addition, or renovation, not only to build the facility, but also to maintain and operate the facility for the entire life of the building. The capital projects process ensures that the University’s long-term investments always are always directed to its highest priority needs.

Additionally, the capital projects process provides a consistent process for submitting, planning, and approving capital projects for General fund academic and administrative units, and ensures that all projects are approved based on the same selection criteria.

What is required for the September 15 deadline?

All provost-reporting units seeking a major capital project are required to formally submit their request to the Provost’s Office by September 15th.  This enables the Provost’s Office and the Provost’s Capital Projects Review Committee to review and compare unit needs against institutional priorities and resources collectively versus on a case-by-case basis. After September 15th, the committee will spend the next few months reviewing, assessing, and comparing all unit needs. The Provost’s Office will provide the status of the review early the following calendar year in the January or February timeframe.

Can my unit complete any project under $3 million at our own discretion?

While most projects under $3 million may be completed at the unit’s discretion, there are a few exceptions:

    • Renovations to space that is available for campus-wide use (e.g., Rackham auditorium)
    • Conversion of space to a new function (e.g., classrooms to office space)
    • Building expansions
    • Changes that affect exterior elements of the building
    • Changes in land use
    • Proposed financing with debt

Board of Regent’s approval of all projects over $3 million is required and coordinated by Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC).

My unit has the funding available to cover the entire cost of the capital project. Do we need to follow the Capital Project Guidelines and fall submission process?

For projects estimated at under $10 million and 100% unit-funded, either through unit reserves or signed gift agreements, the unit can often follow an abbreviated process without going through the formal annual submission and review process. We do ask, however, that units discuss the project with the Provost’s Office before the project is initiated to ensure that the project aligns with institutional needs and priorities. Exceptions include:

    • Renovations to space that is available for campus-wide use (e.g., Rackham auditorium)
    • Conversion of space to a new function (e.g., classrooms to office space)
    • Building expansions
    • Changes that affect exterior elements of the building
    • Changes in land use
    • Proposed financing with debt

Board of Regent’s approval of all projects over $3 million is required and coordinated by Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC).

What if a project already underway has changed in scope and/or cost and is now a project that should technically follow the Capital Project Guidelines?

There are a number of variables that affect the final cost of a project, such as a change in the price of specific construction materials, labor related issues, or a mid-construction change in plans. Regardless of the reason for the change in project cost, it is important that the unit; Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC); and the Office of the Provost discuss any matters that may affect the final cost as soon as that matter arises. If the reason for the change cost is related to a change in the scope of the project, these parties would need to discuss the change well before any new plans are made.

In order to fundraise for a project, we need to show conceptual designs to prospective donors. When can my unit do this?

A unit may begin showing them to donors only after the designs have been approved by the Board of Regents and only with permission from the Chief Financial Office (CFO) or Associate Vice President for Facilities and Operations. Designs must not be shared until this permission is granted.

May I turn to external architectural firms for initial estimates or schematic designs?

All initial designs and estimates must be coordinated through Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC).

Who pays for the initial estimates by Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC)?

The unit is responsible for all costs associated with requesting and executing a capital project, including any fees assessed by AEC for preliminary estimates.

My unit does not have the funding to pay for a capital project in its entirety. What options are there for my unit?

Before any discussions of a capital project occur with the Provost’s Office, the unit should ensure that, in general, it has the financial capacity to support a capital project (including operating costs), whether that means paying for a capital project in its entirety or using a combination of funding sources to pay for the project. In most cases, capital projects are funded using the unit’s fund balances that are available for use (i.e., unrestricted funds), gifts, or grants. Additionally, the Office of the Treasurer provides consulting on financing principles and options in constructing a viable funding plan. Refer to Appendix A of the Capital Project Guidelines for more details.

What happens when a proposal is not approved by the Provost or Capital Projects Committee?

A capital project proposal may be rejected because an insufficient needs analysis, lack of available funding, or proposed project that is inconsistent with overall University priorities. Resubmission is possible in subsequent years.

Provost’s Capital Projects Review Committee

The Provost’s Capital Projects Review Committee collectively reviews and prioritizes all capital project requests in the fall and then makes recommendations to the Provost. The committee is comprised of the following members:

  • DuBois Bowman, Dean, School of Public Health
  • Thomas A. Finholt, Vice Provost for Academic & Budgetary Affairs
  • Fadi Musleh, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic & Budgetary Affairs
  • Lori Ploutz-Snyder, Dean, School of Kinesiology

Contact

For other inquiries, please contact space.planning@umich.edu.