The group formerly known as FESS

FESS has announced that it is officially changing its name: The Facilities Engineering Services Section will now be known as the Infrastructure Services Division. The name change goes into effect immediately.

ISD makes sure that buildings are functional and safe, so that researchers can do science within them. Photo: Ryan Postel

The change was driven by the lab reorganization; under the new organization, there will be no more sections. As FESS had “section” in its name, its leadership opted to rename. “Given the opportunity, we actually had the division vote on the name,” said Mark Jeffers, ISD division director. “A few options were considered, and we ultimately settled on Infrastructure Services Division.”

ISD will still function the same way; none of its existing objectives or duties will change. That begs the question, just what does the division formerly known as FESS do?

Its charge is to build and maintain mission-critical infrastructure and services from which high-energy physics research can be safely accomplished without interruption. Succinctly speaking, ISD makes sure that buildings are functional and safe, so that researchers can do science within them. The division is responsible for the operations and maintenance of new and existing facilities, as well as the utilities and infrastructure. In actual practice, it means that there’s a very wide variety of things that ISD does, and in fact, much of its work pertains more to infrastructure than to facility maintenance.

Note that the ISD has retained “Services” in its new identity. It was an intentional choice, reinforcing the concept that its customers are central to the division’s focus.

Fermilab is the size of a small city and has an entire public works organization that ISD oversees. “We operate somewhat like a municipality as well,” said Jeffers.

The division oversees very large capital projects, such as the planning, design and construction of the lab’s new IERC building. ISD also owns, operates and maintains all the utilities on site. In fact, ISD has undertaken a big capital-expenditure project, expected to last more than 10 years, in which it will replace and build a wide array of new utilities.

The division is responsible for the infrastructure of each facility, including aspects like the roofs, HVAC and sub-structures. Then, there are the operational aspects necessary to keep the lab running, like shipping and receiving, transportation, food service, mail, janitorial services, all of which fall under the ISD purview. Additionally, ISD maintains a separate computer system specifically to manage the lab’s overall infrastructure and facilities.

“I think ‘infrastructure’ captures much more of what this division actually does and what this division is actually responsible for,” said Aria Soha, operations deputy of ISD. “And so, I think that’s an important change.”

In addition to its other duties, the division also assumes responsibility for ensuring Fermilab meets its sustainability goals.

“While none of our existing objectives are going to change, we are adding some new functions to the organization — specifically, on sustainability,” noted Damian Dockery, projects deputy of ISD. He highlighted that Fermilab boasts a strong history of sustainability efforts, managed through the lab’s Sustainability Management Team.

“The SMT has done a lot for this lab with respect to sustainability,” said Dockery. “Now we want to add full-time staff to provide the necessary resources and prioritize further developing and executing our sustainability strategy.” The division expects to bring in four full-time staff dedicated to sustainability who will be incorporated into the ISD Engineering Department.

Renaming the division ISD also aligns it better within the U.S. Department of Energy facilities landscape: Some other national labs also call their organizations charged to perform equivalent duties infrastructure services divisions.

The ISD’s official name change is effective Monday, Oct. 24. Yet, the division’s leadership recognizes that adoption of the name and converting all the signage, websites, documents and so forth across campus will take time. They ask for the lab community’s patience as they implement the new name, ISD.

“It is hard to say goodbye to ‘FESS’,” said Jeffers. “Many have been in this organization their entire careers, so [the change] can be challenging. However, I am excited about the change. It allows us an opportunity to re-engage with the lab and essentially to re-baseline our support to the [lab’s] mission.”