Capital Approvals Process

Please refer to the Capital Project Approval Process policy (Policy Number 029) for specific information. Please note that this policy does not reflect recently instituted changes to the approval process.


Funded With Debt

Due to current debt market conditions, the University has limited the issuance of new debt for capital projects except for previously approved and life/safety projects. As a result, schools and departments at CUMC will need to use existing fund balances, gifts in hand or grants to fund capital projects.

Funded Without Debt

Columbia University Medical Center Facilities (CUMC Facilities) initiates and manages all Medical Center Campus capital construction projects regardless of total dollar amount. The approval process for projects is driven largely by the total estimated cost.

Projects under $50,000 - Since the University’s capital threshold is $50,000, projects costing under this amount will be expensed upfront via IDI to the department’s S/L. For budgeting purposes, all IDI charges will be processed against sub-code 3601 – Facilities Services. At project completion, CUMC Facilities will provide the department with a reconciliation summary and will IDI back to the department any remaining balance.

Projects $50,000 - 250,000 – These projects are approved via a funding memo prepared by CUMC Facilities project manager and signed by an authorized client department representative. Upon approval an FAS account will be established for the project and the client will be given a G/L account to which they must credit the authorized funds in advance. No work or design effort will begin unless one hundred percent of the budget is transferred.

Projects over $250,000 - For these projects the approval process is divided into three phases:

  • Phase I – Feasibility Study
    This phase of the project is to be funded upfront via a funding memo as outlined above. This phase will provide cost estimates and a better understanding of the magnitude of the project. In addition, an analysis will be undertaken to assess its financial impact. This analysis will review increased revenues and expenses that will result from the project. Client departments will be expected to provide cash flow estimates and supporting documentation that ensures breakeven within a reasonable period of time. Phase I costs cannot exceed $250,000.

  • Phase II – Design and Development
    The design and development phase is to request authorization to proceed with the full design of the project. For large projects, a second request to complete the design may be warranted. A project document must be prepared and approved before Phase II can begin. (See Project Document process below.)

  • Phase III – Construction
    This request will take place once firm construction bids have been received. This is to ensure a higher certainty of project cost. The Phase II project document must be amended and approved before Phase III can begin. (See Project Document process below.)


CUMC Facilities has the overall responsibility to prepare and present the project document for approval; however, the Client will be responsible for specific program information and narrative.
Project documents include the following twelve categories:

1. Statement of Purpose and Need

7. Sustainability

2. Project Scope

8. Safety and Security

3. Project Budget

9. Consideration for the Disabled

4. Project Financing

10. Mode of Accomplishment

5. Maintenance & Project Costs

11. Certificate of Occupancy

6. Energy Considerations

12. Project Schedule

The Project Financing section must identify a source of funding for the full estimated cost of the project including a reasonable contingency amount. All funding must be in a University FAS account and be available to be transferred to the project G/L before a project document can be submitted for approval.

Gift funded projects must have one hundred percent of the gifts in-hand (not pledged).

Grant funded projects must have a fully executed grant agreement. If an agreement has not been executed, a letter from the agency indicating intent to award will suffice if accompanied by backstop funds identified by the department. Clients need to be prepared to cover any funding gaps that result from adjustments to the award with operating reserves.

Projects funded by other sources must be identified by specific accounts.

The project document also includes a signature page which requires the signature of the respective client(s) and four mandatory signatures (Chief Operating Officer, CUMC; Executive Vice President, Health and Biomedical Sciences; Chief Financial Officer, CUMC; Associate Vice President Facilities Management).


Need Help? Contact Facilities Management

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Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All other times, call Public Safety at
305-8100 for routine matters or
305-7979 for an on-campus emergency.

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