Capital Approvals Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know what approvals are required for my project?

University Policy 4.2, Transaction Authority and Payment Approval, defines the expectations and limitations for financial authorizations, including identification of thresholds and related authorities by role or committee.  The dollar thresholds are based on total project cost and not the specific incremental authorization being sought.  Capital approval processes manage workflow to manage compliance to these requirements.

Managing Capital Activity describes the approval process for technology systems not currently included in Policy 4.2.

How are approvals for capital activity documented?

For projects and leases at locations or for units under the jurisdiction of the Provost:

  • Facilities-related activities are documented in a Facilities Project Approval Request (FPAR)
  • Lease-related activities are documented in a Lease Approval Request (LAR)
  • Technology systems activities are documented in a Systems Project Approval Request (SPAR)

Facilities projects > $10M under the jurisdiction of the Provost for Medical Affairs and that are required to be approved at CF&PC are documented in a Weill Cornell Medicine Project Approval Request.

What are the primary responsibilities of CF&PC?

CF&PC is responsible for the oversight of capital activity for the university.   Capital is broadly defined to include buildings, leases, and administrative systems.  Major functions of the committee include:

  • Capital project approval and oversight. CF&PC’s role in approvals is defined by Cornell Policy 4.2, Transaction Authority and Payment Approval, for facilities-related projects (including leases) and by Managing Capital Activity for information technology system projects.
  • Review of all items that will be forwarded to the Buildings and Properties Committee of the Board of Trustees, including campus planning issues, design studies, unit master plans, capital projects, etc.
  • Oversight and approval of the university’s annual capital budget and capital plans.  The capital budget includes individual projects with budgets greater than $250,000 and related sources of funding.

How is CF&PC staffed and organized?

CF&PC meets monthly and is chaired by the Executive Vice President (EVP) and staffed by the Division of Budget and Planning.   The membership is posted here.

The Director of Capital and Space Planning proposes the draft agenda, based on input from the Project Approval Coordination (PAC) meeting and consultation with WCM and senior leadership.   The draft agenda is reviewed and confirmed by the Vice Presidents for Budget and Planning and for Facilities and Campus Services, the Associate Vice President of Engineering & Project Management, and the University Architect.

The Executive Staff Assistant to the VP for Budget and Planning confirms the planned agenda with the EVP and distributes the final draft to key stakeholders in the units and to Facilities & Campus Services, based on the agenda items.

How is the CF&PC meeting agenda developed?

The agenda for CF&PC is shaped through monthly Project Approval Coordination (PAC) meetings that are jointly hosted by Facilities and Campus Services (FCS) and the Director of Capital and Space Planning (CSP).  These meetings are an opportunity for FCS, CIT, Real Estate, and college/division facilities representatives to forecast project activity, the schedule for project approvals, and attendees at approval meetings.

Project teams must identify the people who will represent the project at CF&PC and include the names on the PAC spreadsheet. See FAQ “I’m in a unit – how do I prepare, or prepare my senior leadership, for CF&PC?” for more information.The PAC meetings typically include discussions of project readiness, issue identification, and paths to resolution.   It is very important that projects requiring committee level approvals be identified as early as possible through the regular PAC meetings.

Units with self-managed projects need to either directly represent their projects at the PAC or make sure that other PAC attendees can answer questions and confirm details, such as schedules, budgets, and presenters.  For transparency and consistency, communication regarding required approvals should occur through the PAC and not through other channels.

The Director of Capital and Space Planning identifies the projects ready for approval at each CF&PC meeting and brings those, in the form of a draft agenda, to a CF&PC Agenda Review meeting for further discussion of readiness for the CF&PC meeting.  This Agenda Review meeting includes the Vice President of Budget and Planning (DBP), the Vice President of FCS, the University Architect, and the Associate Vice President of Engineering & Project Management.

From this discussion, the Executive Staff Assistant in the DBP reviews a draft agenda with the Executive Vice President (EVP), and then distributes a final draft agenda to all stakeholders.  This final draft confirms timing and length of agenda items.   Any concerns with the final draft agenda, including the agenda items or meeting times, need to be communicated to the Executive Staff Assistant as soon as possible to have these changes considered by the Vice Presidents and the EVP for the meeting itself.

How will I know that my unit has a project on an upcoming CF&PC agenda?

Unit representatives are typically aware of the upcoming agenda forecast through attendance at the Project Approval Coordination meetings or through close coordination of the approvals calendar within the project team.  The Executive Staff Assistant in Budget & Planning makes every effort to copy unit stakeholders on the distribution of the final draft agenda if the project is not managed by Facilities & Campus Services.

My college is managing a project that is on an upcoming CF&PC agenda, but now it needs to be delayed. What should I do?

The unit representative should contact the Director of Capital & Space Planning and the Executive Staff Assistant in Budget & Planning immediately if there is a change for the upcoming CF&PC agenda.  Relevant changes include deferrals as well as changes in the requested actions, which are stated on agendas and should accurately reflect the intention of the presentation.  All such notifications should occur on or before the materials deadline.

What categories of projects are included in the CF&PC agenda, and how is each category presented?

A typical agenda contains items in categories of consent, regular agenda (presentation), or discussion (no approval required).

Potential consent items are discussed at the Project Approval Coordination meeting and confirmed at the Agenda Review meeting.  The following project conditions will be considered when recommending a project/phase approval for the consent agenda:

  • Project has been presented during one or more prior phases, and no substantive changes in scope have occurred.
  • Project is on or below budget, or project budget variance is less than $500,000 or 25% of the total project budget with a full explanation of the cause(s) of the variance detailed in the Facilities Project Approval Request (FPAR).  A variance is measured since the last authorization; variances are not cumulative.

Projects do not have a right to consideration by consent agenda.  Any issue coming before CF&PC can be added to the regular agenda for presentation and discussion.  Further, consent agenda items are moved as a group for approval.  A CF&PC member can request that one or more items on the consent agenda be removed from consent for further discussion by CF&PC, which may require a subsequent presentation to the Committee.

Regular Agenda:
All projects requiring approval that are not placed on consent will be included on the regular agenda and unit functional leads and project management staff should prepare appropriate presentations to supplement the associated FPAR, SPAR, or LAR.

Generally, project presentations are limited to “5 min” when the total estimated project cost is < $5M, the scope is primarily maintenance, and any project budget variance is in the general range of 25-75% (with scope, impact, total cost, and other factors weighing in the decision regarding length of presentation).

Full presentations, not to exceed the time allocation – typically 15 minutes to include time for committee questions – are prepared for all other project approvals.  All projects and other discussions that need to be presented to the Buildings and Properties Committee of the Board of Trustees will require a full presentation review to CF&PC.

Discussion topics are typically led by senior leadership to address matters of relevance to CF&PC’s role in broad oversight of capital activities.   At times, particularly large or complicated projects may be briefed during the Discussion portion of the agenda when an update is required, but no specific authorization is requested.

What are the presentation guidelines?

The preparation of approval documents, including presentations, is a partnership between the central unit (as applicable) and the sponsoring unit(s). Materials need to be developed and shared before submission and supported by all parties at the time of submission.Presentation details must align with other approval documents, including related FPARs, SPARs, or LARs.Presentations for the “5 minute” agenda are limited to 1-3 slides that speak directly to the reason a project is on the 5-minute agenda (typically a variance), the availability of funding, and the reason the project needs to proceed. Full presentations are typically allotted 15 minutes.  The deck should follow these basic expectations:

  • The title slide should include:   (The Presentation Title)

Month Year

  • Slides after the Title Slide must include slide numbers.

The presentation flow is typically recommended to include:

Slide 1 – Cover slide
Slide 2 – Identification of the specific request for approval(s)
Slides 3 & 4 – Purpose and Need (with presentation by the functional lead)
Slide 5 – Scope
Slide 6 – Schedule
Slide 7 – Budget, Funding Source
Budgets must align with FPAR budget standard format
As applicable:  Variance amount, Cost/SF
For Architect Selection:  architect fees, as % of total project cost
Slide 8 – Restate the request

It is generally acceptable to include a few extra slides with images or additional project details, but the overall deck length must respect the meeting time slot.

How should the statement of request be worded in the presentation?

The statement of request on the second slide of a CF&PC presentation should follow a standard format to avoid confusion and properly document approvals.  The specific request can be adapted from these templates.  Dollar amounts of variances and estimated total project costs need to be clearly stated. 

  • Authorize is used when the request involves an expenditure of Cornell funds.
  • Approve is used for most other requests.

Project teams should be as specific as possible in choosing a project cost identifier (Benchmark Budget, Design Phase Estimate, Final Project Cost) appropriate to the level of development of the project.  The most typical identifier associated with a request type is used in these sample statements.

Request Type Preferred Request Statement
Authorize Design We are seeking authorization of $x to design
[project] at a benchmark budget of $y.
Authorize Design (Revised)
(Typically requested with a project budget variance)
We are seeking authorization of $x to complete the design phase for the [project] and request a budget variance from benchmark budget $y to design phase estimate $z.
Authorize Design and Construction We are seeking authorization of $x to design and construct [project] at a benchmark budget of $y.
Approve Concept We are seeking approval of concept for [project].Note: This request may be combined with another request (most typically a project budget variance and a revised design authorization), e.g., We are seeking approval of concept, a $x budget variance, and authorization of $y to continue design of [project].  The design phase estimate is $z.
Approve Design We are seeking approval of design for [project].  Note:  If the project cost identifier value has increased since the last authorization, then a FPAR for Authorize Project Budget Variance is required.
Authorize Construction We are seeking an increase in the estimated total final project cost from $x to $y.
Authorize Project Budget Variance
Note: All increases in estimated total project costs must be authorized through the project approval process as soon as the increase is understood and can be documented; teams should not be working toward unauthorized total project costs, however far socialized those costs may be.
We are seeking an increase in the estimated total project cost from benchmark budget $x to design phase estimate $y.
We are seeking an increase in the estimated total project cost from design phase estimate $x to final project cost $y.
Authorize Capital Budget Variance We are seeking an increase to the FYXX capital budget in the amount of $x. (gap between existing capital budget value and current cost identifier)
Authorize Addition to the FYXX Capital Budget
(for Capital Budget Additions)
Begin request statement with “We are seeking authorization of an Addition to the FYXX Capital Budget of $x and…” with the design or construction request following in the same sentence.
Approve Lease Terms (CU leasing to others) We are seeking approval to lease [CU location] to [external occupant].
Authorize Lease Terms (CU leasing from others) We are seeking authorization to lease additional space at [location] for [CU occupant].


How is the CF&PC presentation typically prepared?

For Facilities & Campus Services managed projects, the entire lead project team should understand the forecasted approvals, have key meeting dates (including Buildings and Properties for projects > $10M) on lead presenters’ calendars, and should coordinate the preparation of presentations.   Unit participation by the unit facilities representative, college officer, and/or executive assistant to the dean/VP, is critical in preparing content related to purpose and need.

All other unit managed projects, including those by CIT and WCM, are developed by the unit in consultation with project partners as appropriate.

How is the presentation and related approval documentation submitted to CF&PC?

All materials are distributed to CF&PC members 5 business days before the CF&PC meeting. Materials are required to be in a “Box” stewarded by Facilities & Campus Services (FCS) for final reconciliation and compilation 48 hours before the distribution deadline. All deadlines are published in the Project Approvals Calendar.

Any material not received in the Box by the deadline of 5 PM will not be included in the distributed material to CF&PC.  The item will be deferred to a future agenda.

Materials in the Box at the deadline will be considered final, so they should be in final form and have completed all internal reviews required.

Box Management

  • Materials for CF&PC are not accepted unless posted to Box.
  • The Director of Capital and Space Planning and the Executive Staff Assistant in Budget & Planning must be notified if the materials in Box are updated after the deadline. Sending materials with the email is okay as a FYI, but the material posted to Box is the source documentation for the CF&PC materials assembly.
  • Only one final version of a document should be posted to Box.

The Director of Capital and Space Planning will review the submissions the morning after the deadline and send comments to the project team no later than NOON if any concerns are identified regarding the requested approvals or content. The project team has until NOON the following day (24 hrs.) to make requested revisions and resubmit to Box. Any materials not revised by the deadline will not be accepted and the agenda item will be deferred until the following CF&PC.All exceptions to the Box deadline must be requested directly to the Director of Capital & Space Planning by a senior director in FCS or the director of the CIT Project Management Office or a unit facilities representative no later than 5 PM on the day before the deadline.

Who prepares and presents the presentations at CF&PC?

Projects on the “5 min” agenda for approval will be presented by the Vice President of Facilities & Campus Services (FCS).  If the project is managed by a unit (not FCS), the unit is responsible for preparing the slides (1-3) and preparing the Vice President of FCS for the briefing.

Full presentations on the regular agenda are typically made by a team of two:  a functional representative leading with the purpose and need for the project followed by a project management representative (at the director level or above) summarizing the scope, schedule, budget and requesting the specific approval(s). The functional lead is preferably a dean, vice president or vice provost who can speak to the priority of the project within the unit’s overall portfolio, budget issues, political climate, etc.  For academic units, if the dean is unable to attend, the preferred alternate is senior associate dean or other academic lead.

Additional attendees, beyond the functional and project lead presenting, are strongly discouraged.

The lead project management representative at the PAC meeting must work through the project team to identify the unit lead for the meeting and identifies that lead on the PAC meeting materials, so that all presenters are identified, with the commitment confirmed on calendars, in advance of the draft agenda distribution. The project team confirms the commitment on representatives’ calendars until the final agenda is confirmed. The entire CF&PC meeting time should be held until the final agenda is confirmed as adjustments in the timing and flow of individual presentations may need to be accommodated.

Presenters are never included in the CF&PC meeting invitation; it is entirely the responsibility of the project team to make sure the presenters are available at the scheduled presentation time.

The project management representative is typically:

  • For facilities-related projects (study, renovation, construction, and similar):
  • the University Architect for design-related approvals
  • the Unit Facilities Director for unit-managed projects
  • the Associate Vice President for Engineering & Project Management (or designee) in FCS for FCS-managed projects for construction and related approvals
  • For information technology projects: the Director of the Project Management Office in CIT
  • For real property leases, purchases, and sales: the Senior Director of Real Estate

I’m in a unit – how do I prepare my senior leadership for the CF&PC logistics?

Presenters usually attend in person, though all meetings now have a Zoom option.  If in person, presenters are asked to arrive a few minutes before the scheduled presentation time and wait in the hallway outside the room until called into the meeting.   Presentations are pre-loaded onto the meeting computer and will be queued up for presentation at the time the presenters are invited into the room.  Once in the room, presenters are asked to present key points succinctly without reading the slides.  The primary purpose of attendance is to answer questions from the CF&PC members.

The most typical agenda items are assigned 15 minutes.  Only about 10-12 minutes of this time will involve the presenters in the room.  For this typical agenda slot, the presenters will spend about 7-8 minutes presenting with the remaining time left to answering questions from the committee members.  After the Q&A, the presenters will be excused.

After the presentation and subsequent discussion, presenters will be asked to leave the room and are dismissed from the meeting unless they are returning to the room for a subsequent project discussion.  CF&PC votes after presenters leave the room, usually after further discussion.

My dean is presenting to CF&PC; can I observe as the discussion will be useful to me?

Each unit project is presented jointly by a unit representative and a Facilities & Campus Services (FCS) lead for the project.   Additional unit or FCS attendees are typically not invited, though exceptions may be made by the Vice President for Budget and Planning based on the nature of the particular presentation.  The unit representative is typically the most senior leader in the unit, i.e., a dean, vice president, or vice provost.   This representation is delegated, typically, only when the most senior leader is unavailable.   Delegates should be chosen based on familiarity and ability to speak to the programmatic need and priority within the college/division.

How will I be notified of the decision by CF&PC?

All presenters are typically notified of the committee decisions, including any requested follow-up or conditions, within 24 hours of the meeting.  Minutes are not distributed, due to the sometimes-confidential nature of the discussions within the membership.

Even if authorized at CF&PC, a project is not officially authorized to commit to the expenditure of funds until the FPAR/SPAR is signed by the CF&PC representative in a final eBuilder step. The FPAR/SPAR then serves as the data of record for the financial authorization.


3PG:  Physical Plant Planning Group
Capital Budget:   An annual forecast of planned capital activity.   Fund sources have a high degree of certainty, and projects are either in progress or highly likely.
Capital Plan:  The five-year outlook for capital activity.  This forecast incorporates uncertainties in project scopes, fund sources and timing.  It is intended to drive conversations to enhance planning, including coordination, sequencing, fund prioritization, staff resourcing, etc.
CF&PC:  Capital Funding & Priorities Committee
DBP: Division of Budget and Planning
FCS: Facilities and Campus Services
LAR: Lease Approval Request
PAC:  Project Approvals Coordination (a monthly meeting)
SPAR: Systems Project Approval Request