Physical Facilities, formerly known as Physical Plant until June 1981, has always been a presence at BYU, even from its early days as Brigham Young Academy. Beginning in 1875, the building maintenance personnel was limited to a one-person janitorial staff that maintained the cleanliness of the academy building and provided coal for the stoves in winter months. Windows were opened in the spring and summer to cool the classrooms. Restrooms were located outside the academy in outhouses, and water was obtained from a nearby well. Lamps and candles were the sole method of lighting in the building until 1890 when the academy installed ten electric lamps, with the first academy telephone following shortly thereafter.
Brigham T. Higgs, a master mechanic and carpenter, was hired as the first director of the Physical Plant for Brigham Young Academy in 1898. Brigham Young Academy was dissolved in 1903 and became Brigham Young High School and Brigham Young University (BYU). B.T. Higgs remained with BYU and instituted student employment at the Physical Plant in 1908. Several of these student employees served as campus security, which began as a division of Physical Plant and remained under its direction until 1952 when the University Police department was established.
In 1904, BYU bought 17 acres of land to the north of the Brigham Young Academy building, known as "Temple Hill," from Provo city to serve as Upper Campus. Construction began in 1909 on the Karl G. Maeser Memorial building, the first building of what is now the current campus.
As new buildings were constructed, the Physical Plant also grew and added specialized departments to fill the rapidly expanding needs of BYU. In 1947, new departments were created that still exist in today's Physical Facilities. The Department of Campus Planning and the Physical Plant were merged into the Department of Physical Plant in October 1957. This new, combined department was under the direction of the Director of Physical Plant. The completion of the Sam F. Brewster Building (BRWB) in September 1962 allowed the newly combined Physical Plant departments to be housed under one roof, greatly improving the speed and efficiency of campus construction in the years that followed.
BYU's Master Planning minutes are evidence that careful plans have been in place as early as 1898 to ensure the university's land and resources will accommodate an ever-growing student body. All proposed campus buildings, and their intended uses, are thoroughly researched and go through a rigorous series of checks and balances before a new building is approved. The design and construction process also has its meticulous checklist to ensure the buildings meet all codes so BYU may maintain a safe and beautiful campus.