The Next Phase

Facility assessments can help schools and universities address their deferred maintenance troubles.

Budget cuts are hitting education facility administrators hard. In the face of staff reductions, shifting priorities and stalled initiatives, facility managers are charged with identifying efficiency measures and doing “more with less.”

One of your budget cuts may have been a comprehensive, benchmark facility assessment because it represented significant expenditures of time and money. Or, maybe you never budgeted for an assessment. In either case, regressive budget periods are prime times to assess what's broken and what's missing. Now is the time to strategically plan your capital renewal and deferred maintenance (CRDM) correction program for better times and budgets ahead. A condition assessment of physical assets can help accomplish this task.

Can you get facility-condition data in a more strategic way — doing more with less? By conducting the facility assessment in phases, you can get the data you need when you need it, and level your capital and time expenditures into more manageable amounts.

Take a look

A comprehensive facility condition assessment (FCA) provides detailed data to support a capital renewal and deferred-maintenance program. It helps facility administrators identify, estimate and prioritize existing deferred maintenance and predict capital-renewal requirements across their entire real asset portfolios.

Identifying and addressing CRDM issues are critical facility-management activities. Neglect and chronic underfunding of capital renewal and the resulting deferred maintenance threatens the educational mission of many institutions. A minor loss of occupancy resulting from an unfunded deficiency correction can cost an institution thousands of lost staff hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency work orders.

The amount of data produced in a comprehensive facility assessment is practically unmanageable unless it is captured digitally within a database. Facility-assessment services are available that have incorporated assessment “best practices” and facility bench-marking into sophisticated FCA software. From single-user to multi-user to web-based options, these packages can provide facility administrators with IT tools that can efficiently track standards, functional conditions, deferred maintenance, lifecycle capital renewal issues and anything else that is broken, missing or inadequate within a facility or its infrastructure.

A statistical perspective

Revealing statistics can be inferred from the FCA databases documented over the past five years. Consider these statistical averages derived from a sample of 50 million square feet taken from a mix of higher-education institutions across the United States:

  • Average of one deficiency per 1,500 square feet over the total portfolio.

  • Average deficiency correction cost is $65,000.

  • Average portfolio Facility Condition Index is 29 percent.

  • Average building replacement cost is $152 per square foot.

  • Total deferred maintenance plus capital modernization costs average $45 per square foot. This is in addition to normal operations and maintenance costs.

Each deficiency on average requires other inter-related corrective actions, and some offer the opportunity for collateral improvements. Some deficiencies can be corrected using maintenance and operations (M&O) work orders, while more involved corrections require capital or renovation funding. The cost for correcting the total assessed deferred renewal usually far exceeds available annual M&O funding. If you calculate building system renewal over an anticipated facility life of 50 to 100 years, annual capital renewal funding requires about 2.74 percent of the current facility replacement cost (constant dollars) in addition to normal operations and maintenance spending needed to operate a facility.

A phased solution

Because deficiency correction amounts are great and CRDM budgets limited, only the highest priority items are usually corrected. The remaining non-critical items are carried forward to the next budget cycle and added to the unrelenting rain of new capital renewal items coming due. What this means is that about half the data collected during a comprehensive facility assessment is not used.

Compounding this inefficiency, facility conditions constantly change. New correction needs, shifting priorities and obsolete database information result. Changing facility conditions suggest a data refreshment cycle every 3 to 5 years, if not continuously.

Phasing the comprehensive assessment activities — breaking it down into complementary work products — provides scalable capital renewal and deferred maintenance data that is useful on many levels. Five primary assessment levels can occur within a comprehensive facility assessment:

  • Empirical-level modeling

    Comparision to like-facility portfolio database to interpolate probable facility condition. Example: 1975 building lookup within database of similar 1975 buildings to predict probable FCI.

  • System-level modeling

    Comparison using component system life-cycle models developed from trade standards, historical records and staff input. Example: 1975 building broken into component systems and corresponding renewal cycles to predict FCI and estimate current expired system costs.

  • System-level audit

    Physical audit of facility to confirm component life-cycle model and to record detail system adjustments. Example: 1975 building modeled for system renewal cycles and physically audited to record system adjustment costs, to estimate expired system costs and predict renewal system costs.

  • Deficiency-level audit

    Physical audit of facility to confirm component life-cycle model and to record detail component deficiencies. Example: 1975 building modeled for system renewal cycles and physically audited to record detailed deficiencies to calculate FCI, predict renewal system costs, and estimate current deficiency correction costs.

  • Project-level audit

    Deficiency-level audit, adequacy analysis and work scope definition for project execution. Example: 1975 building audited on a deficiency level combined with functional adequacy program definition to develop capital project contract documents.

Each assessment level can provide data corresponding to a level of data needed, from general portfolio status to detailed project status. This type of assessment phasing can benefit facility management and planning in various ways (see chart on p. 173). Note the time and deliverables available at each level to see how you can do more with less.

A value proposition

Phased facility assessments, matching available time and effort to desired deliverables, offer real benefits:

  • Reaching a budget number quickly with minimum cost to secure funding and administrative approvals.

  • Prioritizing corrective actions and matching corrective actions with available funding streams.

  • Keeping assessment data current.

  • Stretching your resources to do more with less can lead to innovative approaches that can shrink big problems into manageable ones. In times of budget cutbacks, phased assessment tools can help get your renewal and maintenance needs proactively aligned with funding realities — and get better results doing “more with less.”

Oualline, AIA, and Rabenaldt lead the Facilities Group specializing in facility assessments at 3D/International, Houston.

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