“It’s like a doctor’s physical, for your buildings”
Leveraging Facilities Condition Assessments for Property Management
While they’re typically made of metal, wood, glass and/or stone, buildings are a lot like people: periodic checkups are the best way to keep tabs on their condition and take steps to stay in optimal health. Whether it’s a new construction project that needs an environmental tune up or an older one showing signs of its age, all buildings will benefit from a Facility Conditions Assessment (FCA).
A FCA is the closest thing to a doctor’s physical that a building will ever get and, like a physical, should be the starting point for a plan that leads to improved efficiency and resilience. Our team at Paladin, Inc. conducts them on a regular basis, typically for organizations whose upkeep needs are expanding beyond their team’s ability. Whether they’re working to improve energy efficiency, compensate for overburdened staff or break out of the frustrating (and expensive) cycle of unpredictable equipment failures, our clients want to get a handle on the condition of their buildings and systems, a projection of their lifespans and a plan to extend their productive and profitable lifespan.
Our approach is simple in concept with increasing complexity when it comes to execution. On a typical project, we go through the following steps.
- Identify the owner’s real needs. This fact-finding conversation not only allows us to place parameters on our equipment inventorying and testing efforts, it also gives owners a chance to reflect on their vision for a better, more profitable building and helps set owner expectations on what assessments can and can’t do.
- Conduct the assessment. Our team works from building to building, cataloguing equipment (and tagging it with QR codes for future tracking in our cloud-based inventory platform) and systems against existing drawings and conducting baseline testing of key systems. In this process, we also spend time with operations & maintenance staff, gathering their first-hand insights and observing how the building’s users interact with these systems to identify problems that an after-hours assessment might miss.
- Report the findings. We assemble this information into a baseline report that provides a snapshot of reality for building owners that goes beyond the guesswork and assumptions that often drive the efforts of the typical overwhelmed maintenance team.
- Develop a detailed plan. Working from that baseline report and the owner’s resulting priorities, we develop a remediation schedule that not only accounts for budgets, but also minimally impacts ongoing operation as it is completed.
- Get to work. While some organizations can execute on our plans alone, we are typically called upon to overcome an organization’s lack of the manpower, expertise and efficiency needed to fully implement remediation.
Like doctors in the exam room, we find some pretty interesting things, like the client who didn’t know about a sophisticated equipment operating system that could have been saving him money with more efficient operations, but had gone unused because his operations team either didn’t know about it or know how to operate it in an efficient manner. They’ve been using it ever since we repaired it, trained up their team and helped them bring it back online.
Like patients who knew SOMETHING was wrong, but couldn’t put their finger on it, our clients are glad to finally get clarity on the condition of their buildings. For some, that diagnosis can be grim because some systems are beyond repair, but most of our “patients” find that a strategic remediation and maintenance plan executed on schedule can significantly prolong the useful, livable and profitable life of their buildings.
If you lack a detailed grasp of your building’s present condition or a longer-term plan, it may be time to get the doctor on the line. We can be reached at PaladinEngineers.com and, yes, we still make house calls.
By: Mark Zoller, PE, CxA, CEM, LEED AP