Smarter Decisions with Facility Condition Assessments

Smarter Decisions with Facility Condition Assessments

by Joe Zagorski, PE

Organizations with a large physical plant infrastructure need to plan significant capital investments to maintain a state of good repair.  Public transit agencies, colleges and universities, airports, and other large institutions rely on limited public and private resources.  They need to make choices on where to allocate precious capital dollars, and how to justify to funding agencies those needs in advance. They may own and operate millions of square feet of real estate, and thousands of pieces of critical supporting infrastructure on an expansive campus – making it difficult to have a holistic view of current conditions and associated future repair and replacement needs.

Facility managers find it essential to have a clear understanding of the current condition of their asset portfolio to mitigate risk and make informed decisions on allocation of resources.  A comprehensive Facility Condition Assessment (FCA), as part of a strong asset management program, allows organizations to better manage future maintenance and repair needs, and minimizes emergency repair situations that can create serious operational disruptions.  FCAs compile hard-to-organize data, and act as a powerful tool to help facility managers make informed decisions about future critical infrastructure needs.  For example, emergency repairs and breakdown maintenance come at a premium cost relative to a planned maintenance outage.  Breakdown maintenance draws resources and time away from other important projects and initiatives.

FCAs are an effective and efficient way to manage a portfolio of physical assets.  They enable organizations to prioritize limited resources to manage deferred maintenance backlog.  An FCA is a standardized, comprehensive survey assessment that evaluates buildings and critical infrastructure, and organizes relevant building systems and components in an organization’s real estate portfolio.  Computerized software solutions help drive industry best practices.  For example, data collection is organized so that efficient sorting, reporting and analysis is available at the click of a button.  Gone are the days of sorting through static reports or building a custom database to manage this vast amount of information.  There are many software tools available that help gather, organize and report data to support an organization’s FCA.  From standalone canned software to fully-customizable enterprise solutions, software tools allow for seamless data collection through mobile devices – meaning data, photos, and other relevant information can be directly uploaded from the field, improving efficiency and minimizing errors in the data collection process.  These systems allow data to be continuously updated as components are replaced and new assessments are performed.

As software advances and smart building technology becomes more prevalent, state-of-the-art sensors, data collection and communications technologies promise to dramatically improve the effectiveness of FCAs. With sensor technology, there is the opportunity to do predictive maintenance, identifying performance issues and failures before they arise.  These new technologies have already made a substantial impact on the operations and maintenance of physical infrastructure and buildings.

Burns works with many large organizations to support their FCA programs, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and the University of Pennsylvania.  We help identify near-term needs for capital planning, and secure funding for more long-term projects.  We have also guided large airports like Philadelphia International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and Louisville International Airport through similar FCA programs.  While these clients vary in organizational structure, funding sources, and types of infrastructure, each organization sees tremendous benefit from conducting a comprehensive FCA.  FCAs give organizations a deeper understanding of their real estate portfolio, enabling them to better manage current resources, plan for future repairs, and justify requests for additional funding.