In Focus: The Benefits of Guided Facility Self-Assessments
Keith O'Leary, Director of Product Marketing, VFA, Inc. (July 2011)
For organizations with large real estate holdings, accurate facility condition data is absolutely necessary. Maintaining property in good condition is a costly proposition, and it's often difficult to know how best to spend on deferred maintenance. Priorities for spending are almost always based on key organizational goals such as risk mitigation and business continuity. Therefore, having access to comprehensive and accurate condition data that can be used to identify areas of risk and to set objective priorities is critical in making informed facility capital planning decisions.
Technology and experience each play a pivotal role in how facility condition assessments are performed and what data will be collected. The high profile assets of a portfolio often mandate a detailed periodic assessment by seasoned professionals. But what about the geographically isolated or low-profile assets? Or assets that may have undetected and significant issues? In practice, more times than not, these assets do not undergo detailed condition assessments; it is simply too expensive to justify the benefits. The cost of a full assessment can be prohibitive for an entire portfolio, and this can prove to be a dilemma for facility and building managers needing to justify the necessary funds to adequately maintain facilities.
All told, organizations employ a variety of methods for collecting facility condition data. One method that continues to emerge is guided self-assessments using Web-based mobile surveys to standardize data collection, reporting, and analysis. Guided self-assessments that are driven by professionally designed building system surveys deliver a comprehensive assessment that includes remediation definition and estimated costs. Utilizing existing facility staff or with assistance from maintenance partners, guided self-assessments can be the means to expanded and more cost-effective collection of condition data.
There are several ways organizations benefit from guided self-assessments:
- Complement to a "full condition assessment" (FCA): Many organizations focus condition assessments on the most mission-critical facilities. However, even lower priority assets incur costs and can become liabilities if neglected. With this in mind, organizations use guided self-assessments to capture data on all building assets, rather than just a subset of higher priority facilities.
- Quick, cost-effective budget estimates: Facility managers are often faced with the dilemma of justifying budgetary requirements in order to obtain the necessary funds to adequately maintain assets. This can be an issue especially for large geographically dispersed portfolios. But how do you justify the budget without the asset condition data to validate the need? Guided self-assessment is invaluable for quick budgetary estimates.
- Identifying "hot spots": Guided self-assessment is a cost-effective method for helping facility managers identify "hot spots" within an asset portfolio. They can then determine which facilities will require a professionally conducted FCA. In many cases, these account for approximately 15 to 20 percent of the portfolio. This knowledge enables decision-makers to focus on mission-critical buildings, especially those that are in the worst condition.
- Data maintenance to avoid "stale" information: Given that facility condition is constantly changing, it is important to keep information on building assets up to date. Guided self-assessments enable organizations to easily reassess condition and maintain existing data. In addition, consistent data collection leads to less "stale" information, as well as the validation that previously captured deficiencies have been addressed.