BY SID JUWARKER, Client Development Manager, Terracon

Just like cars, buildings and facilities need to be properly maintained and serviced during their life span. Doing so will not only extend the life of a building and avoid damage or safety issues in the future, but also help facility managers set funding priorities.  

A facility condition assessment, or FCA for short, is an important option for any organization looking to maintain or repair their facility assets in a safe and cost-effective way. 

FCAs are comprehensive reviews of the design, materials, age and construction methods of a facility. They report needed repairs/deficiencies, calculate the remaining useful life of building systems and develop cost estimates for repair or replacement.

An FCA is essentially a more proactive way to manage facilities and can be performed in-house with licensed engineers or they can be outsourced to organizations like Terracon.  

Identifying and planning

You’ll notice many of my blogs this year have revolved around topics ultimately geared toward saving companies money. That’s the case with a lot of proper technical and engineering services — they are designed to be cost-effective. FCAs are no exception. 

While facility maintenance is usually a top concern when it comes to budgeting, many organizations actually put their money toward maintenance that isn’t required or critical. These misplaced priorities can come about for a variety of reasons: past budgetary terms, unreliable or incomplete information, or an improper understanding of their facilities. 

“In deciding how to maintain facilities, facility managers require data to make strategic decisions,” said David Schultz, senior facilities professional at Terracon’s Des Moines office. “This requires understanding of a facility’s needs: what they have, what resources are required to maintain them and what it will cost them to do so. Without this data, facility managers are flying blind.”

For example, if an organization installed multiple facilities in a narrow window of time, it wouldn’t see a lot of maintenance costs in the first 20 years. Around the 20-year mark, there may be an increased need for funding to keep those buildings properly serviced. Without an FCA, an organization may not spot this and continue to use the same, now-inadequate budget terms, allowing its facilities to fall further into disrepair. 

Having expert facility assessment professionals identify existing deficiencies and predict future system repairs and replacements can improve a company’s forecasting. That is perhaps the biggest benefit to an FCA: helping organizations understand and prioritize all of their facility needs. It allows owners to make informed, defensible decisions with money allocation. 

Another benefit to an FCA is having all of its findings in one centralized place. Many times, facility needs aren’t communicated clearly, if at all, with managers, leaving an incomplete picture as to what needs attention. An FCA will provide a comprehensive picture.  

FCAs can also catch crucial deficiencies in need of immediate repair. While it may seem like a nuisance at the time, a $25,000 fix found by an FCA could have turn into a $5 million job a few years down the road. 

“Nobody has the resources to meet all of their facility operational needs,” Schultz said. “But when you take the time to understand what you have and what needs to be done, you can begin to make strategic decisions about how to use your limited resources to meet your critical facility needs in the long term.”

My takeaway

FCAs can be an important tool for any facility owner, manager or company that plans to own and operate their buildings for a long period of time. FCAs can help these entities gather information and make calculated decisions regarding facility repair and maintenance, potentially leading to significant savings in the long term.  

Sid-Juwarker Sid Juwarker

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