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When do you need a facility condition assessment?

[fa icon="calendar"] May 26, 2015 10:30:00 AM / by Robert Pfeifer, AIA

Facility condition assessments provide invaluable data for making critical decisions about property and infrastructure.

Simply put, a facility condition assessment evaluates the status of buildings and infrastructure to determine whether they are doing what they need to do and how much longer they can do it. Facility condition assessments can also determine whether repairs, maintenance or improvements are necessary and how much it will cost to complete them. Property condition assessments are similar but are focused on the commercial real estate market. Facility condition assessments are more comprehensive and wide reaching in scope and content.   

So, when do you need a facility condition assessment?


1. When you want to know what you are getting in a newly acquired property.

If you are preparing to purchase a large commercial or industrial facility that’s more than five years old, for example, a facility condition assessment can tell you what shape the building is in.  You will discover what is wrong with the mechanical systems, where the roof needs repair, how much flooring will need to be replaced and what it all will cost you. 

Facility condition assessments are typically organized by building system, such as foundations, wall cladding, HVAC system, security system, and so on.  Whether the issues are routine maintenance costs or wholesale renovations, a facility condition assessment enables building owners and facility managers to make informed business decisions about the future of their properties.  


2. When you need to bring a building up to code. 

Building codes and environmental regulations are constantly changing in response to new federal and state laws, new building technologies, and current social and political trends.  Solar power, accessibility, energy efficient air conditioners, "green" buildings, climate change, and terrorist attacks are examples of recent events or new technologies that have resulted in significant changes to building codes in the past several years.  Most older buildings are insulated, or "grandfathered" from such code changes, but only to a point.  A thorough facility condition assessment will identify those areas of the facility which will need upgrading in order to comply with current codes and regulations. 

Planned renovations or upgrades to a facility may trigger code upgrades and, as such may influence long-term facility planning.  Property owners may want to know how much it will cost to make an existing building ADA compliant, while prospective buyers may want to get a handle on the energy efficiency ratings of lights and HVAC systems and what it will cost to improve them. A property condition assessment can provide the answers.


3. When your building use changes.

When business models change, facilities must often be re-purposed.  A facility condition assessment can be employed to determine the conditions of buildings and whether or not the facility remains fit for purpose.  For example, if your business or organization is using more and more computers, your existing facility may not allow for enough growth in the building power and communication systems to keep up with the growth of the business.  If your business model is morphing into an online-only model, the proximity of your facility to a high-speed data backbone in the street is essential.  A facility condition assessment will provide answers to questions of fit-for-purpose, and other issues, as your business or institution grows.


4. When you need a lifecycle cost analysis.

A facility condition assessment can help property owners and facility managers assess whether, and when to replace aging building equipment and systems with current technology items.  While on its face replacing roofs, systems or buildings always seems more expensive at first glance, the cost of continual repairs may ultimately be more expensive than biting the bullet on replacement. Through lifecycle cost analysis, a facility condition assessment can provide the financial data to justify a decision one way or the other. 

Replacing older roofs with new, reflective materials, or old and inefficient air conditioners with new, energy efficient models, or adding solar panels on the roof may be difficult decisions to justify given the initial capital costs of such building components.  However, if annual savings in energy costs are factored into the equation, the investment in new, more efficient systems may be the right thing to do.  Some systems may pay for themselves in short order, and others may never.  A thorough facility condition assessment and life cycle cost analysis will provide the answers.   


5. When you want to avoid costly disasters and liability.

Governments, public utilities and large organizations are responsible for much of the aging infrastructure in this country. Whether it is Positive Train Control, bridge corrosion, or underground water lines that were installed in the last century, every time something breaks, it can endanger lives and cost million to billions of dollars to repair, not to mention liability costs.

From BP’s gulf oil spill to Amtrak's northeast corridor, to Minneapolis’ collapsing bridges to San Francisco’s recent underground gas line explosion, deferred maintenance of critical infrastructure is a significant issue in this country that often leads to loss of life and big headlines in the news. Facility condition assessments provide data on what condition infrastructure is in, what it was designed for, how long it can be expected to last, whether it needs to be repaired or replaced, and what the cost will be.


Final Thoughts

Finally, a couple of thoughts about hiring a firm to conduct your facility condition assessment.  Companies that have extensive design and engineering experience, and experience conducting forensic investigations of infrastructure failures bring a keener eye to facility condition assessments along with a more accurate appraisal of the costs involved in repairing aging systems and infrastructure.  

Also, it is important to look closely at the qualifications of the people performing the assessment.  Someone whose career has been limited to the design and construction of condominiums or strip malls will not have the knowledge and experience necessary to perform a proper assessment of highly complex  bridges, pipelines, and government or other institutional facilities.

CCA has the experience and knowledge to help with your condition assessment. Contact us with any of your condition assessment needs for more information.

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Topics: Structural Integrity, Engineering, Environmental