By David Lewek
Identifying maintenance needs, prioritizing deferred maintenance, and strategizing for long-term building and equipment requirements is at the core of facility management. The goal of a facility manager is to proactively manage the growing list of maintenance needs associated with the facilities he or she oversees.
Planning for facility success includes looking at the past needs, present backlog, and future expectations. This is accomplished through determining the current status of the facilities, planning for any needed repairs and maintenance, and implementing a long-term plan that keeps maintenance schedules on track and funded for years into the future.
Over time, as new technologies are integrated and the needs of the users change, facilities age, and the condition of the buildings and assets may be compromised beyond normal wear and tear. The best way to understand what has been happening with a building portfolio and to predict future needs of those buildings and assets is through a facility assessment.
A facility assessment can be as informal as a walkthrough, or as comprehensive as a thorough inventory and conditions analysis that examines each building, major building components and specific pieces of equipment. Once the status of the facility is known, there is a clearer understanding of the impending maintenance and repair needs, and an opportunity to plan and schedule out capital renewal projects, preventive maintenance and repair needs, and create a schedule to attack any backlog of deferred maintenance issues.
There are two ways to assess a facility’s needs to proactively prepare for and manage future issues. The first is by relying on the knowledge and prior experience of the facility manager. The facility manager knows the building, walks the halls, and has equipment records to know when the assets were first installed, their expected life, frequency of maintenance, when and why they last failed, and what repairs or maintenance needs may have been deferred. Facility managers know the buildings better than anyone else, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their portfolio, and may have a good idea on what’s in the immediate future for asset performance.
A second method for accurately measuring the needs of a facility is to conduct a facilities condition audit. Some organizations are required for perform audits periodically. An audit gives facility managers a thorough understanding of the major equipment and systems in the building portfolio. The outcome of the audit will help managers identify future needs, schedule upcoming projects, and prioritize the projects using the data accumulated during the audit. Audits help facility managers establish a baseline to compare one facility’s condition against another, and measure maintenance effectiveness. Perhaps most important of all, a facilities condition audit helps facility managers develop both long and short term budgets, taking into account the future needs identified from the audit.
To perform a comprehensive facilities condition audit, the facility manager must answer what will be included in the audit? Buildings? Grounds? Utilities? Equipment? Some facility managers may audit select buildings or equipment, but a comprehensive audit provides a fuller snapshot of where the entire facility stands today and for the period of time it looks ahead to. As an outcome of the audit, facility managers may want to create a Facility Condition Index, or define the regular maintenance requirements of all equipment in a building, or define the capital repair and replacement needs, or develop cost estimates for identified future projects, or many other measures. These desired actions should be identified by the facility manager before the audit is begun, so the audit can be targeted to answer those questions. The audit process consists of designing the audit, collecting the data, developing cost estimates and schedules, and then presenting the findings.
The Facility Condition Index (FCI) is an equation that takes the value of deferred maintenance needs and divides it by the current replacement value of the building itself. So a 0.1 FCI means that 10% of the replacement value of the building is tied up in deferred maintenance. Once a facility manager determines the FCI through an audit, it may be used to compare one facility to another, or it can be used to set goals for FCI reduction to chip away at the backlog of deferred maintenance over a specified timeframe.
Life Cycle Costing
Once a facility audit is completed, proactive facility managers can implement a Life Cycle Costing program, which will enable them to monitor, manage and prepare the long-term costs of their buildings. Life Cycle Costing is a method of evaluating a facility’s preventive maintenance, repair maintenance and capital renewal costs, over the life of the facility (or a specified time frame). Life Cycle Costing includes only the cost of the building and its equipment, not any energy use or occupant costs, so it is not the same as a total cost of ownership. Once a facility is assessed and imminent needs are prioritized, a Life Cycle Costing program helps facility managers stay ahead of future repairs by budgeting and preparing for maintenance that may be years or decades ahead.
Life Cycle Costing takes the guesswork out of long-term planning and budgeting. A Life Cycle Costing program will give facility managers the data they need to provide leadership with a business case for specific maintenance and repair work, as well as the estimated costs associated. With Life Cycle Costing, an enlightened and proactive management typically will not defer or delay maintenance tasks or repair for minimal short term savings, thus avoiding a backlog or more problematic and costly emergency repairs or replacement.
After assessing the current situation of a facility through a manager’s knowledge and/or via a facilities condition audit, a Life Cycle Costing program keeps facility managers on track for future needs. Life Cycle Costing is an essential tool of proactive facility management, as it puts in place a comprehensive maintenance, repair and replacement schedule with proven cost data, so managers are fully aware of their repair and maintenance needs and costs.