Proactive facility management: Maximize time, money and manpower

The benefits of strategic facility management solutions and technology

David Raffin
Director of Business - State/Local Government
VFA

Strategic facility management, a key element in the long-term success of a public organization, is often delayed in the face of immediate problems, such as broken water pipes and leaking roofs. Day-to-day emergencies can dominate the careers of Department of Public Works (DPW) employees, leaving little time or funding to proactively address deferred facility maintenance issues. However, the success and ongoing work of other agencies and divisions encompassed by the DPW depends on its abilities to keep those multiple buildings and facilities up and running efficiently.

Achieving effective building maintenance programs becomes more complex with added pressures from funding sources, agency department heads, and facility employees and users. Funding, for example, is not always available for proper, proactive repair and upkeep. Instead, public buildings are often maintained on a reactive basis, putting out those day-to-day fires, rather than planning ahead for long-term building use. DPW managers are often sent scrambling when legislature mandates request specific information that’s simply not on file, such as a comprehensive list of building conditions or an accurate number of current physical assets.

Strategic capital planning enables public works employees to overcome these obstacles with effective, accurate, and cash-efficient tactics. Proactive facility management techniques eliminate the majority of emergency maintenance issues by taking into account a building’s use over its entire lifecycle. Agencies are then prepared with precise knowledge of the available budget and building conditions when mandates are issued, safety codes are revised, or a new building is needed. New technology provides consistent and reliable data for facilities managers to determine future building plans.

Long-term capital plans are most effective when based on a Capital Planning and Management System (CPMS). Implementing a CPMS solution enables DPW building managers to gather a detailed knowledge base of the condition of an organization’s physical assets. A facilities condition audit of the existing infrastructure, both physical and programmatic, will determine the current state and needs of those facilities. Audits can be completed by an in-house staff, an outside consulting firm or a combination of both.

Using the information collected in the audit, a DPW can establish benchmarks for building-to-building comparisons. The most widely used index is the facility condition index (FCI). The FCI measures the repair cost of a structure over its total replacement value. For example, a building that has a replacement value of $1,000,000 and a repair cost of $100,000 will have an FCI of 0.10-a “fair” condition ranking. The larger a building’s FCI is, the worse its physical condition. The FCI can be applied to an entire building portfolio or a specific system within the overall organization. As FCIs are based on detailed and current building information, they play an important role in capital planning. DPW building managers can use FCIs as leverage with key funding sources to determine whether the cost of repair will add value to the organization or if it would be more effective long-term to forego renovation and begin anew.

A CPMS system empowers public works officials with the tools to create financial models and develop “what-if” scenarios for asset planning. These financial models are crucial to providing defensible, quantifiable data when making funding requests. Capital renewal forecasts and “what-if” funding scenarios are vital to strategic budget development over a building’s lifecycle. Using these methodologies, building managers can demonstrate to upper level decision-makers, agency employees and government officials that, in some cases, it actually costs less to maintain the building at a good condition of .05 than to maintain the building at a higher FCI.

The CPMS methodology is already evident in cities and counties across the country. The City of Sunnyvale, California, located about 40 miles south of San Francisco, decided in 1998 to do a facility condition audit of all of its 119 facilities, including maintenance buildings, the city hall, fire stations, restrooms, pools, parks buildings, and libraries. The city’s goal was to use the information for future strategic planning and establish funding requirements to maintain and improve the conditions of the city’s infrastructure. Equipped with an accurate analysis of its building portfolio, the City of Sunnyvale created projections of the costs associated with the renewal or replacement of building components. Funding scenarios were also developed to identify the optimal funding level. Today, the City of Sunnyvale is successfully using CPMS technology to keep its facilities up-to-date and well maintained.

The recent emergence of the CPMS technology on the Internet has made it even easier for public works departments to consistently manage their facilities. Web-based CPMS solutions allow managers to link facilities that are spread out across an entire city or county under a core management program. The Internet also enables managers to access facility information at any time and from any location. Security is established by passwords, giving users access to only the information that they are supposed to see. Ultimately, the web-based CPMS system links the mission of the organization to its facilities. It does this by communicating the importance of proactive facility maintenance to all levels within the DPW and to the residents of the city and county using those buildings daily.

Using the Internet as a direct link between all structures within an organization establishes benchmarks for building-to-building comparisons and fund allocation. The General Services Administration-National Capital Region (GSA-NCR) applied a web-based CPMS system to accurately assess the buildings in its portfolio, allowing the agency to focus limited funds where the need is the most imperative. By using a detailed online questionnaire, which is filled out by GSA-NCR staff, the buildings in most need of repair are identified. Building managers can analyze the gathered information, which ranges from baseline data to intricate details of building deficiencies. Those buildings determined to be in most need of maintenance are then scheduled for a full detailed facilities condition audit. The web-based system enabled the GSA to gather building information in a timely manner and develop budgetary estimates based on consistent and reliable building condition information. The web-based CPMS technology further benefits DPW officials by setting precedents for project bundling, allowing facility managers to implement capital plans. Bundling promotes the effective use of the available funding to achieve the most bang for the buck.

Public works officials are challenged to operate effectively with limited budgets, personnel, and time. A CPMS methodology enables managers to plan for the long-term management of their facilities to obtain the highest level of performance and operation. Strategic planning and solutions lead to improvements in efficiency, associated returns on capital investment, and the reinforcement of the link between the facilities and the mission of the organization. A significant adjustment toward proactive facility management will empower public works officials and workers with the abilities to maximize time, money, and manpower in building and facility management.

For more information, contact David Raffin at 617-956-4838 or www.vfa.com.