Project Delivery of FCAs: What FMs Should Look For

Originally published in FMJ Magazine by Derek Hillestad, Ph.D., SitelogIQ Senior Facility Analyst

Facility managers play a critical role in ensuring the functionality, comfort, safety, sustainability and efficiency of their built environment. Facility condition assessments (FCAs) are a great tool to understand where building assets and spaces rank among these categories and identify areas for improvement. However, with the many hats facility managers must often wear, most don’t have the time or bandwidth to conduct a large-scale FCA.

Partnering with an architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) provider who offers FCA services can prove useful for asset management, capital planning, portfolio benchmarking, long-term facility maintenance and risk management. For example, if the organization is considering using condition assessment results to develop master facility plans, an FCA team that includes architects could be of value. However, it’s critical that facility managers and owners know what to look for in an AEC provider to ensure they receive a thorough and extensive assessment that provides useful insight to help achieve their goals.

Who Makes Up an FCA Team

FCAs consist of an analysis of a building’s condition as it relates to its age, design, construction methods, materials, and systems. Because they depend upon robust, scalable methodologies to assure accurate and consistent information of these elements and systems, FCAs typically involve an assessment team made up of professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction, otherwise referred to as AEC professionals. Undertaking an investigation of multiple buildings or real estate portfolios can involve the need for several different consultants, each covering their specific area of expertise.

Most large firms are staffed to conduct these assessments but require a clearly defined scope of work. Otherwise, expectations by key decision makers and or facility managers will not be met. Typically, professionals involved in an FCA project delivery will have expertise in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, building foundations, basement construction, superstructure, exterior enclosure, roofing, interior construction, stairs, interior finishes, conveying, plumbing, or fire protection. They may also specialize in space utilization planning, interior finishes, and aesthetics, which are all important facility functions, as there must also be an equal effort towards operational and functional building systems performance of assets.

A key limitation that may be present with the selection of a stand-alone architecture firm is the operational and specific requirements of MEP systems relative to efficiency, maintenance, serviceability, and asset optimization. Significant opportunity exists to align FCA proposed solutions with energy retrofit projects, and engineering firms may be best positioned to represent this opportunity. Additionally, mechanical, electrical, and control commissioning engineers offer services that can align asset replacement solutions to operational cost savings.

FCA Team Qualifications

With an understanding of FCA team composition, facility managers and owners may be ready to begin their search for an AEC provider. While cost is a leading factor in choosing a provider, it’s important to know several other qualifications to look for to ensure that a thorough and extensive assessment is completed with the information and data needed to help achieve organizational goals.

1. A multi-disciplinary approach

Recent doctoral research indicates specialty FCA firms that integrate architecture, engineering, capital planning, asset management, and energy engineering may be best positioned to deliver life-cycle value to facility managers as the next generation of FCA practice emerges. A specialty contractor focusing solely on architecture, engineering, or construction may not have the full knowledge, expertise, or experience in all areas covered within an FCA. In lieu of selecting a single specialty contractor, an AEC provider with a multi-disciplinary approach and composition of team members with varying areas of expertise is better positioned to deliver the most effective FCA services.

However, depending on the needs of the FCA, additional sub-consultants could be of value to the overall condition assessment report. For example, if a building built prior to 1970 is being assessed and the owner would like to include an asbestos assessment, a specialized service sub-consultant could be value added to the FCA team. This scope could drastically improve the cost estimation of assets within asbestos-containing spaces as additional costs are typical in ACM building areas. In most cases, the selected FCA service provider will indirectly select sub-consultants based on an initial customer interview to customize scope.

2. Experience delivering similar FCAs

While experience may seem like an obvious qualification to search for in an AEC provider, it’s important to know what questions to ask in order to fully understand their experience and expertise. Facility managers and owners should inquire about their credentials, professional licensure, and/or certifications. They can also request an experience list of completed FCAs and square footage associated with their FCA portfolio.

It’s also important to ask a potential AEC provider about similar FCAs they’ve successfully completed. While each FCA is specialized and tailored toward the customer’s needs, varying building types come with their own unique set of challenges or characteristics. For example, a hospital may utilize different systems and building materials than that of a K-12 school building, and both have specific code requirements to ensure they protect the safety of their occupants. Ensuring that an AEC provider has delivered FCAs to spaces similar to that of a facility manager is another way to better understand the thoroughness of their experience and determine if they’re the right fit. 

3. Technology support for results and long-term planning

Another aspect to consider when choosing an AEC provider is forward-thinking technology to house information covering the facility’s construction and renovation history, maintenance, operations and utilities, and FCA findings. Such technology is also helpful for facility managers to assess their assets in one place, evaluate potential investments, define long-term planning, measure facility performance, and ensure any projects conducted, especially those as a result of findings from a condition assessment, are efficient and achieve the organization’s goals.

When completed successfully, FCAs provide facility owners and managers with an in-depth condition report analyzing their building’s age, design, construction methods, materials, and systems. FCAs are an important tool for asset management, capital planning, portfolio benchmarking, long-term facility maintenance, and risk management. Because of the deep understanding and insight facility owners and managers can gain from a thorough and extensive FCA, it’s important they know what qualifications to look for and questions to ask to ensure they receive just that.

Author Bio

Derek Hillestad, Ph.D., is a Senior Facilities Analyst at SitelogIQ. SitelogIQ is a national energy efficiency and facility solutions provider, offering the full range of design, engineering, construction, management, energy, and lighting solutions, as well as mySiteIQ, a technology-based solution for managing facility assets. Derek has over 22 years of experience with architectural, mechanical, electrical, and energy systems for new and existing facility environments. Having been involved in over 50 facilities-related projects, his industry knowledge includes a strong background in field survey and analysis functions as well as operational optimization of the facilities portfolio. Derek earned his Doctorate in Construction Management from Arizona State University. He is a Certified Facility Manager (CFM) as well as an active member of the International Facility Managers Association (IFMA).