Is your commercial property starting to show its age? Maybe you have a growing workforce — or, in the case of a jail facility, a growing inmate population — and need to determine how they’ll fit or whether it’s time to add on or build a new facility. Or maybe you’re developing a master plan and need to budget for expansion five or 10 years down the road.
To do that, you need to know where you stand today.
What is a Facility Assessment?
A facility assessment is completed by interviewing building occupants & decision makers, site walkthroughs, review of original building plans and research into the building’s past. This information is collated into a single, cohesive report. With a property condition report, facility managers, project owners, and other stakeholders can make informed decisions about the full scope of existing conditions of a facility. When there is discussion about expansion and changes to a facility, this facility assessment is critical in determining whether to fix what they have in the short term, add on, or build new based on accurate data and information.
A building assessment is a service often conducted by architects, engineers, or a construction manager from a design/build firm. They will ask questions and meticulously examine the following areas of your real estate.
Exterior Condition Reports
Because of its exposure to the elements, it’s not uncommon for the exterior of a building to show condition issues sooner than the inside.
When examining the exterior of a building, the inspection will identify physical condition issues, especially those related to water damage. Buildings made of stone or brick may have joints or sealants that need repairs or replacement. The need for tuckpointing is quite common in older brick buildings and must be done to uphold the integrity of a building’s exterior.
The inspector will look for foundation cracks, staining, or mold which may indicate water damage due to poor drainage. Regrading of the surrounding landscape may be recommended along with the addition of gutters and downspouts. Major foundation damage could threaten the structural integrity of a building and require significant repairs.
Flat roofs are common in commercial structures, but are notorious for having water ponding issues when improperly installed. Whether flat, or sloped, roofs can have numerous issues including:
Worn or damaged roofing materials
Improperly installed flashing around skylights, chimneys, roof edges, etc.
Leaking in valleys (where two roof lines meet)
Ice dams in northern climates
Improperly sealed pipes and drains
Interior Condition Reports
An assessment of the building’s interior includes more than just structural features, it also includes spacial considerations and many of the systems that keep operations running.
Mechanical systems in many larger facilities are common areas of concern. Items including HVAC, boilers, pumps, plumbing, electrical systems and other equipment are inventoried along with service records to show installation dates, repairs, and potential issues. Was a new furnace installed a couple years ago, or is it an aging system that’s on its last leg? An assessment can help identify a system’s expected life expectancy so owners can budget for it in the future as part of their master plan.
Are there enough restrooms to accommodate the number of employees now and as the company grows? Are the correct number of stalls properly sized and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant? Accessibility for those with limited mobility is coming under greater scrutiny, and inspectors will examine whether there are proper clearances around doors, threshold issues, or limited access to certain areas.
Condition issues with finishes like cabinetry, flooring, and tile will be documented, such as grout that is chipping or missing from grout lines. If there is extensive damage, the underlying cause will need to be investigated to determine whether it’s related to structural issues or poor installation. Buildings that are more than 50 years old may contain asbestos or lead paint. These conditions will need to be remediated pending any construction or remodeling.
Safety issues are a major concern. Are there proper firewalls, are fire doors being propped open, and do they have proper labels that are clearly visible to fire inspectors? It’s not uncommon for these labels to be painted over, resulting in potential fines. An inspector will also document if exit doors or signs are blocked, another major violation.
A facility assessment will examine construction drawings and compare them to modern building codes to provide recommendations on improving energy efficiency. Some examples might include the addition of insulation, replacement windows and doors, or constructing thicker walls. Property owners need to weigh the pros and cons of some of these measures. Thicker walls, for example, might lower the heating bill but will reduce usable square footage. Comparing utility bills from an aging building to a newly constructed one of the same type and size can be an eye opening exercise. It can also be used to prove how beneficial energy efficient upgrades might be and that payback periods might be much quicker than you think.
In addition to these issues, examiners might conduct space assessments to see whether a company is maximizing its square footage and making the best use of their space. For older buildings, research might be conducted to see if it’s listed as a historic landmark. If it is, the owner might be eligible for grants to help finance a project if they are willing to adhere to certain preservation requirements.
What Happens After a Facility Assessment?
Once the facility assessment is completed, a report detailing the condition of a property will be compiled detailing the findings. Photos, descriptions, and floor plans might be used to identify areas and easily document any issues. Typically, the company that conducted the assessment will give a presentation to stakeholders, including board members, a facility manager, business owner, council members, etc.
The construction firm can also provide rough estimates for performing repairs and upgrades, or begin discussions on budgeting for a new facility so stakeholders can determine the goals of the project and identify the resources needed.
The key to any facility assessment is transparency and communication. Working with a construction company with expertise in your industry can also help ensure that any industry-specific concerns are addressed as part of your assessment. The team at The Samuels Group is ready to discuss your needs and talk through whether you might benefit from a facility assessment. Reach out to us today to schedule a conversation.