Infrastructure Assessment Process from the Owner’s Perspective
Who is Involved?
An infrastructure assessment that results in meaningful data that can be input into a facility master plan begins with aligning the right parties. After facility management identifies their business model and begins the assessment process the engineers brought in to assess the facility need to be introduced to the facility maintenance personnel. The key players here are the director of facilities and the respective trade shop leaders. Only so much data can be collected by visually inspecting a unit and finding out its age; the facilities staff closes the circle through discussions with the engineer about the maintenance history of the systems such as common problems that are seen with specific equipment. Without this partnership, key data may not be presented to the decision makers.
How much time does it take?
The assessment process generally takes a few weeks to complete. Depending upon the size of the facility the field portion of the assessment when data is gathered can take between one and several days. The next step is to compile the data into a format that is easily conveyed to those making the decisions for the facility. This step can take one to several weeks depending upon the size of the facility.
How can the engineer help?
As engineers our expertise in the assessment process is gathering information about how systems are configured, what capacity they have and how much service life they have left compared to industry averages. We then take that data and identify whether or not the system is suitable to keep serving the future needs of the facility.
Factors that inform decision making.
Factors that must be examined to make sound decisions on the future of a facility include system capacity, configuration and age. Capacity will dictate whether or not a system is capable of being extended to serve future renovations or additions. Configuration of a system will influence what measures will be needed to extend or modify a system to serve future renovations or additions. Lastly, age will determine whether or not a system or piece of equipment has a lifespan that meets or exceeds the lifespan of the future renovations or additions; if not it will need to be replaced at some point during the life cycle of the future renovations or additions and thus needs to be included in future capital replacement plans. These three factors are not mutually exclusive; it is common that at least two are used to determine what recommended course of action should be taken for a system. For example, a chiller may have sufficient excess capacity, but its age indicates it will require replacement during the life cycle of the proposed renovations and thus would make most sense to replace during the construction of renovations or additions.
In closing there are two key factors to having a successful building assessment; involving engineers when facility business models are understood and linking knowledgeable facility staff with engineers to form a partnership.