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4 CONDITION ASSESSMENT AS A MAINTENANCE MANAGEMENT TOOL The committee recommends that much greater use of formal- ized condition assessment should be adopted to protect public assets from wastage. Several federal and state agencies have undertaken condition assessment programs that can serve as models and teach useful lessons for improving the effectiveness of maintenance and repair (M&R) activity. The committee's review of these programs is the basis for the following suggestions on scope, diagnostic interpretation, and effective use of condition assessment as a maintenance management tool. SCOPE AND INITIAL SURVEY The scope of condition assessment may be limited to the iden- tification of one specific condition in a building or it may be a planned comprehensive evaluation of the building. The depth or level of detailed assessment can vary as well. Comprehensive assessment programs that address entire buildings and multiple buildings may be simple, visual, walk-through-type assessments, or they may be in-depth studies, using a variety of technical diagnostic techniques. In general, the scope of condition assessments must be designed to meet the information requirements of the property owner or manager. The cost of data collection and analysis and the time required to develop large amounts of data can be high. The only way to control costs and time of condition assessment is to clearly and definitively outline the scope of the effort. The early detection of potential problems is important in preventing deterioration, possible damage to adjacent materials t6 Refer to Appendixes C, D, and E; see also State of North Carolina (1988) and APPA (1986~. 21
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or systems, and failure of components and should thus be a pri- mary objective in designing the condition assessment program. During condition assessment, systems and materials are inspected for outright signs of deterioration, failure, or more subtle symptoms that conditions are not normal. The standards and procedures that are the basis for assessments may often combine into checklists that prompt and assist inspectors in the iden- tification process. The assessment process should be standardized and performed regularly by individuals trained to recognize and identify the symptoms of problems. Such symptoms are often subtle and meaningless to building users or even building managers who may not understand the significance of telltale staining, buckling of materials, or minor cracking. Poor design decisions and faulty construction can create problems soon after a building is placed in service. This happens most frequently at the interfaces between components, especially different systems, or components by different manufacturers or suppliers. The implications of such interfaces may not be fully anticipated or understood during the design phase. Later, during construction, problems in compatibility or dimensioning may be exacerbated due to "field engineering" solutions. The condition assessment should direct particular attention to these interfaces. DIAGNOSTIC INTERPRETATION Following the survey to identify symptoms of problems or deficiencies, the next step in condition assessment is to perform a diagnostic analysis to determine if there is, in fact, a problem, the nature and extent of the problem, and options for corrective action. The successful analysis will require technical knowledge of the systems involved, most frequently the materials used in construction and maintenance. Interpretation may range from straightforward moisture problems caused by leaks to complex interpretation of risks associated with toxic materials, mechanical or electrical system performance, intelligent control systems, structural loading, or fire safety. Such knowledge may be gained initially through experience and training in the building trades or through university education. Predictions or estimates of the remaining useful life of a component must often be made. Funding decisions must often be made based on which problems are most severe. Inspectors may be asked to indicate which components may fail first and which can be expected to continue to function--perhaps at a reduced level--for some period of time. Effective condition assessments depend on such predictions, which then become the basis for establishing the repair component of M&R budgets. 22
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The diagnostic analysis should be based on- logical, standard- ized, professionally developed procedures to ensure that identi- fied deficiencies are efficiently and correctly evaluated. Faulty analysis or unsubstantiated speculation can be costly and danger ous. EFFECTIVE USE OF CONDITION ASSESSMENT Because condition assessment involves field surveys, accumu- lation and use of substantial amounts of data, and trained per- sonnel, the exercise can be costly. Care must be taken to assure that the assessment program is cost effective in reducing backlog and in minimizing costs of ownership. Control of costs is achieved through proper planning and control of the scope of the assessment. Decisions must be made on what aspects of the building are to be inspected and to what level of detail the evaluation will be undertaken. For example, will inspectors be required to examine every space or system? If inspecting electrical systems, will pane} covers be removed? Will there be circuit testing? Answers to such questions depend on the specific needs of each property owner or agency. One approach to reaching these answers is "filtering." Filter- ing generally means applying selective criteria to larger numbers of buildings to determine if some should be inspected earlier than (or to the exclusion of) others. For example, the assessment may initially include only older buildings, buildings of a certain construction type, or a small number of buildings selected to be representative of the total inventory. Filtering may be applied to systems as well, such as when an owner is upgrading telecom- munications or data processing in all buildings. Standardization of the inspection and diagnostic analysis is one of the most important means of controlling costs of a condi- tion assessment program. Fixed checklists or guidelines are the basis for such standardization and will assure that data collected are consistent from one building to another and can be summar- ized or "rolled up" to represent the larger numbers of buildings in a total inventory. Standardization improves data reliability and allows flaws, gaps, or inconsistencies in the data collection process to be detected more easily. More standardized assessment programs also may become more useful to the entire community of building owners or managers as a basis for statistical analysis and subsequent development of better management models for building systems maintenance. The condition assessment team should be given target esti- mates of levels of anticipated problems, time required for inspection, number of buildings to be inspected, symptom of 23
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checklists, and standards to be applied in identifying symptoms. Assessments may be conducted by dedicated teams, including architects, engineers, inspectors, other consultants, students, or others trained for the job, depending on the requirements of the program. GUIDELINES FOR ASSESSMENT Standardization of condition assessment procedures and quali- fications of the teams responsible for condition assessment will be achieved more rapidly if definite guidelines are developed. Federal agencies, as owners and users of large inventories of buildings, would benefit from the development of such guide- lines, and the committee recommends that these agencies sponsor this development. The agencies should work together--and with state and local governments and private sector owners--to assure that the data bases ultimately resulting from their effort are of the broadest possible use. Examples of programs already in operation may serve as use- ful models~for this work. The State of Florida, for example, requires condition assessments of state buildings at least every 3 years, and the state's Department of General Services has established a computer-based inventory system to support the program. References Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA) et al., The Decaying American Camous: A Tickine Time Bomb, Alexandria, Va., APPA, 1986. State of North Carolina, FacilitY Condition Evaluation and Maintenance Planning Program, DSA Group of N.C., Inc., for the State Construction Office, Department of Administration, Raleigh, N.C., 2nd draft report, May 20, 1988. 24