Managing True Infrastructure Costs
Practical, and affordable, data collection and modeling solutions can help facility and infrastructure managers mitigate risk and make more effective budget decisions.
BY COL. DENNIS YATES, CFM, F.SAME, USAF (RET.)
As part of the U.S. Air Force Sustainable Infrastructure Assessments project, BUILDER was used to perform highly reliable condition assessments on 119 buildings at Keesler AFB, Miss., including Alho Manor (above), which houses Keesler’s Marine Corps Detachment. PHOTOS COURTESY ATKINS
Facing budget cuts? You’re not alone. In spring 2013, a key part of the Pentagon’s strategy to mitigate the impact of forced budget cuts resulted in the consolidation and reduction of U.S. military infrastructure. With less money to go around, the quality and safety of America’s military facilities are increasingly at risk. But thanks to effective, affordable data monitoring and modeling technology, infrastructure managers can get a clearer picture of their true costs. This analysis can help identify and prioritize facility expenses more effectively and accurately than ever before.
Some facility managers have their resources cut back because they lack the hard data they need to articulate their true budget needs. However, by accurately collecting the data necessary for a realistic estimate of future construction, maintenance and repair costs, you are not just reporting information—you are preparing for the future.
When equipped with an accurate, wellresearched overview of a facility’s expected infrastructure costs, you are much better positioned to build an adequate and sustainable budget that can actually be used to achieve your objectives.
COSTS AND BENEFITS
When the military is forced to tighten its belt, facilities management is often the first place leaders look to trim costs. But without knowing exactly how much it will cost to keep buildings and equipment running smoothly, how can you know whether money is actually being saved year-over-year—or simply delaying inevitable service and replacement costs? That is why the accurate data collection made possible by modern intelligent building/ building automation systems is so important. As buildings age, accurate data helps identify potential problems and anticipate infrastructure sustainment costs.
As a facility’s air filtration systems deteriorate, for instance, poor air quality affects building performance. Climate control becomes less efficient. Equipment life declines. Occupants complain about air quality and utility bills increase. With an interactive tracking system, you can quickly address maintenance issues before they become costly repair/replacement needs. And you will have the data to accurately show the risk of deferring maintenance.
Today’s facility management technology integrates building design and maintenance for continuous, automated monitoring and feedback. Intelligent buildings can provide real-time failure notification, and better yet, notification of pending failures. With data coming in real time, you are better equipped to address infrastructure issues as they arise, and keep facilities running more efficiently—and with less risk of catastrophic repairs taking you by surprise.
MODELING FOR SUCCESS
When designing a building, no one purposefully sets out to jeopardize its long-term safety, efficiency and sustainability by cutting corners on its systems. Too often, however, those are the unintended consequences of budget reduction. Today’s spending cuts can sacrifice tomorrow’s performance. The good news is that modeling software can clearly identify risk and help you understand what will be the impact of reduced resources. That level of insight helps you prioritize your projected expenses and create a practical strategy for facility maintenance.
ADVANTAGES OF BUILDER
Data modeling can help accurately and dynamically generate projections of remaining service life, as well as predict and mitigate system failures. Consider the BUILDER Sustainment Management System. Developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, BUILDER is a scalable, enterprise-level, web-based software application designed to provide engineers, architects and facility managers with a cost-effective solution for managing and sustaining their facilities portfolio.
Using real property data and a structured inspection approach, BUILDER objectively computes condition index metrics for each managed component. This allows regular, knowledge-based inspections to be performed that measure condition, deterioration rates and remaining service life. The application can be used to develop multi-year work-plan scenarios that can help optimize resource allocations.
Ultimately, BUILDER provides a comprehensive picture of a facility’s overall performance and maintenance status. For example, BUILDER could be used to set expectations for the HVAC system of a facility built in 1993. A model can be created for the HVAC system’s chiller—designed for a 20-year service life—that shows the chiller’s projected durability and recommended maintenance. As this key element of the HVAC system nears its 20th year, the BUILDER model can help make an informed decision about how to approach the chiller’s decline—whether to wait until the chiller stops working, which may necessitate renting one until a new chiller can be installed, or to proactively plan for a replacement.
Atkins has used BUILDER to help military installations be more efficient, including at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., where engineers used the technology to organize base inventory and inspect assets through a standardized, systematic approach. With the data they collected, they were able to create dynamic life-cycle models and asset work-plan scenarios, while carefully calculating the potential costs of deferred maintenance.
BUILDER has been instrumental in the U.S. Air Force Sustainable Infrastructure Assessments Project. The technology has been implemented at four Air Force bases—Arnold AFB, Tenn.; McConnell AFB, Kan.; and both Columbus and Keesler AFBs in Mississippi—and it is slated to be implemented at 10 additional bases, with an option for three more.
EVOLUTION OF PAVER
The nation’s military facilities also have benefitted from the Pavement Maintenance Management System (PAVER), which was developed in the late 1970s to help the Department of Defense manage the performance of its vast pavements inventory. PAVER uses inspection data and a pavement condition index rating to consistently evaluate pavement conditions and predict future maintenance and repair schedules.
Today, PAVER is an American Society for Testing and Materials standard testing system that provides engineers with a range of data collection options—from high-definition, geospatial imaging to laser-scanned pavement assessments. This cost-effective program enables infrastructure managers to develop a pavement inventory, perform objective and repeatable assessments, create models to predict future conditions, and prioritize budget dollars.
The more decision-makers can reliably know about facilities maintenance and repair costs, the more effectively they can make hard budget decisions. Depending on the nature of a facility, sustainment plans may need to be developed that cut costs in one area but maintain them in another. Would a manager of a healthcare facility, forced to cut maintenance costs by 10 percent, rather have an HVAC failure in the waiting room, or the operating room? Through modeling, a mission dependency matrix can be created to drive decisions today that can be supported empirically.
BUILDER and PAVER are very useful for managing existing facilities. They may even be more valuable when designing new ones. At a relatively low cost, modeling technology can help managers accurately compare the costs of mission-critical infrastructure choices that will affect building occupants and operating budgets for decades.
FUTURE WARRANTS ATTENTION
Though many take them for granted, infrastructure needs have been gaining more and more awareness. With the American Society of Civil Engineers’ dismal assessment of U.S. infrastructure in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, as well as the May 2013 bridge collapse on I-5 in Washington State, it is becoming harder for leaders to ignore the infrastructure challenges. Yet the latest figures show that as a percentage of our gross domestic product, total public construction spending is at its lowest level in over 20 years. Data monitoring and modeling solutions can help make more effective use of these limited funds.
Perhaps even more importantly, today’s technology can help “put a face on the risk” and empower decision-makers to make the best possible budgetary case for investing in safe, high quality, enduring infrastructure—both inside the fence line and out.