Stretching Sustainment Dollars
Realizing Value Through Facility Condition Assessments
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve has undertaken a program to analyze and categorize the physical condition of its facilities at sites throughout the country, which will help the command be able to fully justify facility-related funding requests in an era of continuing budget reductions.
By Ed Maguire and John Hurd
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve is undertaking a program to analyze and categorize the physical condition of its facilities at sites throughout the country, which will help the command be able to fully justify facility-related funding requests in an era of budget reductions. PHOTO BY MIKE CAMERON, HDR INC.
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve (MARFORRES) is positioning itself to be able to fully justify facility-related funding requests in an era of continuing budget reductions. The command is more than 50 percent complete with a program to analyze the physical condition of its assets at sites throughout the country and catalogue facility condition data into BUILDER, the web-based sustainment management system developed by the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.
Among BUILDER’s significant capabilities, it takes data collected by field inspections of key building components and compares it with the component’s predicted lifecycle deterioration. From this, the system then develops condition indexes that can be used for predicting future maintenance needs. Managing data through BUILDER also is an efficient way for MARFORRES’ small facilities management staff to deal with more than 160 Reserve Training Centers across the United States and Puerto Rico.
CONDUCTING SITE ASSESSMENTS
In 2013, MARFORRES retained HDR to help identify a systemic approach for performing facility condition assessments. Drawing on experience from other BUILDER projects, HDR developed an innovative approach that minimized the time and cost associated with sending large field assessment teams to gather data.
The initial facility condition assessment teams consisted of just three individuals, with combined expertise in architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing disciplines, fire protection, and site utility systems. In addition, MARFORRES requested that space utilization studies, real property installed equipment inventories and real property inventories be performed concurrently with the facility assessments. The real property installed equipment inventories were performed by facility condition team members. The space utilization and real property inventory efforts did add two more personnel, bringing the typical field assessment team to five individuals.
Time on site ranged from one day to four days, depending on the total square footage and number of facilities. Assessment walk rates varied from 40,000-ft² to 70,000-ft² per day. Raw field data was collected in BUILDER’s remote entry database software either in real time utilizing computer tablets carried by assessors or at the end of the day, based on an assessor’s paper documentation. The teams validated data and performed quality assurance checks in the evening to ensure everything was accurately captured before concluding the visit. The majority of a facility condition assessment was based on an assessor’s direct condition rating of building components and systems using the standard BUILDER color condition rating system of green (good), amber (fair) and red (poor). Components not easily inspected or accessible were typically rated using the program’s age-based rating system, which extrapolates the condition of a component based solely on the type and age. After returning to their offices, team members would compile field notes, organize any deficiency photos and the photos taken as part of the real property installed equipment inventory. Assessors, after performing a final quality assurance review, would transmit BUILDER remote entry database files to team leaders, who then performed a final review prior to uploading the inspection data into BUILDER.
Executing the inventories and assessments concurrently increased the efficiency of the overall work as well. Efforts from one activity often complemented another. Data, such as manufacturer, age and capacity taken from the equipment nameplate as part of the real property installed equipment inventory is needed by BUILDER. Area square footages measured as part of the space utilization studies along with facility inventories helped validate quantities used by BUILDER to perform calculations. Finally, cross training between assessment team members helped balance the overall workload.
Since MARFORRES staff had limited exposure to BUILDER at the start of the project, the command requested that HDR assist with training and program development. The firm’s BUILDER specialists held training classes to familiarize MARFORRES personnel with terminology and processes and to demonstrate how field data was captured and entered into the database. Equally important, HDR assisted the command’s staff in making the mind-shift from relying on data from previous field inspections, which is typically out of date.
MARFORRES is beginning to realize the potential of utilizing BUILDER to manage its sustainment management database, as its approach to maintaining facilities transitions from reactionary to proactive. BUILDER enables future sustainment, restoration and modernization costs to be projected and potential problem areas to be anticipated. Utilizing the work planning features also allows MARFORRES to quickly determine major outlays in the coming fiscal years as well as examine various planning scenarios—for instance, determining how much funding is required to address all maintenance issues in a particular facility. More specifically, MARFORRES can analyze various scenarios if it chooses to forgo certain maintenance items. This insight can be used to bolster arguments for expending funds now versus postponement.
Another key feature of the BUILDER work planning component is the ability to segregate maintenance costs for mission critical facilities and components based on different failure or priority criteria. Assuming funding will always be constrained, MARFORRES can now budget likely funding amounts on an annual basis for sustainment, restoration, and modernization-related activities to their mission critical facilities and identify a specific time period where a failure becomes a possibility.
MARFORRES is beginning to realize the potential of utilizing BUILDER to manage its sustainment management database, as its approach to maintaining facilities transitions from reactionary to proactive. BUILDER enables future sustainment, restoration and modernization costs to be projected and potential problem areas to be anticipated.
LEVERAGING REAL-TIME DATA
Converting from a static database relying on manual updates to a real-time sustainment management database requires a commitment on the part of facility managers. Specifically, it means learning to work directly with BUILDER to access a database and not relying on printed reports with obsolete data. The desired intent of combin¬ing BUILDER with facility condition assessments is not to develop static reports but to construct an active, manageable database.
BUILDER has tremendous capabilities and brings a programmatic perspective to sustainment management. To truly take advantage of it, though, organizations need to shift from a reactive process where they wait for funding then determine how it should be spent. This is not to imply facility managers will or can change the funding process. It means developing a sustainment, restoration and modernization spending approach in advance and having a factual basis for justifying available funding from both mission critical and economically efficient perspectives.
Combining space utilization surveys and real property inventory validation in conjunction with BUILDER assess¬ments also has proven to be effective. To accurately reflect facility replacement and investment costs, the BUILDER database requires confirmation of characteristics such as square footage, construction year, and primary use category codes extracted from the Department of Navy real prop¬erty database. Real-time field validation of information on each installation enables MARFORRES to ensure a complete and updated inventory along with correcting any discrepancies discovered in the database.
Assessing sites and populating BUILDER takes time and commitment—but the results are worth the effort.
Organizations and their consultants, however, do need to develop a clear plan for how BUILDER will be utilized so key decisions affecting data collection are made prior to the assessment work. Organizations also should allow time and resources for identifying, compiling and validating the initial data needed to begin the assessments and ensure that training and start-up time is budgeted for, in order for staff to develop proficiency with BUILDER.