Facility and Property Condition Assessments: Taking Cues from the U.K.

David Evans
The United Kingdom is several centuries older than the United States as an industrialized society, and therefore, has a longer history of urbanization and an older infrastructure. As a result of this maturity, service providers in the United States can learn from their counterparts overseas when providing facility and property condition assessments.

In 1868, a group of building surveyors in the UK recognized the need for professional standards for the assessment of aging facilities. This group established what would eventually become the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a professional body that accredits professionals within the land, property and construction industries. Today, RICS is the largest professional accreditor of building surveyors in the world with approximately 120,000 members. While RICS accreditation is less common in the U.S., a niche market upholding the same principles is taking hold as American companies begin to see the benefits of higher level facility condition assessments (FCAs) and property condition assessments (PCAs).

The building surveying profession in the UK involves completing building assessments using a combination of the architecture, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) systems and structural engineering disciplines.

Historically, these critical assessments have been used to detail capital improvement plans or for due diligence on sales and acquisitions. Many times, these assessments are performed by an architect or a contractor. While using this type of firm may seem appropriate for this function, it may be difficult for individuals in these capacities to remain impartial in carrying out these assessments. This can be avoided by having professionals from other disciplines present an accurate picture of the true condition of a property. The building surveying profession in the UK involves completing building assessments using a combination of the architecture, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) systems and structural engineering disciplines. Including these specialties as part of the FCA/PCA team benefits clients by providing a holistic service offering to building assessments.

I joined Faithful+Gould’s U.S.-based Strategic Facility Consulting (SFC) team in January 2017, after serving as a building surveyor in the UK for seven years. Here at Faithful+Gould, our team is comprised of building surveyors trained in the UK, as well as resources from the within the U.S., with backgrounds in architecture, engineering and facilities management. The team has modeled our service offering after the UK building surveying practice by assembling professionals from all building maintenance and design areas to complete condition assessments. During an assessment, we interview building management and maintenance personnel, analyze available maintenance systems and design and construction documents, and review city building department filings. We complete a full and detailed visual evaluation of an entire facility – including an assessment of interior areas, site systems, structure, roof, building exterior, interior finishes, fire and life safety, MEP systems and accessibility. We use this data to issue a full capital expenditure cost program (usually over 10-12 years) along with a report of our findings. Our assessment and associated cost are intelligent and actionable. We want to give clients the information they need to make informed decisions regarding capital improvement costs.

The professional building surveyors on our SFC team are supported by a dedicated team of cost estimators who are used to assessing repair and replacement cost, as required on complex projects. Through our in-house Construction Intelligence group, Faithful+Gould can draw from a database of cost data on similar projects, allowing us to quickly develop cost estimates for use within our reports. Given our multi-disciplinary service, we can also offer a full suite of integrated services for any project that may emerge from a FCA/PCA completed by the SFC team, such as project management services should refurbishment works be required.

Our team recently utilized this philosophy in providing a comprehensive FCA for an 800,000-square-foot laboratory and R&D campus for an energy company in New Jersey. This client had previously engaged another firm to assess the site, but found that the assessment data was not of a high quality and didn’t meet their current needs, as it focused on basic life cycle-driven component replacement rather than forensic condition and risk-based recommendations. With a life cycle replacement plan estimate of $10 million, the client felt a more strategic and usable management plan was warranted. Our team identified building deficiencies and provided reliable estimates on the cost of repair or replacement. The assessment identified improvements to existing operations and maintenance activities, and created an executable capital plan that the client can use for future funding and project prioritization decisions.

On another recent project, Faithful+Gould completed an assessment of a large industrial property that was undergoing a due diligence process for a potential sale. Our assessment highlighted several areas of defects, including roof repairs and structural movement issues. These were presented to the client, giving them better understanding of the potential issues with the property, assisting them in determining if the acquisition should go ahead.

Faithful+Gould currently has 21 certified RICS members working in the Americas as a part of our team providing a full suite of services.

Both projects are examples of how a holistic service offering, first championed by RICS members overseas, can benefit clients. Faithful+Gould currently has 21 certified RICS members working in the Americas as a part of our team providing a full suite of services. This at the core of our philosophy in service delivery, practiced by all of our professionals, RICS or not.

We anticipate that RICS accreditation and holistic practices like ours will gain traction here in the U.S. In the meantime, building owners and investors should take heed of these industry recognized practices and consider a more holistic and risk-based approach to facility and property condition assessments.

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