In my career managing public real estate as the owner, I have gained valuable insight into the management of facilities, project planning, and project management, and how the interrelation of these elements leads to success.
An important aspect of facility management is asset management. Asset management refers to a systematic approach to monitoring, maintaining and replacing building assets. The foundation for asset management is a complete asset inventory. The inventory is a tool for asset monitoring and identifies everything about the asset, including location, year installed, make/model/serial number, and preventive and predictive maintenance requirements. A prescribed maintenance program includes preventive maintenance activities such as filter and motor belt changes on air handling equipment, as well as, predictive maintenance, such as infrared scanning of electrical panels to identify hot spots and utilizing sensing equipment to determine excessive vibration in equipment motors. The inventory and maintenance information inform future asset replacement, including budget forecasting, and forestalling catastrophic failure.
Whether replacing a building component or an entire building, project planning is important. Project planning from a facilities management perspective involves utilizing the asset management data to develop priorities, schedules and funding for the project. When a particular project has been identified for completion, the next step is to develop the scope of work. In my experience, this step begins your association with a design professional (architect or engineer). It is important to select a design professional based on a thorough evaluation of their qualifications and experience to complete the work. The design professional can develop the project scope of work, determine the design schedule, refine the project budget estimate, and assist in contractor selection. Upon approval, the design professional will develop project documents (plans and specifications) for completing the project. The project documents are a roadmap for the eventual contractor. It is vital for the success of the project, that the project documents are accurate and complete. Input must be solicited and received from all stakeholders, particularly those responsible for maintenance of the building. They will be responsible for maintaining the new asset (component or new building) at the completion of the project. Where building systems are involved, commissioning should be included as a requirement in the design documents.
Project management is a significant responsibility. It is multifaceted and requires a team approach. The project manager is akin to an orchestra conductor, who, rather than managing musicians, is managing stakeholders, design professionals, and contractors, along with the required recordkeeping for project approvals, payments, and eventual closeout. The project manager must forge good relationships with all parties, while maintaining control through compliance with the contract documents. In my experience, no design is infallible, and the construction process is never perfect; therefore, the project manager must also be a solution seeker, who navigates the team through the inevitable obstacles to an acceptable resolution. Project oversight, by way of periodic, regular inspection, is necessary during execution of the work to ensure contract document compliance. Project management continues when the contractor’s work has been deemed satisfactorily complete, with commissioning of installed systems and the completion of close-out documents, including warranties, training and the transfer of operating manuals. Depending on the capabilities of the owner, assistance from a third-party owner’s representative may be needed, to advise and assist the owner, their project manager, or to act as the project manager.
My public sector real estate management experience taught me the importance of asset management, project planning and project management in facility operation from the owner’s perspective. Good asset data, good project documents, and a good team of experts (project manager, design professional, contractor, owner’s rep, and stakeholders) are essential keys to experiencing your best return on investment.
Andrew Pupke, Project Manager