Tricks Of The Trade: Facility Renewal Planning

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By B. Kevin Folsom, CEP Published in the January/February 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager Q Is there an established benchmark for refreshing (remodeling) office space?

Tom Pavlovsky Supervisor, Facilities Planning and Construction Automobile Club of Southern California Orange County, CA

A Ahhh, facility renewal planning! This is one of my favorite topics! I think I could write a book on this topic but some have beat me to it, and thankfully so because I may not know what I do today without them. I’ll recommend these books at the end of my response; however, for our purposes here, I will try to keep it short.

In general, commercial facilities are built with a 50 year life cycle. Within this, there are three sub-life cycles. Then there are individual component life cycles. A savvy facility manager needs to know how to predict the facility renewal needs of each of these life cycles and generally budget for them before the end of each life cycle—with improved accuracy as the drop dead date arrives. Take into consideration several variables that can affect the timing and frequency of some of these:
  1. organizational pain tolerance: you and facility occupants may think it’s needed, but the organization’s leadership is not ready to spend money on it (i.e., the pain is not bad enough for those controlling the purse);
  2. component durability: choices made during construction on methods, materials, and equipment can have an affect on incremental component life cycles (i.e., good/expensive components often last longer, and bad/cheap components don’t); and
  3. facility use: wear and tear more or less than the design of a component can affect how long an item lasts.
Now onto the sub life cycles…Typically, after a facility is built new, we often find there are certain components calling for our attention around year eight to 12 (just when you finally get all the warranty issues resolved); this is the first sub life cycle. Some items are visible, and some are not. These issues include: high traffic painting and flooring; updates to electronics in fire alarms, elevators, and building automation; touch-ups for building envelope sealants and roofing; and tweaking some inefficient space utilizations. Sub life cycle two usually comes around 25 to 30 years. It’s at this point where the above items are needed again; most major components will need to be replaced or significantly upgraded such as HVAC, building envelope, elevators, fire alarms, major space reprogramming, ADA compliance, incorporating the latest efficiency technologies, etc. If this renewal is done all at once, the entire facility would need to be taken off line. Over a five year period, this may be a significant disruption but more tolerable to the building users and the pocketbook. Sub life cycle three is the same as the first sub life cycle and begins around years 38 to 42. By the time the end of life comes around at year 50, the organization will need to decide whether to remove the facility and start over, or historically restore it to carry on. The cost is probably the same either way. That is the relatively long answer. My short answer is, probably every 15 years, but as described above…it depends. As for books I’d refer you to, I have personally met and worked with the following authors and they have been great mentors: Buildings: The Gifts That Keep On Taking, by Rodney Rose; The Facilities Audit, by Harvey H. Kaiser; and Strategic Capital Development: The New Model for Campus Investment, by Harvey H. Kaiser and Eva Klein.

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