• Chris Dowler

Strategic Facility Management for Small Facility Portfolios

How changing perceptions as to how a facility should be operated will lead to a better bottom line.

Too often facilities are looked upon as a necessary evil –a major cost suck of your limited resources. I am here to change your attitude and show you how your facility can become a strategic asset.

Few small facility portfolio owners1 can afford a full-time facilities staff – in truth they do not need a full-time staff. What they do need is continuous maintenance.

Even fewer owners know how to properly manage their facility. Owners need to focus on their core competencies, not on changing light bulbs.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will outline a series of steps you can take to reduce operating expenses, improve asset life, reduce capital expenses, improve staff productivity, and improve risk management.

In reading these blogs you will become aware of the synergy of many of the programs which I will present. You will notice that I will come back to certain programs multiple times from different perspectives as these programs are what transform a facility into a true strategic asset.

Facility Condition Assessment

Every organization, for-profit and non-profit alike, should begin this journey by having a comprehensive Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) performed.

An FCA is a review of existing conditions of a facility presented as a Facility Condition Report (FCR) – essentially a compendium of all the deferred maintenance2 (DM) which exists. An FCR should be presented in a clear, easy-to-use format which is easily usable by any layperson.

Most facilities which exceed 100,000 square feet will perform an FCA which, depending upon the size of the facility, usually involves a single day of site visit to review documents, interview stakeholders, and perform a visual inspection. Typically, a sampling methodology is used for the inspection in which, say, 10% of the emergency lights are tested.

Evaluate Everything

I believe it is much more valuable for the owner of smaller buildings to have a 100% evaluation as this will provide a much more realistic description of issues. Typically, small facility owners do not have much of a reserve set aside for deferred maintenance. The FCR will identify the scope of the deferred maintenance and set up conditions for the owner to begin addressing.

I also believe every system needs to be evaluated. A system consists of multiple items working together to perform a function. For instance, a fire sprinkler system includes the water supply, backflow preventers, sprinkler heads, risers, gauges, control valves, and tamper switches among other items. All work together to form the fire sprinkler system. If any one item fails, the system fails.

Use an Holistic Approach

It is also important to look at systems holistically. Quite often failure of one item will touch, or impact, several other items. A holistic approach is vital to efficiently and effectively address reducing deferred maintenance. I will show how using a holistic approach works in other services as well.

FCAs often seek to assign values to the cost of the deferred maintenance. Assessors use national databases to develop these cost estimates. My experience is that these cost estimates at best provide relative valuations as opposed to actual cost values.

Owner’s Priority Requirements

To develop true cost estimates detailed scopes-of-work need to be developed with the strategic plan in mind and the Owner’s Priority Requirements (OPRs)3 included. Often excluded from projects, OPRs allow the owner to gauge the effectiveness of a project. Without them, how can an owner claim “the building isn’t right”?

Prioritizing addressing deferred maintenance is the last task. Here is where a holistic view is critical as a careful review may identify possible groupings of projects to save costs.

Living Document

When completed, the Facility Condition Report needs to be a living document. It should reflect elimination of deferred maintenance as they occur and then reflect new deferred maintenance with a re-prioritization.


A Facility Condition Assessment becomes the keystone to the facility’s transformation.


● identifies all deferred maintenance items;

● provides a relative idea of how much it will cost to eliminate that deferred maintenance;

● provides a ranked prioritization of projects;

● can be used to develop a programmed maintenance package;

● can be used to implement an asset management program;

● can be used to develop / implement a work order management system;

● can be used to develop / enhance the continuing operations plan;

● can be used to develop / enhance the risk management program;

● can be used to improve tenant relations for for-profit owners;

● can be used to develop / enhance an energy and water management program;

● can be used to create a more informed operation and maintenance (O&M) budget;

● can be used to develop a capital reserve funding analysis;

● can be used to identify tax strategies / alternative financing.

Continue watching for more in this series.

To discuss how a Facility Condition Assessment can help your facility, contact us to set up a free consultation.

1 Small facility portfolio owners include religious institutions (churches, synagogues, mosques, retreat centers, etc.), private schools, and investment property owners who own property but not as their primary business source of income (ex: someone who owns a business which is housed in a building which she owns).

2 Deferred maintenance is maintenance outlined by suppliers which is not performed, and repairs which are not made. This is usually because of a perceived lack of available funding.

3 Owner's Priority Requirements (OPRs) are conditions the owner deems critical upon the completion of a project They may include specific temperature ranges in a space, or the amount of safety built into the building, or specific lighting levels, or sustainability goals.


Chris Dowler, FMP

Founder and Owner

Dowler Construction Services

a strategic facility solutions firm

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