By Kim Dillingham, Senior Analyst
Many institutions use facility condition assessments (FCAs) to gather information that ultimately informs the campus-wide capital renewal plan. FCAs provide a substantial amount of data at the sub-system, building, and campus level, but they can be challenging and inefficient to perform. While the majority of institutions using consultants to perform their FCAs, about one third of higher education campuses complete the assessments in-house—and that number is growing. Two campuses of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system provide different but equally compelling models for performing assessments in-house.
Staff a dedicated assessment team with specialists
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dedicates a team of specialists to complete continuous assessments. UNC Chapel Hill’s team consists of an architect, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer. While their primary responsibility is to complete condition assessments, the team also developed and regularly updates a condition database to expedite future assessments. By leveraging historic data and automated processes, the team can produce detailed building-specific reports within one to two weeks of an assessment.
Leverage internal experts as needed
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s in-house team consists of two generalist employees: a facility condition assessment program manager and an administrative specialist to manage logistics. Additionally, the manager leverages internal experts such as building managers or zone engineers to support the assessment process as needed.
To minimize disruption, the annual assessment schedule is published approximately one year in advance to allow impacted staff to plan accordingly. The program manager engages experts for varying lengths of time, depending on the scope of the work involved. For example, the manager may tap the zone electrical engineer for two weeks, but only needs support from the building liaison for one week. Ultimately, this approach allows UNC Charlotte to complete assessments for approximately one-third of campus each year.
Deciding which model is best for you
The most important factor when deciding between a specialist- or generalist-centric assessment team is the availability of specialized staff. For example, institutions in labor markets where engineers and architects are difficult to recruit may opt to go the generalist route. Nevertheless, it is still critical for all facilities leaders to consider how short-term assessment work may impact their day-to-day duties and the ability for the department to achieve its broader priorities.
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