Reassessing Run-to-Failure Mentality Will Help Address Maintenance Backlog
Part 2 of a 4-part Green Building Report.
Given the run-to-failure mentality and cuts in the Federal Buildings Fund, it’s no surprise that the federal maintenance backlog is large. According to the Government Accountability Office, the top five property-holding agencies have a maintenance backlog of more than $36 billion.
How can the increase in maintenance OPEX be addressed? One key step is to put an end to the run-to-failure mentality. The public sector needs to provide the same focus on mechanical maintenance and asset management best practices as it does on energy efficiency.
It’s also essential for agencies to request and for Congress to fund capital reinvestment to replace aging assets. Today, the federal strategy must shift towards mechanical maintenance as steady energy prices and reduced energy use provide a moment of stability in which federal executives should build a case to transfer resources towards facility improvements and maintenance management. If Congress and the White House do not reallocate resources into capital projects that are going to address the mechanical maintenance issue and the backlog, overall OPEX will jump whenever energy prices rise.
The federal sector should also adopt industry benchmarks. There is a culture in many public sector facilities organizations where managers feel they should not be accountable to the same standards as the private sector. The contention is that they are not driven by the same profit incentives and therefore spend what is necessary to achieve the agency’s mission. In reality, the goal of every agency is to deliver its mission at the best possible value to the taxpayer. One way to do this is through measurements and benchmarking strategies.
Preparing for an Owned Future
Government agencies need to adopt benchmarks as a tactic to measure performance so that they can learn from their efforts and equip their organizations for the future. A number of public sector agencies are already adopting energy and sustainability benchmarks, but this is only a start. Agencies should measure things like performance on work orders, work order type, priority indexes, tenant engagement, and life cycle costs. If owned space is the future, agencies will need to get a handle on these strategies immediately or cost will continue to accelerate.
One of the major hurdles to overcome is the absence of dependable data. Efforts are underway to reduce the number of disparate asset management systems to improve data quality and lower the cost to maintain these tools. The outcome will improve analysis so that information is accessible for strategic decisions and long-term planning without having to juggle conflicts among various datasets that house the same information. There is still a long road ahead to address these systems, but they are receiving attention within a few agencies.
The news is not all sour. Progress is underway by agency leaders to address costs and plan for the future. Currently there are programs that test new technologies for adoption. The premise is that testing these technologies will help agencies determine which technologies will deliver the highest ROI. Programs like GSALink — a smart buildings platform — are major advances towards the embrace of automation, sensors, and big data analytics.
The Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act (FBPTA) is also pushing agencies to equip their people as leaders to oversee these ongoing changes.
Each of these initiatives shows promise to develop facilities management best practice while recognizing the need to transform the culture among building operators and tenants towards a more sustainable future.
As the public sector moves its workforce into owned property, it must address the rising costs of these aging assets. The federal government will need quality data and analysis to assess performance, measure program impacts, and generate creative ideas on how to leverage resources within and across agencies. This requires stakeholder engagement, asset visibility, and a long-term strategy to move towards a consolidated asset management data and analytics model.
Getting this strategy in place will position organizations for advanced capabilities in their portfolio. These capabilities include high ROI investments like smart buildings, energy savings performance contracts, total life-cycle cost analysis, and consolidated analytics and business process automation, among others. Through cooperative partnerships among the private and public sector, we can tackle these challenges to build a more sustainable future together.
Charles Dilley is managing director at The Building People and a seasoned project manager and business measures consultant with over ten years’ experience specializing in real estate asset management, enterprise application integration, and project life cycle controls. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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