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Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities
Home/Introduction
Chapter 1
  Introduction to School Facilities Maintenance Planning
Chapter 2
    Planning for School Facilities Maintenance
Chapter 3
    Facility Audits: Knowing What You Have
Chapter 4
    Providing a Safe Environment for Learning
Chapter 5
    Maintaining School Facilities and Grounds
Chapter 6
    Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors
Chapter 7
    Evaluating Facilities Maintenance Efforts
Appendices
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Chapter 3
Facility Audits: Knowing What You Have

GOALS:
  Image of Checkmark To convey the importance of inventorying buildings, grounds, and equipment
  Image of Checkmark To explain how best to collect, manage, and use facilities data from a facility audit


How to Conduct Facility Audits

data \dt-\ n: factual information (as measurements, observations, or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, decision-making, or calculation.

Image of KeysA facility audit is a data collection process, pure and simple. The aim of the audit is to conduct a comprehensive inventory that meets the needs of the entire district management effort - i.e., facilities, technology, and curriculum planners - in a coordinated manner and thereby avoids the need for redundant collection efforts.
 


The terms "audit" and "inventory" are often used interchangeably-the former referring to the "act of inspecting" and the latter to the "act of recording." This Planning Guide uses the term "audit" to refer to both activities: inspecting and recording.

Who Collects the Data?

The first step in the auditing process is to determine whose perspective will guide the audit. Auditors may be school district staff or outside consultants. Resources play a large role in this decision. Small districts may not be able to afford an audit specialist whereas larger organizations might employ several. Above all, auditors must possess a thorough understanding of facility maintenance and operations and have enough time to perform the task properly. Intangible characteristics of a good auditor include an inquisitive nature, devotion to details, and the patience to do the job thoroughly. Finally, auditors and auditing teams should understand how facilities are used for instructional purposes on a daily basis.

High-quality Facilities Data Can Be Used To:

  Graphic of Checkmark determine the state and condition of the facility - because without collecting information, assessing an entity's condition is simply guesswork.
  Graphic of Checkmark establish a baseline for measuring change - such trend analysis (are things getting better or worse?) is only possible if the assessor has information about how things used to work at a previous point in time.
  Graphic of Checkmark assess progress - after all, "progress" is a relative term that has meaning only in the context of baseline measurements.
  Graphic of Checkmark predict and model the impact of modifications - so that systems analysis can be extended to predictions of future performance when based on quality data and sound modeling methods.
  Graphic of Checkmark assist in decision-making for repairs, renovation, or abandonment - because nothing "informs" sound decision-making like good "information."
  Graphic of Checkmark report district information in state and federal data collections and assessments - which often provide funds to help meet reporting requirements.
  Graphic of Checkmark populate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) - and inform new school site selection and other planning decisions.
  Graphic of Checkmark justify a bond initiative - which is simply a special type of decision-making process (and nothing strengthens an argument like supporting facts based on objective data).


Good auditors are inquisitive, detail-oriented, and methodical. They possess a thorough understanding of facility maintenance and operations, and have adequate time to perform the task properly.

Regardless of the size of the school district and the organizational affiliation of the auditors, facility audits are best carried out by teams of two or more people rather than by an individual. Although the auditor should understand the general workings of a school facility, he or she should be accompanied by someone who is intimately familiar with the facility being studied (e.g., a custodian, maintenance staff member, or school principal who works in the facility on a regular basis). The team approach promotes several desirable outcomes: encouraging multiple perspectives (e.g., instructional, technical, financial, and cultural) on the condition of facilities; sharing expertise when making difficult judgment calls; corroborating and confirming decision-making; and cross-training staff for future audit and facility management responsibilities.

What Data Need to Be Collected?

After deciding upon an audit team, the next step in planning for a facilities audit is to define the scope of work-that is, what information needs to be gathered and how detailed and comprehensive should it be? The simple answer is "very comprehensive." It should include data on all facilities, infrastructure, grounds, maintenance staff (e.g., specialized training courses attended), and equipment (including boilers, HVAC systems), floor finishes, plumbing fixtures, electrical distribution systems, heating and air conditioning controls, roof types, flooring, furniture, lighting, ceilings, fire alarms, doors and hardware, windows, technology, parking lots, athletic fields/structures, playground equipment and landscaping, and the building envelope. Other issues to consider during an audit include accessibility (does a facility meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA?), clean air, asbestos, fire, occupant safety, energy efficiency, susceptibility to vandalism, and instructional efficiency (e.g., alignment with state and local classroom standards).
 


One can of gum and graffiti remover (a class 4 flammable) stored at a school site probably doesn't present much of a hazard. However, 10 cases in a single room is a different story. Planners must get enough detail from an audit to tell the difference!

More specifically, building components include, but are not limited to:

  Graphic of Checkmark rooms
  Graphic of Checkmark interior walls
  Graphic of Checkmark interior doors
  Graphic of Checkmark floors
  Graphic of Checkmark plumbing
  Graphic of Checkmark electrical systems
  Graphic of Checkmark HVAC systems
  Graphic of Checkmark kitchens
  Graphic of Checkmark hardware
  Graphic of Checkmark egresses
  Graphic of Checkmark communications equipment (audio, video, and data)
  Graphic of Checkmark exterior envelope (walls and windows)
  Graphic of Checkmark roof and roofing materials
  Graphic of Checkmark foundations and basements

Grounds include, but are not limited to:

  Graphic of Checkmark courtyards
  Graphic of Checkmark unimproved fields
  Graphic of Checkmark athletic fields
  Graphic of Checkmark playgrounds
  Graphic of Checkmark parking lots

  Graphic of Checkmark campus roads
  Graphic of Checkmark signage
  Graphic of Checkmark traffic patterns
  Graphic of Checkmark trees and shrubs
  Graphic of Checkmark landscaping


Vision =
What you hope

Plans =
What you expect

Data =
What you know



Equipment includes, but is not limited to:

  Graphic of Checkmark fixed equipment (motors, compressors, telephones, computers)
  Graphic of Checkmark tools (lawn mowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, drills)
  Graphic of Checkmark vehicle fleets (buses, vans, trucks, cars)
  Graphic of Checkmark supplies (motor oil, cleaning agents, pesticides, and other chemicals)

Who do you call when you need a facilities audit?

User assessments are helpful, but most users lack expertise.

Maintenance staff reviews are good, but employees may lack the time to take on this "extra" responsibility.

Expert facilities consultants are usually very reliable, but can be expensive.


The Case of the "Red Hot" Classrooms

Image of Eagle with Hammer Eileen, the school facilities manager, had a problem. Most of the classrooms in the district's new science and technology magnet school were, to put it simply, hot. Eileen and her top-notch staff were stumped. They had verified that the chiller and components of the HVAC system were in working order, but the system kept getting overworked and the rooms kept getting uncomfortably warm. Eileen studied the building specs time and time again, but to no avail. The data made sense: the HVAC system fit the square footage and 200-student capacity of the building. What was wrong? Did she have bad data? What else could it be? Once again she logged into the classroom inventory database: 16 students per room, one teacher, one aide, two doors, six windows, tile floors, six electrical sockets, eight computers-and the light bulb finally went off! "That's it!" she yelled aloud to her assistant. "The computers-they give off heat too, and that means that each classroom has the equivalent of 26 people in it, not 18. That's the extra load." Sure enough, Eileen's follow-up research on the Internet verified that the "average" child and "average" computer and monitor both occupied about 30 ft2 and emitted 300 btu per hour. Her data were sound after all, and she had solved the mystery of the "red hot" classrooms!

Facilities audits should also include a review of facility records and reports so that potential problems can be identified before they turn into full-blown problems (e.g., records indicating that filters have not been changed for nine months might suggest that indoor air quality problems are on the horizon). Furthermore, a comprehensive audit should also look at the underlying practices and processes that support the maintenance of facilities. Doing so can help to ensure that "standard operating practices" are not only in the plans, but being implemented on a daily basis. Moreover, because some types of record keeping are regulated (such as boiler maintenance records, amount and type of fuel used, operation of emergency generators, and use of pesticides), an audit should verify that required records are being maintained.

Energy use should also be included in a facilities audit-meaning that all elements of the building's structure and operation must be evaluated with respect to energy use. Energy audits typically include computer-based modeling of the building. Once a base model is developed to match existing building conditions, modifications can be introduced to evaluate the impact of potential system upgrades on annual energy use. In this way, an audit and energy model can be used to predict the impact of lighting upgrades on a building's heating and cooling systems.



Facilities data can include operational data and costs of a system. Even if overall operations are sound, data analysis can identify areas for improvement. Analysis of data may also reveal clues to impending problems that no one is even looking for!

Think comprehensively...

"Buildings" include not only schools, but athletic facilities, tool sheds, and remote sites.

"Grounds" include not only unpaved surfaces (e.g., fields) and paved surfaces (e.g., parking lots), but also pedestrian and vehicular traffic that typify them. Grounds also incorporate landscaping, which affects not only the aesthetic presentation of school property, but also water flow, energy use, and even
personal safety.

"Equipment" includes all vehicle fleets-from lawn mowers to school buses
and district-owned automobiles.


At a Minimum, an Audit Should Record the Following:

  Graphic of Checkmark what (brand name, model numbers, serial numbers, etc.)

  Graphic of Checkmark quantity and product size(e.g., size 4 or "medium")
  Graphic of Checkmark where
  Graphic of Checkmark age

  Graphic of Checkmark condition
  Graphic of Checkmark working as purchased/designed?
  Graphic of Checkmark working as it should be?
  Graphic of Checkmark working as it needs to be to meet the needs of the users?
  Graphic of Checkmark repair history

  Graphic of Checkmark specialized upkeep requirements (e.g., oil and filter types)
  Graphic of Checkmark evidence of future needs
  Graphic of Checkmark recommended service
  Graphic of Checkmark estimated remaining useful life

Regardless of the recording mechanism, all data eventually need to be converted into an electronic format so they can be managed, analyzed, and stored more efficiently. Data should also be recorded consistently so that comparisons can be made over time (a task known as "trending" or "benchmarking").

How audit findings get recorded depends on the data collection system being used in the organization. Options range from high-end software with electronic pick lists on palm pilots (or laptop computers) to low-end steno pads and pencils. Regardless of the recording mechanism, all data must eventually be converted into an electronic format. If the data are collected electronically at the outset, they can be exported easily into a database or spreadsheet. If the data are collected manually, they will need to be keyed into a database or spreadsheet-introducing a significant source of possible errors. Re-keying data is also an inefficient use of staff time. However, if portable electronic equipment is not available for the data collection, it may be a necessary step in the audit process.

Once the annual audit is accomplished, facilities staff should review the findings for accuracy. Moreover, every subsequent modification, upgrade, and renovation should be integrated into the audit records. Maintaining these data in an orderly and consistent fashion ensures that planners and repair people alike know the most current status of the facilities as they make their day-to-day and long-term decisions.

When Should Data Be Collected?

Image of KeysThe ideal time to initiate a facility audit for the first time is when the organization undertakes major construction or renovation activities. However, if major work is not scheduled, a facility auditing program should be established just the same. Once initiated, audits must be performed on a regular basis (e.g., annually) because conditions are constantly changing. If facility audits are an ongoing feature of maintenance management, each year's data can inform the next year's audit and make the task much easier.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Videotaping of sites can be a powerful data collection and documentation tool. Videos can be taken with digital cameras or converted to digital format without much trouble. They then provide a record of facility conditions-showing improvements already made or deficiencies that must be remedied. Videos can also serve as evidence of ownership, for example, when filing an insurance claim for items lost in a fire.


Good Data Collection and Use: A Friend to Students and Administrators Alike

Image of Eagle with Hammer Good data collection and use can be as simple as a log or notation system on a building's floor-plan diagram. For example, Cheryl, the school nurse at Homer Elementary, decided to identify every accident incident that was reported in her school building. When she marked a third fall in the same location on her floor plan, she told the principal who, in turn, initiated a more detailed investigation. It turned out that a newly hired custodian was over-applying buffing oil on his dry mop and leaving an extremely slippery residue on the floor. The custodian was immediately retrained on how to apply the buffing agent correctly, and the training sheet for new staff was updated to discourage similar mistakes. Thanks to Cheryl's simple (and inexpensive) data collection tool, the school probably avoided additional injuries to students.


Data Management

Most school facility managers are extremely competent and have served their districts well for many years. They are ingenious problem solvers with plenty of common sense. However, the roles and responsibilities of a facility manager have changed greatly in recent years. Their duties range from asbestos management to contract procurement, from high-tech computer operations to refitting a 50-year-old coal boiler. Some of these tasks leave little room for error. Thus, facility managers must be expert collectors, organizers, and assessors of facilities data if a school district is to have safe and well-maintained school buildings.

But data collection is not an end in itself. Rather, data collection should be motivated by and geared toward providing information that results in better management of the organization. Which data are collected may be driven by diverse information needs: the boss's monthly report, the school board's quarterly report, the state's annual collection of facilities data, and regulatory requirements, to name a few. If these reports are not submitted in a timely manner, someone is going to come looking for them. However, collecting meaningless data and submitting an equally meaningless report is unlikely to be of much value to the planning process. On the other hand, collecting and reporting good data for use in analysis, trending, and planning is a vital step toward good organizational management.

The facility operations budget typically represents about 10 percent of a school district's entire spending (not including capital funding for major construction and renovation projects). Thus, facilities warrant the attention of an education organization's top management, who should appreciate that investing resources in facilities data collection and information systems is an integral part of any district-wide management plan. These systems do not have to be expensive, although effective facilities data management is worth a substantial investment. In fact, trying to manage a school district without such an effective audit system is by far the most expensive solution of all, because other resources (human, capital, and operational) might be squandered if they are not being directed by management plans based on accurate and timely data.

Features common to good data collection systems for facilities audits include:

  Graphic of Checkmark The element list includes all buildings, grounds, and equipment at all sites.
  Graphic of Checkmark The element list is comprehensive for all rooms and spaces in all buildings.
  Graphic of Checkmark The element list reflects both permanent features (structures) and temporary features (e.g., traffic patterns, snow buildup areas).
  Graphic of Checkmark Data collections are element driven and do not include fields for long narratives (i.e., the data must be able to fit into a spreadsheet format).
  Graphic of Checkmark Data are collected on an element-by-element basis so that records are maintained about each individual component (e.g., for each window a record is kept of its precise location, year of installation, brand of replacement parts, service dates and descriptions, etc.).
  Graphic of Checkmark The data are recorded electronically in a format that can be exported into a database or spreadsheet without rekeying (saving time and reducing clerical errors).
  Graphic of Checkmark The data are reviewed for accuracy and completeness by the facility management and maintenance team. This team prioritizes the findings and modifies the scope of the data collection as new issues are identified.

Image of KeysBecause facilities data are so valuable, they should be regarded as an organizational asset that must be considered in any risk management planning-in other words, these data must be maintained securely. Backup data files should be stored in multiple safe sites (referred to as "distributed storage") to decrease the likelihood of accidental loss or damage. Many organizations, including some schools, contract with outside service providers to store backup files at remote locations.

Similarly, original facility drawings (as-designed and as-built) are irreplaceable, and should be treated as such. They should be time- and date-stamped, scanned, archived (redundantly), and loaned out only under a strictly enforced chain of custody. The facilities department needs to serve as the custodian of all facilities records or verify that someone else is handling the job responsibly.

Data exchange and the ability to move data to upgraded software systems are two issues that school districts are increasingly encountering. Thus, facilities maintenance data must be stored in a computer database that is robust enough to allow for easy data import and export. At the very least, the data should be stored using a standard spreadsheet format with each column representing a data field (or element) and each row representing a data record.



How does your organization collect and use facilities data? If you don't know, your organization may need a more systematic approach to data management.


Images stored in standard formats (such as TIFF and JPEG) are also easily manipulated between systems. In recent years, document imaging software and supporting computer equipment have become more affordable. Thus, many school districts are investing in document imaging systems to reclaim office space taken up by large storage cabinets. These systems can be used to scan documents (blueprints, contracts, manuals, purchase orders, etc.) and store the images on computer hard disks or CDs. The images can be indexed by keywords for fast searching and retrieval. Some document imaging systems have optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities that enable image retrieval based on user queries.
 


CMMS software is a cornerstone of facility management for any district with more than 500,000 square feet of building space.

Although many schools and school districts have automated their data collection and record-keeping systems, smaller organizations may not have either the need or the resources to do so. However, a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is necessary when staff are responsible for managing more than about 500,000 square feet of facilities. At that point, facilities, assets, staff, and scheduling become complex enough to warrant an investment in CMMS software, equipment, and staff training. Moving to a CMMS requires resources, manpower and, above all, support from management at all levels of the organization. Good CMMS packages should be compatible with the district's other operating systems and software and integrate a wide range of facilities management components-including facilities (structures and spaces including grounds and equipment), staff, users, work orders, scheduling, and compliance and regulatory issues. More specifically, asset management software should track building components, furniture, and equipment by their age and life cycle, and report preventive maintenance measures necessary for effective resource management.




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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education