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Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities
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
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Chapter 3
Facility Audits: Knowing What You Have

  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

Facility audits require time, energy, expertise and, therefore, resources. Although performing a comprehensive and accurate audit will not be cheap, it is economical all the same because it is a necessary step in the effective and efficient management of school facilities.

Let's Get Our Stories Straight...
or Maybe It's Better That We Don't

Image of Eagle with Hammer The audit team pulled into the parking lot at the high school. As the maintenance supervisor and a local structural engineer were on their way into the building, the building principal pointed their attention to a well-worn sill on a bank of windows outside the gymnasium. "We'll have to put that window sill on the list as being in need of painting," he noted perfunctorily. "Actually," the maintenance supervisor replied, "that job is going to require scraping and maybe even power-washing. It's more than just a simple maintenance job, so we'll mark it as 30 feet of a $10-per-foot improvement project." The structural engineer looked critically at the roof above the window sill. "In my opinion, we've got to consider the possibility of a failed lintel due to a damaged roof truss and undersized roof drain. We'll need to look at it more closely to be sure." The principal scratched his head, "You know, I was really only concerned about how it looked." The maintenance supervisor nodded, "And I was only worried about what it would cost to fix." The structural engineer was quick to interrupt him, "You might very well be correct with your assessment, but the only way to be certain is to check that truss and drain." "Well," the principal smiled, "I guess that three sets of eyes are better than one." "Especially when each sees the world from a different perspective," laughed the maintenance supervisor. "That's right," the engineer agreed, "I'm the theorist." He looked at the maintenance supervisor, "You're the realist. And you, Mr. Principal, represent the bottom line."

Why Audit Your Facilities?

Things change. It is a fact of life and of school facilities maintenance planning. The luster of new buildings and equipment are sure to fade over time. And as facilities age, their condition changes as well. But change isn't always a bad thing. For example, a two-year-old air-handling system might perform better than a new system because its operators have had 24 months to learn how to use it and "get out the kinks." Of course, this assumes that the operators have maintained the equipment responsibly along the way-changing filters and belts as needed. If, however, the same air handler is operating well after 10 years of service, it is safe to assume that more extensive maintenance efforts have been undertaken-valves and gaskets will have been replaced and the compressor pump serviced (probably more than once).

Because the definition of what constitutes "proper maintenance" changes over the life of the equipment or building, knowing the age and condition of a facility or piece of equipment is a prerequisite for maintaining it properly. Otherwise, maintenance efforts are a hit-or-miss situation-some things only get fixed when they break while others get "maintained" on a routine basis whether they need it or not. When an education organization knows the status of its facilities and equipment, the need for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades becomes much clearer-after all, it is tough to argue against good data!

The definition of what constitutes "proper maintenance" changes over the life of the equipment and building. Thus, knowing the age and status of one's facilities is a prerequisite for maintaining them properly.

Knowing the Condition of Your Facilities

Facility audits are important because they:

  Graphic of Checkmark Help planners, managers, and staff know what they have, its condition, service history, maintenance needs, and location
  Graphic of Checkmark Provide facts, not guesswork, to inform plans for maintaining and improving school facilities
  Graphic of Checkmark Establish a baseline for measuring facilities maintenance progress
  Graphic of Checkmark Allow in-depth analysis of product life cycles to occur on a routine basis (i.e., measuring actual life versus expected life)

Note that factors such as location (in or out of direct sunlight), environmental conditions (humid or dry air), and actual use (as opposed to recommended use) can greatly affect the expected service life of equipment.
Range of Expected Equipment Service Life

Equipment Expected Years Actual Years*
A/C window unit 10 - 15 ?
Steel water-tube boiler 24 - 30 ?
Wood cooling tower 20 - 25 ?
Lighting ballasts 7 - 10 ?
Emergency battery 5 - 7 ?
Carpet 12 - 15 ?
*The third column cannot be completed without an audit.

Life–Cycle Costs: More Than Just the Sticker Price

The initial cost to construct a building typically represents only a small portion of the actual cost to own the facility over its lifetime.

Source: HVAC Applications (1999) American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning, Atlanta, GA.

Graphic o f Life-Cycle Costs

A facility audit (or inventory) is a comprehensive review of a facility's assets. Facility audits are a standard method for establishing baseline information about the components, policies, and procedures of a new or existing facility. An audit is a way of determining the "status" of the facility at a given time-that is, it provides a snapshot of how the various systems and components are operating. A primary objective of a facility audit is to measure the value of an aging asset relative to the cost of replacing that asset. Thus, facilities audits are a tool for projecting future maintenance costs.

Facilities audits are accomplished by assessing buildings, grounds, and equipment, documenting the findings, and recommending service options to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and save money. Thus, an audit provides the landscape against which all facilities maintenance efforts and planning occur.

Facility audits should be a routine part of the facilities maintenance program. However, they are often precipitated by the information needs of upper management, taxpayers and voters, and legislative or regulatory bodies. By integrating the findings of annual audits over time, planners can ascertain realized (versus expected) product life cycles, the impact of various maintenance strategies and efforts on product life cycles, and the future demands the aging process might place on the infrastructure of a school district. This information can be used to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of facility use and maintenance efforts in the future.