A Self-Assessment White Paper for Executives


Every facility has challenges in this time of economic strife; the approach to managing these may vary considerably. It’s business as usual to first look to economize on everyday operating expenses and services. If these actions fall short, organizations oftentimes instinctively look next to reducing employee expenses. More and more, organizations are confronted with reducing services, employee benefits, and in the direst of situations they must let valued employees go.

Unfortunately, some of the most cost-saving options are never brought to the table before services and employee expense reductions are implemented. These options are related to ensuring effective maintenance practices along with well-planned and professionally executed assessments, conducted to evaluate the physical condition of a facility to improve its operating efficiencies. Keep in mind, the fundamental concept behind effective maintenance practices and the various types of assessments is most simple: “improve operations by identifying and implementing cost-saving opportunities”.

In order to assist organizations, we have provided a Facility Management Performance Self–Assessment for Executives. The results will help determine if the facility management team, which includes the executive team and boards, has taken full advantage of the opportunities to minimize facility expenses. Following the Self-Assessment is an analysis, but first, some basic terminology and guidelines:

Basic Terminology:

  • ASHRAE Energy Audits: A commercial energy audit to understand how energy is being used, how it is being wasted, and how to take control of energy usage. These audits are conducted in accordance with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). There are three levels of ASHRAE Energy Audits: Level I – Walk- Through Analysis, Level II – Energy Survey and Engineering Analysis, and Level III – Detailed Analysis of Capital-Intensive Modifications. All levels of effort are led by a vendor-neutral licensed professional engineer (PE) with extensive experience in the energy efficiency industry, and not by a vendor hoping to sell you a product.
  • Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) a/k/a computer-aided facility management: A computer database to (i) manage work orders for corrective, scheduled, and preventive maintenance activities, (ii) verify regulatory compliance, (iii) manage assets and inventory, (iv) provide status reports with details of maintenance activities and performance, and (v) can be either web-based or LAN-based.
  • Energy Conservation Measure (ECM): Measures to reduce energy consumption by improving efficiencies in process, maintenance, and equipment and systems.
  • Executive: As used in this paper, executive refers to the executive to whom the FMD head reports to; CEO or president, CFO, COO or Business Officer.
  • Facility Condition Assessment (FCA): The process of conducting an independent and objective condition assessment of all site and building improvements and systems in accordance with recognized industry standards. This includes identification of deferred maintenance, code violations, life safety issues, construction deficiencies; recommendations for improvements; prioritizing shortterm needs and repairs and includes a minimum 20-year capital replacement budget and a replacement reserve funding plan.
  • FF&E: Furniture, fixtures, and equipment; both fixed and movable assets
  • FMD: Facilities Maintenance Department
  • LEED for Existing Buildings – Operations and Maintenance (LEED EB:OM): A tool and certification process for ongoing operations and maintenance of existing buildings to identify and reward current best practices, and which provides an outline to use less energy, water, and natural resources, improve the indoor environment, and uncover operating inefficiencies.
  • Performance Contract: Performance-based improvements completed and funded by a contractor, which in turn are repaid through actual (and sometimes guaranteed) savings in utility or other operating expenses.

Self-Assessment Guidelines:

  • The Facility Performance Self-Assessment applies to any age or size facility; old or new as well as large and small.
  • Questions related to CMMS and the various Assessments have subsequent questions. If a CMMS is not used, or your facility has not completed any one or none of the Assessment(s), then answer only the questions as are still applicable.
  • Have the Facilities Maintenance Department head complete the Facility Performance Self-Assessment separate and independent of the Executive. Then compare the results.
  • Some may not know the answer to a question; if you do not know the answer for any reason, check the “?” box. Part of the analysis is your knowledge on a subject question. Between the Executive and FMD head taking the assessment, the answer should be known.
  • Estimated time to complete the Facility Performance Self-Assessment form: Ten minutes or less.
Facility Performance Self-Assessment                                              Print – Facility Performance Self-Assessment
Description Y N N/A ?
1 Does the FMD utilize a CMMS?
1a Are work orders successfully completed at the first request without problems or complaints by either maintenance staff or the client?
1b Are work orders managed and results tracked in a CMMS?
1c Have assets performed to full life expectancy, without any pattern or history of premature failure?
1d Does the FMD have a preventive maintenance program with reminders and procedures required to maintain assets?
1e Is the FMD always prepared for inspections of critical life safety systems and equipment by others, such as the fire marshal, thereby avoiding warnings, re-inspections, or citations?
1f Does the FMD utilize the CMMS to set goals and generate performance reports, on at least a quarterly basis?
1g Is the CMMS used effectively for inventory control of maintenance supplies, repair, and replacement parts?
1h Are all equipment name plate and historical data, and maintenance instructions maintained in the CMMS?
2 Are all FF&E properly tagged, inventoried, and tracked?
3 Within the past 10 years has an independent consultant been commissioned to complete a building-by-building FCA with a minimum 20-year capital replacement budget?
3a If an FCA has been commissioned, are the budgets maintained / updated internally each year?
3b If an FCA has been commissioned and is more than 3 years old, has a consultant updated the FCA and budgets every 3 to 4 years?
3c Does the FCA include a recommended replacement reserve funding plan developed per national reserve study standards?
3d If a replacement reserve funding plan has been recommended, has it been fully funded?
4 If not LEED certified, has a LEED-EB:OM pre-screen been commissioned in the last 3 years for buildings over 5 years old?
4a If a LEED-EB:OM pre-screen was commissioned, have the no-cost” and “low-cost” ECM recommendations been fully implemented? “
4b If a LEED-EB:OM pre-screen was commissioned, were all ECM improvements with a 3-year payback or with performance contracts fully implemented?
5 Has an ASHRAE Energy Audit been conducted in the last 3 years for all buildings over 5 years of age?
5a If an ASHRAE Energy Audit was commissioned, have all “no-cost’ or “low-cost” ECM recommendations been fully implemented?
5b If an ASHRAE Energy Audit was commissioned, were the recommended ECM improvements with a 3-year payback or with performance contracts fully implemented?
6 Have central and common area HVAC systems been tested and balanced by professionals (retro-commissioned) in the last 5 years?
7 Have any ECM improvements been made that qualified for and received a vendor rebate?
8 Have any ECM improvements been made that qualified for and received a local, state, or federal tax credit?
9 Have any ECM improvements been made that were funded by energy audit-based loans or bond financings?
10 If your facility has more than one building, provides more than one fundamental service, has a replacement value of over $40MM, and has a FMD of 3 or more employees including HVAC contract employees, does the FMD head have a four-year college degree?
11 Does the FMD head take job-related training course or continuing education credits on an annual basis?
12 Does the FMD receive sufficient funds to properly manage and maintain the facility, and replace equipment and systems in a competitive manner relative to your marketplace?

Analysis and Recommendations:

Ideally, the answers to all relevant questions should be “Yes”; although some minor qualifications may apply. Furthermore, Executives should know the answers to most all of these questions other than researching some of the details, such as dates associated with assessments. As to qualifications, they are as follows:

  • Smaller and less complicated facilities may have fewer opportunities to qualify for energy audit loan or bond financing; in these cases the answer would be N/A.
  • Due to varying circumstances, some facilities need only to do either a No. 4 LEED EB:OM pre-screen or No. 5 ASHRAE Energy Audit Level 1 or 2.

Please note that regardless of facility uses, size, cost, or complexity, most all should be able to identify improvements that will be cost justifiable, noting for facilities less than 5 years of age that ECM improvements become less likely. This statement is underwritten by several facts. First, it is supported by historical data that most all costs related to owning, maintaining, and operating a facility will continue to increase, most especially the cost of energy. Additionally, the average building age in the US is around 30 years old, most of which are not up to current energy code standards. In Europe, where energy costs are higher than the US and codes more stringent, the European Parliament in December, 2002 adopted the European Union Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. This directive requires European member states to develop building energy performance disclosure laws, which were to become effective in 2009; authorities in the US are beginning to implement similar initiatives.

As of 2012, three US states and eight municipalities have already adopted energy performance disclosure laws in one form or another, and are under consideration in 13 more states. These laws and regulations for the most part are expected to rely on the EPA’s Energy Star for benchmarking. Laws will vary on use and size of a building; i.e. residential buildings may be excluded, some authorities will require buildings in the size range of 5,000 – 50,000 SF to meet one set of criteria and those over 50,000 SF to meet another. Regardless how this all shakes out over the next 5 to 10 years, you can be assured that some level of regulation will be considered in your area.

This all makes me think back to the 1950s when seat belts were first introduced, eventually becoming law nationwide. Why the law? Simply because it makes sense, and if left to the general public, many would not buckle up voluntarily. Building performance initiatives are much the same, energy codes have been enacted and continue to be strengthened at all levels of authority, and energy performance disclosure laws are following suit. As for most people, they did not need laws mandating them to buckle up because it simply made sense. Here too, it makes sense to take the initiative to improve operating efficiencies. Unfortunately, it too is playing out that code and laws must be passed mandating initiatives for efficiency improvements and disclosure.

If you have taken this Self-Assessment and cannot truthfully answer “Yes” to all applicable questions, then further action needs consideration. So how does one move forward; after all, implementing many of these improvements and commissioning assessments can take time and may require significant up-front capital before savings are realized and banked? In response to this question, there are two courses of action to consider, either of which can be modified to fit a facility’s specific strategic initiatives and capabilities:

  1. Proceed with All Recommendations: This assumes sufficient time and funds are available to implement recommendations to realize and bank the savings.
  2. Proceed with a Limited Scope: This is targeted to those facilities struggling financially, with a short-term fix to address only the most critical issues.

Next, note that all the actions that have been discussed to this point can be summarized into three fundamental categories for lowering operating costs in the short term. They are:

  1. Improved Management Processes
  2. Bring Facility to Par Condition
  3. Identify and Implement ECMs

I. Proceed With All Recommendations:

  • Improved Management Processes: Regardless of building size, it is recommended to utilize a CMMS program to manage the various operations as listed in questions 1a-1h. Immediately start setting goals and report results; you will quickly identify cost saving improvements.As a side note, some believe small facilities do not need a CMMS. However, small facilities are especially vulnerable when managed by 1 or 2 people with all the information in their head or scattered around in binders, Excel spreadsheets, or in an Outlook calendar. One of the fundamental features inherent to a CMMS, regardless of facility size or complexity, is when employees leave, all the history and data remains so new employees can pick up were others left off. This is critical to any operation!
  • Bring Facility to Par Condition: Before jumping into the energy performance audit world, it is first best to commission a FCA to provide a comprehensive understanding of the condition of your facility and future costs; a detailed road map. An FCA scope should include: (i) immediate repairs, life safety issues, code violations, design deficiencies, non-compliant construction, and deferred maintenance; (ii) improvements; (iii) short- and long-term repair and replacement budgets; and (iv) replacement-reserve funding plan options. The FCA scope should include specific recommendations, pricing, and scheduling of all repairs and improvements, including the specific energy audit programs that are best suited for your facility; i.e. LEED EB:OM, ASHRAE, utility company audits, and possibly some self-performed audits.
  • Identify and Implement ECMs: Once you have the FCA completed, then you are staged to move forward with the recommended energy audits in a systematic and efficient manor, optimizing both time and money.

II. Proceed with a Limited Scope:

This approach may be driven by the owner with either financial or time constraints, or may be a mandate of stakeholders such as banks, regulators, or bond holders. In either case the scope is tailored to a strategic initiative or often times for a facility in some level of distress. Regardless, the objective is for a minimal cost to identify and quantify both critical repairs and readily achievable ECM improvements; work to be achieved over a short-term such as 1 or 2 years. Such a report can usually be completed within 30 days.

The process is to hire an FCA consultant based on a limited time allowance and scope. For example, consider a senior living retirement community with independent and assisted living, and various health care services (a campus-style Life Plan Community (CCRC)), or a community college campus. In these scenarios, you may find you can only afford (or as stakeholder mandate) a report cost up to $10,000. This vs. an FCA report complete with 20-year replacement budgets and a reserve funding plan, which could be four times the cost and take 3 to 4 months to deliver. The limited scope report would be to essentially condense an FCA report and either an ASHRAE Level 1 Energy Audit or LEED EB:OM prescreen into a bullet point report with little or no narrative. Include only critical repairs and replacements, and ECM improvements achievable in the short-term. With this approach items should be summarized into the following categories:

  • Alternatives for Schedule Repairs: i.e. you may be planning an expensive roof replacement; have the consultant investigate and provide other options
  • Identify and Quantify Critical Repairs and Replacements: These are items, which, if ignored, will add additional expenses, create a safety or health hazard, or result in a code violation
  • No-cost Improvements: i.e. training and identifying opportunities to turn off lights, utilize set-back thermostats, seal duct leaks, etc.
  • Low-cost Improvements: i.e. install energy efficient lights (CFL), lighting controls and programmable thermostats, add insulation etc.
  • Short-term ECM: Install energy management systems to control lighting and HVAC, variable speed drives, load shedding, ice storage, etc.; improvements with a 2 or 3 year payback


Ultimately, the senior executive of a facility is accountable for its success. He must be assured the facility is kept up to par condition and that the FMD is operating effectively and efficiently. Today, most facilities are falling far short of their potential, which has proven to be the fundamental driver behind this environment of growing regulatory measures. Most facilities rely entirely on the FMD as to accountability for performance. However, until there is a fundamental shift in this paradigm, to where the executive team and/or the FMD head is a professional (such as an engineer) and take on full accountability for performance, facilities will seldom reach their full potential for operating efficiency.

Facility design, and maintenance and operations processes have changed little until the early 1960s and 1970s. Buildings, like other technologies, have, over the past four decades, evolved more than they have over the past couple of centuries (with the noted exception of high rise construction). They have experienced the advent of airconditioning made affordable for the masses, and the constant introduction and development of new high tech synthetic building products and equipment and system technology. Unfortunately, the quality of construction has declined in many markets over this same timeframe, and many of these new products have not performed to expectation. Thus, today there are more buildings with inherent construction and design problems being added to a pool of buildings with a national average age of 30 years, and most of which are not properly managed. The bottom line is that the implementation of available facility management technologies and skills have simply not kept up with the improvements and challenges of the physical structures they are called to manage.

As with any aspect of a business, checks and balances, goal setting, and reporting, and being proactive vs. reactive are all fundamental components of the success formula. All of the action items presented in this white paper are just that: (i) using CMMS as a management tool of checks and balance, and goal setting and reporting, and (ii) FCA assessments, energy audits, reserve funding, and training are tools used to be proactive.

If these facility management fundamentals are adhered to, you should be able to fulfill your mission, even in times of economic strife.

About the Author:

John zumBrunnen is founder of zumBrunnen, Inc., an independent construction and building consulting firm founded in 1989 and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia; https://www.zumbrunnen.com. John has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of North Dakota, completed the US Army Corps of Engineers Training Program in 1972, and is a member of the Association of Professional Reserve Analysts (APRA) and numerous other national and state associations. He has been a faculty member since 2003 for the University of North Texas, Coalition for Leadership in Aging Services (CLAS), a national certification program for aging services professionals (CASP) and authored the “Asset Management” training module; http://leadersinaging.unt.edu/. zumBrunnen has 40+ years’ experience in construction, property assessment, development, and reserve budgeting. He is the inventor of the FacilityForecast® software system and a respected industry author and speaker.

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