Magazine

Preparing for a Parking Facility Condition Assessment

Richard Sasse

Managing the condition of the parking facility to maximize its availability and capacity are major goals of the property owner. To be available when full capacity is needed, it makes good sense to utilize the times of minimal usage for maintenance, repair and capital work. Periodic Facility Condition Assessments (FCAs) help to identify this work.
Knowing a facility’s condition is an essential part of its manager’s knowledge management system. How often this information needs to be updated depends on the availability of staff to do operational inspections for leaks and system breakdowns on a routine basis. Correcting these problems early can delay the need for big capital expenditures to repair the damage caused by these leaks and breakdowns.
Non-routine FCAs imply an effort to schedule engineers and architects to look beyond the visible problems and to probe into what the system will look like a few years out. Sometimes, these problems need funding or staffing to correct them. Without a method to document these problems, they may never be directed to the proper staff for inclusion in a work request system or a capital project and management solution.
Initial FCAs provide the baseline information on the condition. Some of this information may have been gathered in a work request system, but needed to be seen in a bigger picture to determine that the magnitude is such that the problem needs capital budgeting, along with other similar problems.
Preparing for an FCA may require some effort, as the critical document needed for an assessment is the parking facility floor plan. Older construction without CAD might have only full-size drawings, which, although terrific to work with on the desk, are awkward to carry around and take notes on. They may have too much information, which would make reading the notes difficult.
Newer drawings on CAD can more easily be edited to show the most critical features unique to the facility. Whether working with older or newer drawings, accurate floor plans serve many purposes, and will always be the tool of choice of the assessment team when recording notes. Drawings should be scaled and show orientation and note features, including area (room) numbers, location of fire protection equipment, major mechanical and electrical equipment, and utility services.
Assessment teams are normally an architect, a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer. Typically, systems of interest would include security, structural condition, deck coating, signage, striping, damage, sump pumps, fire pumps, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, standpipes, fire extinguishers, lighting and fire detection. Parking facilities traditionally also have elevators, stairwells, doors, offices and cashier stations. As part of a large complex, these facilities also tend to include some services for the adjoining building, such as booster pumps, transformers, emergency generators and fuel tanks.
Knowing the condition in a numerical value is standard trade practice. With FCAs, a traditional metric is the Facility Condition Index (FCI), which is the cost of repairs over the replacement value. There are variations of this, but in a general sense, staying with the metric selected provides the opportunity to compare the facility with itself through a period of time, and to be able to compare it with other facilities if part of a campus or business entity.
FCI would be very helpful to an owner of multiple parking facilities looking to identify the best and worst ones and everything in between. Comparisons among facilities allow various strategies, including determining whether to sell, demolish or reconstruct. Best management practices could be extracted from this data when interpreting why certain properties are behaving better than others.
Similarly, it is typical to address new or common initiatives in multiple properties in a coordinated effort to take advantage of single design and contracting efforts to upgrade multiple facilities at one time. For code issues, this can bring multiple facilities into compliance at one time, and life-cycle replacement could be standardized when previous systems were from different manufacturers.
Knowing the condition of your parking facility is, without argument, an important management practice. When beginning the process, the standard protocol for preparing for an FCA can be new to the facility’s management team. Having usable CAD drawings, understanding the life-cycles for the associated systems, and recognizing code changes would be the best way for the assessment team to be ready to begin an FCA.

Article Abstract from November, 2006




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