Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
U.S. Army Barracks Complex at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Within five years facilities assessments and life cycle maintenance scheduling and planning for all $830 billion worth of Dept. of Defense facilities are to be brought into the Sustainment Management System developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

On Sept. 10, Frank Kendall, the U.S. Dept. of Defense under secretary for acquisitions, logistics and technology, issued a memorandum notifying officials at all military components of the DoD and the Washington Headquarters Service that they will all be required, within five years, to adopt and implement a common, standardized set of processes and tools for lifecycle management of their engineered facilities assets.

The common process incorporates the Sustainment Management System (SMS), a suite of decision-support software and an infrastructure condition assessment methodology that has been developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center - Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Ill. The system includes several software products developed and improved at CERL over four decades, including the programs BUILDER, ROOFER, PAVER AND RAILER, each of which provides a systematic framework for consistently evaluating and rating the condition of those assets.

In the memorandum Kendall directs that organizations, which include all of the armed services, should ensure that a facility condition index for each asset on their installations, including facilities occupied or used by tenant organizations "is properly recorded in their respective real property databases, with inspections using the SMS standard process completed for all facilities and facility components within 5 years of the date of the memorandum."

The Department of Defense owns about 550,000 real property assets, which include almost 300,000 buildings comprising 2.3 billion sq ft. The plant replacement value of the portfolio, as of the end of fiscal year 2012, was $827.9 billion.

"SMS began as Engineered Management Systems with PAVER, developed at CERL and first released in the early 1980s," explained CERL spokeswoman Dana Finney in an e-mail exchange. "The technology has greatly evolved since then and the other modules (RAILER, ROOFER and BUILDER) were later developed (also at CERL) using the same concept of an objective, repeatable condition index rating. Installations often rely on contractors to implement their SMSs, which has created a whole new cottage industry of vendors who provide this service," she explained.

“This is big news, although I knew it was coming,” says Brent Anderson, founder of FM Projects, a Burbank, Calif.-based facilities management software consultant and one of five firms listed as an authorized distributor for one module of software used in the system, BUILDER. “It produces a standard," Anderson says. "I believe standards are always a good thing. That’s my business—to create and enforce standards. Then you are going to get the same results.”

BUILDER gets high marks from Edward A. Bernard, an architect and vice president and southeast regional manager in Atlanta for Marx|Okubo Associates Inc., a real estate management consultant firm that uses the product for institutional clients.

“It’s a great program. It’s got lots of bells and whistles," Bernard says. "It’s a little rigid—very much designed from the military-point-of-view—but it tracks the components and sub components of a building and it organizes them in a very logical manner using the Uniformat II Standard.

One of Marx|Okuba's recent projects was to work with the technical college system in the state of Georgia, which was consolidating into one organization whose facilities managers had to get a handle on the conditions of 500 buildings and figure out how to budget and prioritize maintenance and replacement under one budget covering properties all across the state.

"You look at a chiller, Bernard explains, "it's this age and condition. It continues to deteriorate after you leave the site. Most assessment system use the straight-line method; Its got a 20-year life, its 15 years old and it looks like it has another four years before you need to start on its replacement. BUILDER evaluates it on a curve and it tells you, don’t put any more money into this chiller, its on its last legs. BUILDER finds that sweetspot where you can spend money and extend that life, but if you pass that spot you might want to just put enough money to keep it going until it dies."

"The downside for some clients is not necessarily the investment in the software—it is very reasonably priced; it's the investment in training and the investment to have an individual continue to work with BUILDER because it creates a working, living database that has things in it that are so valuable," Bernard adds. "The clients love the fact that it is not a proprietary system and that they can actually own the license, but you’ve got to continue to feed the data. And we tell them, 'we can manage this thing for you if you want us to.'"

In addition to FM Projects, BUILDER is available from Atkins Global, Calibre Systems, Inc., Inflection Networks and North Pacific Support Services.  In addition to the federal government, current users also include educational institutions, municipalities and private enterprises.

According to information about the system on the CERL site, because building assets are so vast and diverse, a “knowledge-based” philosophy drives the process. In the case of BUILDER, for example, the process starts with the automated download of real property data, and then a more detailed system inventory is modeled and/or collected into a database that identifies components and their key life-cycle attributes, such as the age and material.

From this inventory, measures for each component are predicted based on their expected stage in the life cycle. Objective and repeatable inspections can then be performed on components to verify their condition with respect to the expected life-cycle deterioration.  

The level of detail and frequency of inspections are not fixed; they are dependent on knowledge of component criticality, its expected and measured condition and rate of deterioration and remaining maintenance and service life.  This “Knowledge-based” inspection system focuses attention on the most critical components at the time. In addition to condition assessments, functionality assessments also can be performed to evaluate user requirement changes and compliance and obsolescence issues to provide a comprehensive picture of the overall performance of building assets and their key components.

According the CERL website, the original module it developed, PAVER, is heavily used both within and outside the DoD community. Major federal users include the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration. Additionally, non-federal users of PAVER have access to training and technology support services provided by the Colorado State University PAVER center in Ft. Collins, Colo., a CERL partnering institution.

The ROOFER module provides a systematic approach for managing a network of low-slope membrane and asphalt shingle roofs. An inventory is established by collecting physical and historical information about each roof, including the physical dimensions and layout, material types and construction characteristics for each component.

To assess condition reliably, ROOFER uses a field-validated objective and repeatable rating system. The membrane, flashing and insulation are evaluated independently, providing an assessment of each component’s condition, waterproof integrity and repair needs. The roof covering and flashings are inspected visually using a standardized distress survey. For insulated membrane roofs, the insulation is evaluated using the results of a roof moisture survey and gravimetric analyses of core cuts.

ROOFER enables building managers to rate present roof condition, prioritize projects, and optimally allocate the budget. According to the CERL site, at the project level, ROOFER can help select repair and replacement strategies and identify work requirements to maximize roof conditions using available funds. Benefits claimed include providing: inventory of roofing assets, development of detailed roof plan drawings, detection of roof defects and development of condition indexes, as well as network analysis reports for prioritizing projects and justifying funding requirements and project analysis evaluation to determine most cost-effective repair strategies. And finally, it is used to generate work requests to document the recommended action.

RAILER takes a similar approach to assessing the condition of rail system assets.