The Problem with Inconsistent Building Inspection Checklists

Organizations always need to understand the physical condition of their properties. It impacts the wellbeing of their tenants, their capital budgets, and their bottom line. To do this, real estate managers will request a property inspection to uncover deficiencies or needed capital maintenance.

These inspections are usually completed through either a Property Condition Assessment (PCA) or a Facility Condition Assessment (FCA), but are also done using simple building inspection checklists. While somewhat similar in purpose and scope, PCAs and FCAs are inherently different. PCAs tend to focus on the current status of a building and its infrastructure, while FCAs emphasize long-term capital planning. Another key differentiator is that PCAs are standardized by ASTM guidelines for building inspections. These guidelines focus on the quality of inspections and the qualification standards of those conducting them. But building inspection checklists are not standardized, and therefore raise a number of issues.

The Rising Issue of Inconsistent Building Inspection Checklists

Understanding the differences between PCAs and FCAs is of critical importance for organizations. Too often, organizations will request a PCA or an FCA without understanding how they differ or what their standardizations are. As a result, organizations often request deliverables—such as building condition survey checklists, building condition reports or commercial property inspection templates—that do not actually address their immediate and specific needs.

We often work with the building owners and managers requesting these inspections as well as the consultants and building engineers conducting them. While many organizations request building inspections that are personalized for their portfolios, we tend to recommend the application of standard assessments instead for three important reasons:

  1. Technical Expertise Varies Across Inspection Processes. As mentioned, the ASTM E2018 guidelines set out strict standards and qualification criteria for those conducting PCAs. When organizations request an adapted or blended condition assessment, the quality of the inspections tend to vary. This is the result of the consultants conducting the inspections improvising their own checklists, which can lead to quality control issues.
  2. Organizational Inconsistency. Given that building regulations can vary across states and cities, it can be difficult to develop an internal building inspection checklist. This can be especially problematic for organizations with a large portfolio of assets. Therefore, adhering to national inspection guidelines for either PCAs or FCAs is the best way to ensure consistency. This is not to say that firms cannot implement their own customized building inspection criteria—rather, it suggests that real estate managers should prioritize meeting national standards before requesting asset specific assessments.
  3. Non-Standardized Data Can Impacts Analysis. Non-standardized building inspection checklists leave organizations with limited scope for benchmarking and performance analysis. Because data is unique to an asset or organization, the collected inspection information may not be standardized or allow for industry benchmarking. This includes benchmarking in deficiency and life cycle analysis. Similarly, unless the customized inspection data is consistent and standardized across a portfolio of buildings, this also limits capital performance analysis and optimization.

Property Condition Assessments, Facility Condition Assessments and 4tell™ Solutions

With 4tell™Solutions suite of assessment software—including a recently launched FCA platform—real estate organizations can navigate the complexities of building inspections while also gaining insightful property analytics. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please contact us or visit our solutions page.

Photo Credits: Shutterstock / Srijaroen