BUILDER: Planning power in asset management

Frank Mondo | 01 Aug 2017 | Comments

So often the edifices we create to shelter us, the structures that facilitate our work and provide the public spaces for community, appear cold and lifeless. But buildings are living breathing things. They have births, and lives—challenges and accomplishments—and like everything else, buildings also face death.

Delaying this inevitability is dependent on how well we care for the building. Building and facility managers are acutely aware that each of the components that make up a structure has a unique asset management lifecycle—predicting each of these independent life cycles and keeping up with their required maintenance schedules, that’s the trick. Nowhere is this more important than in our military infrastructure where actual lives are at stake. And it’s why the Department of Defense (DoD) has recently chosen to implement BUILDER as the sustainment management system (SMS) for all DoD facilities.

In the past, the DoD’s process for sustainment management was often piecemeal, disorganized, and relatively isolated. Imagine precarious stacks of paper, and hundreds (or thousands) of disparate, locally managed spreadsheets or Access databases housing often-archaic data (if data was collected at all). In September 2013, the DoD mandated the use of BUILDER for all DoD facilities. There is power in consistency. Moreover, as the DoD implements this new standard, exciting opportunities for a holistic approach to asset management are becoming clear.

Developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), BUILDER is a proven, knowledge-based software tool designed to assist facility managers make key maintenance and repair decisions for their buildings’ critical systems. From windows to heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC), from foundations to roofing, each building system has a service life, and BUILDER is designed to optimize those remaining years and maximize return on investment based on objective and repeatable component inspections.

In addition to building condition optimization and asset management, BUILDER’s capacity for simulation and planning helps ensure sound infrastructure investment. Utilizing detailed information about health, functionality, and remaining service life, BUILDER simulates the impact of current (and future) maintenance and repair (M&R) decisions. These simulations help develop short-and long-range work plans based on investment strategy, priority, and budget constraints—providing a flexible list of work tasks linked to actual funding levels. Accurate data and metrics facilitate better sustainment, restoration, and modernization (SRM) decisions—ensuring mission readiness, and providing precise data for improved allocation of limited infrastructure investment dollars.

The DoD implemented BUILDER to provide an unprecedented “apples to apples” comparison of the facility deferred maintenance needs among all branches of the military (especially inside of each Service). Mandating a standard tool and associated processes provides a better chance for this comparison. By utilizing a USACE developed tool, the DoD could be confident that the system would provide for their specific asset management needs while optimizing the process for life cycle management, better return on investment, and a more proactive and transparent approach to facilities management as recommended by the National Research Council’s Committee on Predicting Outcomes of Investments in Maintenance and Repair for Federal Facilities (2012).

In 2012, Atkins entered a “Non-exclusive Patent and Copyright License Agreement” with ERDC-CERL—allowing Atkins to market and distribute BUILDER. This also makes it possible to participate in discussions regarding development and provides access to some of the expanded focus and future innovations. Currently, CERL is working on a tool for utilities to enhance their SMS suite. Scheduled for initial testing in mid-2017, UTILITIES will initially provide for water and electrical systems, eventually expanding to include wastewater, stormwater, natural gas, and thermal systems. The development of UTILITIES displays the probability of a larger SMS strategy, and the mandated use of BUILDER provides an optimal test case to try the potential of a consistent and consolidated multi-facility digital asset management system.

ERDC-CERL is also developing a roll-up of BUILDER with their other sustainment management tools (e.g. UTILITIES, ROOFER, PAVER, FUELER, etc.) to provide an “enterprise” version of the SMS. You can see where this is going. USACE is implementing a directed holistic approach to asset management—creating a digital tool that will allow for sophisticated reporting and modeling, accounting for and maintaining an unprecedented number of components within one system.

And this is just the beginning. The National Research Council has been studying ways to solve our federal government’s facilities deferred maintenance since the late 1980s. Their “Committee on Advanced Maintenance Concepts for Buildings” worked diligently toward the creation of ERDC-CERL’s BUILDER, hoping to implement an SMS solution for all federal facilities in the long-term. This would be an ideal case—allowing all the deferred maintenance for all agencies to be compared using the same methodology and “rules of engagement.”

We realized the power of BUILDER before the 2013 mandate and began using the software in 2009 on several DoD installations, in addition to securing the Patent License Agreement for BUILDER in 2012. Later that year, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC) awarded us a portion of the US Air Force “Sustainable Infrastructure Assessment” (AFSIA) program.

The AFSIA program was large, thus requiring extremely efficient data gathering methods. In response to this need for efficiency, Atkins pioneered the use of tablet computers using the BUILDER Remote Entry Database (BRED)—providing a means to gather the massive amount of data as quickly and accurately as possible and allowed for direct upload into the web based BUILDER database without a reentry process.

We were one of the only contractors that continued to use the tablet computer/BRED process throughout the entire AFSIA program—developing a proprietary tool for a technology-enabled quality control review of the BUILDER data starting with the BRED data. Since its installation, this tool has been very successful in aiding consistency on large deployments involving multiple inspection teams.

As the whole system evolves, we look forward to adding geospatial data to the system, simplifying the location of the assets for sustainment of the data and maintenance of the components. Once a holistic solution is adopted, on-site repair crews could access detailed tablet-accessible (or VR) utility or building component maps, and coordinate workflow through the GIS based system. And finally, emergency services could protect their people with immediate access to accurate utility system information.

Precise and immediate access to this information allows for better management of government resources. The longevity of our federal facilities is paramount to the efficiency and efficacy of our military and governmental services and resources. The DoD implementation of BUILDER and the future potential for a holistic asset management solution for all federal services will provide for more accountability and insight as we move into the future—helping us to maintain new and existing structures for generations to come.

Co-authored by Larry Romine