What is a building assessment and why do I need one?
Getting a Building Condition Assessment (BCA) is a crucial step when making informed decisions that can significantly affect your commercial real estate. Whether you are preparing to purchase a large commercial building, bringing a building up to code, or changing a building's use, an assessment of the building is imperative. A Building Condition Assessment is a systematic inspection, review, and report on the state of a building’s structure and systems. It is often compared to a home inspection, but it provides more detailed information and is certainly more complex due to the nature of and requirements for commercial buildings and facilities.
Lending Institutions and banks may require a BCA prior to approval on a commercial property loan. The assessment gives the bank and the potential owner important information about the likely cost of ownership and may become a basis for further purchase price negotiation.
As important as a BCA is prior to purchasing, it is not the only time you may want to have an assessment and report prepared. A BCA can also provide valuable information when:
Determining whether to renovate, sell, or demolish a facility
Allocating resources across a large portfolio of properties
Creating safety and maintenance programs for your properties
Assessing the value of a property you own
Forecasting and budgeting maintenance expenses
The BCA may stand alone or be part of a comprehensive Property Condition Assessment (PCA). A BCA begins with a detailed inspection of the buildings:
Structural systems (foundations and structural framing of walls, columns, intermediate floors, and roofs): Are there cracks in the foundation? Is there any leakage?
Building envelope (roofing systems, exterior finishes, stairs and steps, exterior doors, and windows): How old is the roof and when will it need to be replaced? What is the estimated cost?
Mechanical systems (electrical, heating ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing, and conveyance systems): What is the condition of each system, and how much longer will it last?
Interior building components (interior finishes of common areas and tenant areas): Have these components been updated?
Regulatory compliance (life safety, ADA, code compliance, air quality): Are these systems up to code?
If the assessment is part of a PCA, it may also include:
Site components (pavement, curbs, loading docks, walks, plantings, irrigation, site drainage, exterior lighting, walls, fencing/railings, signage, and exterior amenities): Have these components been well maintained, or have they been allowed to deteriorate?
A Building Condition Assessment should be conducted by a professional services firm with commercial facility experience to ensure the report reflects up-to-date knowledge of the needs of commercial buildings and provides the level of detail needed to make informed decisions. Following the assessment of the building, a Property Condition Assessment Report should be prepared. To ensure your BCA provider provides you with everything you need, be on the lookout for these qualities in a professional services firm:
Proximity. The ability to get on-site fast to start the process is important. Local or regional offices in the area of the property will help with this, as well as a track record of speedy response, and the availability of resources to mobilize quickly.
Accurate costing. Any firm can use an online construction cost estimator, but a company with a construction consulting/estimating department and the ability to access real-time costing data will provide much more accurate numbers.
Multi-disciplinary expertise. PCAs and BCAs require comprehensive knowledge of everything from architecture and construction to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. A firm with in-house expertise in a broad range of disciplines will be able to provide a more accurate and comprehensive assessment.
Proven Track Record. A firm that has done hundreds or thousands of assessments will provide a faster, seamless, and more reliable assessment than a less experienced provider.
The final PCA Report will identify what needs to be repaired, replaced, or upgraded immediately to conform to industry standards. The report will also estimate the lifespan of the building’s elements and systems and it will include a list of recommendations for repair or replacement, with estimated costs. If needed, the cost can be assigned for a total building replacement. The Scope of Work for PCA assessments and reports should be defined by ASTM E2018-15 Standard Guide for Property Assessments – Baseline Property Condition Assessment Process.
The typical cost range is from $2000 to more than $10,000. The price of an inspection or Property Condition Assessment will depend on several factors including the specific scope of the assessment, size, location, age, and type of building. The cost can also be based on the cost per square foot of building area. Again, this cost can vary from $0.25/SF to $2.25/SF or more depending on the scope.