When providing design-build (D-B) infrastructure services, you must become proficient at several important tasks. Here are 10 items you should be able to produce:

1. A detailed concept package that inventories the design and project estimate in great detail;
2. A system sequence of operation and flow diagram;
3. A project timeline;
4. Meeting notes; 5. "Existing condition" photos;
6. Construction progress photos;
7. Equipment selections, shop drawings, and O&M data;
8. Videotaped training sessions;
9. Record drawings; and
10. Data retrieval sheets and program manager (PM) workorders.

Photos Help Them Get The Picture

This month, let's jump right into the middle of these tasks and discuss the fifth item, existing condition photos. Many a D-B or capital project begins with a facility assessment of existing conditions.

Documenting mechanical and electrical equipment and system conditions is best done using a digital camera. A picture is worth 1,000 words, so why spend a lot of time writing when modern technology can better portray the existing conditions?

Over the years, we have documented literally millions upon millions of building square footage using a digital camera. Within these buildings, we have identified infrastructure deficiencies as quickly and efficiently as the flash of the camera. Water leaks, rusting equipment, and storage rooms without ventilation are just a few conditions to have been "caught in the act."

Achieving Proper Exposure

Photos of a building's particular problems can be complemented with a quick photo menu of standard problems. We have set this process up with standardized survey sheets that document the status with photos, followed by a list of "What's wrong with this picture" issues.

An abbreviated sample of such a checklist is our central air-handling unit (AHU) sheet. Here are some points it might touch on.

  • Useful equipment service life is (fill in value) years. Existing AHU is (fill in value) years.
  • Useful automatic temperature control service life is (fill in value) years. Existing AHU is (fill in value) years.
  • Signs of deterioration: Rust on outside of unit Rust within unit Internal and/or external lining is in poor condition Automatic controls are in poor-fair-good condition
  • Current code issues are _____________.

The digital camera offers a fast-track process of capturing existing conditions. It can and has been applied to building structure (interior and exterior), mechanical and electrical equipment/systems, and building and grounds surveys. This type of surveying then becomes an integral part of a facility manager's capital plan proposal; it's brief and to the point when presented to decision makers.

Capturing building deficiencies in photos also eliminates the need to go back and show anyone what you found. At the same, it bypasses the time spent discussing "who done it," and brings to the surface a visual need to resolve the problem. Using a digital camera to survey a facility and document the findings can raise people's awareness to deteriorating building conditions.

Decision makers at the top can sometimes ignore the urgency to repair or replace failing equipment when presented with a wordy document. It is far more difficult for these individuals to ignore problems when presented to them in living color.