- To examine (someone or something) against official standard1
- To ensure rules are being followed and things are in proper condition2
Most people at some point in their personal or professional lives have either been subjected to, or had to conduct, an inspection. For commercial real estate owners and managers, there is no shortage to the number of things that need inspecting to ensure a building is running efficiently. Common drivers for a comprehensive inspections program include safety, compliance, risk mitigation and cost control.
Inspections Vs. Preventive Maintenance
It’s important to note the differences between an inspection and a preventive maintenance (PM) task. Although an inspection may be bound to a piece of equipment in the same way a scheduled PM Task is, an inspection is observational in nature and generally allows for several conditional paths of data collection or follow up actions. Such steps may include something like: “If the answer to the question about condition A is X, then we need to know this additional information as well… or we need to take a photograph of this condition.” This is in contrast to the typical PM task which is generally a sequence of prescribed steps that are checked off as they are completed.
The Three Most Common Problems with CRE Inspections
1) They simply don’t get done.
Many firms have gone through the process of creating an inspections plan at some point in their history, but have gotten away from conducting them over time. This trend tends to occur in situations where staffs are overloaded with too many tasks and inspections tend to be the thing that slips. Another common reason is that staffs quickly recognizes that no one is paying attention to the completion or results from inspections, so they just stop doing them.
2) Staff is unclear about what to inspect and when.
Like most successful initiatives, an inspections program requires careful thought and planning. Decisions on what inspections to conduct, the content of those inspections, the frequency, and remediation plans all require careful planning and preparation.
3) Inspections are completed and then stuck in a filing cabinet.
It’s important to remember that the foundation of an inspections program is compliance and risk management. The data in your completed inspections not only serves as an audit trail that may at some point prove invaluable if an incident occurs on your property, but it can also proactively provide insight into trends. Those trends can often provide an opportunity to improve building performance, reduce costs, and improve service levels and safety programs. Additionally, leading companies committed to best practices will use inspections completion records as an additional personnel evaluator. One final note here: Many firms use external services to conduct inspections. Those firms may collect data in proprietary systems or their own forms. It is absolutely essential that you retain a copy of those inspections each and every time they are conducted. We have seen and heard of many instances where the vendor relationship has ended, but copies of the inspections were never received and the property manager needs to chase down the data years later.
Whether a company is still conducting inspections with paper and pencil on a clipboard or using an automated and mobile data collections tool like the Inspections Manager from Building Engines, these are some easy things to implement or fix for your property or organization’s inspections program.
Three Inspections Every Building Needs
Taking all of that into consideration, here are 3 inspections we have observed in companies who are committed to best practices and have comprehensive inspections programs. These 3 inspection types are essential to have in place because they can have a significant impact in the areas of leasing, expense management, and risk mitigation.
1) Vacant Space Inspection
If you are fortunate enough to have a building that is fully occupied right now, than this might not apply to you. But, when you do have an opening, we have been told by experienced property managers and engineers that this is one of the most important inspections to perform. In addition to the benefits of having vacant space in prime clean condition to assist with leasing activity, other reasons to perform this inspection include the cost savings benefits that come with assuring that utilities and lighting are properly regulated and set to achieve the optimal balance between presentable and wasting money; and the safety benefits received by insuring that the previous tenant did not create any potential hazards through unauthorized electrical work or other space modifications. Specific items to inspect include: Cleanliness (Are the prior tenant’s items removed? Is there an abundance of garbage left behind?), Damage, Lighting, Signage, Smoke Alarms (Are they operational?), Temperature (Is there adequate ventilation? Are there any illegal heat sources?), Odor, and Pest Presence. Also important: how long does the average turnover take? Did you attach photos to document condition?
2) Roof Inspection
This is certainly one of most common building inspections and particularly important to flat roofs such as those often found in industrial or retail buildings. It’s often outsourced to service providers, but we have seen many of our clients who have this responsibility and send property managers and engineers up those high ladders and through the port door to the roof. The importance of roof inspections is obvious for most as there are significant cost and safety implications with roof maintenance. And although most roofs contain a warranty from their installer, there is a requirement for regular inspections associated with that warranty as well as for insurance policies. Before performing a roof inspection, it’s important to review past inspection reports and photographs; construction documents; and particulars of any repair/maintenance/replacement. Specific items to inspect include: Visual reviews of flashings, drains, and gutters, as well as interior and exterior wall surfaces for leaks, stains, cracks and alignment issues. Documentation of deficiencies requiring corrective action from your installer should be noted – they may or may not be under warranty.
3) Hazardous Materials Inspection
Most properties have more hazardous materials on site and on the property surroundings than they are actually aware of. The financial and legal implications of understanding what your exposure is as well as compliance insurance requirements and local authority code with regard to proper storage, documentation, and disposal are significant. A properly designed and implemented hazardous materials inspections program to assure you’re in compliance and uncover potential exposure is critical for any building owner and manager. DOWNLOAD NOW: FREE Hazardous Materials Inspection Template
Click below to download a FREE Hazardous Material Inspection TEMPLATE!
Hopefully implementing a comprehensive inspections plan doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming anymore. The hardest part is getting started, but in order to operate a Best-in-Class building, it’s essential. Bonus: We’ve even provided your first template above! And don’t forget – taking your inspections mobile will simplify the entire process by automating tasks, setting reminders, gathering and storing critical data, helping you analyze trends, and much more.