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How to Decide If You Should Build, Renovate, or Demolish Aging Buildings and Infrastructure

Facility managers are facing tough decisions about whether to build, renovate, or demolish aging buildings and infrastructure. These demands are further challenged by the need for increased operational efficiency, improved technology, and better financial returns. So, how do facilities professionals make complex decisions about whether to replace or renovate aging buildings and infrastructure?

As buildings age, they go through a process of deterioration, which can be categorized into five life-cycle stages that correlate to asset renewal:

  1. Prenatal: less than 1 year
  2. Childhood: 1–16 years
  3. Adolescence: 17–29 years
  4. Adulthood: 30–49 years
  5. Old Age: 50-plus years

It is important for facility managers to know when larger repair and maintenance issues will begin within each of these phases. David Albrice and the team at RDH conducted a study that found that it is during the “Adolescence” phase that buildings tend to experience the largest and most expensive asset renewal projects. It is during this period that significant funds must be reinvested in the building. Therefore, facilities managers should prepare for upgrades as buildings approach the 30-year mark. 

Less clear is how to compute the cost of renovation against the cost of demolition and reconstruction. Several factors must be considered. Depending on how severe the problems are. For example, awkward structuring, small spaces, low ceilings or eroded foundations will require partial or complete demolition.

So, how do facilities professionals make complex decisions about whether to replace or renovate aging buildings and infrastructure? In this blog we will discuss 5 key areas to consider when assessing planning options in regards to whether to build, renovate or demolish your aging buildings and infrastructure.

1. Cost Analysis

All costs should be considered, including initial construction, phasing, financing, fees and, most importantly, the long-term operational costs of maintaining the space. All too often institutions only consider the initial costs of construction without analyzing the long-term implications of these decisions. Capital Planning software can provide an easy and efficient way to manage life-cycle costing for aging buildings and infrastructure.

Read our guide to getting your facilities management projects funded >

2. Flow of People

The movement of people, materials and vehicles in and around facilities should be logical, intuitive and convenient. There should be a clear sense of entryways, adequate parking, a focal center of the facility, and an easily identifiable way to connect all the pieces together.

3. Market share

What improvements or programs can expand reach, attract the best talent to ensure that your organization continues to grow?

See how Intellis empowered the New York City Department of Eduction to release a more accurate capital plan to improve public schools >

How can these programs be enhanced either through new or renovated construction? Will new technologies demand new space or can they be accommodated in existing structures and their respective infrastructures?

4. Environmental Outlook

Ideally, buildings should strive to conserve energy, responsibly reuse materials and be constructed on sustainable sites. Carefully selecting sites will preserve existing natural sites. Conducting a sophisticated assessment of building envelopes and the integration of HVAC systems will require less energy to heat and cool, a cost that has exponential importance over the life of the building.

See how Intellis software helped the City of New York follow through on its sustainability initiative in public housing apartments throughout the City >

Additionally, a thorough review of materials and reuse will reduce initial capital costs while conserving the world's natural resources.

5. Plan for Expansion

There should be a plan in place for grow that includes the facility's ability to adapt to changing circumstances. That is there should be a logical method for expanding buildings and infrastructure that accommodates for flexible planning and incremental growth.

Conclusion: Leveraging Technology for Aging Buildings and Infrastructure

Facilities managers are the experts when it comes to knowing the buildings and assets in their care. The best FMs will act before equipment malfunctions or buildings deteriorate and ensure that systems remain operational at all times. 

View case studies to learn how Intellis software can improve your facilities management program >

Whether because of codes, regulations or breakdown, buildings, in particular those approaching the 30-year mark, will need to be updated to some extent. It is up to the facilities manager to assess structures and assets on a regular basis to address and plan for needed upgrades.

Implementing facilities management and capital planning software will make caring for and maintaining an aging building stock much easier. Our FOUNDATION platform takes the FM from condition assessment through to capital planning, and it empowers your institution to get the most out of its valuable physical assets.

Ready to learn more?



Sources and Further Reading

Albrice, David, "How Long do Buildings Last", RDH Blog, https://www.rdh.com/long-buildings-last/.

Blackburn, Steven, "Inside Look: Repurposed buildings for higher ed," University Business, https://www.universitybusiness.com/article/inside-look-repurposed-buildings-for-higher-ed.

Greim, Clif, "School Choice: Build New or Not," Building Operating Management, https://www.facilitiesnet.com/educationalfacilities/article/School-Choice-Build-New-or-Not--2639.

Mead, William, "Renovate or replace? Advice on making the billion-dollar decision," Health Facilities Management, https://www.hfmmagazine.com/articles/912-renovate-or-replace.