James Madison University (JMU) is a public university within the Commonwealth of Virginia. The university was founded in 1908 and has over 20,000 students enrolled. The campus has 175 buildings spread across 712 acres of land and over six million square feet of facilities.
JMU’s Facilities Management Mission Statement is, “to excel in customer service and to provide quality facilities-related support to the university community.” To support this mission, the university wanted to involve their entire campus community in a well-defined, consistently used and commonly understood process for planning and decision-making. This process would emphasize accountability and tie resource allocation to institutional effectiveness, with the ultimate goal of providing a safe, attractive and service-oriented campus – qualities that are paramount to attracting potential students in an increasingly competitive landscape.
A related challenge came to the fore in 2005, when the Commonwealth of Virginia instituted a mandate (Item C-194.10 of Chapter 951 of the 2005 Acts of Assembly) that states, “Institutions of higher education and other agencies shall perform facility condition assessments (FCA) of their facilities as quickly and as comprehensively as feasibly possible.”
The university needed to plan for sufficient resources to achieve these goals. They also needed to develop a process for decision-making and planning that emphasized accountability, as well as a set of tools to execute that process.
In 2005, state agencies and institutions within the Commonwealth of Virginia began the implementation of FICAS (Facilities Inventory Condition Assessment System). JMU chose to implement VFA Facility, a facilities capital planning and management software solution, to meet the government’s FICAS requirements and to be eligible to obtain funding from the Commonwealth.
In 2008, JMU selected VFA’s facility condition self-assessment software, VFA Auditor, to take advantage of its template-driven survey process and native integration with VFA Facility. Prior to using VFA Auditor, JMU’s inhouse inspectors had to collect facility condition data manually and return to the office to import the data into VFA Facility. With the deployment of VFA Auditor, JMU is easily able to divide facility condition surveys and assign them to three inspectors, get real-time information that allows them to quickly address questions, and update data instantly rather than spending time in the office importing data.
The 2005 deployment of VFA Facility provided the Facilities team with an overall snapshot of all of the facilities belonging to JMU in a reliable, centralized database. This allowed them to extract and dissect data across an entire portfolio, for particular buildings, and even for specific systems or types of problems.
Since the adoption of VFA Auditor, JMU inspectors are able to assess four times more square feet in a fiscal year using the same resources. Time spent in the office was reduced dramatically from two weeks to two days because of the direct data feed into VFA Facility. Additionally, JMU can easily deal with onboarding new staff because of VFA Auditor’s ease of use. It takes one to two months to fully train a new assessor on VFA Auditor and the university’s processes.
The use of VFA Auditor lets JMU keep up with a growing facility portfolio and better comply with state mandates. In fact, JMU moved from a fiveyear to a three-year cycle to update facility condition information. The increased frequency of assessments ensures that data is kept accurate and allows JMU to make quicker spending decisions when they have extra budget.
Using VFA Facility, the Facilities team reduced their time frame for creating budgets, improved forecasting, and was able to create comprehensive reports that enabled them to get “buy-in” from university leadership as well as building occupants. It also made it possible for JMU to maintain or even reduce the Facility Condition Index (FCI) across the portfolio. The FCI is the ratio of deferred maintenance dollars to replacement dollars, which can be calculated in VFA Facility, and provides a straightforward comparison of an organization’s key estate assets. An overall lower FCI means that the university now has a lower need for remedial or renewal funding relative to their portfolio’s value.
Facility condition data that is gathered using VFA Auditor for selfassessments is then used to aid informative decision-making in VFA Facility. This continues to help the university understand the magnitude of deferred maintenance costs. Today, the Facilities Management department is much more involved with the process of capital planning. JMU is able to create sophisticated budget scenarios and reports which feed strategic analysis, making it possible for the facilities capital planning process to be integrated with the university’s strategic planning efforts.
VFA Facility and VFA Auditor