• Braden Swab

5 Steps to Assess Your Current Facilities

Almost everyone these days uses Google (or something similar) when they need directions to somewhere they’ve never been. With a GPS in every phone, it’s easy to figure out how to get from point A to point B. You only really need to answer two questions: What is point A, and what is point B?


We’ve already looked at what gets you out of bed and ready to go – your values, and your why – in previous posts. Before you can get directions, you need to figure out where you are (point A) and where you’re going (point B).


We’ll look at point B in the next post. For now, let’s hit the “current location” button and define point A. Here are 5 Steps to assess your current facilities:


1. Do inventory


This isn’t about supplies. It’s about spaces. You need to compile a list of what you have and how it’s currently used:

  • Make a list of all buildings (if you have more than one)

  • For each building, list all of the main areas (ex. reception, offices, washrooms, etc.)

  • For each area, list each of the spaces, including storage (ex. board room, office 1, offices 2, storage closet, etc.)

  • For each area, include a rough measure of square feet or meters

  • For each area, include a rough estimate of capacity given its primary function (ex. for a board room, don’t estimate “standing room” capacity, but seated capacity with a board room table)

Next, compile or create schedules for how each space is typically used. This will be useful in the future, as you assess whether capacity could be increased through scheduling rather than expansion.


2. Perform a Facility Condition Assessment


If your organization owns its current facilities, completing a Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) is an important step. An FCA is all about evaluating the current functionality, condition, and required/expected maintenance of your facility and its infrastructure. It focuses primarily on the physical, not financial, aspects of your buildings and infrastructure, though the results will play significant part in financial decisions.


For normal operation, FCAs play an important role in risk identification and risk management. In our situation, where we’re considering a potential expansion, renovation, or new construction, it provides information that can be used for a cost-benefit and alternatives analyses.


For most facilities, you will likely want to hire a consulting firm to perform an FCA. You can see an example of an FCA report here.


3. Analyze costs


Time to create everyone’s favourite working tool: a spreadsheet!


This might already exist in your organization’s files, but it’s time to put your numbers to work. Spend some time getting to know your building/facility operating costs: utilities, rent/mortgage, property tax, building insurance, landscaping & custodial, security, property management, etc. Make sure you also include anticipated maintenance costs: HVAC systems, elevators, roof repair, fixture upgrades, or any other large building-related capital expenditure. This is where your FCA will come in handy.


Use your current costs, your FCA, and historical information about increases in energy/tax/etc. to project your building-related costs out at regular intervals (1/2/5/10 years). You’ll quickly see that doing “nothing” isn’t free. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the best option is to undertake a significant capital project, only that the difference isn’t as simple as $0 vs $X,XXX,XXX. There is a “cost to doing nothing”.


4. Ask: What works well? What doesn’t?


Talk with your leadership, your employees, your volunteers, and your beneficiaries about your current facilities. You can do this through one-on-one meetings, focus groups, questionnaires, or surveys depending on the group.


What do they like the most about the current facilities? What about the current facilities causes friction or inefficiencies? How does the layout/functionality help or hinder?


A good architect will revisit this as they are designing new facilities or renovations, but having a good understanding yourself will help you hit the ground running and avoid getting off-track. It will also help you evaluate your options if you are still deciding whether or not to undertake a significant capital project.


5. Revisit your values and your why


As you’re going through the above steps and looking at the resulting information, ask yourself (or your committee/leadership group):

  • Does our current facility, and the way we function within it, align with our values?

  • Does our current facility help communicate our values to our staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries?

  • Is our current facility helping us achieve our intended impact?

  • What could we do to maximize our current facility to achieve our “why”?

  • How might a change, either through renovation, expansion, or new construction, make an order-of-magnitude improvement towards achieving our long-term goals?

You can see how this process quickly transitions to the next question: what is point B?



Maya Angelou famously said, “You can't really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” While that quote applies best to deeper subjects than “facility assessment”, it still rings true here.


As you revisit your values, define your why, and assess your current facilities, hopefully you can get a good sense of where you’ve been, and where you are now.


Now, you’re well on your way to figuring out where you’re going and how to get there.

Braden Swab is the founder and sole operator of Tree Stream Consulting. After more than seven years helping international charities design and plan their facilities with a Canadian charity called Engineering Ministries International (EMI), Braden is using what he learned to help non-profits in North America. He is a passionate problem-solver, advocate, and story-teller.