Lessons learned Performing a Real Property Audit for Marine Corp Base Hawaii

DSC_3563.JPGAsset management for the military is an exercise in getting the balance sheet right. Are we properly accounting for our property? It helps installations understand their footprint and plan for what’s on the horizon. If you don’t know what you have, you can’t make an informed decision – or receive sustainment funding - when operating and renovating those facilities.

Military installations change constantly. A water line repair is made. A building is added. A gym is turned into a warehouse, or vice versa. A natural gas line is dug up and rerouted. Meanwhile, military personnel rotate in and out of installations. Because of this, records need to be touched every five years. It’s easy to lose historical information, or that information not accurately communicated to the next person. You should be able to see what changes have been made. Technology advances have made the task more efficient, but nothing replaces effective asset collection methods, which are improved by applying lessons learned from past real property inventories.

Marine Corp Base Hawaii

Typically, installations lack the staff to conduct an accurate inventory and partner with outside consultants to collect and record asset information into the Department of Navy real property inventory database of record, internet Naval Assets Data Store (iNFADS). This was the case when the Marine Corps Base Hawaii worked with CDM Stanley joint venture to identify, measure, verify and document more than 1,300 real properties across eight property areas that constitute the U.S. military bases on Oahu. The project introduced use of available digital technology for the first time on the base, and also provided a series of lessons learned that set the stage for effective future asset management exercises.

Data collection included Type 2 (buildings), Type 3 (various structures) and Type 4 (utilities) properties across the entire installation, at Kaneohe, Camp Smith, Manana, Bellows, Pearl City, Puuloa, Waikane Valley and portions of the housing area at Kaneohe.

This work was accomplished on site using mobile technology to efficiently collect data in the field. Using automated processes, the joint venture developed complete asset evaluation reports for each property record, including utilization breakdowns, CADD floorplans, documented photo logs and GIS figures. The purpose of these reports was to show adequacy and deficiencies of the facilities through data, maps and pictures of the facilities captured during the on-site audit.

Key lessons learned: Start with process

A successful real property inventory begins with devising the best process for systematically collecting real property data and using field automation tools. Pre-task guidance on these types of projects can tend to be vague, and the team may have to adapt and change how information is collected.

Such was the case in Hawaii. The main question was, does management have what it needs to financially justify maintenance and replacement of base facilities and utilities? Working in July and August with a final delivery date in September, the inventory team collected information to create detailed floor plans with gross and net square foot measurements or GIS figures depending on the facility type. Where past tasks were accomplished with paper documents and manuel entry into software tools, the team established procedures for using electronic tablets with automatic uploads to the database servers back home, saving time and creating efficiency in the field.

Each of the seven installations in Hawaii interpreted what they thought was being requested and also what would best suit them in future justifications for financial support of their base specifically, therefore devising a game plan was somewhat of a moving target that had to be adapted to all the bases. The inventory team wrote a procedural document that outlined how information was to be collected, so that moving forward, a specific baseline was set for future inventories.

Advance facility and facility manager data is critical. Know what assets need evaluating, and their locations. The team accomplished this by receiving as-built CADD drawings for Type 2 facilities to provide full floor plans of how the buildings were being used. If the as-builts were not available, the field member hand drew a sketch for the CADD team to draft, followed by renditions of markup for accuracy. For Type 3 and Type 4 assets, the team worked with the local GIS group to obtain their information to create figures.

Get digital; get it right. Batch iNFADS (internet Naval assets data store) uploading is the most efficient method in making property record card changes. Instead of spending thousands of hours re-typing in data that would have been collected manually on paper, a huge amount of money and time was saved by using tablets andcreating a database file that could be uploaded to create the necessary changes. The team included a “super user” with security clearance that allowed batch uploads of changes from the base. It improved accuracy because it was easier to check if the database uploaded correctly than reviewing manual inputs.

Advance team preparation needed improvement. Base personnel should know the information needed and how it should be formatted. What is most useful? Direction from the base can be left open for interpretation. The scope of work can change when the team arrives. The Hawaii base wanted CADD drawn floor plans for every Type 2 building and Type 3 structure and enclosed area, roof and walls. The team scanned documents and sent them to graphics team members on the mainland. The files were sent back for calculating square footage and was backchecked to ensure data was entered correctly. There is always a rounding for error factor in square footage, usable space and combination use calculations.

A smaller core data gathering team is better. Greater efficiency and accuracy will be achieved by having fewer people working onsite longer. There is less variation in collection techniques and interpretation of data. Assign assets by team member, instead of assigning property areas that include various asset types. This allows for more consistent data collection. However, there is access to consider. Some areas required a heightened level of access or an appointment for people to enter a compound. When this is required it is important to assign the field member that gets access granted all the various types of property record cards that need collected in that area.

Government in-process review is most efficient. Review should be a real-time effort. The team held weekly meetings with onsite staff, who asked for more data and identified inconsistent data areas. There wasn’t enough time in the project deadline to wait for one draft report. It is important to explain significant changes early to allow for the facilities group to look further into whether the change should be made or not, or if the property record card is inaccurate all together and needs removed.

Match property record cards with drawings. Here’s where the gross square footage rounding issue comes into play. Data and drawings should match. Rounding to a hundredth of a decimal point can create mismatches. To address this, the team built a software link to download floor plans to spread sheets. Automating the process increased speed, consistency and accuracy.

Two-person teams. When creating floorplans from scratch, it is much easier to work in a team even if the structure or building is small. Working in a team for a day or week from the start could have eliminated coordination and scheduling that slowed data collection. Not only was it helpful in measuring the facilities, but it also helped to have a second set of eyes to catch things that may have otherwise been missed.

About the Author

Danah Kleppe is a GIS analyst with Stanley Consultants in the firm's Muscatine, Iowa office.