Focus on How to Prioritize Which Facility Capital Projects Really Needs to be Done

BOSTON—April 28, 2014—VFA, Inc., the leading provider of end-to-end solutions for facilities capital planning and asset management, today announced it will host a complimentary webinar on “Tackling Beyond Useful Life” on Tuesday, April 29 at 2 p.m. EST. The webinar will feature Peter Scanlon, VFA’s Vice President of Professional Services.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the number of facilities systems that are “beyond useful life.” More often than not, after conducting a facility condition assessment, facility managers find themselves faced with an enormous cost to replace systems. Attendees will learn how to prioritize those “beyond useful life” projects to make educated decisions that reduce the risk of system failure, stay within budget and eliminate potential stress.

This webinar is part of an ongoing series around the theme, “Deliver Strategic Value From Your Facilities Capital Investment.” The series features one webinar each month with speakers including industry leaders and rising stars in facilities management.  To view the schedule and register, visit

To connect with VFA, please follow us on Twitter at @VFAINC, or visit our blog, Foundations, which provides information to readers that serves as a foundation for intelligent facilities capital planning and management.



Neil Lieberman, CMO at VFA, was recently featured in the April issue of American Schools & Universities. In his article, ‘Prioritizing School Maintenance: What, When, and Why?’  Neil covers the methodology behind prioritization as well as the strategy to maximizing the value of your capital spend. Read an excerpt below and follow the link to the full article.



Prioritizing School Maintenance: What, When, and Why?

Most facilities teams at schools, colleges and universities face the same dilemma: literally hundreds of capital projects and a limited budget.  The challenge is finding an effective facilities capital planning process for balancing short-term needs with longer-term goals. Such a process will ensure that valuable funds are not spent on the wrong projects, that costly emergency repairs and downtime are avoided, and that key stakeholders feel confident that scarce capital funds are being well used.  Implementing a consistent and objective methodology for prioritization of facilities capital projects is a key step in achieving these goals and in aligning spending with organizational objectives.

Given this never-ending challenge, schools must find an effective approach to prioritization of projects that takes out the guesswork and politics.  By relying on solid data and a clear understanding of organizational objectives, facilities managers can determine what to do first and demonstrate how they reached those conclusions.

Items that are critical to the continuous operation of key facilities must be prioritized to the top of the list, and cannot be lost in the chaos of budget cuts.  Whether a facility contains classrooms, gyms, or faculty offices, if it serves the mission of the organization, its condition is crucial, and its shutdown can have serious consequences.

Read the full article

You can also learn more about how VFA helps educational institutions by visiting our client case studies.

BOMA Beyond Useful Life sketch

In preparation for our upcoming webinar on April 29, “Tackling Beyond Useful Life,” we wanted to address the definition and real world meaning of “useful life.” Lawrence “Larry” Schoen, author of BOMA International’s Preventive Maintenance Guidebook: Best Practices to Maintain Efficient and Sustainable Buildings, provided us with some clarification of the term and its impact on decision-making. Check out Larry’s answers below and don’t forget to register for next week’s webinar!

Q: What is the real world interpretation of beyond useful life? What are some ways that it can vary?

A: Let’s make a distinction between theoretical useful life and practical useful life.  As Yogi Berra said, ”In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is.”  BOMA International’s Preventive Maintenance Guidebook: Best Practices to Maintain Efficient and Sustainable Buildings contains pages of average useful lifespans for building systems and components.  These are averages and can be used for prediction, so I’d call them theoretical.  Practical useful life, however, may vary considerably, based on the robustness of the original installation, how well it matches the use of the building, how well it is maintained, the severity of service it has experienced, and other factors.  For instance, if the use of a space changes from office to medical clinic, the HVAC system may become obsolete long before its expected useful life.


Q: So how should useful life be used for decision-making?

A: Average useful life is a prediction tool for budgeting.  A budget itself, used properly, is also just a prediction tool.  It is a mistake to arbitrarily replace equipment when it reaches a particular age just as it is a mistake to spend to the budget.  Replacement and budgeting decisions should be evaluated based on current needs, conditions and opportunities.


Q: Are the “lifespans” of systems created today expected to be longer due to improvements in technology, efficiency, etc.?

A: The short answer is not longer, but in fact shorter; here are a few of the reasons.  Many types of equipment are built with lighter, more optimally designed components that may not have the same level of robustness as older equipment.  So much equipment comes with digital controls and we all know how quickly that becomes obsolete.  Efficiency standards change and as newer, more efficient equipment is available, it may make sense to change out equipment sooner.  The focus on replaceable hardware and increasing pressure on labor cost means that preventive maintenance may suffer. Refrigerants and other substances with environmental impacts are phased out and newer materials are favored.  Having said that, for some system components, for instance, a stone floor, we don’t expect the lifetime to change.

Lawrence 'Larry' Schoen, P.E.


About Larry Schoen, P.E. & Schoen Engineering, Inc.
Larry Schoen is president and principal engineer of Schoen Engineering, Inc. in Columbia, Maryland and he is also an ASHRAE fellow. Schoen helps building owners and managers assess the real condition of their mechanical & electrical equipment, achieve maximum lifespan, and know when to upgrade or replace. Schoen Engineering also produces engineered construction documents for facility upgrades and is licensed in multiple states for mechanical and electrical engineering.


When VFA’s facilities consultants are out in the field, many times they draw inspiration from their surroundings. VFA’s Alisa Nielsen has turned her Canadian aboriginal background into beautiful pieces of art. Check them out below with some insight into Alisa’s inspiration and learn more about an artist among us!


Salmon Run Ceremonial Drum – This eagle design is based on my visit to the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) in BC. Although there are numerous bald and golden eagles there, this particular eagle seemed to follow me around the island! He would fly alongside my vehicle while I drove and if I stopped, he would perch himself in a tree or the shore very near me. Each time I would go to take his picture, he would either take off (too fast to get him in flight) or turn around or lift his wing (he even mooned me once). After a few days of this behavior and as I had to leave, I had nearly given up and had the camera put away. Then he showed again and soared directly over my head, doing circles. So I took out my camera and he circled enough to let me take a picture of him in flight! Hence the design was born! The overall design is based on a worn drum skin whose design might have been created for a traditional salmon run opening ceremony.

alisa-nielsen-Motherhood-Western Painted-Turtles

Motherhood – Western Painted Turtles: This turtle design is based on a request from a client to design him a turtle platter. My initial reaction was that I had never seen a Ksan turtle design and it might be because there aren’t turtles on the Skeena River in BC. But – after some research, I discovered that the Western Painted Turtle is a fresh water turtle that is on the extinct list in this region. After some reflection, I created my turtle design. Since, I\’ve been told but other Aboriginal peoples in the East that turtles are sacred and represent the Turtle Island and that further, I somehow created my design with the correct number of design elements! Funny how things work out…


Butterfly Clamshell Platter – My designs are generally based on travel (physical or mental) and experiences. My Nisga’a Butterfly for instance, seemed to be the only one of its nature and colour and it followed me through the Nisga’a lands for two days. I thought it odd as I was mostly driving. Every time I tried to take its picture, it would somehow take flight and move quicker than I! I discussed this with my bed and breakfast hosts and they told me – he’s speaking to you – you need to design him. And then, after visiting the falls, the butterfly was flying about again and I told it, well then, stop so I can take your picture! And it did… landed right at my feet on the pavement and waited! And so I designed my butterfly.


Ode to Bentbox – This particular design represents my spirit world and my circle of life – the wolf (my clan) being visited by various birds (spirits) at different times in my life to bring me messages and direct my path or decisions.

Alisa Nielsen

About the Artist

Alisa Nielsen is an architectural assessor for VFA. She is also a registered Interior Designer who has sought a creative outlet that reunites her with her ancestors.  Although born and raised in Vancouver, BC, her roots are in Kispiox, a Gitxsan and Carrier Tribe originating in the Hazleton, BC area. She is from the Wolf House (Wilp Lax Gibuu). Traditional items of trade that represented wealth and prosperity were items containing copper and abalone.  In a modernistic approach to incorporating these elements in her artwork, Alisa is working with copper inlays in her glass works and Raku glazes in her pottery pieces. Her work is a unique blend and balance of glasswork and pottery inspired and informed by her Gitxsan and Carrier heritage.  Currently residing in Summerland, BC, she enjoys sharing traditional Ksan imagery while playing with form and function. You can learn more about Alisa’s art and inspiration by checking out her website

Note: Alisa is part of VFA’s facilities consulting team that provides facility assessment services. VFA has many clients in Canada and you can learn more about them and our Canadian team by visiting the VFA Canada page.




Peter Scanlon is VFA’s Vice President of Professional Services where he supports the education, state & local government and eastern Canada clients. Peter is directly responsible for all aspects of the project implementation, including facilities condition assessments, software implementation, training, and reporting provided to our clients.  A graduate of Harvard University, Peter was previously involved with large facilities and construction programs with Dingle Executive Group, LLC and Beyond Institution, Inc.

Peter is directly involved in data analyses and consulting services, custom software specification, customized training, bar coding and preventative maintenance, and other client specific requirements. Peter’s depth of experience in capital software solutions and extensive background with construction services have proved to be of significant value in his 8 years with VFA. Outside of VFA, Peter is a steering committee member of Boston Cleanweb Hackathon + Data Jam Challenge.

Join us on April 29 when Peter leads the next webinar in our series:

“Tackling “Beyond Useful Life” – How to Prioritize Which of Your Facility Capital Projects Really Needs to be Done

Click Here to Register!

American School & University


It may have been impossible to detect the iceberg that sank the Titanic, but the disaster plan onboard the ship was seriously lacking. If only there were some emergency scenarios previously mapped out, maybe there would have been enough lifeboats to go around. Though there were no mandates at the time regarding lifeboat occupancy requirements, modern day facility managers know that events like the sinking of the Titanic have contributed to the safety and compliance environment of today.

The Titanic was the largest ship and, by far, the most luxurious experience on the water at the time. It set sail on its maiden voyage on April 10th, 1912. It left port with much fanfare and 2,224 people aboard. On April 14th, 1912, disaster struck at around 11:40pm. An iceberg struck the Titanic’s starboard side, puncturing five compartments; the Titanic was only built to handle four busted compartments.

The disaster plan was dismally nonexistent and the crew did not know how to load the lifeboats. The boats the Titanic had could feasibly hold half of the ship’s occupants. However, only a quarter of those occupants made it onto the lifeboats. The rest were left to go down with the ship into the icy Atlantic waters. As a result of this tragedy, maritime safety regulations were bolstered with the establishment of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

Without a disaster plan and adequate compliance satisfaction, a lot more could be at risk than expected. Knowing what is in your facility portfolio and its condition can help you respond more quickly and effectively to a disaster. Learn how to keep your facility plan afloat with VFA.facility.

We’ve been asking attendees of our webinar series to answer poll questions to gauge where our audience falls in terms of implementation of strategic facility management. See the results below and don’t forget to register for April’s webinar, ‘Tackling Beyond Useful Life: How to Prioritize Which of Your Facility Capital Projects Really Needs to be Done.

Do you have a strategic facility plan in place today?

strategic fm plan pie chart

Do you have a programmatic approach to data maintenance?

programmatic approach to fm pie chart

How often do you do reassessments?

reassessment frequency pie chart

If you don’t do reassessments, why not?

do you do reassessments pie chart

Canadian Facility Management & Design

VFA Helps Organizations to Ensure their Facilities Support Strategic Business Objectives

BOSTON—April 7, 2014—VFA, Inc., the leading provider of end-to-end solutions for facilities capital planning and asset management, today announced it is featuring its solutions for an ongoing program that enables organizations to manage facilities strategically at Tradeline’s 2014 Conference on Strategic Facilities Planning and Management, on April 7-8, 2014 in Scottsdale, Arizona. VFA will be exhibiting in Booth 4.

Facilities are often an organization’s second largest expenditure and they impact every facet of an organization’s activities. Instead of being used strategically to reduce risk, lower costs, improve service quality and client satisfaction, and meet compliance requirements, facility capital planning decisions are usually made tactically.

VFA has shown more than 800 organizations around the world how to ensure that their facilities optimally support their strategic business objectives. VFA solutions help organizations to maintain accurate information about critical capital assets and effectively leverage this data to optimize the investments they make in their facilities.

To connect with VFA, please follow us on Twitter at @VFAINC, or visit our blog, Foundations, which provides information to readers that serves as a foundation for intelligent facilities capital planning and management.