How Drones Provide Faster and Less Costly Property and Facility Assessments

Frank Segarra
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February 17, 2021

Why regular building inspections are so important

Building owners and facility managers have more at stake than just time and money. Keeping structures safe is a key part of everyday business operations. When it comes to protecting both the building and the business, costly problems can arise at any time.

Inspecting and evaluating the envelope of a building is critical for uncovering problems that can arise due to a lack of maintenance, improper design or materials used, environmental issues, or even improper installation. Problems such as water infiltration, corrosion, and concrete spalling can lead to long-term or even catastrophic problems down the road. These kinds of building envelope failures can result in increased energy costs, mold growth, and premature deterioration of building structural components, which all lead to expensive repairs and are safety hazards.

Drones offer key advantages for building inspections

A notable advantage of using drones to capture photos is that this approach can generate VERY high-fidelity images in both 2D and 3D that clarify important information. Asset owners and stakeholders now see things that you would typically have to climb up ladders, scaffolding, suspend from cabling, and get into swing stages and bucket lifts to view. Unmanned technology does more than keep workers safe: by using drones, you can get extreme close-up images with little risk. The amount of data multiplies exponentially compared to manual inspections.

Greater asset intelligence is one of the most effective ways to drive down operational costs. Leading analysts say that almost a third of operational expenditures are essentially the overhead of asset management, such as routine inspections and repairs. That is not even considering the cost of catastrophic failures. Implementing effective asset maintenance and management, driven by current data that you can really trust, can reduce operational expenses exponentially.

What is a property condition assessment?

Commercial Property Condition Assessment, or PCA, is the process of evaluating the overall condition of buildings and site improvements at the property. Conducting a thorough yet comprehensive inspection can help lenders and buyers understand how the condition of the building and site improvements will impact the asset’s financial performance. History shows that the majority of issues related to long term and the most costliest problems found are typically started at the exterior or what professionals in the business call the “Building Envelope”. The PCA process includes three main components.

1. Condition examination

The site visit is generally done by multiple people on foot and requires examination of site terrestrial conditions, vertical façade, and complete roof to identify at a high level needed maintenance items, physical deficiencies, and long-term maintenance requirements. It involves the visual examination of many elements including drainage, building shell, and structural members, HVAC, and roofing systems.

2. Data Analysis

Ultimately, data gathered during each phase of the inspection is analyzed and documented into a property condition report identifying all anomalies. 

3. Remediation recommendations

Recommendations to remediate deficiencies that require immediate repair and require immediate action due to existing or potentially unsafe conditions, building codes, or conditions that, if left uncorrected, could result in critical failure or significant costs. The PCA covers every aspect of the property, including, but not limited to:

  • Topography
  • Paving and curbing
  • Landscaping
  • Drainage
  • Structure
  • Roofing
  • HVAC
  • Security and Fire Safety
  • Accessibility

Structural deterioration is caused by a variety of factors

As commercial building structures age, they require additional maintenance and become more hazardous if they fail, leading to unexpected capital expense, work production downtime, and in some cases life-threatening events. Understanding the condition of your commercial facility is valuable information that can be used to leverage repair dollars and extend a building structure’s life while reducing unforeseen conditions. In new construction inadequate design, the use of sub-par materials or less than industry-standard construction installation can cause additional general maintenance expense, higher operating costs, code compliance issues, and premature building system failures.

Structural deterioration factors can include:

  • Material deterioration
  • Cracks, bowing, deflections, movement, and ground settlement
  • Repurposed buildings stressed by unintended loads
  • Poor drainage and water infiltration
  • Natural events, including floods, snow, hurricanes, and earthquakes

Leveraging commercial drone services provider for inspections