VFA finds niche in facilities management

Software company helps GSA manage its vast real estate portfolio

A small Boston-based provider of facilities management software has helped the General Services Administration, the country’s largest real estate manager, keep track of 340 million square feet of leased or owned facilities and the distribution of limited labor and financial resources.

A word-of-mouth recommendation linked GSA with VFA, which makes facilities software to manage building maintenance schedules at dozens of universities, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Brian Lynch, VFA’s federal market director.

GSA’s needs were similar to the universities’ because many of its properties are large, are more than 50 years old and require costly upkeep, Lynch added. But GSA also had some unique requirements.

For example, traditional methods of collecting building data required GSA to prepare full building engineering reports every five years, a time-consuming process that produced out-of-date data almost as soon as the agency completed the reports.

Given the size and diversity of its real estate portfolio, GSA needed a unified way of compiling, maintaining and evaluating data for current and future facility needs. It needed accurate and impartial data so agency officials would better understand property conditions and be able to pinpoint high-problem areas.

Together, VFA and GSA developed a Web-based self-assessment questionnaire for all 11 GSA regions. The survey requested details about the physical condition of the properties in each region and the estimated costs for repairs and replacements.

Lynch said the survey results “really drained the swamp.” It helped GSA rank the condition of its properties from very good to very poor. “It helped them prioritize where they should point their attention to as well as [where they should provide] funds,” he said.

GSA has been using the VFA.facility software since 2000 to collect general data and create capital plans. “We use this [software] in two ways,” said William Matthews, assistant commissioner for real property asset management at GSA. “There’s a Level 2 summary questionnaire that we use to good effect that gives us a very inexpensive baseline way of getting a macro assessment of the liability for repairs and alterations for buildings.”

When GSA is ready to make a capital investment, the agency prepares a detailed Level 4 building engineering report, using Web-BER, VFA’s Web-based building engineering report program.

Matthews said GSA uses the more inclusive Level 4 data collection to prepare funding proposals for Congress.

He said the VFA.facility software does not require expensive updates, even for the more complex data needed to obtain funding for a project. “And you could blend it in with your normal cycle of annual asset management activities,” he added.

Matthews said the VFA.facility software helped GSA earn a green rating from the Office of Management and Budget this year for asset management, the highest rating for meeting government standards.

In March, GSA purchased a $1.25 million lifetime enterprisewide license for VFA.facility. Lynch said VFA hosts the application and provides all the support and maintenance, including a help desk.

VFA has been able to sell the Web-based self-assessment questionnaire to other federal agencies, including the Army, Navy, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

VFA tailors its software to facilities managersThe General Services Administration uses software from VFA to help maintain 340 million square feet of leased or owned facilities, including the Richard Bolling federal office building, above, in Kansas City, Mo. The software’s online self-assessment questionnaire helps GSA facilities managers make thorough assessments of the agencies’ owned and leased properties, including all plumbing fixtures.

Here is a sample question from VFA.auditor:

    The quantity of plumbing fixtures requiring replacement because they are worn, damaged or nonfunctioning for the following types is:

  • Toilets

  • Urinals

  • Restroom sinks

  • Utility sinks

  • Bathtubs

  • Showers (built in)

  • Showers (prefabricated)

  • Wash stations

  • Emergency eye washes

  • Emergency eye/shower stations

Source: VFA

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above