Through the years I have had the opportunity to train new professionals in the building evaluation industry. One of the biggest challenges for those who are initially learning the ins and outs of assessments is the large degree of subjectivity and “gray areas” with which our industry is fraught.
For example, certain types of exterior wall cracking may simply be the result of routine initial material curing and other types of cracking might indicate a significant structural concern.
In certain instances it is crucial to know to what degree to rely on the building engineer’s interview answers in lieu of or in addition to your assumptions based on your site visit observations.
Or, what per unit opinions of cost are appropriate for the report may depend on the type or age of the property, the scope of repair/replacement work needed, or the client’s role in the project.
Sometimes, the best approach during an assessment is to refrain from speaking and just keep listening. What is the building engineer saying and not saying? When specific questions are asked, such as whether there are any problems with the roof or water infiltration at the windows, it is best to listen carefully to their words and body language to discern as much as possible. Conversely, sometimes it is more effective to talk informally and extensively so as to put the building contact at ease. In some cases, he or she will communicate more about what is happening with the building systems if they think of the evaluator as being on their side.
In our field, an almost Zen-like approach to issues is typically the most useful. In fact, the technical engineering field of facility assessments has a great deal in common with the ancient practice of Zen. Both Zen and facility assessments focus on the journey, with process being integral to the result. Both are focused on discovery, listening, and uncovering truths available in the moment. Allowing questions, navigating variables, and accepting the unknown are vital to both the practice of Zen and the success of a facility assessment.
Having thought about these issues through the years, this past month I completed and published a new book: Zen and the Art of Facility Assessments. It was a labor of love and includes insights into the “art” of building assessments with corresponding Zen quotes. In addition, I included artistic photographs that I’d taken at properties through the years.
Feel free to take a look at the hardcopy version at Amazon Books and the eBook version on Sellfy Books.