The Importance of Building Condition Surveys

Developers, property owners, landlords, investors and others with vested interest in commercial properties can be vulnerable to flaws and problems in existing buildings. Prior to purchasing, renovating or building, conducting a building condition survey will delineate immediate and potential problem areas so that informed decisions can be made and priority areas can be set. Essentially, a building condition survey “looks for trouble” before any construction initiative begins. Building condition surveys will apply to potential owners whether they are purchasing, selling, re-financing, renovating, or maintaining a property.

Conducted primarily for commercial and industrial projects, a building condition survey is critical because it outlines and evaluates architectural, structural, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, roofing, fire protection, utilities, layout, water management, safety, code compliance and soil erosion elements of a design-build project. Integrated design-build firms especially benefit from this work because it gives them a clear view of all systems, as well as structural elements, prior to designing, planning, and executing a building project.

A building condition survey has several important elements. We’ll talk about each in this blog post to provide a better understanding for those who are planning commercial construction projects in the near future.

Why is a building condition survey used?

Quite simply, a building condition survey provides a clear understanding of the current condition of the structure and operating systems for anyone who has a vested interest in the building. Retrieving evidence of inferior or cracked walls, sloping floors, worrisome structural elements, or gaps between walls and floors, or walls and ceilings, are just some of the issues that will alert building owners to possible problems. These surveys can often point to larger structural issues with the asset.


How is a building condition survey conducted?

A building condition survey is a visual inspection conducted by an architect or engineer and their team to assess the current state of a building’s infrastructure. The survey professionals look for any evidence of structural failure, deterioration, movement, need for repair, or probable useful life, as well as any need for replacement components. Specific components for review can include loose bricks, shifted walls, missing roof flashing, water damage, or deteriorated mortar joints.

What is included in a building condition survey?

Working from the client’s needs, the survey professionals will, at minimum, provide a narrative of the property’s current condition including visual observations. In some cases, results from periodic testing and monitoring of the building and operational components will be included.

Typical elements included in a building condition survey include the following:

  • Existing building description
  • The type of building evaluated (commercial, institutional, historic, government, etc.)
  • Exposed foundation and structural systems
  • Site elements such as walkways, curbs, parking lots, lighting, and drainage
  • Exterior envelopes such as curtain walls, masonry, exterior insulation finish system
  • Hazardous materials such as asbestos containing materials (ACM), lead paint, mold, PCB’s, etc.
  • Photo survey
  • Building code review
  • Roof systems and insulation
  • Type, condition and age of roofing systems
  • Parking garages
  • Walls, doors, windows, partitions, and finishes
  • Plumbing systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Elevators, escalators, and moving walkways
  • Mechanical systems including HVAC, boilers, etc.
  • Fire code and building issues
  • Accessibility compliance issues
  • Non-evasive technologies such as scanning and drones
  • Repair and maintenance history
  • Exploratory holes
What role does a design-build firm play in a building condition survey?

Before launching any renovation or reconstruction related to existing buildings, a reputable integrated design-build firm will recommend the need for a current building condition survey. Architectural and engineering experts are trained to identify and evaluate current and potential problems. This form of transparent communication will benefit anyone interested in purchasing or renovating commercial and historical properties.

Engaging with a design-build company allows for not only the identification of problems, but also the renovation, construction aspects, and associated cost of the project. Having one firm involved from beginning to end cuts down on inefficiencies, budgets, and timetables for investors and builders. Good design and building practices will also help to eliminate or minimize any future issues with the designated property, providing peace of mind for all involved in these large projects.

Those involved in large-scale initiatives will especially benefit from thorough building condition surveys because of the budget and timeline efficiencies involved. Builders and investors can maximize their property and land portfolios, minimize any associated risks, build and renovate appropriately, as well as comply with current legislation.

Tightened budgets and restrictive timelines can be professionally accommodated when parties engage with an integrated design-build firm to take full advantage of architectural, engineering, construction, and potential development capabilities, both today and in the future.


Contact Our Integrated Design-Build Firm

Need assistance and advice for planning your next building project? Talk to the integrated design-build team at VIP Structures. Our firm includes disciplines in architecture, engineering, construction, and development to provide you with broad and specific expertise in your industry. Call us at 315.471.5338 or email us at