NPS Fundamentals Essentials: Facilities Management


Whether you are a new employee or interested in employment with the National Park Service, understanding how the organization functions is vital to your success. Are all parks the same?  How is the work divided?  How are the sites managed?  What do the different divisions do?

Known as “Essentials,” these topics provide insight into how the National Park Service manages the entire system of parks and programs to accomplish its mission.  Reading through each topic gives an overview at the most basic level with opportunities to link to more in-depth, specific information.


The National Park Service (NPS) manages a variety of facilities that enable visitors to experience national parks in a safe and accessible environment. This management falls under the direction of the Facility Management Division.

This Essential refers to several NPS management documents that guide managers in day-to-day decision-making. The documents are the driving force behind many NPS operations. The primary source of guidance is the 2006 edition of Management Policies, which is also the most important policy document of the service’s directives system. Executive Orders (EO) are also referenced.

Facilities Management Mission

From Management Policies 2006:

The NPS will provide visitor and administrative facilities that are necessary, appropriate, and consistent with the conservation of park resources and values. Facilities will be harmonious with park resources, compatible with natural processes, esthetically pleasing, functional, energy and water-efficient, cost-effective, universally designed, and as welcoming as possible to all segments of the population. NPS facilities and operations will demonstrate environmental leadership by incorporating sustainable practices to the maximum extent in planning, design, siting, construction, maintenance.

What is Facilities Management?

The term facility management may create images of maintenance activities such as lawn mowing, trash removal, and custodial services. While those essential tasks are critical components of facility management, they are actually more connected to facility operations.

Facility management is the day-to-day work required to preserve facilities (buildings, structures, grounds, and utility systems) in such a condition that they may be used for their designated purpose over an extended service life. This is done through the development of long and short-range goals for the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, replacement, and investment into park infrastructure. Facility management provides leadership and policy direction to ensure the stewardship of the park’s constructed assets and the development of the maintenance workforce.

Close-up of the face of the Statue of LibertyFacilities Management works to preserve some of our country’s most significant resources such as the Statue of Liberty





What Types of Facilities Does the NPS Manage?

  • Historic and other types of buildings
  • Trails
  • Fortifications
  • Roads
  • Maintained landscapes
  • Natural areas
  • National treasures
  • Employee housing
  • Fleet (such as vehicles)

Facilities Management is About Asset Management

Much attention has been given to the cost associated with the construction of park facilities. Congress has appropriated millions of dollars to create new facilities within the National Park System yet, the initial expense of construction represents only five to ten percent of the full cost of ownership during the life of a facility.

To protect these important resources, ongoing investments in annual and cyclic maintenance, repair and revitalization, and disposal of non-historic assets, must be considered as part of a long-term maintenance program. Together, these expenditures account for 60 – 85 percent of the total cost of ownership.

Asset Life Cycle: Managing a typical asset over a 50 year period requires substantial resources.

graphic showing total cost of an asset over the life of the asset

Requirements of the National Park Service in Regards to Facility Management

  • Inventory all real property
  • Improve real property management
  • Estimate life cycle costs
  • Implement asset management plan
  • Identify goals, timelines, and measure progress
  • Address historic and environmental concerns
  • Meet federally mandated goals for reduction in energy consumption

Who is Facility Management?

Facility management makes up the most complex career field in the National Park Service in terms of job diversity. Over 90 job descriptions fall under facility management.

Below is a small sample of the trade crafts needed for facility management. Each of these employees must be aware of how his or her work and activities affects the cultural and natural resources the NPS is charged with protecting.

  • Gardener
  • Preservationist
  • Carpenter
  • Exhibit Specialists
  • Animal Caretaker
  • Painter
  • Electrician
  • Architect
  • Facility Manager
  • Facilities Management Systems Specialist
  • Engineer
  • Horticulturist
  • Laborer
  • Plumber
  • Maintenance Mechanic
  • Maintenance Worker
  • HVAC Mechanic
  • Motor Vehicle Operator
  • Heavy Equipment Operator
  • Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator
  • Trail Worker
Two employees working by a wheelbarrow
Specialized trade skills are needed in facility management.


The Future of Facilities Management

Over 400 national park areas cover more than 84 million acres across every state. These diverse sites include historic sites, battlefields, recreation areas, monuments, shores, trains, and highways – among many other natural and cultural resources. This unique infrastructure has evolved over time in response to the NPS mission. Aging components of our built up environment may have to be altered and improved to meet federal energy usage mandates and to improve accessibility for all visitors and employees without damaging their associated cultural and natural resources.

Continuing to provide visitor access, enhance the use of park lands, and protect and sustain natural and cultural resources will be the future of facility management. In a system that continues to grow in size and complexity, challenges will be abundant.

Facility management must invest wisely in its facility portfolio to avoid failure of its mission-critical assets and, at the same time, ensure that processes are in place to adequately sustain those investments, and the assets themselves for future generations.

Issues and Challenges

  • Managing the gap between available ONPS funding and operational and maintenance needs
  • Working with a significantly cut labor force (resources) to accomplish tasks
  • Competing with other park divisions for operational funding
  • Addressing the deferred maintenance backlog
  • Dealing with natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other emergency situations
  • Being responsive to current and future initiatives, such as: Green Parks Plan, Freeze the Footprint, Call to Action, Centennial Challenge, Architectural Barriers Act
Large fallen tree in front of historic brick structure
Hurricane Damage at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.


 Additional Resources

Park Facility Management: Terminology and Concepts (Provides an overview of how National Park Service managers make informed decisions about the allocation of limited funding and staff time for maintaining park infrastructure)

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  4. My short takeaway – “Facilities Management is Asset Management”. An eye opening statistic for me – the construction of a facility is only 5-10% of the facilities life cycle cost, the other 90 – 95% of the costs are long-term maintenance costs.

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  7. In procurement we deal with our facilities management everyday to help keep our resources and buildings and roads – you name it – in proper order. May not be out in the park fun but it’s behind the scenes critical!


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