Building maintenance is an ongoing concern for facility managers. However, staying on top of it is not always straightforward. Here are some of the most common challenges and how to tackle them.
1. Setting an Appropriate Building Maintenance Budget
It’s not always easy to anticipate what a building will need over the short and long term to remain in good condition and operational. Relatedly, a facilities manager often has to approach other individuals — such as an organization’s board members — to get approval for a proposed budget.
Creating a facility condition assessment (FCA) is an ideal starting point when dealing with budgetary concerns. It aids with understanding what a building needs now and in the future. An FCA commonly includes details such as:
- Routine and deferred maintenance needs
- The remaining useful life (RUL) for systems/equipment
- A prioritized list of necessary repairs
- A breakdown of systemic deficiencies
It’s also useful to include details about the lifespans of major building components, such as the air conditioning system. This allows a maintenance team to more easily justify setting aside funds or requesting a bigger budget so the eventual replacement of those items is not such a financial shock.
Once decision-makers see documented details about a building’s maintenance needs, they’ll be more likely to agree to the requested budget. Those parties will also appreciate the forethought required to produce that content.
2. Preventing Outages That Cause Prolonged Problems
It’s virtually inevitable that a facilities management team will encounter some unexpected outages. However, the goal in dealing with them is to shorten their timespans to avoid ongoing inconveniences. Otherwise, a malfunction could lead to canceled events or other instances that bring unwanted publicity.
In one recent case, the air-conditioning system serving 23 floors of a 50-story Toronto apartment building failed and left residents in sweltering conditions for more than two months. The main issue centered on trying to source a single crucial part held up in Germany due to supply chain problems. People in all affected units had fans delivered to them, but many residents still said it was too hot.
Predictive maintenance investments could prevent problems like this one. For example, some systems have advanced sensors and data analytics capabilities that alert people to issues weeks before they happen. Getting those details gives facilities managers more time to address a problem before it causes chaos.
It takes time and financial resources to determine the best ways to implement a predictive maintenance solution. However, such technology is typically worthwhile because it substantially reduces the likelihood of issues taking people by complete surprise.
3. Scheduling Time for the Necessary Training
Maintenance challenges can also stem from ensuring there’s enough time for staff members to receive the necessary training. It can become especially difficult for small teams because certain members will have to take on extra responsibilities while others receive training.
However, the appropriate training can help people respond appropriately in emergencies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has 29 CFR 1910 standards applying across all industries except maritime, construction and agriculture. Some of the associated courses include fire prevention, electrical safety, first aid and protecting oneself against bloodborne pathogens.
You may think that crises requiring someone to use that training are relatively rare, but that’s not necessarily true. A study of facilities managers in the educational sector found that 23% had faced emergencies related to fire, smoke, gas, water or overheating components in the last year. Another 56% dealt with disruptive infrastructure malfunctions, including power outages.
When staff members have the relevant training, it’s more likely they’ll limit the unwanted consequences of such unforeseen events. Moreover, well-trained individuals reduce the liabilities associated with keeping a building operating smoothly. Thus, providing proof of that education could lower insurance costs.
4. Preparing for Severe Weather and Limiting Its Effects
Getting a building ready for inclement weather could minimize the maintenance that must occur after a storm passes. That’s because preparation measures aim to curb the damage the weather causes. Building managers should familiarize themselves with the actions to take before certain types of storms. For example, some of the steps to take for an approaching hurricane include:
- Unplugging all equipment except refrigerators
- Boarding up glass doors and windows
- Taking all loosely hung items off the walls
- Moving equipment and files away from windows
Some communities also use smart sensors to help people become more aware of flooding. On
e project in coastal areas of the United States involved sending water-level sensors to improve flooding forecasts and disaster preparedness. Researchers then used the associated data to learn how seriously people take flood warnings and what residents do to prepare for them.
Facilities managers should assess which weather-related disasters are most likely to strike a building, plus learn what happened to it during past events. Those details will enable steering clear of many maintenance challenges caused by insufficient severe weather preparedness.
After a storm passes, a building maintenance team should schedule someone to check the structural integrity of the premises before allowing anyone else to enter them. Doing that allows taking stock of the situation and preventing any accidents that could arise from someone going into a building that a storm made unsafe.
5. Managing Daily Maintenance Challenges
A building manager’s daily work includes several responsibilities that must occur to prevent problems. For example, they may need to treat outdoor areas with salt during cold periods. That seems like a relatively straightforward task, but it requires sourcing the supplies and ensuring people are available to apply them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created new daily challenges associated with cleaning procedures. For example, large, busy facilities may have cleaners solely responsible for sanitizing certain high-touch surfaces. The pandemic also necessitated supplying the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) so maintenance staff could do their jobs without unnecessary risks.
Facilities managers may encounter challenges related to occupant management, too. For example, the team overseeing a huge office building may get multiple maintenance requests in an hour. They might relate to matters like a burned-out lightbulb, a bathroom that’s out of toilet paper and a broken door lock.
Maintenance leaders have to group those issues according to severity, then allocate team members to the right places. Additionally, they need to follow up with the person who made the initial contact and keep them updated. Maintaining electronic records of these daily needs makes them easier to track and manage.
Building Maintenance Success Requires Thoughtful Preparedness
It’s impossible to plan for all possible maintenance challenges. However, taking the time to determine which ones are most likely to happen and making the necessary investments to get ready for them are two excellent early steps to take.
Maintenance professionals should also stay aware of how a building’s needs may change over time. For example, occupancy increases and new state regulations are some of the many things that could cause upkeep duties to fluctuate. However, thinking ahead can make issues less problematic and not as expensive.