4 FM quick reads on grounds
1. Irrigation Issues: Upgrading for Savings
More maintenance and engineering managers nationwide are forced to deal with water restrictions when planning an upgrade of their irrigation systems, but the West Coast has been dealing with such restrictions for many years.
When Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., implemented its computerized irrigation system in 2008, part of the motivation behind it was to more effectively comply with such water-reduction requirements.
The organization's science and technology research center, located 45 minutes east of San Francisco, features more than 300,000 square feet of landscapes, 50,000 square feet of hardscape, and 350,000 square feet of plantings over 13 acres of developed area.
Starting in 2007, the laboratory operated under a federal requirement to reduce its water use by 2 percent a year for eight years — a total that required a reduction of 16 percent, says Robert Holland, Sandia's environmental monitoring program lead.
The 2008 system was installed to help minimize unnecessary watering, Holland says. It measures wind and humidity, and when it senses rain, it shuts down within 10 minutes. With the previous system, irrigation could continue for six-eight hours before workers manually turned it off, resulting in hundreds of gallons of water being wasted.
"In 2009, we actually employed the flow-sensing device or option that goes along with the control system," says Gerald Vincent, the team lead for facilities at Sandia. "At that time, we made some additional changes with the master valves. When making the installation, that was a challenge.
"We weren't aware that there were additional equipment devices for the irrigation system that would go along with getting to the point of seeing the water management reduction we were looking for. The evapotranspiration (ET) base, we haven't used to its full capacity. We're bringing that online. There are several challenges there, but we're working through them with the local vendor."
2. Concrete Inspections for Long-Term Performance
Concrete sidewalks, ramps, parking lots and garages around institutional and commercial facilities can perform reliably for years. But they can do so only if maintenance managers implement a comprehensive concrete-maintenance program that identifies small problems early and addresses them before they become larger and more costly.
By developing inspection guidelines focused on common causes of problems, combining them with effective repair procedures, materials and equipment, and specifying coatings to protect surfaces, managers can extend concrete performance life and minimize trip-and-fall hazards.
Managers tackling the challenges of concrete maintenance must accept two contradictory facts: Water is a necessary ingredient in concrete, as well as its single most destructive enemy. Without a vapor retarder to keep water out, concrete coatings on below-grade inside floors or walls soon will fail.
Water expands by 9 percent when it freezes, causing spalling and cracking in exterior concrete walkways, floors, walls, and roofs. Concrete is alkaline and normally protects rebar from rusting, but water mixed with chlorides in de-icing compounds can penetrate to rebar and rust it, causing expansion and cracking. Water also can penetrate structural concrete beams and cause cracking, rusting the rebar and weakening the structure.
The first thing technicians must determine when inspecting concrete is whether the problem is structural or superficial. The start of a structural failure — for example, a deep crack in a structural concrete beam — requires immediate attention and documentation. A concrete engineer using non-destructive evaluation, such as ground-penetrating radar, infrared thermography, and impact-echo technology, can discover hidden problems.
3. Grounds: Preparing for Mowing
Preparing lawn-mowing equipment for the rigorous spring schedule can help ensure an efficient, successful mowing season.
First and foremost, grounds managers should follow the lawn mower maintenance program outlined in each owner's manual. Makes and models of mowers vary, so managers should use the owner's manual for each piece of equipment as the minimum maintenance standards. If mechanics and operators fail to follow the program outlined in the manual, the equipment warranty might not remain effective.
Prior to filling the fuel tank and mowing for the first time, mechanics should thoroughly inspect all equipment, and a mechanic or qualified staff member should complete annual lawn mower maintenance procedures.
Operators must be sure to inspect all safety features to ensure they are in working order. Do not allow operators to override or modify safety devices; safety should never be compromised for efficiency. One accident can quickly negate all the benefits of saving a few minutes each day.
Attention and commitment to routine lawn mower maintenance goes a long way to ensuring operator safety. Worn belts and brakes, loose bolts, faulty wiring, improper tire pressure and even broken seat belts can contribute to injury.
Manufacturers continually improve safety features on mowing equipment and tractors. Automatic shutoffs, ergonomic hand controls, vibration and noise reduction, roll bars, and seat belts are among the safety features included in today's mowing equipment. Deflectors and guards are also more common on mower decks and should remain in place when mowing near streets, parking lots and other places where flying objects thrown by the mower might damage property or injure people.
Some manufactures have equipped new riding mowers with back-over protection devices, which prevent the blade from turning while the mower is in reverse. These back-over protection devices also might include a sensor that stops the engine or the blades or the wheels when it detects a bystander behind the machine.
4. Concrete and Asphalt: Effective Maintenance
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, effective concrete and asphalt maintenance.
Exterior concrete and asphalt surfaces create a visitor's first impression of a facility. If drives, parking lots, and sidewalks deteriorate because they are not maintained properly, they can create problems that include poor appearance, tripping hazards, and costly repairs.
The causes of concrete and asphalt problems generally fall into three categories: design, use, and maintenance.
Design problems result from errors in material makeup, the placement of reinforcing materials, and poor support structure. One common design problem is excess water in the concrete mix. Managers need to properly specify concrete and asphalt mixes for each application and inspect them during application to ensure workers take test specimens and place the materials properly.
Another common problem is surface spalling, which results from imbedded metal around windows and other locations that strengthens concrete. Structural settling causes cracks that allow water intrusion, freezing and more cracking.
Even properly applied asphalt can develop problems that result from the effects of ultraviolet rays, water, petroleum products, and traffic. New asphalt combines asphalt-cement binder, sand and stone, and it is black. As the surface dries, asphalt turns gray from the absence of binder, and the elements begin to deteriorate it.
Managers also must be aware of unintended traffic, which can lead to premature degradation. For example, parking lots feature lanes for cars and those for trucks, which have much thicker bases.
If the design does not provide truck lanes or if trucks wander off designated lanes, they will crush the car-parking surfaces. The resulting depressions will collect standing water, and the water will turn to ice. Cracking and spalling can occur, causing damage that requires major repairs.
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