By Michael Cowley
My column in the January 2012 issue discussed the benefits that have come from the sustainability movement for institutional and commercial facilities, as well as the components maintenance and engineering managers need to ensure they maintain sustainability goals for many years to come.
The next step in this process is talking about the discipline and accountability processes that managers must put in place to ensure they lock in the long-term benefits of sustainable facilities. They must not only talk the sustainability talk but, more importantly, walk the sustainability walk.
Facilities have seen a host of positive changes in the last decade in the areas of sustainability and, more specifically, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system from the U.S. Green Buildings Council. These changes have improved the work environment for building occupants and, in many cases, the customer environment.
Given all of these advances, the challenge for managers has been trying to maintain the sustainability and ensure we keep our gold buildings certified, despite reductions in staffing and budgets brought on by the nation's struggling economy. The big fear is that unless we put sustainable operations and maintenance cultures in place, we will look back in 10 years and wonder what happened to that beautiful, energy-efficient, and pleasant places to work that have been created in the last decade.
Maintaining our certified buildings in like-new condition over their designed, useful lives involves the process of designing a long-term vision and master plan to sustain the culture well into the future. This strategy includes developing the following components and processes:
What tools do we need to ensure we can walk the sustainability walk? We need to address four issues that will put the finishing touches on the process of sustaining sustainability: asset history, work-order management, performance measurements, and process audits.
Asset history. This is one of the most important components of any world-class maintenance facility. You must have the complete asset history of your assets and structure from cradle to grave if you want to fully understand their performance. Remember, if you know the history, you have the ability to predict the future, and with that, anything is possible.
Work-order management. This is a prerequisite to the asset-history discussion and one of those fundamental components of a well-managed facility management program. It is difficult to succeed in any of these areas without having a work-order-management system in place to capture 100 percent of all work completed each week and to be able to charge back the details of repair expenses and operating performance to all the assets.
The three items the system must capture and assign back to the assets and building are: labor costs; parts and supply costs; and contractor charges for labor and parts. With these three items, you now have true cost to maintain your assets. Only with the true cost will you be able to make logical and economic decisions regarding asset repairs, overhauls, and replacements.