By Michael Cowley
In the past several decades, institutional and commercial organizations have changed the way they design, build, and operate their facilities.
They have migrated from building large, pretty and functional facilities to using design criteria that include greater emphasis on architecture and functionality. One important goal in this change in design culture and facility management is bringing about substantial energy and cost savings. It also aims to extend building performance lives that exceed anything maintenance and engineering managers have experienced in their careers.
With the enhanced ability to maintain building and operating systems efficiently well past their original design, the changes will bring about significant capital cost savings to all organizations. All of the current knowledge and wisdom continues to indicate that as we change our culture and vision from one of design, build, and maintain like we always have to one of energy intelligence and life-cycle sustainability, we will achieve a considerable return on our intellectual and financial investments.
I am sure we all agree a LEED-certified, sustainable building, combined with high-performance operation and maintenance, is an admirable accomplishment, one that should help move all of us and our buildings into the next century with lower capital budgets, lower operation budgets, happier employees, greater customer satisfaction, and an improved environment.
But fast-forward a decade of two. What if we find ourselves confronted with reduced revenues, smaller operating budgets, limited employee training, capital budget cuts, reduced staffs, and higher energy costs? How do we handle all of these challenges and face once-sustainable buildings decaying with age?
The difficult question for managers is this: Are you prepared as a facility professional to "sustain sustainability"?
The key to maintaining certified buildings in a like-new condition over its useful life is fairly straightforward, but it requires an organized approach, along with a long-term vision and master plan. This plan will enable the facility management team to continually monitor the program and its process and make simple course corrections over the years to keep the operation and maintenance on a sustainable path.
These components are the essential keys to maintaining asset sustainability:
Management vision and culture. This component is by far the most important and has the most enduring ability to ensure an organization has a consistent vision and culture of sustainable buildings and operational practices.
Proper staffing and organization. No matter how good you are at facility management and maintaining LEED-certified buildings, if you do not have the proper organization or staffing complement, you will continue to struggle to maintain the systems you were given during the commissioning process. You must have the right number of tradespeople, and you must have them deployed in the proper roles to perform up to the levels of your building's design.
Asset history and data management. This is one of the foundation components of a high-performance building. The ability to collect, store, and manage all of the assets under your roof is essential to the long-range goal of having and maintaining a sustainable building. It is imperative to be able to sort by asset the complete cradle-to-grave cost to maintain each asset.
Work-order management. As a sub-component of the asset-management process, a work-order system is essential in helping to track the actual cost to maintain each asset, as well as provide vital information and statistics about labor loads, labor costs, and work distribution by craft.
Work planning and scheduling. This component is essential for providing work-order packages that are complete with all parts, procedures, and equipment that allow technicians to complete their weekly scheduled work with a high degree of efficiency, quality, and safety, and at the lowest possible cost.
Preventive and predictive maintenance. An essential component of a sustainable high-performance building is the quality of the preventive and predictive maintenance program. With an unsuccessful program, the organization and building are destined to a lifetime of reactive and emergency work, which will undermine most of your sustainable efforts by constantly forcing you to stop what you are doing and handle another emergency.
Craft and skill training. Some say training is the only strategic advantage left in the United States today. But keep in mind that if front-line technicians in maintenance organizations are going to maintain all of the new equipment and systems associated with today's sustainable, certified buildings, then you must supply them with the knowledge and skills to properly maintain and repair the equipment.
Repair-parts procurement and stocking. By far the leading complaint throughout maintenance and engineering departments is, "We never have the right parts." That statement might be a bit exaggerated, but in my experience, it is often too accurate. As organizations build more complex systems and buildings, technicians will need a higher level of skills to maintain them, as well as a higher quality of repair parts in order to realize the "maintain in a like new condition" vision. Critical parts must be available in a timely fashion if we want to keep these sustainable assets operating.
As we design and build increasingly complex building systems and put in place more reporting and certification processes to promote sustainability, we must have a facilitywide program, process, and culture in place which will allow us to track system performance and costs in order to properly manage and maintain our buildings.
These programs, processes and cultures will not happen by themselves. They require a management vision of sustainability and support, along with a facility management and maintenance organization that has the skills, knowledge, tools, and performance measures in place to support this long-range vision.
Editor's note: This is the first part of a two-part column. The second part, which will appear in the April issue, will discuss the system and software resources managers need to validate and maintain sustainability.
Michael Cowley, CPMM is president of CE Maintenance Solutions. Cowley provides maintenance training, coaching, and consulting services to facility and manufacturing organizations nationwide, and he is a frequent speaker at national facilities management conferences.
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