Facility Maintenance Decisions

Sustainable and maintainable

By Dan Hounsell   Design & Construction

Consider this statistic: Up to 85 percent of a building’s total cost is related to its operation, with the remaining portion tied to new construction and other costs, according to the National Research Council.

There is no evidence suggesting that this startling difference in cost changes much when it comes to buildings that feature sustainable design and construction. So as more institutional and commercial buildings feature, in part or as a whole, elements of sustainable design, maintenance and engineering managers have a challenge on their hands.

While others in an organization focus more on the environmentally friendly aspects of such designs, managers will have to play a greater role in determining if these elements can be maintained properly and perform reliably in the long term — the 85 percent portion of a building’s life-cycle cost.

Taking a closer look

Efforts to build and renovate facilities using processes and products that are sustainable appeal to many organizations for a number of reasons. In additional to its environmental friendliness, sustainable design also tends to result in buildings that boost worker productivity, hold down absenteeism and improve worker health.

But focusing too narrowly on these benefits can leave organizations vulnerable to ignoring the longer-term implications of sustainable design. For example, several high-profile organizations have installed “green” roofs, or rooftop gardens, on the flat roofs of some of their facilities, an effort to reduce building cooling loads and urban heat islands.

But it seems certain that if such efforts are to succeed over the long term, a large part of that success will stem from the fact that someone in the organization took a careful look at the maintenance and engineering implications of such projects — the ways that added weight, more water, and more organic material can affect roofs.

That’s where a maintenance manager comes in. Sustainable design holds a great deal of promise for organizations, especially for those that consider the long-term costs of operating and maintaining such facilities.

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  posted on 5/1/2003   Article Use Policy