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Design and Maintenance: The Missing Link




What’s the connection between maintenance and design in institutional and commercial facilities? In most organizations, that connection is unfortunately limited, according to a new report from the U.S. General Accounting Office. The report highlights the disconnect that exists between those who plan and design buildings and those who are responsible for the facilities’ maintenance once they open.

Read: 10 most common building design mistakes

For years, managers have preached to anyone involved in building design who would listen that they can have valuable input into the design process. Unfortunately, too many architects, engineering firms, and CEOs haven’t listened. The results have been predictable — and costly. Building envelopes crumble, roofs leak, and HVAC systems fail to keep occupants comfortable and waste energy and money while doing so.

Managers don’t need a government report to prove a disconnect exists. But now they have one. A new U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report documents the impact on 78 federal facilities of failing to account for operations and maintenance (O&M) during facility planning and design.

Read: How maintenance can improve design

The report’s findings:

The good. Some building design choices — increased natural light, durable and easily maintained materials and finishes, and low-maintenance landscaping, among them — actually decrease O&M costs.

The bad. Many design choices increase O&M costs. They include inefficiently located mechanical systems, hard-to-reach lights, and tough-to-maintain materials and finishes.

The answer. Per the GAO’s recommendations, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) should be required to estimate O&M costs of design choices during planning, get input from building managers on the O&M impact of these choices, and share data on the impact on O&M costs of common design choices.

This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell — dan.hounsell@tradepressmedia.com — editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, and chief editor of Facilitiesnet.com.

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