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Making the case for facility upgrade projects has become more efficient and effective for Steiger, based in part on data he and his team have been able to collect on the success of past projects.
“When I present my capital improvement requests, I have assessments done by engineers, and I use data to justify my projects,” he says. “Because I have this available, it makes the process easier.
“From the time I started making budget presentations, they’ve gone from an hour down to five minutes because I’m prepared. I have my studies that I’ve done, and usually it sails right through. I work hand in hand with capital projects, which handles our bigger projects. We present our budgets together, and they trust what they’re doing.”
Steiger also emphasizes the importance of comprehensive product specification in the success of upgrades.
“I have multiple vendors come in for presentations, and I always ask for references,” he says. “Then I make the decision with the team. I don’t say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ All my supervisors get together to see these presentations.
“The new (project) we’re doing is magnetic bearing chillers. We’ve seen some presentations, and we’ve made some site visits to buildings that have installed them, such as our Orland Science Center. We went out there and personally saw them and looked at the data they gave us.”
In addition to benefiting the organization overall, the upgrade projects in Orange County’s facilities also have affected several key aspects of Steiger’s department. For starters, in-house staff have been performed some of the work.
“We try to do lighting retrofits in-house as much as we can,” he says, adding that in-house staff has handled about 30 percent of the upgrade work, depending in part on workload and project size. “We’re just swapping out fixtures and incandescent lamps for LEDs lamps. That’s easy for my guys to go in and do. When I get into the larger stuff with mechanical systems, that’s where I have to contract it out.”
The projects also have enabled the department to address the county’s deferred maintenance.
“We have reduced the deferred maintenance backlog, but we still have $6-10 million projected over the next five years,” Steiger says. “Deferred maintenance continues to grow, so I needed to find the quickest way I could get work done and pay myself back. In other words, if I did a lighting retrofit, I would see reduced utility bills. So if I save $10,000 a month in utilities, that directly impacts my budget. That’s $120,000 a year, and I take that difference to get other work done.”
Steiger says he has the data that demonstrate progress.
“I think we’re in good shape, and how I know we’re doing well is because when I first started with the county, we had a direct labor rate of 40 percent, which means 40 percent of the time we were turning a wrench,” he says. “Now we’re at 65 percent wrench-turning time. And that’s even in the districts that have all that square mileage to cover. That’s the barometer I use.”
Deferred Maintenance: Formulating a Plan
Deferred Maintenance: Setting Priorities
Deferred Maintenance: Making the Case for Upgrades