Dan Hounsell

How to Keep the Focus on Buildings

As the pandemic slowly winds down, it's incumbent on managers to keep the public's focus on the importance of the connection between facilities and human health.

By Dan Hounsell, Editor-in-Chief  

Recently in this space, I asked if buildings are trying to kill us, and I was being only a little facetious. I was referring to the realization that ventilation systems and surfaces in many institutional and commercial facilities had played a role in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Since then, a string of events has reminded us that buildings can pose a threat to human health. A chunk of a Chicago office building crashed onto the sidewalk below. A San Francisco high-rise was found to be leaning another 3 inches every year. Earthquake drills in Seattle revealed the precarious condition of many of the city’s brick buildings. 

Of course, such events have happened for years, and they often fade quickly from memory. That’s my point. Our society does a great job of erecting shiny new buildings and a poor job of providing the means to maintain them effectively. 

Here is where maintenance and engineering managers come in. The pandemic helped the general public understand that buildings and human health are intertwined, and that people ignore the condition of buildings at their own peril. But that message fades quickly. 

The challenge for managers is keeping the public’s focus on the critical role of facility maintenance and engineering. Nobody understands buildings as well as maintenance and engineering managers. They have deep technical knowledge of building operations and the management experience to craft an effective message about the need to maintain those buildings. 

Should managers play Chicken Little and shout about buildings falling? Maybe, if being an alarmist helps ensure that building owners and the public remember a crucial lesson from the pandemic. Whatever the tactics, the goal is keeping maintenance front and center in any discussion of facilities. 

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  posted on 2/18/2022   Article Use Policy

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