Facility leaders share their thoughts on what to expect this year and beyond
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Alfred White faces the same set of challenges as many other managers overseeing maintenance in institutional and commercial facilities. When specifying products, planning projects, and deploying crews in his role as maintenance coordinator with the Virginia Beach City (Va.) Public Schools, White must balance myriad issues, including sustainability, costs, and staffing.
But perhaps the toughest challenge White faces in ensuring the efficient and cost-effective application of paints and coatings relates to his district's priorities for painting projects. After all, the department also must address higher-priority facility needs, such as energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and water conservation, to name just a few.
"All the painting work has to be tucked in there somewhere," White says. "The phrase I hear is, ‘It's only paint.' "
While White says he understands the priorities — which exist in most, if not all, maintenance and engineering departments — that acknowledgement does not make it easier to keep the many painted surfaces in the district's buildings looking their best.
"As time progresses, (scheduling) gets more difficult," he says. "Our infrastructure is aging. The district is doing what it can to replace buildings, but they can't do it fast enough."
The district has 86 schools and support facilities containing more than 10.5 million square feet. Portions of some buildings date back to 1939, he says, and the average building age is about 30 years. Paintable surfaces include block, brick, concrete, sheetrock, metal, and wood.
The department's front-line workers have their work cut out for them, given the age of the building stock and the various types of surfaces in the facilities, so scheduling painting projects remains a constant struggle.
"Paint work receives a lower priority rating than vital building systems," White says. "Schedules must be adjusted when funding is low or reallocated to more urgent needs." In addition to accommodating classes and other activities that take place in the schools — including church groups, scouting, athletics, summer camps, and sports camps — White also must coordinate painting projects with other trades working in and around buildings.
Communication is essential for success. White advises school system managers of planned work and holds meetings with individual school administrators to address their needs and responsibilities.
"We maintain a schedule for all schools, and we delay, shuffle or advance projects to best utilize funding," says White, whose painting-related duties include preparing a long-term paint schedule, reviewing painting specifications, approving products, submitting projects for biennial budget, and overseeing the supervisor in charge of the painting crew.
Even though the district recently ended year-round classes at the elementary level, the district's buildings remain occupied constantly, even during summer break.
"It's just a year-round thing," he says. "We try to minimize the conflicts."
How One School District Successfully Plans Painting Projects