Building maintenance is often overlooked but, when done properly, it can cut costs, save energy and even create a more efficient workforce, says Bryan Christiansen, founder and CEO at Limble CMMS
In its 2018 Office and Industrial Benchmarking report, the Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA) International stated that private sector office buildings across the USA and a few other countries included in the survey spent an average of $2.15 per square foot on repairs and maintenance. That figure does not include other operational building costs like cleaning, utilities and maintenance labour. The report also includes maintenance and operational costs for industrial buildings.
In a continually unpredictable economy and competitive market, reports like these are intended to enable professionals in the built environment to compare their results with other similar facilities and help them to identify opportunities for cost savings. In the context of cost savings, one area that cannot be overlooked is building maintenance.
Time and again, building maintenance, when done properly, has proven to be a major factor for lowering overall building management costs.
An ideal point to start this discussion would be to get a clear perspective on what proper building maintenance entails. It encompasses proactive, well-planned and procedural maintenance activities that work together to keep a building functioning in an optimal condition and ensure a safe environment for all of its users.
Here are some ways by which proper building maintenance will help to reduce a building’s operational costs include:
It minimises emergency repairs
The cost-efficiency of planned maintenance and repairs always outperforms reactive or emergency repairs and maintenance. If an organisation relies heavily on emergency repairs, ie only service equipment after the breakdown, it could cost them tens of thousands of dollars or pounds unnecessarily by having less time to negotiate a price, having to opt-in for emergency shipping, decreased asset lifespan and efficiency.
Another angle to avoiding costly emergency repairs is that proper building maintenance makes it easier to stay up to date with maintenance schedules by minimising deferred repairs and servicing. If assets are placed on a regular inspection and maintenance schedule, it helps to quickly catch what could potentially become a much bigger repair issue (and expense) later on.
Consequently, the list of pending repairs reduces and money is saved. Additionally, although a maintenance budget is never quite 100% predictable, proactive maintenance will reduce frequent budget overruns.
It saves energy
An important aspect of building maintenance is energy consumption tracking and management. The ability to itemise a building’s energy use helps with identifying possible areas to save costs.
Especially in larger commercial buildings, energy use reduction always plays a big role in overall cost reduction. Automating lighting controls or switching to LED lighting can make a big difference in the energy bill. Likewise, regular energy audits and checking the trend of a building’s energy bill can reveal a dramatic increase in spending before it goes too far.
However, as much as 50% of a building’s energy use may be used for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Building maintenance will ensure that HVAC units, motors and other components are regularly maintained to keep the whole system running efficiently (the idea being that poorly maintained systems spend more energy to perform their function).
It promotes a more efficient workforce
High building management costs can sometimes be traced to a lack of experience or training among technicians or other employees. When staff is unable to properly handle their assigned tasks, the results can be having to redo the same job several times, wasting money and losing costly spare parts. There is even the possibility of permanently damaging a very expensive asset.
This is why we highlight the word “proper” so much. In the context of this article, proper maintenance means doing quality, proactive maintenance work in a timely fashion. This kind of maintenance programme has little to zero tolerance for substandard work. It helps to cut down on the wasted resources and time that would be lost on repetitive maintenance by ensuring that workers are skilled enough to get it right the first time.
To keep a high standard of maintenance work, organisations will often look to use the tools like CMMS software, define detailed standard operating procedures, create easy-to-follow preventive maintenance checklists and ensure proper training for all technicians.
It extends equipment lifespan
Despite the best maintenance strategies, building components will eventually wear out. Depending on the type of asset, its expected lifespan could be from a few months to over 10 years and it may cost a significant amount of money to replace. One of the objectives of building maintenance is to preserve all assets with a particular focus on critical, complex and expensive systems.
For example, some high-end brands of large commercial HVAC systems could cost upwards of $10,000 (£7,900). Therefore, it makes economic sense to keep them running in the best condition and use them for an extra two to three years while planning for an upgrade or replacement later on.
Proper building maintenance also has processes for weeding out substandard spare parts and components during the procurement process.
For building owners and managers that still rely on reactive maintenance, now is an ideal time to carefully consider the benefits of proper building maintenance. Certainly, no organisation wants to waste time and money on mediocre maintenance practices. That aside, there is the ever-present risk of a serious safety incident.
While there may be some undeniable initial costs of getting started with proper building maintenance, it can save you much more money in the long term.
Founder and CEO