5 Tips to Help Your Building Facilities Age Gracefully

It’s an exciting time to be a facility manager — you have more options than ever. But how do you know your facilities will age gracefully?

Whether it’s brand new equipment or facilities you’ve had online for decades, it’s important to plan for how long it will last. Everything from automated building controls to the carpet in your offices — it all has a shelf life. And it’s important to think about the time when you’ll have to replace it.

“There are some things you can do to help your facilities age gracefully,” says SEH architect, Trevor Frank.

Tip 1 — Design for (and understand) the lifecycle of the product

“You don’t want to be installing things that will be obsolete in 10 years,” says Frank. “Ten years ago, nobody believed the U-shaped fluorescent lamp would be old technology.”

Although they’re still available, and a less costly option to use as a light source, designers could be doing their clients a disservice by specifying U-shaped fluorescent lamps.

“It’s important to understand most building systems and materials have a shelf life,” says Frank.

Tip 2 — Think of the timing of your maintenance

According to Frank, “It’s wise to install and maintain systems that will need upkeep at or around the same time.”

Although it’s not always possible, try to pair replacement and maintenance of similar systems and materials in your facilities.

If you’re replacing individual VAV boxes or upgrading programmable controls in a building’s mechanical system, it makes sense to do an analysis of the major air handling equipment as well. You’ll likely have to replace them in a few years anyway.

Plus, your tenants are happy because it’s more convenient for them.

Related Content: 8 Signs Your Wastewater Facility Needs a Condition Assessment

Tip 3 — Stay ahead of the technology curve

Technology is moving faster today than ever before. Building materials and systems are getting greener, more efficient and, in many cases, more expensive.

“Today, making a repair versus a replacement is a more serious consideration,” says Frank.

What will you be left with when these systems reach the end of their lifecycle? And what products will be available to take the place of the materials and systems you currently have in place in your facilities?

Glass and glazing systems are getting better all the time. Technology has made glass a better insulator, a better shading mechanism and given our buildings better interior lighting.

When it’s time for window maintenance, is complete replacement an option?

You might be persuaded to do a full window replacement, instead of simply maintaining the glazing, when you think about how much better new window glass technology will perform. Newer window glass will likely save on energy costs as well.

Tip 4 — Remember that interior design and material finishes will date themselves

There are only a few materials that are considered timeless. We see time and again where interior designers use a material or finish that is new, trendy and hot. We don’t want to look back in 20 years and think, “I remember when that material was popular.”

Paint is cheap. Try to keep your facilities current by using color to keep it fresh and updated.

It’s easy to change in five years when “avocado” is no longer the new white.

Other more permanent materials like floor tile, and restroom fixtures should be kept timeless. They cost way more to replace, and the inconvenience to occupants is often the more critical factor in the equation.

Tip 5 — Implement a robust routine replacement and maintenance program

Everything ages more gracefully if it is taken care of routinely. You will get more miles out of your carpet and soft surfaces if they are subject to regular vacuuming and an annual or bi-annual deep cleaning.

Instead of re-lamping thousands of fluorescent lamps every year, consider the one-time investment of LED conversion. These programs typically qualify for rebate programs with local utility companies, and we are seeing paybacks on replacements in labor and energy savings within five years.

Technology is making maintaining our buildings easier, more exciting and rewarding. Managers know they are making their environments more comfortable, sustainable and more efficient for their occupants. Making the decision of when, and with what, at the time of scheduled maintenance will help your facilities age more gracefully and help your ROI.

About the Expert

Trevor Frank

Trevor Frank, AIA, LEED, AP®, PMP, NCARB, is a senior architect, renovation specialist and facilities visionary. Contact Trevor

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