Agora Architecture


Preventative Maintenance - Keeping Assets an Asset

     As Architects, we have the privilege of seeing many wonderful buildings.  Sometimes, however, we observe buildings in distress due to neglect. This disturbing sight always brings up the question: “Why did this happen?” Usually the answer is the obvious.  The Owner did not want to spend the money required to maintain the building properly. For example, we have all experienced the problem of properly maintaining our homes and the same problem applies to our commercial facilities. Sometimes the need for a vacation outweighs (seemingly) the need to paint the exterior of your house. We all balance our desires to maintain a structure with the cost to do so.

1.       You should have your roof inspected every year.


Interior preventative maintenance is problematic also, but not to the extent that exterior is. Unfortunately, weather certainly accelerates exterior deterioration. Once an old farm house roof begins to leak, the entire house quickly ruins. We want to avoid that. “Out of sight, out of mind” certainly holds true with roofs. Minimal slope commercial building roofs get the bad reputation as being leaky. Owners typically don’t pay attention to those roofs, because they do not see them. By the time they leak, they may have deteriorated enough they have to be replaced. Had they been properly maintained, they may have been able to just top coat the existing roof. You have to decide if paying now is better than paying much more, later.

2.       There should be a schedule of mechanical equipment that shows when filters should be changed or when units need replaced.

Building “equipment” is another item that needs to be evaluated. The boiler or air conditioning system has a life span. A building owner does not want to suddenly face a new boiler replacement during December. This system will be proactive rather than reactive. Hopefully, you will catch potential problems before they occur. This will minimize down time and allow you to plan for the least amount of it. It’s much nicer to replace a heating system in the offices during a holiday or weekend than during work hours.

3.       Calking and sealants should be checked regularly.

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The term preventative is important. What are we preventing? Usually deterioration; be it the wall material, roof, window caulking, and more. The deterioration, at first, is just cosmetic. But, eventually, the deterioration becomes structural.  As soon as it becomes structural, the fix becomes much more expensive.

4.       Replace old lighting with LED lighting.

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Many companies are replacing old lighting fixtures as the light bulbs go out or as you run out of light bulbs for a certain kind of fixture. Most companies are going back with LED lighting because it is extremely energy efficient and you will rarely change a light bulb.

5.       Evaluate exterior siding, masonry, etc.

Spalling brick is very common. 

Spalling brick is very common. 

Would you rather pay for a coat of paint, or let the siding deteriorate and have to replace the siding and still have to paint it? Masonry is a big one as well because fixing the cracking grout lines seems more intimidating than paint so this becomes less of a do-it-yourself project. Because of this, masonry goes un-maintenanced. However, if you fail to pay attention to your masonry you will end up with spalling exterior walls. Spalling is when the blocks split in half and occurs because water is not kept out of the grout lines.  

     So, how do we better handle maintenance? It needs to start with written documents and a list of maintenance items to periodically inspect, both interior and exterior. If you are in a building for long term, these inspections will certainly pay off. The popular terminology for this system is “facility management” which can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There are many software systems available that can be implemented. There are also facility management companies that will install a system and manage it for you. Larger companies are generally better off hiring professional management teams to take care of maintenance. This will save money in the long run.

     One last very important item; Regardless of the size of your facility or the how sophisticated your maintenance plan is, you need an annual maintenance budget. If you have a 100,000 SF facility and suddenly realize you need a roof replacement, this might be a problem. A large replacement cost and no budgeted replacement funds. Some items, like roofs, will require several years of budgeting to accumulate the funds for a re-roof.

     In summary, all facilities/ buildings are better maintained if the owner has a facility management system in place. This will hopefully minimize big surprises in maintaining the facility and will also provide the funds for repair and replacement of building components as they meet the end of the life-cycle. Plan your maintenance and last longer!

Our featured project is Edward Jones of Winfield, owned and operated by Rodger Steffen. Rodger has done an excellent job of taking care of his facility. He maintains the exterior and the interior faithfully. We are honored to call him a long time client. Go see Rodger Steffen at Edward Jones for your investment and insurance needs! 

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Written by Merrill K. Gordon and David S. Herlocker