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Preventive Maintenance Planning for Aging Buildings


If you’re running one of the 72% of U.S. industrial buildings that are 20-plus years old and counting, it’s time to put together a three- to five-year preventive maintenance plan to keep your operations running with the least amount of downtime possible.

Lighting fixtures and HVAC systems that aren’t energy efficient. Roofs that leak. Plumbing that doesn’t always operate properly. These are just some of the issues that owners and lessors of older industrial buildings grapple with.

In 2019, Grainger conducted an industry study in which respondents revealed that running an older building is expensive primarily because of increased maintenance costs; inefficient energy usage and outdated systems; lack of IT and communications infrastructures; and inadequate cooling and ventilation.

“When we can’t get parts anymore or replacements don’t last or don’t work, then we move to upgrade,” said one survey respondent. “Similar to an old car – I want to keep my car as long as possible until everything starts breaking down a little bit, at what time do I start looking for a new car because it’s too much? You have to make an engineering judgment on everything.”

Identifying Key Areas of Concern

Because preventive maintenance is a long-term initiative, you’ll want to develop a three- to five-year plan for your facility and its primary components. According to respondents who participated in the Grainger survey, the most critical areas of an older building are:

  • Roof (cited by 71% of respondents)
  • Electrical (71%)
  • HVAC (66%)
  • Plumbing (66%)
  • Lighting (59%)

For each of these five areas, you’ll want to develop a preventive maintenance checklist that also encompasses predictive maintenance (conducting maintenance based on previous experience and knowing what could potentially go wrong) and ongoing inspection activities (to ferret out any potential problem areas). The plan should:

  • Identify maintenance actions on important equipment
  • Incorporate those actions into the preventive maintenance program activities that provide the greatest benefit (and within the available budget)
  • Minimize corrective and breakdown maintenance
  • Maintain satisfactory equipment conditions
  • Help to improve facility reliability

A preventive maintenance program should be well defined, periodically reviewed, and adjusted as necessary. To help ensure proper implementation, procedures should be written in sufficient detail for each piece of equipment in the program.

5-Step Checklist for Preventive Maintenance Success

A multiyear preventive maintenance plan will keep your building running as efficiently as possible, and with as little disruption as possible to your business operations. Here’s a checklist for companies that are either implementing new or overhauling existing building maintenance plans:

1. Start by evaluating system condition. A Facility Condition Assessment (FCA) should be used to rate the condition of your building, systems and assets. Safety Culture suggests using the following criteria:
5 Excellent - Brand new and no issues to report - Plan for 8- to 10-year span
4 Good - No immediate issues or concerns - Consider replacement in 6 to 8 years
3 Fair - Average wear for building age. Not new but no immediate issues. - Replace within 5 to 6 years
2 Poor - Worn from use. Nearing end of expected life cycle. - Replace within 2 to 4 years
1 Critical - Extremely worn or damaged - Replace within the next 2 years

2. Perform an in-depth evaluation of the building’s systems and how they are used. Empowering Pumps recommends that you collect available data on such things as use of space, energy management and technology that can support the decision-making process. Determine what critical actions must be addressed immediately, and address other less pressing ones by proactively scheduling them over the course of a multi-year period. If necessary, enlist outside help with this step.

3. Budget for it. First, plan for routine care, then examine the life cycle of more costly equipment. Put a contingency fund in place and be prepared to reevaluate and reassess your building throughout the year. According to Facility Systems owners can expect to make a few updates every year, which typically include the maintenance of mechanical and electrical equipment, like changing filters and lightbulbs. Any items that need to be serviced regularly should be included in your annual budget.

4. Get the right people involved. Determining the key stakeholders in the facility maintenance program helps staff understand their roles and responsibilities. Mike Sherman of Vanguard Building Solutions recommends classifying responsibility and designations of duties, both of which are crucial to the maintenance program."Make sure the executive team is involved in the process, be it the VP of operations, the CFO, and/or the CEO, all of whom should already understand the expense of replacing something after it's broken down and no longer usable." Sherman asks, "Why spend more on an emergency basis, and shift into crisis mode, when you can plan ahead and manage the issue with a cost- and time-effective solution? When you get the right stakeholders involved and on the same page with preventive maintenance you can just do it one time--and correctly--the first time."

5. Adopt a holistic view. If an organization has two separate, older buildings, then each one likely has its own maintenance manager and technicians. This can present interesting preventive maintenance challenges. According to Health Facilities Maintenance Magazine, in one building there could be 20 air-handling units (AHUs), and the maintenance manager knows which are in the worst shape, and in another building, there could be 16 AHUs, and that manager has a wish list to replace the worst performers. The article suggests adopting a holistic view across both buildings and then using it to prioritize equipment replacements or repairs (and in what timeframes).

Maintaining an older building can be a difficult, multifaceted responsibility, but a good preventive maintenance plan and budget will help you keep control of your spending as you extract the remaining useful life from your building and its components.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.