26 April 2022
Whether you’re managing an office complex, a multi-use building, or a university campus, if you are charged with looking after the structure and the various elements within it, then you know too well how many commercial building maintenance tasks there are to perform. Some are day-to-day routines, whilst others are necessary from a regulatory inspections perspective, whilst others encompass emergency repairs and structural rectifications.
We’ve written about this topic before with more of a focus on structural repair and facilities management, So, to keep it (somewhat) interesting, we have taken a slightly different approach this time to help highlight some of the issues that plague commercial buildings, with a focus on both everyday general building maintenance services and predictive and proactive maintenance which protects your assets into the long-term.
Preventative and Predictive Maintenance
Preventative maintenance is also called facility maintenance. It is essentially about taking a proactive approach to building maintenance tasks by conducting certain things at scheduled intervals to ensure building components and assets are in good working condition. It generally involves a schedule of works covering regular checks and selective repairs based on time or usage. The purpose of performing regular, scheduled preventative building repairs and maintenance, is that you identify defects early and can fix them before they can end up as major problems. Furthermore, preventative maintenance also helps reduce unexpected downtimes, and ultimately, reducing maintenance costs.
There are several general types of maintenance activities:
- Routine maintenance: Usually involves small tasks e.g. cleaning/clearing drains, inspecting pathways. It is done regularly – either as daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly activity.
- Proactive replacements: Involves replacing worn or inefficient building components before they completely fail or break down.
- Scheduled refurbishments: Involves a scheduled shutdown, and thus, this activity is usually done on cyclical basis, such as a university campus where classes are in recess during semestral breaks. These periods are best utilised for the rectification of known deteriorating or broken building components which need to be replaced or removed and any structural issues are remediated.
- Condition monitoring: A type of predictive maintenance that uses sensors to enable real-time monitoring of machines such as elevators, conveyor belts, etc. The data is sent to preventative maintenance software. Repair services are performed depending on the components’ condition.
- Reactive maintenance: This is also known as breakdown maintenance and is only performed when a component is defective and/or breaks down. In other words, when it becomes a problem – by which time it is often too late. This is usually costly because it’s a sign of unplanned repairs.
Importance of a Maintenance Checklist
There is always a lot to keep abreast of and be on top of as a maintenance manager. We know this, which is why we have compiled a short-list of tasks that should be considered as part of a
commercial building maintenance checklist.
Fire Safety – Equipment, compliance and protocols
Fire compliance is a massive, and important regulatory component in the Australian building code and thus, must be a significant part of any maintenance checklist. This by necessity must include
- Inspecting and ensuring that fire safety equipment are in good condition – as is required by Australian law to ensure that you are keeping building occupants and the building as safe as possible. Failing to pass a regulatory check can mean you face penalties and fines due to non-compliance.
- According to the Australian Fire Safety Standards and the Fire and Rescue NSW, all fire extinguishers in your commercial building should be inspected and serviced by a professional fire protection company every six months. Your checklist on fire safety inspections should also include the fire sprinkler system, as well as crawl spaces and doors.
- Ensuring your fire safety plan is accurate, up to date, and known by all occupants
- Ensuring that when you undertake any building works that you ensure all fire rating considerations are given to the new elements
Masonry works and exterior walls
As strong as it is, concrete and masonry building components and structures can and do degrade over time. It is not just exterior walls that need to be checked however, you should also inspect, building arches, canopies and eaves as well as internal walls. Internal walls can show signs of structural failure in the form of cracking, efflorescence and bubbling – signs of moisture problems elsewhere in the building.
Flat roofing areas, as well as the exterior soffits, fascia and gutters should also be inspected for blockages, leaks and overall waterproofing efficiency. An ideal schedule for their inspection is generally every six months as well as every after heavy rainfall events. If the recent Sydney storms or March and April show anything, it is that significant rain levels can quickly cause problems to even the most sound of structures.
Among the things to inspect on the roof are the following:
- Checking for leaks by performing moisture tests;
- New and old damage to roof especially the copings and other metals;
- Areas of penetrations from solar panel installations, aerials, and plant;
- Degradation of existing waterproofing membranes; and
- Tears, wrinkling and deformities on roof flashings and roof-wall connections.
Maintenance tasks on the roof can include:
- Removing debris out of drains;
- Applying corrosion protection on metal roofs;
- Installing protection such as a waterproof roof membrane; and
- Installation of new drainage areas.
Height Safety Checkpoints
Depending on the specifics of your commercial building, your operations may have to comply with Australian Standards AS1891 Industrial Fall Arrest and AS1657 Fixed Platforms, Walkways, Stairs and Ladders, which essentially deals with height safety checkpoints. Every year, falls from just three meters or lower represent half of the fatal workplace falls in Australia. This is a shocking statistic that needs to be lowered.
We recommend that you hire professionals for the inspection, the verification of compliance and the certification of the height safety systems in your commercial building and that you keep them up to date.
The areas to look into when it comes to your building’s height safety checkpoints include the following:
- Roof access: Ladders, hatches, stairs and other systems that allow for easy access to the rooftop;
- Roof anchorage: Anchors, eyebolts, beam clamps, and other anchorage that serve as attachment points for fall deceleration and arrest devices, and other safety equipment;
- Fall prevention systems: Examples are skylight protectors and handrails;
- Fall arrest systems: Horizontal rails and other devices that help decelerate a fall and prevent a falling person ; and
- Fall restraint systems: Limits a person from getting too close to the edge.
Doors and windows
Doors, windows, and other building openings are generally durable, depending on the materials they’re made from. However, they should be inspected at least once a year for signs of wear and fatigue.
Furthermore, the smaller components such as handles, hinges, and locks are more fragile, and thus, must be inspected regularly and fixed immediately if needed to ensure proper functioning – especially for fire doors.
We’re not talking about your sewage systems here really. Failures in the plumbing system or its components are generally hard to notice at first, that is until they cause water damage to the building. However, if your maintenance checklist integrates guidelines and schedules for the replacement of key plumbing components such as valves, you can minimise and even avoid major issues related to plumbing defects.
For commercial buildings with gardens or patches of grass, plumbing inspections should also include irrigation system maintenance to ensure not just keeping the pipes and the sprinklers all in good condition, but also to avoid wasting water.
Thorough plumbing inspections and maintenance should be performed at least once a year. These tasks include the following:
- Assessment of plumbing fixtures and couplings for leaks;
- Lubrication of water pumps system;
- Inspection of water boilers and heaters;
- Inspection and replacement of oils and refrigerant;
- An annual inspection of water sewage pumps;
- Performance of water system tests; and
- Assessing contacts for signs of wear and water damage.
Your commercial building’s heating and cooling systems should be periodically checked and cleaned (ideally every six months). This may not be related to the maintenance of your building’s integrity, but the HVAC system is one of the facilities that will ensure your occupants, staff and other people in the establishment are comfortable.
For ducted HVAC systems, it is ideal to hire a professional for the inspection of boilers and chillers. There are also other tasks that your maintenance checklist to include, too, such as:
- Ensuring that pumps are checked and lubricated at least once a year;
- Replacing and/or cleaning air filters every month or every two months, depending on the type of filter or the environment they’re used in e.g. dusty surroundings;
- Cleaning the condenser coil;
- Removing debris and corrosion from the economiser;
- Calibrating sensors, checking energy efficiency settings and ensuring the appropriate superheat temperature level is maintained; and
- Inspecting the ducts and other parts of the system to find other issues such as loose screws.
Let’s be frank for a second – your building occupants need lighting to see and to thus be safe. Ensuring your lighting is operating as intended is therefore something you need to stay on top of, as obvious as it sounds. Good building or property managers do not wait for the bulbs to go dim or to burn out before taking any corrective action.
Your checklist should include the following:
- Schedule the replacement of bulbs throughout the commercial building or a section of it;
- Inspection of control gears, transformers and other electrical gears;
- Assessment of exterior lights and their wiring and hardware components; and
- Removal of dust and dirt from lighting surfaces to improve efficiency.
Every three to five years, you should also bring in an external licensed electrical professional to conduct a full electrical system assessment.
We recognise that your role as a building manager is not easy. We recognise it is not just about ensuring a tidy and well-kept property. A range of structural assessments, repairs and rectifications should also be incorporated in the maintenance process. This can be made easier through detailed, scheduled checklists that help ensure that you remain efficient and effective when it comes to maintenance tasks whether they’re big or small. If you run into issues that are of an aesthetic or structural nature and need help, then you know you can contact the Remedial team to help you understand your structural options.CONTACT US
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