By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the July 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
As we approach the hottest days of the year and prepare for a much deserved summer vacation, our facilities are working overtime to keep occupants cool, dry, healthy, and productive. As the proactive super-hero-facilities-gurus we’re expected to be, it’s a great time of the year to ask a lot of questions and make sure things are operating properly.
So take some time and walk around, walk on top of (and crawl under) your facilities. Start at the top with a roof inspection.
- Are there low spots where water ponds after a heavy rain?
- Do any roof drains appear to be clogged, or do they drain slowly?
- Do trees or vines near the building present a potential danger to the roof?
- Are there visible signs of stress, cuts, or wear?
- Are flashing components secured tightly?
- Are pitch pockets and other roof penetrations sealed properly?
- Have unauthorized roof penetrations been performed since the last inspection?
- Are skylights, hatches or other architectural features aging or in need of additional sealant?
- Do screws, nails, or pieces of sheet metal need to be cleaned up?
- Is there a preventive maintenance procedure in place for the roof?
Since HVAC systems are under summer “full load” conditions for only a few weeks each year, this is a good time to call your favorite HVAC technicians and quiz them about some issues close to your heart (and operating budget). Ask questions and even request a physical inspection to confirm they are interested in maintaining this critical operational structure.
- Is there standing water or microbial growth collecting in evaporator drain pans or clogging drain lines?
- Are there appropriate temperature drops across evaporator and condenser coils?
- Are outside (fresh) air ventilation rates consistent with ASHRAE standards (without wasting energy by over-ventilating spaces)?
- Are thermostats and other instruments properly calibrated?
- Have air filters been checked in the past 30 days?
- Are drive belts running with proper tensions, without vibrations, and with adequate remaining life?
- Are air handlers, ductwork, or chilled water pipes “sweating” where insulation is damaged, missing, or inadequate?
- Have cooling towers been routinely inspected for proper water treatment feed rates, blowdown, and level controls?
- Have equipment area space heaters been inspected since the weather turned warm to confirm they aren’t running unintentionally?
- Have compressors and fan motors been lubricated within the last 90 days, and are they running at (or below) their specified amp ratings?
- Are air conditioning units properly maintaining set points and dehumidifying appropriately?
- Are HVAC preventive maintenance programs adequate, given system specifications and age?
Now that we’re on a maintenance roll, we might want to spend some time checking up on our electrical systems.
- Are emergency lighting systems (battery or generator) working properly, and are they routinely tested?
- Have emergency generators “exercised” in the past 14 days? Under load?
- How many minutes will UPS units carry critical loads? Are you sure?
- Have infrared scans been performed on electrical distribution panels and the switchgear in the past three years?
- Are electrical power factors in the summer and winter months appropriate?
- Are extension cords running along floors substituting for proper permanent wiring?
- Do circuit breakers occasionally trip in makeshift break rooms?
- Is your “lock out/tag out” policy current and respected by staff and subcontractors?
- Are parking lot lights burning at night, even though most people are now gone before dark and might not be as likely to see or report dead bulbs?
- Are there adequate supplies of spare fuses, bulbs, and batteries in the event of an emergency?
- Are electricians’ names and numbers up to date in your contacts list?
What else should be checked before embarking on a much deserved summer vacation? Well, if we’re feeling really motivated, we might want to make sure the following are current and well documented:
- Emergency response and business continuity plans;
- Facilities, HR, IT, and senior management contacts lists;
- Irrigation and landscaping inspections;
- Exterior walls, doors, and window inspections;
- Systems furniture condition;
- Elevator inspections;
- Fire protection system inspections;
- Capital and operating budget status; and
- Progress toward personal and professional goals.
Hats off to those of you who manage to complete all of these goals and checklists before embarking on your summer vacation. It’s much easier to take off knowing everything is in order. There’s nothing worse than a vacation cut short due to a work emergency that could have been avoided through careful planning and good preparation.
Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.