By Anthony Vross
COVID-19 has required so many people — facility management teams included — to work remotely, but buildings still need to be maintained. In response, facility managers have been forced to get creative and resourceful in the new ways they’re performing roofing maintenance. And how they’re managing today’s manpower shortages and holds on budgets.
The new normal for many facility managers includes challenges like capital spending freezes, skeleton maintenance crews, inexperienced employees from other departments being tasked with facility upkeep, limited access to buildings and more.
In polling facility managers from a range of industries, geographies and building types, the following best practices for roofing maintenance during the COVID-19 crisis have emerged.
- Social distancing is for everyone. On-site safety protocols by roofing technicians and in-house employees alike need to observe the latest guidance from authorities and health professionals as they relate to social distancing and PPE. Workplace safety should always be held in the highest regard, and today there’s an added emphasis on conforming to COVID-19 requirements. We not only want to stop community spread of the virus, but we also want to avoid the negative consequences that would be brought to an organization whose employees and vendors are not complying with orders. Facilities professionals are insisting that vendors are informed of, and follow, all local, state and federal public health guidelines.
- Check your drains. One of the more pressing matters for roofing maintenance is to ensure drains and gutters are clear and allowing water to move freely into the leaders. This doesn’t have to be monitored daily or even weekly, but identify a trusted person to check for — and clear —debris following major weather events. Clogged drains can cause water to back up and ultimately find its way into the building. This can cause saturated insulation and damaged inventory and equipment inside the facility if left unaddressed.
- Outsource an occasional walk-through. When the building is dark and the facility team is forced to work remotely, some have taken steps to hire their roofing vendor to proactively perform “quick inspections” to see what they can’t see for themselves. The peace of mind knowing there’s not a major leak damaging inventory or equipment inside the building can be well worth the expense of an occasional service call during the stay-at-home orders.
- Repair now. Save major interventions for later. Work with roofing companies that respect budgetary limitations, especially in times of crisis. Building owners and facility managers need to realize there are many repair and restoration solutions that can bring a roof back to watertight condition — and back under warranty — much more economically than a replacement. Those options also work best in times like these when capital spending may be frozen and only emergency work is being authorized until the economy comes back and stabilizes.
- Support employees who are working out of position. Many businesses are closed to customers, but some are working with fewer employees doing mail order fulfillment or take-out orders. Less staff on-site often means new, temporary assignments in maintenance, janitorial and troubleshooting roles. Normal channels for reporting roof leaks or water intrusion may not be in place anymore, so it’s important to ensure clearly communicated, easy-to-understand processes and central reporting portals or phone numbers for making issues known.
- Be mindful when accessing the roof. If a building does experience a leak that requires attention, it would be best for the roof technician to gain access to the roof without having to go through the building to avoid contact with employees and/or building contamination.
- Eye in the sky. It’s not a foreign concept for facility managers to work remotely as a normal course of business. Some in that position have installed cameras to observe roofing assets from afar.
- Vendors helping vendors. One facility manager from a temporarily closed building reported tasking vendors of other services who need to be in the building with keeping an eye out for major issues in other disciplines. For example, the pest control person who’s there during the day and the HVAC company who’s on-site later in the evening can point out roof leaks or water intrusion issues if they spot it.
- Use the light traffic to your advantage. Some facility managers with budgets already allocated for heavy-disruption roofing or concrete resurfacing projects are using this time of shutdown to proceed with projects while foot traffic is light and/or customers and employees are not in the building.
- The country is experiencing unprecedented times in many respects. There’s no playbook for what we’re collectively going through. The businesses that will endure this most effectively are the ones with established, strong relationships with trusted vendors who are innovative, open to new ideas, and work in a collaborative manner with their customers.
Don’t go it alone. Times like these make it especially important to lean on guidance and shared ideas from respected business partners to ensure we can all come out of this just fine.
Vross is a co-owner of Simon Roofing, one of the largest and longest-operating national roofing manufacturers/contractors in the United States.