Maintenance & Operations (Managing the Physical Plant)

Let's Take This Outside

Our campus is a complete package, including everything from the beautifully appointed main entrance to the farthest patch of land out behind the stadium, the classrooms and labs, to the deepest boiler room, and everything in between. When we think of facility maintenance, oftentimes we focus largely on the inside of our buildings, yet we must remember there is much more requiring our attention.

Consider Curb Appeal

Starting from the outside looking in, we must give more than a passing glance at how important curb appeal is to the overall success of our institutions. When we think of curb appeal our minds tend to go toward the groundskeeping aspect, but the maintenance of our facilities plays an equal or greater role than the grounds. We all know the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” These days, that may not be 100 percent correct, given the online presence our institutions have, not to mention social media outlets. Many schools have live web-cams that show an active area of campus, or a student or visitor may post a picture onto one of the many social media channels. These possibilities mean that we must look our best all the time, not just when we know a tour will be happening or when Marketing plans a photo shoot.

With that said, as maintenance managers, we should view the exteriors of our campuses the very same way we do the interiors. There are assets, systems and assemblies that require routine, preventive and predictive maintenance, including backflow preventers, outdoor lighting of all manner, concrete and asphalt, and building envelopes (walls, decks and roofs), just to name a few. To start, ensure your CMMS program has exterior areas and equipment listed just as it would for interior spaces.

Think Like a Visitor

If you aren’t sure what to look for from the maintenance perspective, follow the path a visitor would take when coming onto campus in order to double-check the areas that require attention. Visitors observe our entry signage and lighting, if arriving in the dark. They may not directly notice the condition of the roadway or curbing, but may do so indirectly, if they hit a pothole. Ensure roadways and parking lots are well maintained, including a smooth rolling surface, proper drainage and pronounced striping.

Safety is always a concern. Safety takes on many shapes as it relates to maintenance. We must ensure that our exterior lighting is functioning properly. This includes roadway, parking lot and garage lighting, as well as walkway and building and signage lighting. Lights out on a building or sign tells our customer that we do not care about those areas. Lights burned out in parking garages and along walkways tell our customer we do not care about their safety, and that is a scenario we do not want to play out in any circumstance.

Additionally, pedestrian safety is important. Eliminating potential trip/fall areas and ensuring efficient railings is important. Design the maintenance plan to include inspections of the walks, ramps, stairs and handrails about campus. Any trip hazard over 1/4-inch represents a liability to the institution. Broken and spalling concrete, as well as lifted or sunken sidewalk joints, will be the most common problems. Also look carefully at the condition of ramps and stairs. Some stairways and ramps may allow water to remain and stagnate on them, which can cause an algae growth and create a slip/fall hazard. Work to provide proper drainage and install non-skid paint or tape if necessary. Pressure washing, when performed correctly, will extend the life of concrete walks, as well as provide a clean and safe appearance. Finally, ensure handrails are properly secured, with no unsafe joints, that they are free of structural degradation, and are properly finished (paint, etc.).

Keep It Clean

The building envelope generally includes the roof, walls, windows and doors. The maintenance program should address each one of these elements in detail. In addition to the larger scale items such as periodic roof repair and replacement, door maintenance, window sealing/caulking and building painting, there are more routine points such as pressure-washing walls and cleaning windows and window frames. Dirt carries corrosive elements that degrade the seal paint provides, as well as damaging glass/caulk/window frames and finishes. Remember to properly clean building awnings as well.

Certainly there is so much more to maintain in the outdoor built environment, so review the program, spend thoughtful time on campus considering what may not be presently maintained, make the corrections and take your maintenance outside!

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Michael G. Steger is director, Physical Plant, for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL. He can be reached at Stegemik@berkeleyprep.org.

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