Your high-rise building is complex. It has a lot of systems that are expensive and complicated. When it comes to maintaining them, and protecting your operating budget in the process, Ben Franklin had it right: “A stitch in time saves nine.” Protecting your building with a comprehensive preventative maintenance plan will save your association time and money in the long run.

So why don’t communities see the value of preventative maintenance? Some board members may not see it as their problem. They kick that proverbial can down the road so that someone else can deal with problems later, after they aren’t part of the board. Meanwhile, they saved money, right?

Not necessarily… Budgeting accurately for your high-rise maintenance needs will not only save money over time, it will also reduce the risk of losing services. As we all know, happy residents make a happy community, and no one’s happy when the HVAC is out or units get flooded thanks to a completely preventable cause.

Robert Kirby, regional building engineer at FirstService Residential in Maryland, said he’s seen equipment fail at only two-thirds of its expected life because of a lack of maintenance on it. “A well-maintained boiler, for example, can have 30, 40 or even 60 years or more of life. It can be costly for a yearly water treatment plan for that boiler, but they prevent the buildup of scale and prevent corrosion that result in greater costs to heat the water and a much shorter life of the boiler,” he explained.

Kirby cited a high-rise in Baltimore that did start an effective water treatment plan for its boilers, increasing their efficiency from 72% to 82% in only one year, with a savings of about $12,000 in natural gas for a $5,000 investment. But unfortunately they didn’t start it soon enough. “They are now replacing both of their boilers, at a cost of about $500,000, about 10 years sooner than they would be doing if a quality water treatment program had been used all along,” Kirby said.

How can you get started on a good preventative maintenance plan? It may seem a little overwhelming, but it can be done. A quality professional community association management company will have the knowledge and resources to create and execute a plan that will save your community money, headaches and frustration over loss of services. Check out the advice below to get your Maryland high-rise on track with preventative maintenance.

1. You’re not on your own.  

Creating, implementing and staying on top of a comprehensive preventative maintenance plan for a complex high-rise requires professional, experienced help. A quality community association management company will have the knowledge and expertise to help you design an affordable plan that will maintain your equipment and to hire the right skilled staff or contractors to do so. Kirby’s role at FirstService Residential, for example, is to sit down with community association managers and make recommendations, after conducting a walk through to assess the condition of the building and its support systems. He makes recommendations for what needs immediate repair or replacement and provides guidance on less critical work to be done.

If your community is self-managed, Kirby recommends that you look for help from an experienced mechanical engineering firm and maintenance people who will explicitly follow the manufacturer’s requirements for maintaining all equipment in the building.

2. Focus on the positives.

What can a good preventative maintenance program do for your high-rise building? A lot of great things!
  • Allow you to identify and anticipate repair and replacement costs all year long.
  • Help forecast when major costs need to be factored into your annual budget.
  • Keep your community running without inconvenient, surprise disruptions.
  • Ensure that your property values remain high.
  • Minimize risk for your association.
  • Maintain a happy community.
All of these items have a major impact on your community’s operating budget and overall quality of life.

3. Understand why it matters.

Why is preventative maintenance so important for your high-rise? High-rise and large-scale buildings simply require more care and maintenance than other communities. Your high-rise has many complex systems, and a long list of items that need to be serviced. These systems might include HVAC units, plumbing, boilers, cooling towers and more. What starts as a small problem can affect large portions of a high-rise, and many owners at once.
“We see a lot of problems with HVAC condensate lines,” Kirby said. “Some communities don’t realize that a simple condensate pan treatment tablet dropped into their condensate pans every few months during cooling season prevents the buildup of biological growth, or “sludge” in the lines. Untreated, that buildup clogs the lines and causes the pans to overflow. In a high-rise, all those lines drain into a single central line, so if that line backs up, it can cause problems throughout the entire building.”

4. Create a schedule you can follow.

While planning a calendar for preventative maintenance can be a daunting task, the end results are worth it. As time goes by, everyone involved will reap the rewards and become personally invested in making sure your high-rise is maintained to the highest standards.
The foundation of a good preventative maintenance plan is simple: sweat the small stuff. Start by walking your property and documenting building systems, public spaces, private spaces and all structural surfaces. Make lists and take photos of everything. Create a complete list of components to be inspected and maintained, and develop a preventative maintenance schedule that’s broken into at least four categories: monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and annually. A professional community management company will have experienced engineers and managers who can help with this process.

Once you have a complete list of all the equipment and systems within your high-rise property, you and your team need to do your homework in order to establish a maintenance schedule. Follow manufacturers’ recommendations for maintenance schedules whenever possible. By executing your preventative maintenance plan, you’ll be resting easier knowing you are one step ahead of those fearsome surprise maintenance fiascos.
Your entire high-rise community will reap the numerous benefits of your preventative maintenance planning. For more information on how to put a preventative maintenance plan in place in your high-rise community, contact FirstService Residential, Maryland’s leading community association management company.

Thursday May 18, 2017