Everything You Need To Know About Building Maintenance Management
It’s easy to take a well-maintained building for granted. Behind the scenes, there is a dedicated team of building maintenance professionals working to keep everything running smoothly, safely, and efficiently.
We have come to expect that when we walk into a room and flick on a light switch, the lights will come on right away. Or when we open a door, that door will open quietly and smoothly, and when we close that door, the entire structure won’t collapse around our heads. The lights will come on, our computers will connect to the internet, and we’ll be kept warm and dry.
In this post, we’ll cover the nuts and bolts of building maintenance management, the building maintenance profession, and how to get more for your money when it comes to keeping your buildings in great shape.
What is involved in building maintenance management?
Building maintenance management encompasses all maintenance work that is done to ensure that a building is safe and presentable and that all building systems are working correctly.
Every asset used regularly will deteriorate over time and buildings are no different. A building is just a giant machine that needs to be inspected, maintained, and repaired.
Building maintenance involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work to ensure a building is functional, safe, and comfortable.
What are the common types of building maintenance?
Building maintenance consists of a variety of tasks. This means that if you’re a building maintenance professional, there’s a pretty good chance no two days will look exactly the same. Your day might include anything from:
Washing and cleaning different surfaces (bathrooms, floors, windows, handrails, gutters)
Maintaining and repairing all assets inside the building (HVAC systems, elevators, servers, emergency generators)
Maintaining and repairing electrical systems, air conditioning, plumbing, and other utility services
Maintaining and repairing the building itself (doors, carpentry, windows, walls, roof)
Maintaining property outside and around the building (landscaping, driveways, sidewalks)
Building maintenance work can also be categorized according to priority, which can look something like this:
Emergency repairs: Tasks that need to be done asap to remove a safety risk, attend to physical damage done to the building, and repair a fault that is causing a heavy disruption to one of the utility services.
High-priority tasks: Tasks that need to be done in a few days, so the issues do not turn into a safety or security risk and continue causing a lot of inconvenience for the people inside the building.
Medium-priority tasks: Includes the majority of routine maintenance tasks that are done on a weekly or monthly basis.
Low-priority tasks: Includes maintenance work that can be done months down the line, whenever the resources are available)
Deferred maintenance tasks: These are often low or medium-priority tasks that are moved to a deferred maintenance backlog because of budget or time constraints).
Why is building maintenance important?
Poorly maintained buildings are unsightly at best — dangerous, and life-threatening at worst. It’s not exactly great for your productivity and morale if you have to work in a shoddy, poorly maintained building.
Imagine spending 40-plus hours every week in a facility that is too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, the stairs are shaky, and the paint is flaking off the ceiling and into your coffee. Not exactly a great work environment.
Beyond just being an eyesore and uncomfortable for employees, there are a variety of concerns around poorly maintained buildings.
A poorly maintained building is an incident waiting to happen. It’s not an “if” something will happen; it’s a “when” it will happen. Sure, you can probably squeak by for a few years with a halfway maintained building, and nothing significant will happen. Still, if history has shown us anything, it’s that when something goes wrong in these situations, they go really wrong.
One recent example is the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Florida in June of 2021. A main cause of the tragedy was that the reinforced concrete structural support in the parking garage underground was breaking down. These supports were corroded and damaged due to exposure to water.
When the tower collapsed, 98 people died, 11 were injured and the resulting property damage came close to over $1 billion.
We know that there were structural maintenance needs for this building that were not met. A lot of times, costs get cut and essential maintenance gets pushed onto the back burner. The maintenance teams and the buildings are set up to fail (literally), and unfortunately, it results in a lot of harm.
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
In this case, that means spending the time and money to keep up with maintenance projects and requests will be much less expensive than an emergency repair or replacement.
It’s a lot easier to create and maintain a budget around regular upkeep rather than suddenly finding the money when something breaks.
A few ways you can plan ahead are:
Use a CMMS to track asset lifecycle and get alerted when a machine is getting past its useful life. Replacing aging machines before they break saves you from having to come up with a large sum of money in an emergency situation
Schedule preventive maintenance tasks so they don’t get overlooked. If you don’t regularly add oil to your car, the engine will eventually seize. Replacing an engine costs about $6,000 ($1,200 in labor and $4,800 for the motor), while regularly adding oil to an engine costs around $7 a month.
Increase productivity to save money. By automating some maintenance tasks like scheduling work for your team, you can increase productivity, and get more done in less time. Your team will know exactly what to do when they clock in, and you’ll get to spend less time on the phone, sending emails, and checking in.
Checking for lapses in energy efficiency, like drafts or leaks. And by tracking assets and replacement parts, you can pinpoint where you’re losing money, or which assets could benefit from installing more energy-efficient solutions.
Like any machine, without regular inspection and repair, a building and its assets start to deteriorate. Weak points go unnoticed, daily operations begin to break down.
Think of a leaky pipe. It begins as a slight drip overhead. Just a few drops. Then those few drops turn into a slow, small trickle. Over time, that trickle starts to rot the ceiling underneath, and the pipe continues to corrode further. Next thing you know, the line finally breaks. What began as a drip is now a deluge, with a damaged ceiling, and ruined computer equipment in the offices below.
The moral of that story is building components that receive regular attention are less likely to break down and cause outages and disruptions. And assets need to be regularly checked to ensure they’re up to date and up to code so everything will keep on keepin’ on.
Regular building maintenance is also important to make sure you stay in compliance with the ever-changing building and safety codes. Plus, there are state and federal regulations you need to stay on top of as well.
Fines for not being in compliance are generally pretty hefty and get more and more expensive as the violation gets more serious. Imagine getting hit with a fine of over $100,000 for something preventable. Ouch.
Maintaining both interior and exterior spaces is essential to avoid safety risks and reduce liability. Not only could you be fined for violating regulations, but you could be looking at a liability issue as well if someone ends up getting hurt.
Like any other career field, there are different job titles that fall under the building maintenance umbrella. If you work in building maintenance, your job title could be either a janitor, maintenance technician, or facility manager. Each role is different with varying responsibilities and duties.
Janitors work to keep the building clean by mopping the floors, taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, washing windows, etc.
A facility manager is someone who coordinates all maintenance work, deals with all kinds of administrative tasks, manage renovations, develops a property strategy, enforces EHS standards, and more. Facility managers often hire maintenance supervisors to oversee and manage day-to-day maintenance work when it comes to a large building or property.
Sometimes companies outsource or partner with a maintenance company. This is usually done when the scope of work or the facilities/grounds are too large. This can include cleaning services, pest control, parking lot maintenance, and more.
For companies that rent a space in a large commercial building or have a small office, the rent they pay will sometimes cover maintenance services. Other industries, like the manufacturing sector, will use the term industrial maintenance to describe their maintenance activities.
Certifications and training for building maintenance professionals
Ongoing training is important to keep your skills sharp and ensure you’re always in compliance with ever-changing rules and regulations.
Some standard certifications/training programs are:
Building Systems Maintenance Certification: This covers plumbing, HVAC systems, water treatment, and efficient energy management. BOMI International awards the certification to workers who deal with building systems.
Building Operator Certification: This includes two levels of maintenance training for building operators. This certification covers HVAC, control point management, electrical distribution, and energy management.
Certified Maintenance and Reliability Technician: This is an entry-level certification. The CMRP assessment test covers both predictive/preventative maintenance and corrective maintenance.
Having these different training certifications on your resume can help you get a better job or a raise. Not all jobs require certifications or additional training, but if you’re looking to level up your career, this is a good place to start.
How to improve building maintenance and operational costs
Want to look like a rockstar at work? Pay attention here. We’ll dive into how to improve the process of building maintenance management while keeping operational costs in check. Both are sure to make the bosses happy, which is always a win.
1) Implement a proactive maintenance strategy
A proactive maintenance strategy tackles two critical things:
Improves safety: A building has to follow a set of regulations to maintain a particular health and safety standard. Those regulations will require you to perform regular inspections and ensure critical assets and systems are working correctly.
The impact of maintenance on an asset’s useful service life
The same notion is pushed in this article on EHS Today that states: If regulated materials are present in a building (such as ACM, LCP, contaminated drinking water, etc.), a written Operations and Maintenance program should be developed to reduce EHS liabilities and control costs.
At the end of the day, if you do not follow best practices and do not comply with prescribed guidelines to ensure safety standards and somebody sues you, you might as well write in those expenses under operational costs.
2) Automate maintenance work with a modern CMMS
As they say, time is money. A CMMS can be a valuable tool to help you save both time and money through automating tasks and improved organization.
You can hire companies to take care of janitorial services. There are specialized companies available that deal with complex plumbing and electrical issues.
But, hiring the first handyman you find is rarely the most cost-effective option, less so if you plan to have them on hand for future emergencies. It’s important to interview various vendors and service partners to find the right fit…a vendor that fits your unique work situation and budget.
Another big problem building and facility managers run into when outsourcing a lot of maintenance work is that they have no idea how to manage outside contractors or an easy way to confirm if they are doing the job correctly.
One of our clients was a classic example of someone hired into a new job where he soon realized that the vendors his predecessor was paying were not even doing the PMs they said they were. That, of course, caused equipment to break more often, which further increased the costs!
It was a racket. Luckily, when he brought on Limble, he could get the data to figure it out. He ended up switching vendors, and his cost to function has dropped drastically.
If you feel like you have little control over work done by third-party vendors, using a CMMS solution like Limble will allow you to add outside contractors as a user so they can receive Work Orders through the app. That way, you can track and approve their work. Learn more about Limble’s Vendor Management features.
Outsourcing aside, there are other ways to manage maintenance costs. Like when you need to order spare parts and other supplies, try to negotiate a lower price, especially when buying in bulk.
If you are ordering new equipment, evaluate each vendor’s offer based on price, performance record, and quality. As with anything in life, cheaper is not always better. The most inexpensive asset might be the one that needs replacing sooner, requires more attention, or burns through more spare parts – making it less cost-effective in the long run.
As we mentioned earlier, a good CMMS like Limble can help you control costs and keep your maintenance budget manageable. Automating preventive maintenance tasks will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, but a CMMS can do a whole lot more than just that.
This includes managing all planned and unplanned maintenance, incoming work order requests, planning maintenance schedules, tracking work in progress, and coordinating maintenance work with outside contractors.
An example of a detailed work order within Limble CMMS
Asset Lifecycle Management
This helps you plan and streamline asset tracking and management at every stage of their lifecycle.
Asset information tab inside Limble CMMS
This is where you’ll organize and track the assessment, training, and certification for different employees and contractors. Plus, you can run reports to see how your teams are doing. View how much time they took to repair or any other data on the work order checklist.
Team performance report in Limble
Supply Chain & MRO Management
This is where you control and monitor your company’s supply chain, covering areas like spare parts procurement, stock control, purchasing, estimating demand for materials, and making accurate inventory forecasts.
Parts management view in Limble CMMS
Create maintenance contracts with the company’s employees, partners, vendors, and customers and oversee them to completion — and keep them all neatly organized right in Limble.
Vendors can upload before/after images to improve work visibility
Analytics & Reporting
Gaining insights like a summary of the maintenance department’s activity in real-time, using asset performance management is essential to eliminating recurring problems and reducing unexpected downtime.
In Limble, you can track a variety of key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to find the root cause of any significant problem without having to do any extra work. As long as your work orders are thorough, Limble tracks it all for you.
Limble automatically tracks and calculates your planned vs unplanned work
This allows you to gather data on spending across departments and to forward that data to accounting to monitor expenses and project spending. (Plus, this is where you can really prove your value to Finance).
A custom dashboard in Limble
Limble’s customer success team is designed to act as an extension of your own team. Just because you might get stuck on something doesn’t mean you have to stay there. Limble’s team is your dedicated helper at no extra cost.
Staying up-to-date in building maintenance
There’s a lot of information out there. A lot to keep track of in regards to changing regulations and new technology. To stay up to date and in compliance, joining a trade organization or subscribing to industry news publications can be invaluable. Here are a few helpful resources.
Association for Facilities Engineering: AFE is a professional organization that provides resources for all professionals working in the “built environment.” Professional development opportunities, local chapters, and an association newsletter.
Facilities Management Institute: The FMI governs the evolving criteria for the facilities management career track. Its mission is to promote and accelerate the development of the facilities management profession across both public and private sectors. It is focused primarily on training and education.
You can be the hero of building maintenance
We have all experienced how annoying it is when a particular building system isn’t operating correctly at work or at home. Being responsible for maintaining an entire building and everything in it can be a daunting task.
To make your job easier on yourself, don’t hesitate to use all the tools at your disposal. There are plenty of resources available to help you stay on top of your responsibilities and keep the buildings in tip-top shape.
And whether adding technology to the mix seems exciting or terrifying, we can help you get your CMMS program up and running. Talk to any of our pros here at Limble to see how you can add a CMMS to your toolbox. Contact us today to get started!
"Honestly - the customer support has been fabulous. We had a minor feature request that was deployed within 24 hours - which is unheard of. Even better when you consider our business is located in a completely different time zone (somewhere in Australia). Limble is quite intuitive and I love the ability to have assets nested within each other."
— Ed Cronin
Limble is the best thing to happen to this company
"Limble does such a good job at keeping track of what's been done and letting me know when and what I need to do next."
— Tom Jones
Little Giant Ladder Systems
"Great experience. Solved our obvious PM tracking issues but also addressing our SHE&S requirements (safety audit task tracking), Environmental checks are being logged, Corporate Audit items tracked"
— Michael Babcock
A very simple and elegant CMMS system
"If you've had prior experience with CMMS systems, Limble is very intuitive. The ability to view and use the software on multiple platforms is very advantageous. I was able to become proficient and launched the system after only 2 weeks. Support from Limble is fantastic - very prompt and they work well with you to truly understand your questions."
— Robert Toth
I spent a long time evaluating systems I'm so glad I chose Limble
"Limble is super easy to use. For technicians receiving work orders, it requires almost no training. The app makes it quick and easy to create work orders (with pictures) from your phone. PM's are also very easy to set up. Limble is also the least expensive."
— Matt Olson FMP
Very well written software. Easy to use.
"The support is fantastic. The guys who support this software even email you to check in from time to time. If you have any issues you can call directly, and get instant help!"
— Dan Velente
Download our Preventative Maintenance Checklist
Take the management stress away from preventative maintenance.
Cheat-sheet to better productivity and reliability
Steps we've learned over years working with thousands of customers
Important tips to help you avoid common costly pitfalls when creating your PM plan